I’m trying to learn for my Philosophy class and I’m stuck. Can you help?
1. What you are trying to accomplish: The virtues of a philosophy paper
A philosophy paper consists of a critical analysis of a thesis and in a reasoned defense of some claims. If you advance a claim, your claim should be supported by argument. If you attribute a view to someone, you should support your attribution with reference to the original text and interpretative remarks. When you make claims about a philosopher you have read, make sure that you support your interpretation with references to specific passages. When you take a specific formulation of a point from a text, use quotations.
The virtues of a philosophy paper are:
- clarity: say what you have to say simply and straightforwardly
- depth of analysis and critical questioning: offer a critical analysis of a philosophical issue; present and question different approaches to the same issue, and compare them.
- consideration of arguments: the reader is not interested in your own opinion, but in the way you reason about a particular issue, how you argue about it, how you defend your claims. You must exhibit reasons for what you hold, not just voice your concern about a particular matter. Make your reasons explicit.
- logical organization: everything that you write must be justified: there should be a reason why you wrote what you wrote the way you did. Use only the sentences that you need to express your claims. In order to construct an argument, each step of your reasoning should be clear and in the right order. Each paragraph should follow the previous one logically, that is, your paper should exhibit logical organization. The paper should contain a precise structure: remind the reader of where you are in your argument, where you are going, what she or he should expect. That is, make the structure of your argument clear and the progression of your paragraphs explicit.
2. How to start
- Usually, the most difficult step in writing is to start. The opening section should be devoted to explaining to the reader what you are up to. When you start writing, the first step is to focus on the topic and try to understand what you are required to do. The first paragraph should be written after everything else is in place: when you have a claim, an argument, and a conclusion.
- In our case, you are asked to address a philosophical problem, e.g. euthanasia, by reference to another person’s essay. Thus, you should first try to define clearly the issue. What is euthanasia? How has the person defined it? What are the reasons for it?What are the reasons against it? What are the tacit assumptions on which these arguments rest? Give the most charitable reconstruction of each argument for and against it. Offer examples that concur with the thesis you are elucidating or proposing.
3. How to go on?
- Do not try to do much ‘background setting’: get to the point!
- Make clear your claims.
- Support your claims with reasoning and argument.
- Make clear the structure of the argument.
- Make sure you are fair in the attribution of a claim.
- Be concise, but explain yourself fully.
- Use simple prose.
- Be careful when using words with precise philosophical meanings.
- Use examples to illustrate a thesis or to argue that there is a counter-example to a thesis.
- Make sure that the structure of the paper is obvious to the reader.
- Give a brief introduction that says what the paper will do and how it will do it.
- Remind the reader where you are in your argument. Make your structure explicit.
- State the thesis clearly, directly and straightforwardly.
- Why is it important?
- What examples might explain the thesis?
- What objection can you offer?
- What is the upshot of the critical discussion?
4. Make an outline
- A philosophy paper should have a clear structure and its arguments should be well organized. In order to develop a logical organization you should make an outline of your argument before starting to write. The outline should be very detailed: state precisely your aims and claims, how you want to support them, what arguments you adopt, describe each step of the argument, and say how the conclusion follows.
- Do not be afraid of editing.
- Try your argument with your roommate, or with somebody who is not doing philosophy.
Essay: Analysis of a Scholarly Article
The following guideline is one you must follow precisely. It serves both as your guide to writing your analysis and as my guide to grading your analysis.
You will analyze one of the assigned essays.
The first thing you must do is read the article, ideally two to three distinct times. In each reading, you should use a different color pen to mark important aspects of the essay.
Because this is a philosophical analysis of a philosophic essay you should avoid the following:
- Personal attacks on the author; do not question the author’s motives
- Complaining about the author’s writing style or choice of words
- Suggesting that the author is confused or unclear
Moreover, you should avoid any lengthy, direct quotations. You must quote the essay at least three distinct times, but these quotes should never be longer than two sentences. Be sure you cite the quote by using quotation marks and parenthesis to enclose the page number from which you have taken the quote.
Topic, example, explain conclusion
Your analysis must contain the following five sections:
- Introduction 3 paragraphs
- Summary 4 paragraphs (profit essay)
- Critique 4 paragraphs (profit essay)
- Application 4 paragraphs (Case study)
- Conclusion 3 paragraphs
Follow the order above for the format
You must provide a heading at the beginning of each section. That is, write, underline and make bold the heading: for example: Introduction.
The formatting criteria are listed on a separate page. Thus, your essay will be worth up to 60 points, 10 points per section.
Your Introduction should consist of 2 to 3 paragraphs: do 3
1. In the first and second paragraphs identify the article and describe the problem or topic the essay addresses.
2. In the third paragraph articulate what your own analysis will address and what it is you intend to accomplish. This replaces the standard thesis statement: you will inform your reader of what you intend to do and provide a map of your analysis.
This is the main body of your essay. It must do the following: summary of the essay not the case study
What’s the authors view (about 4 paragraphs)
Each paragraph should be a different point need 4 points
Whatever the format of the summary follow it in the critique, don’t go off the main points
1. You should begin by summarizing those aspects of the article that are relevant to your own critique. You should not attempt to summarize the entirety of the article; you are not simply writing a general review of the essay.
2. Your summary must represent the author’s views in the best possible way. You do not want to misrepresent the author’s views, or to represent them in such a way that you can then easily destroy them. Avoid the “straw man” fallacy. If you don’t know this fallacy look it up.
3. The summary of the author’s article must not include any critical comments.
4. The summary should not simply elaborate on the sequence of the author’s ideas. That is, you should not write a summary that simply does this: “The author begins by discussing . . . . Then she goes on to discuss . . . .” Your challenge is to present your summary in a way that draws the relevant parts of the author’s essay together in a way that prepares for your critical discussion of it. That is, your summary must be related to your thesis, or what I called your “map.”
Critique the essay not the case study only critique what you wrote in the summary
1. Your critique should be organized according to your summary. This means that your critique, like your summary, will reflect those parts of the article that you have selected, parts that develop and illuminate your thesis, or “map.”
2. Your critique might focus on ideas you embrace, ideas you reject, and/or ideas about which you are unsure. Remember: critique does not mean being negative. You might actually find that you agree with an author, and if that is the case, you want to reflect that in your critique.
3. One of your greatest challenges is to tease out the philosophic aspects of the article. This requires you to draw from your other readings: keep in mind the work of the philosophers you have studied. Note Well: this part of your “Critique” is the most important part of your “Critique.” You must “step back” and “tease out” the philosophic principles “in play” in the essay.
Case Study: Application
Intro, key details, possible solutions, my solution (4 paragraphs)
This is a critical aspect of your project. You have established above the key theoretical aspects of the article you are assessing; now, you need to draw those aspects into a concrete case. In this section you should fulfill the following criteria:
1. Articulate the key details of the case, including the main ethical problem of the case.
2. Explain the possible solutions to the case.
3. Assert and explain your solution to the case. Here you must philosophically justify your solution. The challenge here is to combine the philosophical justification you are employing with the relevant aspects the essay you have analyzed above.
In your conclusion, restate – although not verbatim – your thesis. Bring together the main themes of your essay and point to a broader application or assessment. The conclusion should be two to three paragraphs.
You should work carefully through the following check-list prior to submitting your essay:
- My essay is double spaced
- My margins are set at 1 inch all the way around
- My essay is written in Times New Roman font
- My essay is written in 12-point font
- My essay has a page number on each page
- My essay contains my name on the right-hand corner of the first page
- My essay has no cover page or folder
- My essay’s pages are stapled together
- My essay does not use the words “feel” or “believe”
- My essay contains pronoun agreement throughout
- My essay does not contain any direct quotations from class lectures
- My essay contains at least 3 direct citations from the original article
- My essay cites the 3 direct citations exactly as instructed
- My essay’s introduction contains my thesis/map
- My essay’s introduction follows the above guidelines precisely
- My essay’s summary follows the above guidelines precisely
- My essay’s critique follows the above guidelines precisely
- My essay’s application follows the above guidelines precisely
- My essay’s conclusion follows the above guidelines precisely
- My essay avoids basic grammatical and syntactical errors
- My essay’s format follows the above points precisely
I feel = I think
I believe = my judgement