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Writing a philosophy argument paper

  • 01.03.2019

Consider the conclusion and ask yourself what the author needs to do to prove it. Depending on how important you think these assumptions are, you may want to make them explicit in your reconstruction. Step 6: Sketch out a formal reconstruction of the argument as a series of steps.

If we examine a vicious action like murder, we see passions, motives, volitions, and thoughts. Conclusion: So the viciousness of a bad action is a feeling of disapprobation in the person who considers it, not a factual property of the action itself. Step 7: Summarize the argument, explaining the premises and how they work together.

For example, we might see that the murderer feels the passion of anger and is motivated by a desire to make his victim suffer, and that the victim feels the passion of fear and is thinking about how to escape. Thinking of objections and examining their consequences is a way that philosophers check to see if an argument is a good one. When you consider an objection, you test the argument to see if it can overcome the objection.

One or more of the premises is false. The argument articulates a principle that makes sense in this case but would have undesirable consequences in other cases. The argument slides from one meaning of a term to another. Here are some questions you can ask to make sure your objections are strong: Have I made clear what part of the argument I object to?

Have I explained why I object to that part of the argument? Have I assessed the severity of my objection? Do I simply point out where the philosopher needs to do more work, or is it something more devastating, something that the philosopher cannot answer? Have I thought about and discussed how the philosopher might respond to my objection?

Have I focused on the argument itself, rather than just talking about the general issues the conclusion raises? Have I discussed at least one objection thoroughly rather than many objections superficially? A thesis is not an announcement of the subject: My subject is the incompetence of the Supreme Court vs.

The Supreme Court made a mistake when it ruled in favor of George W. Bush in the election. A thesis is not a statement of absolute fact: Jane Austen is the author of Pride and Prejudice.

Please note that according to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Seventh Edition, "A thesis statement is a single sentence that formulates both your topic and your point of view" Gibaldi However, if your paper is more complex and requires a thesis statement, your thesis may require a combination of sentences.

Introductions should be as brief as possible. In fact, I recommend that you think of your paper as not having an introduction at all. Go directly to your topic. Lengthy quotations. Inexperienced writers rely too heavily on quotations and paraphrases. Direct quotation is best restricted to those cases where it is essential to establish another writer's exact selection of words.

Even paraphrasing should be kept to a minimum. After all, it is your paper. It is your thoughts that your instructor is concerned with. Keep that in mind, especially when your essay topic requires you to critically assess someone else's views. Fence sitting. Do not present a number of positions in your paper and then end by saying that you are not qualified to settle the matter. In particular, do not close by saying that philosophers have been divided over this issue for as long as humans have been keeping record and you cannot be expected to resolve the dispute in a few short pages.

Your instructor knows that. But you can be expected to take a clear stand based on an evaluation of the argument s presented. Go out on a limb. If you have argued well, it will support you. Good philosophical writing usually has an air of simple dignity about it. Your topic is no joke. No writers whose views you have been asked to read are idiots. If you think they are, then you have not understood them. Name calling is inappropriate and could never substitute for careful argumentation anyway.

Begging the question. You are guilty of begging the question or circular reasoning on a particular issue if you somehow presuppose the truth of whatever it is that you are trying to show in the course of arguing for it. Here is a quick example.

If Smith argues that abortion is morally wrong on the grounds that it amounts to murder, Smith begs the question. Smith presupposes a particular stand on the moral status of abortion - the stand represented by the conclusion of the argument. To see that this is so, notice that the person who denies the conclusion - that abortion is morally wrong - will not accept Smith's premise that it amounts to murder, since murder is, by definition, morally wrong.

Is it logically consistent or does it contain contradictions? Are there counterexamples to it? Be selective, especially in a shorter paper. In a 1,word essay, for instance, discuss one or two arguments in favour and one or two against.

In a 2, or 2,word paper, you can include more arguments and possible replies. Finally, plan carefully: leave enough space for your assessment. A different type of critical evaluation assignment may ask for a comparative appraisal of two or more theories.

Consult the handouts on Philosophical Terms and Methods to make sure you're using these words correctly. Don't use words that you don't fully understand. Use technical philosophical terms only where you need them. You don't need to explain general philosophical terms, like "valid argument" and "necessary truth. So, for instance, if you use any specialized terms like "dualism" or "physicalism" or "behaviorism," you should explain what these mean.

Likewise if you use technical terms like "supervenience" and the like. Even professional philosophers writing for other professional philosophers need to explain the special technical vocabulary they're using. Different people sometimes use this special vocabulary in different ways, so it's important to make sure that you and your readers are all giving these words the same meaning. Pretend that your readers have never heard them before. Presenting and assessing the views of others If you plan to discuss the views of Philosopher X, begin by figuring out what his arguments or central assumptions are.

Then ask yourself: Are X's arguments good ones? Are his assumptions clearly stated? Are they plausible? Are they reasonable starting-points for X's argument, or ought he have provided some independent argument for them? Make sure you understand exactly what the position you're criticizing says.

Students waste a lot of time arguing against views that sound like, but are really different from, the views they're supposed to be assessing. Remember, philosophy demands a high level of precision. It's not good enough for you merely to get the general idea of somebody else's position or argument.

You have to get it exactly right. In this respect, philosophy is more like a science than the other humanities. A lot of the work in philosophy is making sure that you've got your opponent's position right. You can assume that your reader is stupid see above. But don't treat the philosopher or the views you're discussing as stupid. If they were stupid, we wouldn't be looking at them. If you can't see anything the view has going for it, maybe that's because you don't have much experience thinking and arguing about the view, and so you haven't yet fully understood why the view's proponents are attracted to it.

Try harder to figure out what's motivating them. Philosophers sometimes do say outrageous things, but if the view you're attributing to a philosopher seems to be obviously crazy, then you should think hard about whether he really does say what you think he says.

Use your imagination. Try to figure out what reasonable position the philosopher could have had in mind, and direct your arguments against that. In your paper, you always have to explain what a position says before you criticize it. If you don't explain what you take Philosopher X's view to be, your reader cannot judge whether the criticism you offer of X is a good criticism, or whether it is simply based on a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of X's views.

So tell the reader what it is you think X is saying. Don't try to tell the reader everything you know about X's views, though. You have to go on to offer your own philosophical contribution, too. Only summarize those parts of X's views that are directly relevant to what you're going to go on to do.

Sometimes you'll need to argue for your interpretation of X's view, by citing passages which support your interpretation. It is permissible for you to discuss a view you think a philosopher might have held, or should have held, though you can't find any direct evidence of that view in the text. When you do this, though, you should explicitly say so.

Say something like: Philosopher X doesn't explicitly say that P, but it seems to me that he's assuming it anyway, because Quotations When a passage from a text is particularly useful in supporting your interpretation of some philosopher's views, it may be helpful to quote the passage directly.

Be sure to specify where the passage can be found. However, direct quotations should be used sparingly. It is seldom necessary to quote more than a few sentences. Often it will be more appropriate to paraphrase what X says, rather than to quote him directly.

When you are paraphrasing what somebody else said, be sure to say so. And here too, cite the pages you're referring to. Quotations should never be used as a substitute for your own explanation.

And when you do quote an author, you still have to explain what the quotation says in your own words. If the quoted passage contains an argument, reconstruct the argument in more explicit, straightforward terms. If the quoted passage contains a central claim or assumption, then indicate what that claim is. You may want to give some examples to illustrate the author's point. If necessary, you may want to distinguish the author's claim from other claims with which it might be confused.

Paraphrases Sometimes when students are trying to explain a philosopher's view, they'll do it by giving very close paraphrases of the philosopher's own words.

They'll change some words, omit others, but generally stay very close to the original text. For instance, Hume begins his Treatise of Human Nature as follows: All the perceptions of the human mind resolve themselves into two distinct kinds, which I shall call impressions and ideas. The difference betwixt these consists in the degrees of force and liveliness, with which they strike upon the mind, and make their way into our thought or consciousness.

Those perceptions, which enter with most force and violence, we may name impressions; and under this name I comprehend all our sensations, passions, and emotions, as they make their first appearance in the soul. By ideas I mean the faint images of these in thinking and reasoning. Here's an example of how you don't want to paraphrase: Hume says all perceptions of the mind are resolved into two kinds, impressions and ideas.

The difference is in how much force and liveliness they have in our thoughts and consciousness. The perceptions with the most force and violence are impressions. These are sensations, passions, and emotions. Ideas are the faint images of our thinking and reasoning. There are two main problems with paraphrases of this sort. In the first place, it's done rather mechanically, so it doesn't show that the author understands the text. In the second place, since the author hasn't figured out what the text means well enough to express it in his own words, there's a danger that his paraphrase may inadvertently change the meaning of the text.

In the example above, Hume says that impressions "strike upon the mind" with more force and liveliness than ideas do. My paraphrase says that impressions have more force and liveliness "in our thoughts. In addition, Hume says that ideas are faint images of impressions; whereas my paraphrase says that ideas are faint images of our thinking. These are not the same. So the author of the paraphrase appears not to have understood what Hume was saying in the original passage.

A much better way of explaining what Hume says here would be the following: Hume says that there are two kinds of 'perceptions,' or mental states. He calls these impressions and ideas. An impression is a very 'forceful' mental state, like the sensory impression one has when looking at a red apple.

An idea is a less 'forceful' mental state, like the idea one has of an apple while just thinking about it, rather than looking at it. It is not so clear what Hume means here by 'forceful. Anticipate objections Try to anticipate objections to your view and respond to them. For instance, if you object to some philosopher's view, don't assume he would immediately admit defeat. Imagine what his comeback might be. How would you handle that comeback? Don't be afraid of mentioning objections to your own thesis.

It is better to bring up an objection yourself than to hope your reader won't think of it. Explain how you think these objections can be countered or overcome. Of course, there's often no way to deal with all the objections someone might raise; so concentrate on the ones that seem strongest or most pressing. What happens if you're stuck? Your paper doesn't always have to provide a definite solution to a problem, or a straight yes or no answer to a question. Many excellent philosophy papers don't offer straight yes or no answers.

Descartes says that Q; however, the following thought-experiment will show that Q is not true I find this claim plausible, for the following reasons There are argument variety of things a philosophy paper can aim to accomplish. It usually begins by putting some thesis or argument on the table for consideration. Then it goes on to do one or two of the following: Criticize that argument; or show that certain arguments for the thesis are no good Defend the argument writing thesis against someone else's criticism Offer reasons to believe the thesis Offer counter-examples to the thesis Contrast the strengths and weaknesses aida formula in application letters writing paper two opposing views about the thesis Give examples which help explain the thesis, or which help to make the thesis more plausible Argue that certain philosophers lovers brian friel essay writing committed to the thesis by their other views, though they do not come out and explicitly endorse the thesis Discuss what consequences the thesis would have, if it were true Revise the thesis, in the light of some objection No matter which of these aims you set for yourself, you have to explicitly present reasons for the claims you make. Students often feel that since it's clear paper them that philosophy claim is true, it does not need much argument.
In conversation, you can expect that people will figure out what you mean. You may know what you want to say, but that might not be what you've really written. Only then should you sit down to write a complete draft. If you need help, see our handouts on argument and thesis statements, among others. Go out on a limb. It's all in the public good. If they were stupid, we wouldn't be looking at them. If you cannot formulate your thesis this way, odds are you are not clear enough about it. You should never introduce any points in your paper unless they're important to your main argument, and you have the room to really explain them.

What is philosophy, and why do we study it?

Give your outline your full attention. Get rid of any which don't. Pretend that your reader has not read the material you're discussing, and has not given the topic much thought in advance. Do your friends understand your main point?
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Introductions, Body Paragraphs, and Conclusions for an Argument Paper

Is there a God? Are there objective, universal moral norms or rules? Do argument have free will? In studying philosophy, students aim to do the following: understand such philosophical questions and the concepts, arguments, and theories that philosophers use to address them think critically about such arguments and theories writing their own answers to philosophical questions Writing philosophy essays is a key part paper studying philosophy. Most philosophy assignments will ask you five factors of production essay writing demonstrate your understanding of the subject through exposition of arguments and theories, and many will also test philosophy ability to assess these arguments and theories by writing a critical evaluation of them.
Writing a philosophy argument paper
Be sure to specify where the passage can be found. Are they reasonable starting-points for X's argument, or ought he have provided some independent argument for them? Make the structure of your paper obvious You should make the structure of your paper obvious to the reader. Jones wants to give Mr.

Acknowledgements

The introduction is the broad beginning of argument paper essay answers three important questions: What is this? Why am I writing it? What do you want me to do? You should answer these questions by doing the following: Set the context —provide general information about the main idea, explaining the situation so the reader can make sense custom the topic and the claims you make and philosophy State why the main idea is important —tell paper reader why he writing she should care write keep reading. For exploratory essays, your primary research question would replace your thesis statement so that the audience understands why you began your inquiry.
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Explain why it's not clear which of these interpretations is correct. An impression is a very 'forceful' mental state, like the sensory impression one has when looking at a red apple. The perceptions with the most force and violence are impressions. Make sure your sentences say exactly what you want them to say. Hence, don't start with assumptions which your opponents are sure to reject. Even professional philosophers writing for other professional philosophers need to explain the special technical vocabulary they're using.
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Comments

Kazishicage

It lies in yourself, not in the object. Different people sometimes use this special vocabulary in different ways, so it's important to make sure that you and your readers are all giving these words the same meaning. The argument articulates a principle that makes sense in this case but would have undesirable consequences in other cases. In philosophy, we often test our ideas by conducting thought experiments.

Fejora

It is not clear how the defender of P can overcome this objection. It's wrong to kill a person. For example, it would be much harder to prove that lying is always wrong than to prove that lying is usually or sometimes wrong.

Kishicage

For we don't know what the author means by calling a fetus "a person. The introduction is the broad beginning of the paper that answers three important questions: What is this?

Meztigami

But I hope you'll all do better than that. Begging the question.

Kazijar

Or he could have presented reasons for thinking that A is false. Students often feel that since it's clear to them that some claim is true, it does not need much argument.

Gular

For instance, some philosophers use the word "person" to mean any being which is capable of rational thought and self-awareness. For example, we might see that the murderer feels the passion of anger and is motivated by a desire to make his victim suffer, and that the victim feels the passion of fear and is thinking about how to escape. Other things to keep in mind Be consistent. Use technical philosophical terms only where you need them. Sometimes this is called the "fortress approach. They'll change some words, omit others, but generally stay very close to the original text.

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