How to Write a Philosophy Paper: Bridging Minds

Table of contents

  • 1 What is a Philosophy Paper?
  • 2.1 Philosophy Research Paper Introduction
  • 2.2 Body Sections
  • 2.3 Writing a Philosophy Paper Conclusion
  • 3 Template for a Philosophy Essay Structure
  • 4 How to Format a Philosophy Research Paper
  • 5.1 Choose a Topic
  • 5.2 Read the Material and Take Notes
  • 5.3 Think about Your Thesis
  • 5.4 Make an Outline
  • 5.5 Make a First Draft
  • 5.6 Work on the Sections
  • 5.7 Engage with Counterarguments
  • 5.8 Don’t Niglet Citations
  • 5.9 Check Formatting Guidelines.
  • 5.10 Revise and Proofread
  • 6 How to Select the Best Philosophy Essay Topic?
  • 7.1 Argumentative Philosophy Essay Topics
  • 7.2 Plato Essay Topics
  • 7.3 Worldview Essay Topics
  • 7.4 Transcendentalism Essay Topics
  • 7.5 Practical Philosophy Essay Topics
  • 7.6 Enlightenment Essay Topics
  • 8 Let Your Philosophy Paper Shine

As a college student who has decided to take a philosophy course, you may be new to this science. A philosophy assignment may seem hard, and this subject is indeed pretty difficult. You read some text, but what you read is just one level of the text, as you need to think critically and analyze what the author is trying to get across. It also involves a lot of analytical and deep thinking. Thus, it is difficult to do an assignment unless you fully understand the text. Don’t freak out if you have little experience with this subject, as we have prepared a comprehensive guide on how to write a philosophy paper, from which you will know:

  • The essence of philosophy paper, its structure and format
  • Why it is important not to omit the outline stage
  • Practical tips on writing a philosophy research paper.

What is a Philosophy Paper?

A philosophy research paper is an academic work that presents a comprehensive exploration of a specific philosophical question , topic, or thinker. It typically involves the analysis of arguments, the articulation of one’s own positions or perspectives, and the evaluation of philosophical texts and ideas. The primary objective of such a paper is to contribute to the understanding of philosophical issues by critically examining existing views, offering new interpretations, or developing novel arguments. The paper is characterized by rigorous logical reasoning, clear articulation of ideas, and grounding in relevant philosophical literature.

Drafting a philosophy essay begins with appreciating precisely what a philosophy research paper entails. It involves taking a definite position on a philosophical topic and defending that viewpoint with a logical, irrefutable claim. A good research essay generally uses rational arguments to lead readers down a path to a conclusive, hard-to-contradict resolution.

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Philosophy Paper Outline Structure

Writing a quality philosophy paper means beginning with a first-rate outline. The best philosophy paper outline is straightforward in its intent, takes up a position, and is uncomplicated in its language. A proper outline makes drafting easier and less time-consuming. Moreover, philosophical writing with a clear-cut outline will lend assurance that your end result is condensed yet enlightening.

After determining a format, you are ready to begin writing out your philosophy paper outline. The first step in this process is to determine how to choose a topic for a paper. Great papers are those that the writer is most interested in. Once your topic has been chosen, your outline can be written with specific details and facts. Said specifics will take your introduction, body, and conclusion through an easy-to-follow guide.

Philosophy Research Paper Introduction

Your research essay should begin with a striking and  attention-grabbing hook . It should identify your topic of focus in some way and ensure that readers have the desire to continue on. The hook is intended to smoothly transition to your thesis statement, which is the claim your thesis is venturing to prove. Your thesis statement should lead readers to  the question of research – the distinct question that will be wholly explained in the body of writing. Finally, your  introduction for the research paper will close with your stance on the question.

Body Sections

The body aspect of a philosophy thesis is considered the meat of any paper. It is hard unless you find someone to  write my philosophy paper for me . This element is where most of the logic behind your stance is contained. Typically, bodies are made up of 3 sections, each explaining the explicit reasoning behind your position. For instance, the first chunk of the body will directly and logically answer the question posed.

In your second body section, use statements that argue why your position is correct. These statements should be informed, prudent, and concise in their reasoning, yet still presented without overly fancy lingo. The explanation of your argument should not be easily opposed. It should also be succinct and without fluff, insulating the explanatory material.

The third portion of the body section should defend your thesis against those that may have counterarguments. This will be the backbone of the essay – the portion that is too hard to refute. By ensuring that criticisms are properly and utterly denounced and the thesis is ratified, philosophical writing will begin to reach its end – the conclusion.

Writing a Philosophy Paper Conclusion

The conclusion is ultimately meant to tie the entire work together in a nice, coherent fashion. It should start with a brief rehash of the body section of your essay. Then, it will move into explaining the importance of the thesis and argument as a whole.  Quality conclusions are ones that will offer a sense of closure.

Template for a Philosophy Essay Structure

A suggested template to help guide you when writing out a philosophy outline is as follows:

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The use of the above outline template is sure to help with the overall drafting procedure of philosophical writing. Understanding the proper use of the outline is ideal for the best end product.

Putting an outline to use makes the process of writing a philosophy paper much more simple. By using an outline to navigate your thoughts as you write, your essay nearly composes itself. The addition of detail to an outline as it is written provides pronounced facts and a full outline. Take the outline chock full of thoughts and ideas, add words and transitions, and you have a complete paper.

How to Format a Philosophy Research Paper

Formatting a philosophy paper starts with choosing a citation style . The choice between APA, MLA, and Chicago styles simply lay out citations in contrasting manners for your philosophical writing. Each of these styles requires a differing method of citing sources and varying types of organization. Most commonly, philosophy research paper citations are done in MLA or Chicago. While both are accepted, it may be best to choose which your supervisor requires.

Luckily, you can  APA research papers for sale and forget about this stress.

10 Steps to Write a Great Philosophy Paper Like a Pro

Learning how to write a philosophy research paper outline is a skill that can be carried over to numerous other subjects. While philosophical writing is a bit different than most other topics of discussion, the outline can be applied to others fairly easily. Proper utilization of outlines makes for a well-thought-out and structured thesis work that a writer can be proud of.

Choose a Topic

One of the primary steps is choosing a topic, and that is the first thing college students get stuck on. If you can not choose a topic you are interested in, talk to your university professor. You can also take a look at different lists of ideas on the Internet.

Read the Material and Take Notes

Read all materials carefully and take notes of important ideas. It is a good idea to read the material a couple of times as there will always be something you don’t notice at first. It is important to have a clear understanding of what you read to nail your assignment. If you feel like you don’t understand anything, then Google ‘ write my philosophy paper for me ’ and get help from real professionals.

Think about Your Thesis

Before you start writing, realize what you are going to show. Your work should have a strong thesis that states your position. The central component of the work is a clear thesis statement followed by supporting claims.

Make an Outline

An outline should include your ideas for the introduction, your thesis, main points, and conclusion. Having a philosophy paper outline before working on the assignment can help you stay focused and ensure you include all major points.

Make a First Draft

Don’t worry about perfection at this stage. Instead, focus on getting your ideas on paper. Following your outline, start building your arguments. Make sure to provide evidence or reasons for your claims.

Work on the Sections

Introduction: An introduction for a research paper is an essential part of any assignment because it gives your readers an overview of your work. It is your opportunity to grab their attention, so take this step seriously. Remember the thesis statement? You should present it here.

Main body: In this part, you need to present arguments and support your thesis. Start with providing a clear explanation of the philosopher’s ideas and move to the evaluation. Support your thesis by using examples.

Conclusion: A conclusion for any research paper is where you restate your central thesis. It should look like a mirror image of the introduction. Here you need to summarize the major points of your work.

Engage with Counterarguments

A good philosophy paper acknowledges opposing views. Make sure to address these counterarguments and provide reasons for why you believe your stance is more compelling.

Don’t Niglet Citations

Citations serve as a bridge. They link your ideas to the broader world of philosophical discourse, allowing readers to trace back your sources and delve deeper if they wish. Always remember, that citations are more than a mere formality. They correspond to specific ideas, arguments, or facts you present in your paper. This means every claim, idea, or quote you borrow from a philosopher needs to be clearly linked to its source. In this way, you will be sure that your work will be free of plagiarism .

Check Formatting Guidelines.

It’s also crucial to maintain consistency in your citation style. Whether you use APA, MLA, or Chicago, stick to one style throughout your paper.

Revise and Proofread

Once you finish your masterpiece, it is time to  edit and proofread the research paper . We recommend you put your work aside for a few days to have a fresh perspective when start editing it.

How to Select the Best Philosophy Essay Topic?

First of all, we recommend deciding on a direction that interests you more. It can be a theoretical aspect, applicative use of philosophy or even the integration of this science with others – for example, ontology or metaphysics. After all, it is essential to reflect your thoughts correctly in writing for any direction. You will need to use writing tools for students to show your judgments accurately in the essay. Sometimes this can be a difficult task when the authors of the papers get into a so-called flow state.

Secondly, choosing a good topic that can be compared with the opinions of already-known thinkers is necessary for a deeper justification of your point of view. To do this, use the appropriate essay quotation format to make your paper easy to read. After all, while we are not recognized philosophers, proving our claims will be helpful to get the highest score.

If you still need to get philosophy essay ideas, continue reading this article. Here you will find 70 interesting topics that you can use as a topic for your essay or get inspired to create your own.

Easy Philosophy Paper Topics

Often we want to avoid reinventing the wheel. We are interested in writing an exciting but easy essay. So, if you were looking for simple philosophical essay topics, here is the list of the top 10 topics in philosophy for your paper:

  • Human Responsibilities in Different World Religions: Why are They Distinct?
  • Good and Evil: Do They Have Anything in Common? Will They Be Able to Insulate One without the Other?
  • Advantages and Disadvantages of a Hedonistic Approach to Life
  • Life after Death: Should We Endure the Circumstances of the X-axis for a Better Future on the Y-axis?
  • Why Ancient People Asked Themselves the Same Questions as We Do: Isn’t Humanity Progressing?
  • Do We Fulfill Our Moral Obligation to Parents by Helping Children?
  • Three Features: Each from an Animal and an Angel. What is the Nature of Man?
  • Is Genetic Engineering Ethical with Respect to the Laws of Nature?
  • How Society Can Influence the Personal Choice of the Sense of Life for Each of Us
  • Self-Determination of a Person & the Formation of our Microuniverse

Argumentative Philosophy Essay Topics

If you think more analytically, use it to your advantage. The argumentative type of philosophy essay is an unusual and exciting option for such papers since it requires strong thesis statement points. If you want to write exactly this sort of essay, these essay topics ideas will come in handy to decide on the topic of your work:

  • Peaceful Protests/Desperate Battle: a Critical Analysis of the Philosophy of Resistance
  • The Borderland Situation and Absurdity: Analytical Review.
  • Explanation of the Path of any Subject to the Point of No Return. A Critical Analysis of “The Myth of Sisyphus” 1942.
  • The Paradox of Absurdity and How to Find a Way Out of It: Follow the Rules or Set Yours
  • Comparative Analysis of Forms of Globalization from the Point of View of Philosophy
  • E. Leroy, P. Teilhard de Shader and Volodymyr Vernandskyi: Together About the Noosphere, Separately About its Functioning.
  • Analysis of the Origins of the First Thinkers from the Point of View of Metaphysics.
  • The Legal Aspect of Organ Cloning and Entire Human Cloning. Does it Make a Difference?
  • Are People Obliged to Always Tell the Truth and Nothing But the Truth?
  • Is Experience Acquired through Lived Years or Situations? Explanation of Each of the Parties.

Plato Essay Topics

Plato and Aristotle were the founders of philosophy in their classical sense. That is why writing an essay that will outline or refute Plato’s reasoning is a surefire option to impress your teacher and stand out from the rest of the group. If you still don’t know what to write about, below are the topics in the philosophy type of paper:

  • Understanding a Being as a Multiplicity of Organic Elements According to Plato’s Postulates.
  • Reflection of the Philosophy of Truth As an Idea: Plato’s Teaching
  • Plato’s way of Familiarizing themself with the Truth through Memories
  • Is It Possible to Trace the Influence of Socrates on Plato’s Philosophy: a Detailed Analysis
  • Truth Exists, but It does not Exist until Being Developed – the Main Contradiction of Plato’s System of Philosophy Understanding
  • “Phaedo”: Philosophy is the Science of Death.
  • Plato’s Dialectic: Philosophy is the Cornice that Crowns All Our Knowledge
  • Platonic Vision of Four Types of Dialectics as Four Modes of the Soul Activity
  • A Move Against Democracy from the Platonic Postulates of Understanding the State and Society According to Personal Philosophy
  • Plato and the “Ladder of Love” in the “Banquet”: Beautiful Bodies, Souls, Tempers and Sciences.

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Worldview Essay Topics

Worldview and philosophy are similar concepts; they are rooted in the history of the human race. That is why this type of essay is interesting for both writing and reading. Choose your worldview essay topic from the options below to create your perfect piece of writing:

  • Three-Aspect Structure of Worldview: Elements, Levels, Main Subsystems
  • Mythological and Religious Types of Worldview: What do They Have in Common?
  • Worldview as an Individual Prism of Multilevel Interaction Between Man and the World
  • The Influence of Previous Generations on Modern Prejudices of our Outlook
  • Ideological Form of Globalization. How does Social Media Affect It?
  • The Noosphere as a Part of Countering Global Warming
  • Modern Beauty Standards and the Bodily Phenomenon of Existence: What is the Connection between Them?
  • Human Rights. Philosophy and Ethics
  • Religious Beliefs as a Form of Philosophy Existence
  • A Complex and Fragmented Approach to Studying the Worldview of Different Nations

Transcendentalism Essay Topics

Transcendentalism, as a new stage in the formation of philosophy, played a key role in its modern appearance. If you are more inclined towards more modernist lines of philosophy, these topics will suit you perfectly:

  • Classical German Philosophy. Rational and Intelligent Thinking
  • Subjectively Realistic Description of the Environment According to Categories of Philosophy
  • The Influence of Transcendentalism on the Ongoing Development of Philosophy Accordingly to the Categories of Multiplicity and Necessity
  • 10 Categories Denoting Deep Connections in being Relative to Transcendentalism: What Unites and Distinguishes Them
  • Scientific Contemplation as a Mental Category through the Prism of the 20s Years of the 20th Century
  • Life at the Intersection of the Past and the Future: Influence on Currents of American Transcendentalism Philosophy
  • Modes of Perception of Time & Time as Duration: New ideas of Transcendentalists or Paraphrasing of Hegel’s Postulates?
  • Ontological Doctrines and their Essential Characteristics: Henry David Thoreau
  • Concepts of Understanding Space and their Qualitative Changes Relative to New Views on Philosophy
  • Nature for Self-Sufficiency as the Main Myth of Philosophy Currents at the Beginning of the 20th Century

Practical Philosophy Essay Topics

The theory is great. However, any science’s practical and applied meaning is interesting for each of us. If you are interested in delving into the use of philosophy in modern society, these topics will not leave you indifferent:

  • Everyday/Life Level of Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Principles. What does It Mean to be Guided by a Certain Life Principle?
  • Approach of Philosophy to the Life of Tibetan Monks – does It Correlate with Reality?
  • Prejudice against Residents of Third World Countries: Reasons for Contempt for Their Mentality and Lifestyle
  • Unpreparedness of College Teachers for Changes in the Education System: What are They Afraid of?
  • Truth as the Last Instance of Communication with People. Is It Always Necessary?
  • The Philosophy of Excessive Consumption in the USA. What Basis does it Have?
  • Does the Concept of One’s Opinion Exist in the Era of Oversaturation of Information?
  • The use of Ancient Greek Postulates in Philosophy Today – is the Appeal to Classical Canons Still Relevant?
  • The Concept of Ethical and Moral Principles in the Era of Excessive Permissiveness.

Enlightenment Essay Topics

Enlightenment played a huge role in all sciences and spheres of human life. It’s a mind-blowing theme to write about. So, if you were looking for some ideas for your Enlightenment essay topic, we’ve prepared the best ones for you:

  • Does the Urge to Study and Develop the Beautiful in Man Still Influence Modern Philosophy?
  • Empiricism and Rationalism: Julien Aufre de Lametre’s Attempt to Unite Them
  • The Concept of Atheistic Speech of Enlightenment: Religious Dogmatics Debunktion by Voltaire
  • Voltaire: Ignorance, Fanaticism, Delusion and Lies Are Cultivated by Christianity
  • The State as a Level of Inequality between the Rich and the Poor, According to Rousseau’s Views.
  • The Immense Book of Nature as an Object of Knowledge According to Denis Diderot
  • The Structure of Existence through Its Concepts: Elements, Substratum, Substance, Objective Reality beyond Human Consciousness and the Condition of Multiplicity.
  • Concepts of Understanding Space and Time in Enlightenment Philosophy
  • “Molecular Motion” by Paul Holbach: What is It?
  • Social Life Based on the Principles of Reason and Justice – “About Reason” Andrian Helvetius

Let Your Philosophy Paper Shine

Good philosophy research paper writing requires some craft and care. Edit your work until it feels right, and make sure you are confident about your claims. If this science is just not your thing, or you struggle to understand it and doing assignments is sheer torture for you, then order a philosophical work crafted by real professionals! The best way to do your assignment is to leave it to experts and forget about your problems.

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How to Write a Philosophy Paper

  • Develop a Thesis
  • Formulate an Argument
  • Structure & Outline
  • Grammar & Style

Writing a Paper in Philosophy Part 4 -- Paper Structure, Style, and Citation

Outline & Structure

philosophy paper layout

--Aristotle

Image source:  School of Athens. Plato and Aristotle.  Public domain.  Wikimedia Commons.

philosophy paper layout

Source:  Feinberg, Joel.  Doing Philosophy: A Guide to the Writing of Philosophy Papers .  Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2008. p. 6.

"A philosophy paper presents a reasoned defense of some thesis. So a philosophy paper typically does at least one of the following:

  • Defend a thesis by offering plausible reasons to support it
  • Defend a thesis by showing that arguments against it are unconvincing
  • Criticize a thesis by showing that the arguments for it are unconvincing
  • Contrast two or more views on a given issue and argue for one view over the other."

Source: Bumpus, Ann. Writing the Philosophy Paper. Dartmouth University. 2004. 

  • << Previous: Formulate an Argument
  • Next: Grammar & Style >>
  • Last Updated: Jan 22, 2024 10:48 AM
  • URL: https://libguides.lvc.edu/philosophypaper
  • 2.6 Writing Philosophy Papers
  • Introduction
  • 1.1 What Is Philosophy?
  • 1.2 How Do Philosophers Arrive at Truth?
  • 1.3 Socrates as a Paradigmatic Historical Philosopher
  • 1.4 An Overview of Contemporary Philosophy
  • Review Questions
  • Further Reading
  • 2.1 The Brain Is an Inference Machine
  • 2.2 Overcoming Cognitive Biases and Engaging in Critical Reflection
  • 2.3 Developing Good Habits of Mind
  • 2.4 Gathering Information, Evaluating Sources, and Understanding Evidence
  • 2.5 Reading Philosophy
  • 3.1 Indigenous Philosophy
  • 3.2 Classical Indian Philosophy
  • 3.3 Classical Chinese Philosophy
  • 4.1 Historiography and the History of Philosophy
  • 4.2 Classical Philosophy
  • 4.3 Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Philosophy
  • 5.1 Philosophical Methods for Discovering Truth
  • 5.2 Logical Statements
  • 5.3 Arguments
  • 5.4 Types of Inferences
  • 5.5 Informal Fallacies
  • 6.1 Substance
  • 6.2 Self and Identity
  • 6.3 Cosmology and the Existence of God
  • 6.4 Free Will
  • 7.1 What Epistemology Studies
  • 7.2 Knowledge
  • 7.3 Justification
  • 7.4 Skepticism
  • 7.5 Applied Epistemology
  • 8.1 The Fact-Value Distinction
  • 8.2 Basic Questions about Values
  • 8.3 Metaethics
  • 8.4 Well-Being
  • 8.5 Aesthetics
  • 9.1 Requirements of a Normative Moral Theory
  • 9.2 Consequentialism
  • 9.3 Deontology
  • 9.4 Virtue Ethics
  • 9.6 Feminist Theories of Ethics
  • 10.1 The Challenge of Bioethics
  • 10.2 Environmental Ethics
  • 10.3 Business Ethics and Emerging Technology
  • 11.1 Historical Perspectives on Government
  • 11.2 Forms of Government
  • 11.3 Political Legitimacy and Duty
  • 11.4 Political Ideologies
  • 12.1 Enlightenment Social Theory
  • 12.2 The Marxist Solution
  • 12.3 Continental Philosophy’s Challenge to Enlightenment Theories
  • 12.4 The Frankfurt School
  • 12.5 Postmodernism

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Identify and characterize the format of a philosophy paper.
  • Create thesis statements that are manageable and sufficiently specific.
  • Collect evidence and formulate arguments.
  • Organize ideas into a coherent written presentation.

This section will provide some practical advice on how to write philosophy papers. The format presented here focuses on the use of an argumentative structure in writing. Different philosophy professors may have different approaches to writing. The sections below are only intended to give some general guidelines that apply to most philosophy classes.

Identify Claims

The key element in any argumentative paper is the claim you wish to make or the position you want to defend. Therefore, take your time identifying claims , which is also called the thesis statement. What do you want to say about the topic? What do you want the reader to understand or know after reading your piece? Remember that narrow, modest claims work best. Grand claims are difficult to defend, even for philosophy professors. A good thesis statement should go beyond the mere description of another person’s argument. It should say something about the topic, connect the topic to other issues, or develop an application of some theory or position advocated by someone else. Here are some ideas for creating claims that are perfectly acceptable and easy to develop:

  • Compare two philosophical positions. What makes them similar? How are they different? What general lessons can you draw from these positions?
  • Identify a piece of evidence or argument that you think is weak or may be subject to criticism. Why is it weak? How is your criticism a problem for the philosopher’s perspective?
  • Apply a philosophical perspective to a contemporary case or issue. What makes this philosophical position applicable? How would it help us understand the case?
  • Identify another argument or piece of evidence that might strengthen a philosophical position put forward by a philosopher. Why is this a good argument or piece of evidence? How does it fit with the philosopher’s other claims and arguments?
  • Consider an implication (either positive or negative) that follows from a philosopher’s argument. How does this implication follow? Is it necessary or contingent? What lessons can you draw from this implication (if positive, it may provide additional reasons for the argument; if negative, it may provide reasons against the argument)?

Think Like a Philosopher

The following multiple-choice exercises will help you identify and write modest, clear philosophical thesis statements. A thesis statement is a declarative statement that puts forward a position or makes a claim about some topic.

  • How does Aristotle think virtue is necessary for happiness?
  • Is happiness the ultimate goal of human action?
  • Whether or not virtue is necessary for happiness.
  • Aristotle argues that happiness is the ultimate good of human action and virtue is necessary for happiness.
  • René Descartes argues that the soul or mind is the essence of the human person.
  • Descartes shows that all beliefs and memories about the external world could be false.
  • Some people think that Descartes is a skeptic, but I will show that he goes beyond skepticism.
  • In the meditations, Descartes claims that the mind and body are two different substances.
  • Descartes says that the mind is a substance that is distinct from the body, but I disagree.
  • Contemporary psychology has shown that Descartes is incorrect to think that human beings have free will and that the mind is something different from the brain.
  • Thomas Hobbes’s view of the soul is materialistic, whereas Descartes’s view of the soul is nonphysical. In this paper, I will examine the differences between these two views.
  • John Stuart Mill reasons that utilitarian judgments can be based on qualitative differences as well as the quantity of pleasure, but ultimately any qualitative difference must result in a difference in the quantity of pleasure.
  • Mill’s approach to utilitarianism differs from Bentham’s by introducing qualitative distinctions among pleasures, where Bentham only considers the quantitative aspects of pleasure.
  • J. S. Mill’s approach to utilitarianism aligns moral theory with the history of ethics because he allows qualitative differences in moral judgments.
  • Rawls’s liberty principle ensures that all people have a basic set of freedoms that are important for living a full life.
  • The US Bill of Rights is an example of Rawls’s liberty principle because it lists a set of basic freedoms that are guaranteed for all people.
  • While many people may agree that Rawls’s liberty principle applies to all citizens of a particular country, it is much more controversial to extend those same basic freedoms to immigrants, including those classified by the government as permanent residents, legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, and refugees.

[ANS: 1.d 2.c 3.c 4.a 5.c]

Write Like a Philosopher

Use the following templates to write your own thesis statement by inserting a philosopher, claim, or contemporary issue:

  • [Name of philosopher] holds that [claim], but [name of another philosopher] holds that [another claim]. In this paper, I will identify reasons for thinking [name of philosopher]’s position is more likely to be true.
  • [Name of philosopher] argues that [claim]. In this paper, I will show how this claim provides a helpful addition to [contemporary issue].
  • When [name of philosopher] argues in favor of [claim], they rely on [another claim] that is undercut by contemporary science. I will show that if we modify this claim in light of contemporary science, we will strengthen or weaken [name of philosopher]’s argument.

Collect Evidence and Build Your Case

Once you have identified your thesis statement or primary claim, collect evidence (by returning to your readings) to compose the best possible argument. As you assemble the evidence, you can think like a detective or prosecutor building a case. However, you want a case that is true, not just one that supports your position. So you should stay open to modifying your claim if it does not fit the evidence . If you need to do additional research, follow the guidelines presented earlier to locate authoritative information.

If you cannot find evidence to support your claim but still feel strongly about it, you can try to do your own philosophical thinking using any of the methods discussed in this chapter or in Chapter 1. Imagine counterexamples and thought experiments that support your claim. Use your intuitions and common sense, but remember that these can sometimes lead you astray. In general, common sense, intuitions, thought experiments, and counterexamples should support one another and support the sources you have identified from other philosophers. Think of your case as a structure: you do not want too much of the weight to rest on a single intuition or thought experiment.

Consider Counterarguments

Philosophy papers differ from typical argumentative papers in that philosophy students must spend more time and effort anticipating and responding to counterarguments when constructing their own arguments. This has two important effects: first, by developing counterarguments, you demonstrate that you have sufficiently thought through your position to identify possible weaknesses; second, you make your case stronger by taking away a potential line of attack that an opponent might use. By including counterarguments in your paper, you engage in the kind of dialectical process that philosophers use to arrive at the truth.

Accurately Represent Source Material

It is important to represent primary and secondary source material as accurately as possible. This means that you should consider the context and read the arguments using the principle of charity. Make sure that you are not strawmanning an argument you disagree with or misrepresenting a quote or paraphrase just because you need some evidence to support your argument. As always, your goal should be to find the most rationally compelling argument, which is the one most likely to be true.

Organize Your Paper

Academic philosophy papers use the same simple structure as any other paper and one you likely learned in high school or your first-year composition class.

Introduce Your Thesis

The purpose of your introduction is to provide context for your thesis. Simply tell the reader what to expect in the paper. Describe your topic, why it is important, and how it arises within the works you have been reading. You may have to provide some historical context, but avoid both broad generalizations and long-winded historical retellings. Your context or background information should not be overly long and simply needs to provide the reader with the context and motivation for your thesis. Your thesis should appear at the end of the introduction, and the reader should clearly see how the thesis follows from the introductory material you have provided. If you are writing a long paper, you may need several sentences to express your thesis, in which you delineate in broad terms the parts of your argument.

Make a Logical and Compelling Case Using the Evidence

The paragraphs that follow the introduction lay out your argument. One strategy you can use to successfully build paragraphs is to think in terms of good argument structure. You should provide adequate evidence to support the claims you want to make. Your paragraphs will consist of quotations and paraphrases from primary and secondary sources, context and interpretation, novel thoughts and ideas, examples and analogies, counterarguments, and replies to the counterarguments. The evidence should both support the thesis and build toward the conclusion. It may help to think architecturally: lay down the foundation, insert the beams of your strongest support, and then put up the walls to complete the structure. Or you might think in terms of a narrative: tell a story in which the evidence leads to an inevitable conclusion.

Connections

See the chapter on logic and reasoning for a developed account of different types of philosophical arguments.

Summarize Your Argument in the Conclusion

Conclude your paper with a short summary that recapitulates the argument. Remind the reader of your thesis and revisit the evidence that supports your argument. You may feel that the argument as written should stand on its own. But it is helpful to the reader to reinforce the argument in your conclusion with a short summary. Do not introduce any new information in the conclusion; simply summarize what you have already said.

The purpose of this chapter has been to provide you with basic tools to become a successful philosophy student. We started by developing a sophisticated picture of how the brain works, using contemporary neuroscience. The brain represents and projects a picture of the world, full of emotional significance, but this image may contain distortions that amount to a kind of illusion. Cognitive illusions produce errors in reasoning, called cognitive biases. To guard against error, we need to engage in effortful, reflective thinking, where we become aware of our biases and use logical strategies to overcome them. You will do well in your philosophy class if you apply the good habits of mind discussed in this chapter and apply the practical advice that has been provided about how to read and write about philosophy.

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Philosophy research and writing: sample papers.

  • Reference Texts
  • Sample Papers
  • Writing Guides

Examples of Philosophical Writing

One of the most difficult things about writing philosophy papers as a new undergraduate is figuring out what a philosophy paper is supposed to look like! For many students here at Cal, a lower division philosophy class is the first experience they have with philosophical writing so when asked to write a paper it can be difficult to figure out exactly what a good paper would be. Below are a few examples of the kinds of papers you might be asked to write in a philosophy class here at Cal as well as the papers written by professional philosophers to which the sample papers are a response.

Precis Sample Paper

  • "War and Peace in Islam" by Bassam Tibi In this paper, Bassam Tibi explores the Islamic position on war and peace as understood through the Quran and its interpretations in Islamic history.
  • Max Deleon's Precis of Tibi on war and peace in Islam In this sample paper, Max Deleon, a former tutor at the university of Vermont gives a summary of an argument made by Bassam Tibi in his paper "War and Peace in Islam"

Critical Response to a Philosopher's Position

  • "In Defense of Mereological Universalism" by Michael C. Rea In this paper, Michael Rea defends the position in ontology known as mereological universalism which he defines as that position which holds that "for any set S of disjoint objects, there is an object that the members of S compose."
  • Max Deleon's critical response to Michael Rea on Mereological Universalism In lower division philosophy courses here at Cal, the most common type of paper that you will write will be one in which you are asked to respond to some given philosopher's position by uncovering some difficulty in that position. In this paper, Max Deleon critically examines Michael Rae's paper "In Defense of Mereological Universalism"

Exposition and Amending of Existing Philosopher's Position

  • "Against Moral Rationalism, Philippa Foot" in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy The section "Against moral Rationalism" in the article "Philippa Foot" from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explores Foot's positions on moral motivation which Max Deleon deals with in the paper below.
  • Max Deleon's exposition and emendation of "Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives" In this paper Max Deleon looks at Philippa Foot's argument from "Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives," raises a few possible objections, and proposes emendations to Foot's position to respond to those objections.
  • "Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives" by Philippa Foot One of the most influential paper in 20th century philosophy, Philippa Foot's "Morality as a System of Hypothetical Impreatives" tackles to dominant Kantian conception of the nature of morality and offers an alternative understanding of the nature of morality.
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The Writing Place

Resources – how to write a philosophy paper, introduction to the topic.

The most common introductory level philosophy papers involve making an original argument (“Do you believe that free will exists?”) or thinking critically about another philosopher’s argument (“Do you agree with Hobbes’ argument about free will?”). This short checklist will help you construct a paper for these two types of assignments.

The Basics of a Philosophy Paper

1. introduction and thesis.

There is not a need for a grand or lofty introduction in a philosophy paper. Introductory paragraphs should be short and concise. In the thesis, state what you will be arguing and how you will make your argument.

2. Define Terms

It is important to define words that you use in your argument that may be unclear to your reader. While it may seem like words like “morality” and “free will” have an obvious definition, you need to make clear to your audience what those words mean in the context of your paper. A generally useful rule is to pretend that your reader does not know anything about your course or the subject of philosophy and define any words or concepts that such a reader may find ambiguous.

In a philosophy paper, you need to give reasons to support the argument you made in your thesis. This should constitute the largest portion of your paper. It is also important here to name preexisting conditions (premises) that must exist in order for the argument to be true. You can use real-world examples and the ideas of other philosophers to generate reasons why your argument is true. Remember to use simple and clear language and treat your readers as if they are not experts in philosophy.

4. Objections and Responses to Objections

Unlike other types of persuasive essays, in a many philosophy papers you should anticipate criticisms of your argument and respond to those criticisms. If you can refute objections to your argument, your paper will be stronger. While you do not have to address every potential counterargument, you should try to cover the most salient problems.

5. Conclusion

Like the introduction, you should be simple and concise. In the final paragraph you should review and summarize what your paper has established. The conclusion should tell readers why your argument is relevant. It answers the question, “Why do I care?”

General Tips

  • Do not overstate or over generalize your ideas.
  • Do not try to argue for both sides of an issue. Be clear about where you stand or your reader will be confused.
  • Be specific. Do not try to tackle a huge issue, but rather, aim to discuss something small that can be done justice in just a few pages.
  • Be wary of using religious or legal grounds for your argument.

A Quick Practice Exercise...

Practice: what is wrong with this paragraph.

This paragraph contains 5 major errors that you should try to avoid in a philosophy paper. Can you find them all?

“In his argument from design, Paley uses the example of a watch that he finds upon a road that has dozens of pieces that work together to make the clock function.  He asserts that this watch is too perfect of a creation not to have a creator and that it would be obvious to conclude that the timepiece must have a maker. Similarly, the Bible proves that God must exist because he made the world beautiful in seven days.  Paley notes, “There cannot be design without a designer; contrivance, without a contriver; order, without choice; arrangement without anything capable of arranging” (Paley 49). This reasoning is strong because it is apparent that beings found in nature have a complex design.  For example, the iris, retina, lens and ocular muscles of the eye all work together to produce sight in the human eye and without any one of these mechanisms, one would be blind.  For all of these tiny pieces that are required for a functioning eye to have randomly come together seems impossible. Therefore, it is logical that there had to be a designer who created a world in which DNA replicates and dozens of small parts create a functioning human or animal.  By simply viewing the natural world, it is highly plausible to see that Paley’s theory is correct.”

1.  “Similarly, the Bible proves that God must exist because he had the power to make the flood happen in Noah’s Ark.”  Arguments based off religious texts, such as the Bible, are generally frowned upon and only weaken an essay.

2. The writer does not define what he means by “God.” Is God a benevolent overseer of the earth? Or is God a vengeful figure? Although it may seem as though everyone knows who God is, in reality, people have different perspective and the writer needs to define God’s character for the reader.

3.  “For all of these tiny pieces that are required for a functioning eye to have randomly come together seems impossible.”  The phrase “ seems impossible ” is weak and unclear. In a philosophy paper, you should take a strong stance and avoid words that weaken your argument like “probably” or “seem.” Additionally, the phrase “ highly plausible ” appears at the end of the paragraph, which is also a phrase that weakens the argument.

4. The writer gives not premises for Paley’s argument to be true. A stronger paper would name the preexisting conditions that must exist in order for the argument to stand.

5. The “real world” example of the human eye is not the best. The writer neglects strong counterarguments such as evolution and the existence of blindness in humans. A good philosophy paper would be more careful when considering real world examples.

Developed by Ann Bruton

Adapted from:

Harvard University’s Short Guide to Philosophical Writing

Kenneth Seeskin’s “How to Write a Philosophy Paper,” Northwestern University

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Philosophy Paper Format: Guide How to Write a Philosophical Essay

Philosophy Paper Format

Philosophy Paper Format

Writing a philosophical essay is a journey into ideas where critical thinking and eloquent expression converge. 

This guide will navigate you through the intricacies of philosophical paper format, helping you articulate your thoughts coherently, develop compelling arguments, and explore profound concepts. 

Whether you are a novice philosopher or a seasoned thinker, this guide will assist you in crafting an essay that engages readers in philosophical discourse. Read on.

philosophy paper layout

Writing a philosophy paper is an intellectual endeavor that requires precision, critical thinking, and the ability to articulate complex ideas with clarity. 

philosophy writings

Whether you’re a student delving into philosophical discourse or a philosopher refining your thoughts, understanding the suitable format is essential. 

We present a comprehensive guide to help you structure and compose philosophical essays effectively.

Introduction

Begin with a concise and engaging introduction that presents the central problem or question you will address.

Provide context for the issue and outline your thesis or argument.

Background and Context

Offer relevant historical, philosophical, or cultural context to help readers understand the problem’s significance.

Summarize critical theories or ideas related to the topic.

Thesis Statement

Present a clear, concise, and arguable thesis statement that encapsulates your main argument or position.

Argumentation

Develop your argument logically and coherently, providing evidence, reasoning, and examples.

Anticipate and respond to potential counterarguments.

Critical Analysis

Engage in critically analyzing concepts, theories, or arguments related to your topic.

Use philosophical tools like logic, ethics, and epistemology to evaluate ideas.

Structured Paragraphs

Organize your essay into well-structured paragraphs , each focused on a specific point or idea.

Ensure smooth transitions between paragraphs.

Clarity and Precision

Write in clear, concise, and precise language, avoiding jargon or overly complex terminology.

Define terms when necessary.

conclusion

Summarize your main arguments and restate your thesis in light of the evidence presented.

Reflect on the broader implications of your findings.

Citations and References

Properly cite all sources, adhering to a recognized citation style (e.g., APA, MLA, and Chicago).

Include a bibliography or reference list.

Revision and Proofreading

Revise your essay for clarity, coherence, and logical flow. Proofread for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors.

Writing a philosophy paper can be challenging, but with a clear understanding of the format and a commitment to rigorous thinking, you can craft essays that engage readers in profound philosophical discussions.

Remember that philosophy is about exploration, inquiry, and the pursuit of wisdom, and your essays contribute to this timeless quest.

How to Write a Philosophical Essay

Philosophical essays are a unique form of writing that invites readers to engage deeply with profound questions, challenge assumptions, and explore the complexities of human thought. 

Whether you are a student tackling a philosophical assignment or a seasoned philosopher contributing to the ongoing discourse, crafting a philosophical essay follows a distinct path.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you navigate this intellectual journey.

1. Choose a Thoughtful Topic

Selecting a thoughtful topic is the initial step in crafting a compelling philosophical essay. It involves choosing a question, problem, or concept that piques your interest and possesses philosophical depth and relevance.

thoughts

A thoughtful topic should be open to philosophical analysis, inviting critical examination and exploration.

It should inspire contemplation and reflection, and ideally, it connects to broader philosophical themes or debates.

Choosing such a topic sets the stage for meaningful philosophical discourse and ensures that your essay addresses issues that matter deeply within philosophy, fostering engagement and thought-provoking discussions.

2. Thorough Research

Thorough research is the cornerstone of a well-crafted philosophical essay.

It involves delving deep into the philosophical question or problem you’re exploring, immersing yourself in the relevant literature, and comprehensively understanding your topic’s historical, cultural, and philosophical context. 

Through research, you gain insights into various philosophical perspectives, theories, and arguments related to your subject.

Also, this knowledge enriches your understanding and equips you to engage in critical analysis and construct well-supported arguments. 

In essence, thorough research lays the foundation for a thoughtful and informed exploration of complex philosophical concepts.

3. Formulate a Clear Thesis

Develop a concise, arguable thesis statement encapsulating your main argument or perspective on the chosen topic.

Ensure your thesis is specific, debatable, and addresses the central issue.

4. Structured Introduction

Begin your essay with an engaging introduction that provides context for your topic and outlines the questions or problems you will address.

Present your thesis statement to guide readers.

5. Elaborate on Your Thesis

Use the body of your essay to present and elaborate on your thesis. Organize your ideas logically and coherently.

Each paragraph should focus on your thesis’s specific point or argument.

6. Critical Analysis

Engage in critical analysis by evaluating and assessing your topic’s concepts, theories, or arguments.

Use philosophical tools and methods, such as logic, ethics, or epistemology, to examine and critique ideas.

7. Present Evidence and Examples

giving evidence

Support your arguments with evidence, examples, and references to relevant philosophical works.

Use concrete illustrations to elucidate complex concepts.

8. Address Counterarguments

Acknowledge potential counterarguments and address them fairly and rigorously.

Demonstrating an understanding of opposing viewpoints strengthens your argument.

9. Clarity and Precision

Write in clear, concise, and precise language. Avoid jargon or overly complex terminology that may obscure your message.

Define terms when necessary to ensure clarity.

10. Structured Conclusion

Reflect on the broader implications of your findings or the unresolved questions your essay raises.

11. Citations and References

Include a bibliography or reference list to acknowledge your sources.

12. Revision and Proofreading

Revise your essay for clarity, coherence, and logical flow. Ensure each paragraph contributes to the overall argument. Proofread meticulously for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors.

proofreading check list

Writing a philosophical essay is about conveying information and inviting readers to engage in profound and critical thinking.

It is a dialogue with the great philosophical minds of the past and an opportunity to contribute to the ongoing conversation about the fundamental questions that shape our understanding of existence, ethics, knowledge, and reality.

As you follow this guide and embrace the spirit of philosophical inquiry, you can craft essays that inspire contemplation and meaningful discourse.

Philosophy Paper Topic Examples

These topics span various branches of philosophy and offer opportunities for in-depth exploration, critical analysis, and engaging philosophical discourse.

When selecting a topic, consider your interests, the philosophical questions that resonate with you, and the potential for meaningful philosophical inquiry.

Choosing the right philosophy paper topic can be both exhilarating and challenging. Here are some diverse examples to inspire your philosophical exploration:

  • The Trolley Problem: Exploring Moral Dilemma
  • The Ethics of AI :  Can Machines Possess Moral Responsibility?
  • The Nature of Time: A Philosophical Investigation
  • Are Universals Real or Conceptual?
  • The Gettier Problem: Reevaluating Justified True Belief
  • The Role of Intuition in Philosophical Inquiry
  • Social Contract Theory: Rousseau vs. Hobbes
  • Liberty vs. Security: The Ethics of Surveillance
  • The Mind-Body Problem: Dualism vs. Materialism
  • Consciousness and the Hard Problem: Can It Be Solved?
  • The Subjectivity of Art: Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder?
  • The Ethics of Artistic Expression: Balancing Freedom and Responsibility
  • Jean-Paul Sartre’s Existentialism: Freedom and Responsibility
  • The Absurdity of Life: Camus and the Myth of Sisyphus
  • Deep Ecology: Intrinsic Value of Nature
  • Anthropocentrism vs. Biocentrism: Shifting Perspectives on Nature
  • The Problem of Evil: Can God and Suffering Coexist?
  • Faith and Reason: The Intersection of Science and Religion
  • Ethical Dilemmas in Genetic Engineering
  • End-of-Life Ethics: Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide”

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How to Write a Philosophy Paper

Last Updated: May 6, 2021

This article was co-authored by wikiHow Staff . Our trained team of editors and researchers validate articles for accuracy and comprehensiveness. wikiHow's Content Management Team carefully monitors the work from our editorial staff to ensure that each article is backed by trusted research and meets our high quality standards. This article has been viewed 122,338 times.

Writing a philosophy paper is quite different from other types of papers. In a philosophy paper, you have to provide an explanation of a philosophical concept and then either support or refute that concept. This means that you have to fully understand the concepts that you read about and you have to do some philosophy of your own to respond to these concepts. While writing a philosophy paper may be challenging, it is possible with some careful planning and hard work.

Planning Your Philosophy Paper

Step 1 Give yourself time.

  • Try to begin developing your ideas for your philosophy paper as soon as you get the assignment. Jot down your ideas and use some of your spare time to think about what you want to write about.

Step 2 Read all relevant materials.

  • Having a solid understanding of the concepts covered in your readings is essential to create an effective paper. Otherwise, your explanation of the philosophy may be flawed or your argument may not hold up.

Step 3 Make sure that you understand the assignment.

  • If any part of the assignment is unclear, ask your professor for clarification.

Step 4 Consider your audience.

  • You can also think of your audience as a person who has some knowledge of philosophy, but who does not have the same understanding as you do. Therefore, if you introduce a special term or concept, you will need to define it for your audience.

Step 5 Choose textual references.

  • Only use a quote when it is necessary to support your point of view.
  • Make sure to provide a citation for every quote or paraphrase that you use from a source. Include the author’s name as well as a page number.

Step 6 Develop a thesis.

  • For example, if you plan to refute Aristotle’s idea that beauty is related to virtue, then you would have to provide a brief explanation of why. One reason that you may cite might be that beautiful people are not always virtuous. In this case, your thesis might be something like, “Aristotle’s concept that beauty is related to virtue is false because beauty is often found in those who lack virtue.”
  • You will need to place your thesis at the end of the first paragraph in your essay.

Step 7 Outline your paper.

  • ideas for your introduction
  • your thesis
  • main points of your explanation
  • main points in your evaluation along with supporting evidence
  • potential objections and your refutations
  • ideas for your conclusion

Drafting Your Philosophy Paper

Step 1 Write how you speak.

  • Try to avoid padding your work with extra words. This makes it hard for your readers to understand what you mean.
  • Look up new words before you used them. If you like to use the thesaurus feature of Word when you write, just make sure that you are looking up the meanings of these words before you include them. The thesaurus does not always provide suggestions that are grammatically correct or equivalent in meaning to the original word.

Step 2 Introduce your paper with relevant details.

  • Avoid introductions that provide a sweeping overview of your topic, such as “Since the dawn of time…” or “All people everywhere have wondered….” Instead, jump right into the topic. For example, you might lead in with something like, “Aristotle often draws a line between beauty and virtue in his work.”

Step 3 Explain the argument.

  • Do not add or leave out any details that might provide you with an advantage when you start to evaluate the philosophy. Otherwise, your professor may consider your argument to be less effective.
  • Stick to the relevant details of the argument. Do not explain things that you do not plan to argue against in your paper unless they are absolutely necessary for understanding your point. [13] X Research source

Step 4 Support your thesis.

  • One great way to support your thesis is by using examples that you draw from personal experiences or that you create. For example, if you are arguing that beauty and virtue are unrelated, then you might give an example of a convicted criminal who many consider to be beautiful.

Step 5 Anticipate objections to your argument.

  • Don’t worry about handling every single objection. Focus on handling the three biggest objections that your opponents might raise.
  • For example, if you are arguing that beauty and virtue are not related, then you might identify an objection that some studies have demonstrated that some men are less attracted to women with undesirable personality traits, despite their beauty.

Step 6 Conclude your paper in a meaningful way.

  • For example, you might explain what your paper has established or how it has added to a philosophical conversation. [17] X Research source If your paper is about Aristotle’s concept of the relationship between virtue and beauty, you might discuss how your findings demonstrate the modern separation of image and personality.

Revising Your Philosophy Paper

Step 1 Put your paper aside for a few days.

  • If possible set aside your paper for at least three days, but keep in mind that even setting aside your paper for a few hours before you revise is better than nothing.

Step 2 Read your paper with an eye towards content and clarity.

  • When you revisit your paper, read it with a focus on the content. Do your arguments hold up? If not, how might you improve them? Are the concepts in your paper clear and easy to understand? If not, how might you clarify these concepts?

Step 3 Ask someone to read your work.

  • Try asking a classmate or friend (preferably someone who you know to be a good writer) to take a look at your paper and give you some feedback.
  • Many universities also have writing centers where students can make an appointment and get some feedback from a trained writing tutor. This can also help you to develop effective strategies for revising your own work.
  • You can also make an appointment with your professor if he or she is willing to provide feedback before you submit the paper. Just make sure that you request an appointment at least one week before the paper is due. Otherwise, your professor may not have time to meet with you.

Step 4 Polish your work with proofreading.

  • To proofread, go through your paper and correct any typos, grammatical errors, or other minor flaws before you print and/or submit your work. Try reading your paper out loud or reading it backwards one sentence at a time. Mark any errors you find with a highlighter or pencil.

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About this article

wikiHow Staff

To write a philosophy paper, start with an introduction that grabs your reader’s attention and provides a preview of your argument. After that, explain your argument in a clear, objective manner with all of the relevant details. Then, evaluate your argument by providing examples that support your thesis such as, if you are arguing that beauty and virtue are unrelated, you could give an example of a convicted criminal who many consider beautiful. Finally, identify the strongest objections to your argument, refute these objections, and conclude with a summary of your paper. For more tips, like how to revise your paper, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Writing in Philosophy

Writing is especially important in philosophy because it allows you to clarify your ideas and arguments. Often times writing your ideas down reveals problems or areas that need improvement. Furthermore, writing is the primary medium for the exchange of philosophical ideas. Thus, to do philosophy well, one must write well. This page contains notes on form and standards for writing in the English language. I recommend reading this guide and then looking at a  sample philosophy essay written by a college student, such as:

  • Frege’s philosophy of language – by Angela Mendelovici
  • If you need help figuring out how to write an essay in general, see my “ How to Construct an Essay .”
  • Much of this page was adapted from “How to Analyze a Philosophical Essay,” which was initially written by Dr. G. R. Mayes (of CSU Sacramento). I have used much of it here with his permission. I have made some changes to the original, however.

Table of Contents:

  • The Paper Topic
  • Writing Style
  • Grading Rubric
  • Relevant Links

1. The Paper Topic

To write a philosophy paper, first, read the paper assignment prompt (a.k.a. topic prompt ) several times. Make sure you understand exactly what you’re being asked to do. (It’s also a good idea to reread your assignment prompt throughout the writing process, including when you are writing your final draft, to make sure you stay on topic.)

Sometimes the assignment prompt gives you very narrow and specific directions for what to write on (for example, explain and evaluate Anselm’s ontological argument). This is good. In general, your paper should have a more narrow than broad topic. And now the topic is already found for you.

However, often times you will be asked to find a topic on your own (for example, you are merely asked to critically analyze an article or text such as Plato’s Republic or Frege’s “On Sense and Reference”). If this is the case, then you will need to select an aspect of the text that you find particularly interesting, troubling, exciting, confusing, or problematic. By an aspect of the article, I do not mean a particular section of words or bits of language; I mean a claim or set of claims to which the author is committed, either by explicitly arguing for them, or presupposing them.

Note: before you can select a topic, you should make sure to read the text(s) of interest several times until you think you understand it fairly well.

2. Writing Style

Your paper should be concise and thorough. Absolutely do not engage in:

  • Unnecessary editorializing
  • Pointless repetition
  • Personal attacks on the author or questioning of the author’s psychological motives
  • Complaining about the author’s writing style or choice of words

In short, always strive to express yourself in the simplest, clearest, and most precise terms possible. The paper should demonstrate a strong grasp and command of the material from the course. Remember that accuracy is still important regarding fine details—even minor differences in words can drastically change the meaning of a sentence.

Furthermore, a good essay goes beyond a typed up version of your class notes by demonstrating that you know how all the material connects together conceptually. (For example, providing your own examples to illustrate a point, whether in someone’s argument or your own, can often help to demonstrate that you understand the material.)

Don’t write as if your reader is the instructor, teaching assistant, or whomever is going to grade your paper. Instead, write as if your reader is someone who is intelligent, about your level of education, but has not studied the material in your topic before. So, make sure to define all technical terms. (A good rule of thumb: if you first learned the word or phrase in the class, then you should probably explain what it means to your reader.)

There are two main types of philosophy paper assignments:

  • Expository (Explanatory) – this type of paper assignment asks you only to explain something (for example, somone’s argument) and not to evaluate or critique it.
  • Evaluative (Critical / Argumentative) – this type of paper assignment asks you to explain and evaluate something (for example, somone’s argument). This involves exposition like the previous assignment type but evaluation as well.

Expository papers should have the following sections:

  • Introduction
  • Summary (optional)

in that order.

Evaluative papers should have the following sections:

Construct each section of your paper along the following guidelines.

1. Introduction

This section must accomplish the following tasks in the following order. A good option is to devote a single short paragraph to each task.

  • Identify the article, and describe in one or two sentences what problem(s) it addresses and what view(s) it defends. Orient the reader to the topic and provide a conceptual map of the rest of the paper.
  • State precisely which aspect(s) of the article your analysis will address and precisely what you intend to accomplish. This is something like a thesis statement . This must not be a vague statement like “I will evaluate the author’s views…” or “I will show where I agree and where I disagree….”. Rather, it must be a very specific and concise statement of the case you intend to make, and the basic considerations you intend to employ in making it. (You will probably find it impossible to write this section before your analysis has gone through the rough draft phase.)

Avoid lengthy or dramatic introductions, especially if they insult the discipline. For example, it’s not a good idea to write: “From the dawn of time, philosophers have debated the free will problem, and it will never ever be resolved, even though philosophers will continue blathering on about it forever.”

2. Exposition

The basic rules for constructing an exposition are as follows:

  • For the most part, you should explain only those aspects of the article that are relevant to your evaluation. If you explain more than that, it should only be because anything less will not provide the reader an adequate understanding of the author’s basic concerns. Do not produce an unnecessarily lengthy or detailed explanation. As a general rule of thumb, the exposition and evaluation will usually be roughly equal in length.
  • The exposition should present the author’s views in the best possible light. It must be a thorough, fair, and completely accurate representation of the author’s views. Misrepresentation of the author’s views, especially selective misrepresentation (i.e., misrepresentation for the purpose of easy refutation) is wrong and will be heavily penalized (recall the straw man fallacy).
  • The exposition should contain absolutely no critical/evaluative comments. (This restriction does not prevent you from expressing some uncertainty about what the author is saying, however. )
  • The exposition should be organized logically, not chronologically. Each paragraph in the exposition will ordinarily present argument(s) the author makes in support of a particular position. This means that, depending on the organization of the article itself, a single paragraph from the exposition may contain statements that are made in very different places in the article. The exposition itself should be organized in a way that makes the author’s views make sense. Under no conditions are you to simply relate what the author says the way she says them. An exposition that goes something like: “The author begins by discussing… Then she goes on to say… then, etc.” is very bad.

3. Evaluation

Your evaluation (a.k.a. critique ) should be organized in a way that reflects the structure of your exposition. This is easy to do since you have selected for exposition only those aspects of the article about which you have something to say. Be sure your evaluation obeys the rules laid out in the Writing Style section above.

The evaluation should engage carefully with some of the primary texts in the literature. Don’t just summarize views; extract the detailed arguments from the texts themselves and scrutinize them. You don’t have to defend a groundbreaking theory or idea, but you should  push the discussion forward , beyond what’s already in the literature you’re engaging with. (Note: If you find yourself struggling to come up with your own ideas, go back and re-read the papers you aim to engage with, or read related articles in the literature. That should help get your thoughts going.)

There are two main approaches to doing an evaluation:

Negative Evaluation

For a negative evaluation , define your project in terms of arguments and views with which you disagree . In your evaluation, show how the author’s conclusion is problematic either because:

  • the author’s reasons (or premises) are false (or implausible), or
  • the author’s reasoning is faulty or fallacious (the reasons don’t make the conclusion true or probable), or
  • the author has failed to make other important considerations that tend to undermine the conclusion.

Positive Evaluation

For a positive evaluation , define your project in terms of arguments and views with which you basically agree . In your critique, consider ways in which the author’s views might reasonably be criticized. Then attempt to strengthen the author’s position by showing how these criticisms can actually be met. If you use this technique, be sure you don’t consider criticisms that the author actually does respond to in the context of the article (unless, of course, you think that the author has failed to answer the objections effectively).

Note: The evaluative part of your analysis should demonstrate an awareness of other relevant readings. You should be careful to note when you are reproducing criticisms that are made by other authors, especially those read in the class. You should be careful to include or consider important criticisms made by other authors when they are clearly relevant to your own concerns.

4. Summary (Optional)

A summary is optional (note: a summary is often misleadingly called a “conclusion”). However, if your analysis is sufficiently complicated, it may help the reader to briefly recapitulate the steps you have taken in reaching your conclusions. The summary should be very short and it should contain no new information or claims. This restriction prevents you from making closing comments which are not sufficiently articulated in the body of the paper. For example, avoid pronouncements like: “Thus, the problem of free will remains unresolved as it always will, for it is one of the many mysteries in this great universe that our feeble human minds cannot fully comprehend.”

5. Grading Rubric

Here are the criteria I use to grade philosophy essays in my classes. 

  • The essay completes the entire task set forth by the instructor in the assignment instructions.
  • Makes an argument by doing some critical evaluation that ultimately pushes the discussion forward, beyond the arguments and ideas covered in the class.
  • The body of the paper supports the paper’s thesis with the student’s own thoughts but also grounded in the class readings, lectures, and (if appropriate) outside sources.
  • The essay demonstrates an accurate and precise understanding of the ideas, evidence, and arguments discussed. (Accuracy is still important regarding fine details.)
  • Demonstrates philosophical acuity in critically evaluating arguments and in anticipating and responding to objections.
  • The essay moves beyond simple description and summary to reflect a clear understanding of the topic and material. (Tip: Imagine the reader is someone who hasn’t taken this class. Think: “If my friend read this, would they be able to understand exactly what’s going on?” This will help you demonstrate your understanding of the material.)
  • Detailed when explaining key ideas. Focuses on quality or depth of analysis over quantity. But stays on topic; avoids going on tangents or adding details that aren’t crucial for understanding the issue at hand.
  • Uses examples to illustrate points (especially ones that connect the ideas to relatable experiences or events).
  • The essay avoids a lengthy or dramatic introduction. The introduction(1-2 paragraphs) briefly orients the reader to the topic in plain language and briefly describes the plan for the rest of the paper.
  • There is a clear thesis statement (usually best stated toward the end of the introduction) that addresses the paper topic and expresses an interesting claim to be defended. The thesis statement is clear, specific, and on-topic. (Students can absolutely use the first person in an argumentative essay, especially for their thesis statement—g. “I will argue….”)
  • The body paragraphs are organized in a logical manner, appropriate in length, and ideally framed by topic sentences that make clear what the paragraph’s main point is. Ideally, there is some “signposting” that makes the structure of the discussion easy to follow, such as transitions and section headings. (The paper may have a short conclusion/summary, but it’s not required.)
  • Quotations aren’t overused. Quotes used only when necessary to ground discussion of someone’s view. Quotes, when used, are introduced, not just insertedwithout any explanation of who said it and what the relevance is.
  • The paper demonstrates a command of the writing process and the author’s care in crafting it.
  • Uses good citation practices. Provides full bibliographic details (no particular citation style is required; any standard style, like APA, OK).
  • Avoids many errors of spelling, punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, etc. (But the writing doesn’t need to be fancy; clarity and organization of thoughts is most important.)

6. Relevant Links

  • Sample Philosophy Paper  – by Angela Mendelovici (Western Ontario).
  • The Source of Bad Writing – short essay by Steven Pinker, one of the best academic writers around (see also his book ).
  • Video on the Sense of Style – a video on writing in the 21st century by Steven Pinker.
  • The Elements of Style – a popular, albeit increasingly dated, style guide by Strunk and White.
  • Harvard’s Brief Guide to Writing the Philosophy Paper – short and useful.
  • Pryor’s Philosophy Writing Guidelines – guidelines on writing a philosophy paper – by Jim Pryor.
  • Heumer’s Guide to Writing – geared toward philosophical writing, but good for essays in general.
  • How to Construct an Essay – my guide to writing essays in general.
  • Top 10 Grammatical Errors – by Robert Pasnau at Boulder.

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What this handout is about

This handout discusses common types of philosophy assignments and strategies and resources that will help you write your philosophy papers.

What is philosophy, and why do we study it?

Philosophy is the practice of making and assessing arguments. An argument is a set of statements (called premises) that work together to support another statement (the conclusion).

Making and assessing arguments can help us get closer to understanding the truth. At the very least, the process helps make us aware of our reasons for believing what we believe, and it enables us to use reason when we discuss our beliefs with other people. Your philosophy teacher wants to help you learn to make strong arguments and to assess the arguments other people make.

Elements of philosophy papers

A philosophy paper may require several kinds of tasks, including:

  • Argument reconstruction

Objections and replies

Application.

  • Original argument

Thought experiments

Let’s examine these elements one at a time.

Argument Reconstruction

To reconstruct an argument, you’ll need to present it in a way that someone unfamiliar with the material will understand. Often, this requires you to say a lot more than the philosopher whose work you are writing about did!

There are two main ways to reconstruct an argument: in regular prose or as a formal series of numbered steps. Unless your professor or TA has told you otherwise, you should probably use regular prose. In either case, keep these points in mind:

  • Keep your ideas separate from the author’s. Your purpose is to make the author’s argument clear, not to tell what you think of it.
  • Be charitable. Give the best version of the argument you can, even if you don’t agree with the conclusion.
  • Define important terms.
  • Organize your ideas so that the reader can proceed logically from premises to conclusion, step by step.
  • Explain each premise.

Let’s walk through an argument reconstruction. Here is a passage by 18th-century British philosopher David Hume:

Take any action allowed to be vicious: Willful murder, for instance. Examine it in all lights, and see if you can find that matter of fact, or real existence, which you call vice. In whichever way you take it, you find only certain passions, motives, volitions and thoughts. There is no other matter of fact in the case. The vice entirely escapes you, as long as you consider the object. You never can find it, till you turn your reflection into your own breast, and find a sentiment of disapprobation, which arises in you, towards this action. Here is a matter of fact, but it is the object of feeling, not of reason. It lies in yourself, not in the object. So that when you pronounce any action or character to be vicious, you mean nothing, but that from the constitution of your nature you have a feeling or sentiment of blame from the contemplation of it. (David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature).

Step 1: Reread the passage a few times, stopping to look up any unfamiliar words—”disapprobation,” maybe. Be sure you understand the important terms, like “vicious.” (By “vicious,” Hume seems to mean “wicked, depraved, or immoral,” which probably isn’t the way you use the word in everyday speech.)

Step 2: Identify the conclusion. Sometimes your teacher will identify it for you, but even if they didn’t, you can find it. (Caution: It won’t always be the first or the last sentence in the passage; it may not even be explicitly stated.) In this case, Hume’s conclusion is something like this: The viciousness of an action is a feeling of disapprobation in the person who considers it, not a property of the action itself.

Step 3: Identify the premises. Consider the conclusion and ask yourself what the author needs to do to prove it. Hume’s conclusion here seems to have two parts: When we call an action vicious, we mean that our “nature” causes us to feel blame when we contemplate that action. There is nothing else that we could mean when we call an action “vicious.”

Step 4: Identify the evidence. Hume considers an example, murder, and points out that when we consider why we say that murder is vicious, two things happen:

  • We realize that when we contemplate murder, we feel “a sentiment of disapprobation” in ourselves.
  • No matter how hard we look, we don’t see any other “matter of fact” that could be called “vice”—all we see “in the object” (the murder) are “certain passions, motives, volitions, and thoughts.”

Step 5: Identify unspoken assumptions. Hume assumes that murder is a representative case of “viciousness.” He also assumes that if there were “viciousness” in the “object” (the murder), we would be able to “see” it—it isn’t somehow hidden from us. 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.
  • We don’t see anything else.
  • So we don’t see any property or “matter of fact” called “viciousness.”
  • Assumption: What we don’t see is not there.
  • When we examine our feelings about murder, we see a “sentiment of disapprobation.”
  • Unstated premise: This feeling of disapprobation is the only thing all the acts we think are vicious have in common, and we feel it whenever we confront a vicious act—that is, all and only vicious acts produce the feeling of disapprobation.
  • 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. Here’s how such a prose reconstruction might go: To understand what we mean when we call an action “vicious,” by which he means “wrong,” Hume examines the case of murder. He finds that whenever we consider a murder itself, all we see are the “passions, motives, volitions, and thoughts” of the people involved. 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. But no matter how hard we look, we don’t see “viciousness” or wrongness—we see an action taking place, and people with motives and feelings are involved in that action, but none of these things seem to be what we mean by “viciousness” or wrongness. Hume next turns his inquiry inward, and considers what is happening inside a person who calls a murder “vicious.” The person who thinks or says that murder is wrong always seems to be feeling a certain “sentiment of disapprobation.” That is, the person disapproves of the action and blames the murderer. When we say “murder is wrong,” we usually think that we are saying something about murder itself, that we are describing a property (wrongness) that the action of murder has. But Hume thinks what we are in fact describing is a feeling in us, not a property of murder—the “viciousness” of a vicious action is just an emotion in the person who is thinking about or observing that action, rather than a property of the action itself.

Often, after you reconstruct an argument, you’ll be asked to tell whether it is a good or a bad argument and whether you agree or disagree with it.

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. To object to an argument, you must give reasons why it is flawed:

  • The premises don’t support the conclusion.
  • 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.
  • The argument makes a comparison that doesn’t really hold.

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?

Let’s look at our example again. What objections might you make to Hume’s argument about murder? Here are some possible arguments:

  • You might object to premises 2 and 3, and argue that wrong actions do have a property that makes us call them wrong. For example, maybe we call actions wrong because of their motives—because the actions are motivated by cruelty, for example. So perhaps Hume is right that we don’t see a property called “viciousness,” but wrong that “viciousness” is thus only a feeling in us. Maybe the viciousness is one of the motives or passions.
  • You might also object to premise 5, and say that we sometimes judge actions to be wrong even though we don’t feel any “sentiment” of disapproval for them. For example, if vigilantes killed a serial murderer, we might say that what they did was wrong, even if we shared their anger at the murderer and were pleased that they had killed them.

Often you’ll be asked to consider how a philosopher might reply to objections. After all, not every objection is a good objection; the author might be able to come up with a very convincing reply! Use what you know about the author’s general position to construct a reply that is consistent with other things the author has said, as well as with the author’s original argument.

So how might Hume, or someone defending Hume, reply to the objections above? Here are some possible objections:

  • To the first, Hume might reply that there is no one motive that all “vicious” actions have in common. Are all wrong actions motivated by cruelty? No—theft, for example, might be motivated by hunger. So the only thing all “vicious” actions have in common is that we disapprove of them.
  • To the second, Hume might reply that when we call the actions of vigilantes wrong, even though we are pleased by them, we must still be feeling at least some disapproval.

Sometimes you will be asked to summarize an author’s argument and apply that position to a new case. Considering how the author would think about a different case helps you understand the author’s reasoning and see how the argument is relevant. Imagine that your instructor has given you this prompt:

“Apply Hume’s views on the nature of vice to the following case: Mr. Smith has an advanced form of cancer. He asks Dr. Jones what she thinks his prognosis is. Dr. Jones is certain Mr. Smith will die within the month, but she tells him he may survive for a year or longer, that his cancer may not be fatal. Dr. Jones wants to give Mr. Smith hope and spare him the painful truth. How should we think about whether what Dr. Jones did is wrong?”

Consider what you know about Hume’s views. Hume has not given a list of actions that are right or wrong, nor has he said how we should judge whether an action is right or wrong. All he has told us is that if an action is wrong, the wrongness is a sentiment in the people considering the action rather than a property of the action itself. So Hume would probably say that what matters is how we feel about Dr. Jones’s action—do we feel disapproval? If we feel disapproval, then we are likely to call the action “wrong.”

This test case probably raises all kinds of questions for you about Hume’s views. You might be thinking, “Who cares whether we call the action wrong—I want to know whether it actually is wrong!” Or you might say to yourself, “Some people will feel disapproval of the doctor’s action, but others will approve, so how should we decide whether the action is wrong or not?” These are exactly the kinds of questions your instructor wants to get you thinking about.

When you go back to read and discuss Hume, you will begin to see how he might answer such questions, and you will have a deeper understanding of his position. In your paper, though, you should probably focus on one or two main points and reserve the rest of your speculation for your conclusion.

Original argument/taking a position

Sometimes an assignment will ask you to stake out a position (i.e., to take sides in a philosophical debate) or to make an original argument. These assignments are basically persuasive essays, a kind of writing you are probably familiar with. If you need help, see our handouts on argument and thesis statements, among others.

Remember: Think about your audience, and use arguments that are likely to convince people who aren’t like you. For example, you might think the death penalty is wrong because your parents taught you so. But other people have no special reason to care what your parents think. Try to give reasons that will be interesting and compelling to most people.

If scientists want to test a theory or principle, they design an experiment.

In philosophy, we often test our ideas by conducting thought experiments. We construct imaginary cases that allow us to focus on the issue or principle we are most interested in. Often the cases aren’t especially realistic, just as the conditions in a scientific laboratory are different from those in the outside world.

When you are asked to write about a thought experiment, don’t worry about whether it is something that is ever likely to happen; instead, focus on the principle being tested. Suppose that your bioethics teacher has given you this thought experiment to consider:

An elderly, unconscious patient needs a heart transplant. It is very unlikely that a donor heart will become available before the patient dies. The doctor’s other option is to try a new and risky procedure that involves transplanting the heart of a genetically engineered chimpanzee into the patient. This will require killing the chimp. What should the doctor recommend?

This scenario may be unrealistic, but your instructor has created it to get you to think about what considerations matter morally (not just medically) when making a life-or-death decision. Who should make such decisions—doctors, families, or patients? Is it acceptable to kill another intelligent primate in order to provide a heart for a human? Does it matter that the patient is elderly? Unconscious? So instead of focusing on whether or not the scenario is likely to happen, you should make an argument about these issues. Again, see our handouts on argument and thesis statements for help in crafting your position.

Other things to keep in mind

  • Be consistent. For example, if I begin my paper by arguing that Marquis is right about abortion, I shouldn’t say later that Thomson’s argument (which contradicts Marquis’s) is also correct.
  • Avoid overstatement. Watch out for words like “all,” “every,” “always,” “no,” “none,” and “never”; supporting a claim that uses these words could be difficult. For example, it would be much harder to prove that lying is always wrong than to prove that lying is usually or sometimes wrong.
  • Avoid the pitfalls of “seeing both sides.” Suppose you think Kant’s argument is pretty strong, but you still disagree with his conclusion. You might be tempted to say “Kant’s argument is a good one. I disagree with it.” This appears contradictory. If an argument really is good and you can’t find any weaknesses in it, it seems rational to think that you should agree with the argument. If you disagree with it, there must be something wrong with it, and your job is to figure out what that is and point it out.
  • Avoid personal attacks and excessive praise. Neither “Mill was obviously a bad person who didn’t care about morality at all” nor “Kant is the greatest philosopher of all time” adds to our understanding of Mill’s or Kant’s arguments.
  • Avoid grandiose introductions and conclusions. Your instructor is not likely to appreciate introductions that start with sentences like “Since the dawn of time, human beings have wondered about morality.” Your introduction can place your issue in context, explain why it’s philosophically important, and perhaps preview the structure of your paper or argument. Ask your instructor for further guidance about introductions and conclusions.
  • Stay focused. You may be asked to concentrate closely on a small piece of text or a very particular question; if so, stick to it, rather than writing a general report on a “topic.”
  • Be careful about appealing to faith, authority, or tradition. While you may believe something because it is a part of your religion, because someone you trust told you about it, or because it is the way things have always been done, be careful about basing your arguments or objections on these sorts of foundations. Remember that your reader may not share your assumptions and beliefs, and try to construct your argument so that it will be persuasive even to someone who is quite different from you.
  • Be careful about definitions. Rather than breaking out Webster’s Dictionary, concentrate on the definitions the philosophers you are reading have carefully constructed for the terms they are using. Defining terms is an important part of all philosophical work, and part of your job in writing a philosophy paper will often be thinking about how different people have defined a term.
  • Consider reading the Writing Center’s handout on fallacies. Fallacies are common errors in arguments; knowing about them may help you critique philosophers’ arguments and make stronger arguments yourself.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Feinberg, Joel. 2008. Doing Philosophy: A Guide to the Writing of Philosophy Papers , 4th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

Holowchak, Mark. 2011. Critical Reasoning and Philosophy: A Concise Guide to Reading, Evaluating, and Writing Philosophical Works , 2nd ed. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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How to Write a Philosophy Essay: Ultimate Guide

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What Is a Philosophy Essay: Definition

Philosophical writing isn't your typical assignment. Its aim isn't to provide an overview of professional philosophers' works and say whether you agree with them.

Philosophy demands becoming a philosopher for the time of writing, thinking analytically and critically of ideas, pondering the Big Questions, and asking 'Why?'. That's why it requires time and energy, as well as a lot of thinking on your part.

But what is philosophy essay, exactly? If you're tasked with writing one, you'll have to select a thesis in the philosophical domain and argue for or against it. Then, you can support your thesis with other professional philosophers' works. But it has to contain your own philosophical contribution, too. (This is only one definition of philosophy essay, of course.)

What's a Good Philosophy Paper Outline?

Before you start writing your first line, you should make a philosophy essay outline. Think of it as a plan for your philosophy paper that briefly describes each paragraph's point.

As for how to write a philosophy essay outline, here are a few tips for you:

  • Start with your thesis. What will you be arguing for or against?
  • Read what philosophical theory has to say and note sources for your possible arguments and counterarguments.
  • Decide on the definitions of core concepts to include precise philosophical meanings in your essay.
  • After careful and extended reflection, organize your ideas following the structure below.

How To Structure a Philosophy Paper?

Like any other essay, a philosophy paper consists of an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion. Sticking to this traditional philosophy essay structure will help you avoid unnecessary stress.

Here's your mini-guide on how to structure a philosophy essay:

  • Introduction - Clarify the question you will be answering in your philosophy paper. State your thesis – i.e., the answer you'll be arguing for. Explain general philosophical terms if needed.
  • Main body - Start with providing arguments for your stance and refute all the objections for each of them. Then, describe other possible answers and their reasoning – and counter the main arguments in their support.
  • Conclusion - Sum up all possible answers to the questions and reiterate why yours is the most viable one.

What's an Appropriate Philosophy Essay Length?

In our experience, 2,000 to 2,500 words are enough to cover the topic in-depth without compromising the quality of the writing.

However, see whether you have an assigned word limit before getting started. If it's shorter or longer than we recommend, stick to that word limit in writing your essay on philosophy.

What Format Should You Use for a Philosophy Paper?

As a philosophy and psychology essay writing service , we can attest that most students use the APA guidelines as their philosophy essay format. However, your school has the final say in what format you should stick to.

Sometimes, you can be asked to use a different college philosophy essay format, like MLA or Chicago. But if you're the one to choose the guidelines and don't know which one would be a good philosophy argumentative essay format, let's break down the most popular ones.

APA, MLA, and Chicago share some characteristics:

  • Font: Time New Roman, 12 pt
  • Line spacing: double
  • Margins: 1" (left and right)
  • Page number: in the header

But here's how they differ:

  • A title page required
  • Sources list: 'References' page
  • No title page required
  • Sources list: 'Works cited' page
  • Sources list: 'Bibliography' page
  • Footnotes and endnotes are required for citations

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Guideline on How to Write a Philosophy Essay

If you still don't feel that confident about writing a philosophy paper, don't worry. Philosophical questions, by definition, have more than one interpretation. That's what makes them so challenging to write about.

To help you out in your philosophical writing journey, we've prepared this list of seven tips on how to write a philosophy essay.

guide philosophy essay

  • Read Your Sources Thoughtfully

Whether your recommended reading includes Dante's Divine Comedy or Jean-Paul Sartre's Existentialism Is a Humanism , approach your sources with curiosity and analytical thinking. Don't just mindlessly consume those texts. Instead, keep asking yourself questions while you're reading them, such as:

  • What concepts and questions does the author address?
  • What's the meaning behind key ideas and metaphors in the text?
  • What does the author use as a convincing argument?
  • Are there any strange or obscure distinctions?

As for which sources you should turn to, that all depends on your central question; philosophy topics for essay are diverse and sometimes opposed. So, you'll have to do your fair share of research.

  • Brainstorm & Organize Your Ideas

As you're reading those texts, jot down what comes to your mind. It can be a great quote you've stumbled upon, an idea for an argument, or your thoughtful, critical responses to certain opinions.

Then, sort through and organize all of those notes into an outline for your essay in philosophy. Make sure that it holds up in terms of logic. And ensure that your arguments and counterarguments are compelling, sensible, and convincing!

Now, you might be wondering how to write a philosophy essay introduction. Don't worry: there's an explanation right below!

  • Craft Your Introductory Paragraph

Think of your introduction as a road map preparing your reader for the journey your essay will take them on. This road map will describe the key 'stops' in your essay on philosophy: your topic, stance, and how you will argue for it – and refute other stances.

Don't hesitate to write it out as a step-by-step guide in the first or third person. For example: 'First, I will examine... Then, I will dispute... Finally, I will present….'

Need an example of an excellent introduction for a philosophy paper? You’ll be thrilled to know that we have one of our philosophy essay examples below!

  • Present Your Key Arguments & Reflections

Philosophy papers require a fair share of expository writing. This is where you demonstrate your understanding of the topic. So, make your exposition extensive and in-depth, and don't omit anything crucial.

As for the rest of the main body, we've covered how to structure a philosophy essay above. In short, you'll need to present supporting arguments, anticipate objections, and address them.

Use your own words when writing a philosophy paper; avoid pretentious or verbose language. Yes, some technical philosophical terms may be necessary. But the point of a philosophical paper is to present your stance – and develop your own philosophy – on the topic.

  • Don't Shy Away from Critical Ideas

Whenever you examine a philosophical theory or text, treat it with a fair share of criticism. This is what it means in practice – and how to structure a philosophy essay around your critical ideas:

  • Pinpoint what the theory's or idea's strengths are and every valid argument in its support;
  • See the scope of its application – perhaps, there are exceptions you can use as counterarguments;
  • Research someone else's criticism of the theory or idea. Develop your own criticism, as well;
  • Check if the philosopher already addressed those criticisms.
  • Ponder Possible Answers to Philosophical Questions

Writing an essay in philosophy is, in fact, easier for some students as the topic can always have multiple answers, and you can choose any of them. However, this can represent an even tougher challenge for other students. After all, you must consider those possible answers and address them in the paper.

How do you pinpoint those possible answers? Some of them can come to your mind when you brainstorm, especially if you'll be writing about one of the Big Questions. Others will reveal themselves when you start reading other philosophers' works.

Remember to have arguments for and against each possible answer and address objections.

  • Write a Powerful Conclusion

The conclusion is where you sum up your paper in just one paragraph. Reiterate your thesis and what arguments support it. But in philosophical writing, you can rarely have a clear, undebatable answer by the end of the paper. So, it's fine if your conclusion doesn't have a definitive verdict.

Here are a few tips on how to write a conclusion in a philosophy essay:

  • Don't introduce new arguments or evidence in conclusion – they belong in the main body;
  • Avoid overestimating or embellishing the level or value of your work;
  • Best conclusions are obvious and logical for those reading the paper – i.e.; a conclusion shouldn't be surprising at all;
  • Stay away from poorly explained claims in conclusion.

Philosophical Essay Example

Sometimes, it's better to see how it's done once than to read a thousand guides. We know that like no one else, so we have prepared this short philosophy essay example to show you what excellent philosophy papers look like:

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30 Philosophy Paper Topic Ideas

Philosophical writing concerns questions that don't have clear-cut yes or no answers. So, coming up with philosophy essay topics yourself can be tough.

Fret not: we've put together this list of 30 topics for philosophy papers on ethics and leadership for you. Feel free to use them as-is or tweak them!

15 Ethics Philosophy Essay Topics

Ethics deals with the question of right and wrong. So, if you're looking for philosophy essay topic ideas, ethics concerns some of the most interesting – and most mind-boggling – questions about human behavior.

Here are 15 compelling philosophy essay topics ethics has to offer you:

  • Is starting a war always morally wrong?
  • Would it be right to legalize euthanasia?
  • What is more important: the right to privacy or national security?
  • Is justice always fair?
  • Should nuclear weapons be banned?
  • Should teenagers be allowed to get plastic surgery?
  • Can cheating be justifiable?
  • Can AI algorithms behave ethically?
  • Should you abide by an unfair law?
  • Should voting become mandatory?
  • When can the right to freedom of speech be limited?
  • Is it the consumers' responsibility to fight climate by changing their buying decisions?
  • Is getting an abortion immoral?
  • Should we give animals their own rights?
  • Would human gene editing be immoral?

15 Leadership Philosophy Essay Topics

You're lucky if you're tasked with writing a leadership philosophy essay! We've compiled this list of 15 fresh, unconventional topics for you:

  • Is formal leadership necessary for ensuring the team's productivity?
  • Can authoritative leadership be ethical?
  • How do informal leaders take on this role?
  • Should there be affirmative action for formal leadership roles?
  • Is it possible to measure leadership?
  • What's the most important trait of a leader?
  • Is leadership an innate talent or an acquired skill?
  • Should leadership mean holding power over others?
  • Can a team function without a leader?
  • Should you follow a leader no matter what?
  • Is leader succession necessary? Why?
  • Are leadership and power the same?
  • Can we consider influencers contemporary leaders?
  • Why do people follow leaders?
  • What leadership style is the most ethical one?

7 Helpful Tips on Crafting a Philosophical Essay

Still, feeling stuck writing a philosophical essay? Here are seven more tips on crafting a good philosophy paper that can help you get unstuck:

  • Write the way you would talk about the subject. This will help you avoid overly convoluted, poor writing by using more straightforward prose with familiar words.
  • Don't focus on having a definitive answer by the end of your philosophical essay if your conclusion states that the question should be clarified further or that there are multiple answers.
  • You don't have to answer every question you raise in the paper. Even professional philosophers sometimes don't have all the answers.
  • Get straight to the point at the start of your paper. No need to warm up the reader – and inflate your word count.
  • Avoid using quotes. Instead, explain the author's point in your own words. But if you feel it's better to use a direct quote, explicitly state how it ties to your argument after it.
  • Write in the first person unless your assignment requires you to use the third person.
  • Start working on your philosophical essay well in advance. However much time you think you'll need, double it!

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Philosophy Writing

Sometimes, knowing what you shouldn't do in a philosophical essay is also helpful. Here are seven common mistakes that often bring down students' grades – but are easily avoidable:

guide philosophy essay

  • Appealing to authority – in philosophy, strive to develop your own stance instead;
  • Using convoluted sentences to appear more intelligent – instead, use simpler ways to deliver the same meaning;
  • Including interesting or important material without tying it to your point – every piece of evidence and every idea should explicitly support your arguments or counterarguments;
  • Inflating your word count without delivering value – in the writing process, it's crucial to 'kill your darlings';
  • Making poorly explained claims – explicitly present reasons for or against every claim you include;
  • Leaving core concepts undefined – explain what you mean by the words like 'free will' or 'existentialism' in the introduction;
  • Worrying about being wrong – no one can be proven wrong in philosophy!

Realize that your draft contains those mistakes, and it's too late to fix them? Then, let us help you out! Whether you ask us, 'Fix my paper' or ' Write my paper from scratch,' our philosophy writers will deliver an excellent paper worth the top grade. And no, it won't cost you a fortune!

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Information on Writing Philosophy Papers

Please familiarize yourself with the university’s academic honest policies if you have not already done so. They are available here: http://www.rochester.edu/college/honesty/docs/Academic_Honesty.pdf . Note in particular that it is a violation of these policies to use material from any source (other than yourself) in your papers without attribution and, where relevant, use of quotation marks. This applies especially to copying and pasting material from websites, which should always be avoided. You may, of course, make limited use of academically respectable web resources where relevant, as long as they are properly cited (I'm not picky about the exact format of your citations, as long as they contain the relevant information) and any quoted material is clearly placed in quotation marks (though this should still be a very limited portion of your paper). However, you should never make any use at all of student 'essay mills'--websites that offer students canned student essays for 'research' purposes: these essays are not research and do not meet the standards for scholarly sources; they have no place in the writing of your papers.

General Guidelines for Writing Philosophy Papers

  • Clarity and straightforwardness of thought and language are crucial: avoid flowery styles and long, superfluous introductions and conclusions. (No paper should ever start with a sentence like: "Since the dawn of time, mankind has pondered the question of...") The bulk of your paper should consist of philosophical exposition and analysis, in plain but precise language.
  • If you are writing an essay in response to an assigned essay topic, the most important thing is simply to make sure you answer the question that was asked , carefully and thoroughly. Avoid getting off on tangents that are not crucial to your topic, and avoid sweeping generalizations you can't support in the paper . In addition to the quality of exposition, one of the central things we look for in a philosophy paper is how well the thesis in question is supported. Even if the reader thinks some of your claims are false, your paper can be excellent if you do a solid job of defending your claims.
  • If you are asked to explain something, do not merely summarize what an author or lecturer has said. Explain and illuminate the relevant ideas or arguments in your own words, as if you were trying to help a fellow student gain a deeper understanding of them.
  • Avoid excessive quotation! Stringing together quotes is not explaining a position or an argument, and does not display your understanding of the material. Even paraphrasing in your own words is not enough. Again, explanation involves clarifying the claims, bringing out hidden assumptions behind arguments, noticing ambiguities as they arise and nailing them down, and so on.
  • In addition to careful explanation of positions or arguments, some paper topics ask for critical evaluation of those positions and arguments. An example of critical evaluation of an argument would be my lecture criticizing Thomson's argument for the conclusion that abortions wouldn't violate a fetus' right to life even if it were granted to have a full right to life. (I developed and used a distinction between positive and negative rights, and argued that the central parallel she appeals to in her argument fails to go through, since it involves a conflation of positive and negative rights.) Some paper topics ask you to do the same sort of thing, and if you're writing on such a topic, be sure that this component of your paper is strong and well developed.
  • Proofreading of papers is a necessity. So is decent grammar: incoherent grammar makes the effective communication of ideas impossible.
  • As for which topic you choose: You should choose something you're most interested in and have the most to say about. Beware of any topic that seems too easy: If it seems simple--like something you can dash off in a few paragraphs--then that's a good sign that you're not thinking deeply enough about it, and you should probably write on another topic. So choose your topic carefully.
  • This is important : If you use someone else's words, you have to use quotation marks and cite the source in a footnote. If you don't, it's plagiarism, which constitutes cheating and is a violation of the honor code. See note at top.

Sample Short Paper and Commentary

For Illustrative purposes only

Sample Essay Question : Is Socrates' position in the Crito , concerning the moral authority of the state, consistent with his view that one should never do anything that is wrong? Is it consistent with what he says, in the Apology , about what he would do if commanded by the state to cease practicing philosophy, or about what he did when commanded by the Thirty to capture Leon of Salamis for execution? Explain.

(Note: page references are to a different edition than the one you have ; paragraphs should be indented, but are not here due to limitations of html formatting; I have not here included footnotes for the same reason; and your papers should be double-spaced, rather than single-spaced.)

Socrates on the Moral Authority of the State

In the Crito , Socrates makes some surprisingly strong claims about the moral authority of the state, which might even seem to be inconsistent both with another fundamental claim he makes in the Crito and with certain claims he makes in the Apology . I shall argue that although these claims seem to be in some tension with each other, the crucial claims about the authority of the state in the Crito can plausibly be interpreted in such a way as to remove any real inconsistency with the other claims.

The first, rather striking claim about the moral authority of the state occurs at 51b of the Crito . Socrates argues that, because of the state's role as a provider of security, education, and various important social institutions (such as marriage), the citizens of the state are its "offspring and servants"; and from this he concludes that citizens are subordinate to the state and its laws to such an extent that if a citizen ever disagrees with the state's laws or orders, he "must either persuade it or obey its orders," even if the latter amounts to suffering death. The implication for his own case is clear: Socrates had tried to persuade the court of his innocence and of the injustice of his execution (as detailed in the Apology ), but he had failed; therefore, he argues, he must now obey the court and accept his death sentence--even though he still thinks that he is in the right on this matter.

The second, closely related claim, comes only a few paragraphs later, in 51e and 52. Socrates there argues that by virtue of remaining in the state, a citizen enters into an implied contract with it to obey its commands. More precisely, the claim is again that a citizen who has a disagreement with the state must either persuade it that it is wrong, or else obey it. In the voice of the personified laws: "either persuade us or do what we say" (52a). The implication, again, is that if one fails to persuade the state to change its mind, for whatever reason, then one must obey its orders. A citizen has no moral right to continue to resist the state, even if he is convinced that he is in the right and the state is in the wrong.

Now as mentioned above, these claims seem directly opposed to certain other claims Socrates makes. Most importantly, earlier in the Crito itself, Socrates had stressed that "one must never do wrong" (49b). Indeed, this serves as the driving principle behind the rest of his argument in the Crito . But is this really consistent with maintaining that one must always obey the state, if one fails to persuade it that something it orders is wrong? The obvious objection is that the state might well order one to do something wrong--e.g. because one of its laws is an unjust one, as Jim Crow laws were. In that case, Socrates' claim that one should never do anything wrong would entail refusing to do what the state orders-- even if one is unsuccessful in persuading the state that it is wrong. Thus, Socrates' claim that one should never do wrong seems inconsistent with his claim that one must always obey the final orders of the state. 

Secondly, it might be objected that Socrates' view of the moral authority of the state is inconsistent both with what he did when ordered by the Thirty to capture Leon of Salamis for execution, and with what he says he'd do if ordered by the state to cease practicing philosophy (both from the Apology ). When the Thirty ordered him to capture Leon, he refused, on the grounds that this would have been wrong (unjust and impious). ( Apology , 32c-d) This seems to be a recognition that one is morally obligated or at least permitted to disobey the state when what it commands is wrong--even if one fails to persuade it of its wrongness. And similarly, Socrates makes clear that he would disobey the state and continue philosophizing if it were to order him to stop--again, on the grounds that it would be wrong for him to stop philosophizing (recall that he saw philosophy as his life's mission, given him by the god). ( Apology , 29c-d) Again, this seems to contradict what he says in the Crito about the supreme moral authority of the state and its laws and orders.

I believe, however, that it is possible to read the crucial passages about the authority of the state in the Crito in such a way as to render them consistent with Socrates' exhortation never to do wrong, and with his remarks about disobedience in the Apology . To see this, it is necessary to distinguish first of all between two issues: (a) what the law might require you to do , and (b) what the law might require you to endure . With this distinction in mind, consider the following possible interpretations of Socrates' claim about the moral authority of the state in the Crito :

( i ) Citizens must obey any law or order of the state, whatever it asks them to do or to endure ;

(ii) Citizens must endure whatever any law or order of the state says they must--including the law that verdicts arrived at through proper procedures shall be carried out--but citizens need not and morally should not do what is prescribed by an unjust law.

Now which of these positions is it most plausible to attribute to Socrates in the Crito ?

There are passages that might seem to suggest i (e.g. 51e, 52a), but again, the obvious problem is that it seems inconsistent with his fundamental principle that one should never do wrong (49a)--at least on the assumption, which Socrates clearly accepts in the Apology , that the state is not infallible as regards judgments of right and wrong. Thus, a more charitable reading would interpret the passages about the moral authority of the state as referring implicitly to cases where the state does not require one to do anything unjust, but merely to endure something (or perhaps to do something that is not itself unjust, such as rendering some political service).

If the passages are read in this way, we can interpret Socrates' claim as ii above. When he says that one must obey the state's final laws and orders, what he means is that one must do anything it tells one to do within the bounds of justice , and that one must endure anything it tells one to endure. Thus, Socrates was not obligated to capture Leon of Salamis, and would not be obligated to cease philosophizing if ordered to, since that would be doing something wrong (i.e. something that is not within the bounds of justice); but he is obligated to accept and endure his punishment, as long as it was arrived at through proper judicial procedures. The latter is true, according to Socrates, even though the punishment is wrong; for by suffering it, he is not himself doing anything wrong, but only enduring something wrong. This is perfectly consistent with Socrates' exhortation never to do anything wrong.

Thus, what at first appears to be a blatant contradiction among Socrates' various claims is fairly easily remedied if we interpret the relevant passages in the Crito as making the claim in ii rather than the claim in i above. This interpretation is supported not only by the fact that it helps to reconcile Socrates' seemingly contradictory claims, but also by the fact that Socrates' examples of obedience to the state over one's own objections all involve having to endure something, rather than having to do something. He speaks in Crito 51b, for example, of having to "endure in silence whatever it instructs you to endure, whether blows or bonds, and if it leads you into war to be wounded or killed, you must obey." Though he does not explicitly formulate his claim as in ii above, his focus is clearly on the issue of having to endure something prescribed by the state, over one's own objections. Therefore, it is consistent with the text to interpret him as making only the claim in ii, which is fully compatible with his claim that one must never do wrong, and with his claim that under certain conditions one should refuse to do something the state orders (such as refusing to capture someone for an unjust execution, or refusing to cease carrying out your divine mission as long as you live).

As for the plausibility of Socrates' view, I believe that it is still overly demanding, even when qualified as in ii above. It's unclear why any of the factors Socrates mentioned should give the state such overriding moral authority that one should be morally obliged to endure execution without resistance even in cases where the state is genuinely in the wrong. It seems more plausible to hold that if one stands to be unjustly executed, one can rightly resist this punishment ( even if it would equally be permissible not to resist). One could do this, I think, without showing any contempt for the laws, or challenging their authority, since one still grants the state's authority to do its best to carry out the punishment, and simply asserts a moral right to do one's best in turn to avoid such wrongful punishment. But that's a topic for another paper.

COMMENTARY :

Note, first of all, the concise, crisp introduction. The problem is plainly stated, and then I explain clearly what I'm going to do in the paper--all in just a few sentences. There's no rambling introduction with sentences starting with "Since the beginning of time, mankind has pondered the mysteries of etc."

The style is straightforward, striving for clarity rather than literary flair. Jargon is avoided as far as possible.

After the introduction, the problem is stated in more depth and detail, with textual references. Notice the spare use of quotes. I quote only a few words here and there, where necessary to illustrate the points. This might be extended to a few sentences, if necessary, but beware of over-quoting and letting someone else's words do your work for you. (The worst mistake is just stringing together quotes, which accomplishes nothing.) Notice also that textual references are given for the quotes, as well as for paraphrased passages. (Normally, I'd use footnotes and have complete citations, but I'm limited by html format here.)

Notice how, in describing the problem, I try to elucidate it, rather than just summarizing it. Summary is not explanation . Instead, I try to make clear where exactly the tensions among the various claims seem to arise and why, and how they apply to Socrates' own case. I've tried to go well beyond the superficial statement of the problem in the essay question, to illuminate and develop it.

Now having done that, one might just stop and claim to have answered the question: "No, the various positions are not consistent, and Socrates is just contradicting himself." But that would be a very superficial paper. Instead, I tried to dig beneath the surface a little bit, and to notice that the central claim can be interpreted in more than one way. So I first of all made a distinction between two possible interpretations, which in turn depended on a distinction between what you might be commanded to do and what you might be commanded to endure . That distinction enabled me to argue for an interpretation of what Socrates is claiming about the moral authority of the state that renders this claim consistent with his other claims. (Noticing and exploiting distinctions is a large part of what doing philosophy is all about.)

Whether or not you agree with that particular argument, you can see the difference between bringing the discussion to that level of detail and merely staying on the surface. So even if you would have taken a different position, the point is that a good paper would still be engaging with the issues at that level of depth, rather than remaining on the surface. If you think Socrates really is contradicting himself, for example, you might then also discuss the distinctions I pointed out, but then argue for an interpretation along the lines of the first interpretation instead, despite the inconsistencies with other things he says. (Of course, you'd have to be able to give an argument for why the text should be understood in that way, despite the fact that Socrates winds up with rather glaringly conflicting claims on that reading.)

Again, notice that I am striving for clarity , precision and thoroughness , along with a straightforward organization for the paper.

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7+ Philosophy Paper Examples [ Personal, Coaching, Nursing ]

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To obtain good writing skills, you must need proper training to do so. For instance, you are asked to write a philosophy paper? How are you going to do it? A philosophy paper is unlike any other essay. It is not something that you can just research, express your thoughts and personal feelings or even a type of report. In this article, you will be able to know the nature of what a philosophy paper is and how to write a good one.

7+ Philosophy Paper Examples

1. argumentative philosophy paper.

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2. Philosophy Paper Ideas

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3. Philosophy Paper Outline

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4. Philosophy Paper Title

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5. Steps for Philosophy Paper

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6. Philosophy Paper Format

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7. Philosophy Paper Layout

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8. Political Philosophy Paper

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What is a Philosophy Paper?

A philosophy paper is a type of writing that allows you to establish a point involving valid justification to convince the readers. It is called a reasoned defense of a thesis .

How to Write your Philosophy Paper?

  • State the question that is being asked.
  • Ensure that you have complete answers to the questions.
  • Do not include irrelevant issues.

Philosophy papers may be an exposition or an evaluation. If it is expository , you are going to explain the view of your arguments. If it is an evaluation, you have the freedom to do a little philosophy on your own.

If you tend to use words that you think are unfamiliar to the readers, define it. Avoid using quotes. However, you may use references that may support your claim.

Before writing, you must be able to state what it is that you are trying to tell to your readers. It is usually written in a single sentence of your proof. You should always remember to make everything clear. The next thing that you should do is to know the process of how you are going to convince the readers that what you have written is true. You must be able to present arguments that are rational. Assume that your readers will always have something to refute in your arguments. How are you going to respond?

To make it easier to keep track of the validity and accuracy of the arguments, avoid having those types of arguments that will come in different directions. Only include arguments that are considered the most compelling. You may have one or two of them.

 Outline of a Philosophy Paper

  • Introduction – 
  • Background – may contain definition of terms, parameters and your justification
  • First argument – reason, supporting detail, anticipated objections and refutations

“The first, rather striking claim about the moral authority of the state occurs at 51b of the Crito. Socrates argues that, because of the state’s role as a provider of security, education, and various important social institutions (such as marriage), the citizens of the state are its “offspring and servants”; and from this he concludes that citizens are subordinate to the state and its laws to such an extent that if a citizen ever disagrees with the state’s laws or orders, he “must either persuade it or obey its orders,” even if the latter amounts to suffering death. The implication for his own case is clear: Socrates had tried to persuade the court of his innocence and of the injustice of his execution (as detailed in the Apology), but he had failed; therefore, he argues, he must now obey the court and accept his death sentence–even though he still thinks that he is in the right on this matter.”  ( Information on Writing Philosophy Papers , n.d.)

  • Second argument – reason, supporting detail, anticipated objections and refutations
  • Third argument – reason, supporting detail, anticipated objections and refutations
  •   Conclusion

What are the things that should be avoided in writing a philosophy paper?

You should avoid writing in lengthy paragraphs. As much as possible, avoid begging for questions.

What to do when you are arguing to other positions?

Do not show that your opponents are mistaken. You must be able to demonstrate that a single detail is proven to be false. Do not assume that the position you are in is correct.

How long should a philosophy paper be?

A philosophy paper can reach a maximum of 5 pages.

For you to produce a good philosophy paper, it is very essential to think logically and critically. The paper must stand on its own so you have to say what you really mean. It should always be clear and precise.

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Welcome to PhilPapers

Results of 2020 PhilPapers Survey posted 2021-11-01 by David Bourget We've now released the results of the 2020 PhilPapers Survey, which surveyed 1785 professional philosophers on their views on 100 philosophical issues.  Results are available on the 2020 PhilPapers Survey  website and in draft article form in " Philosophers on Philosophy: The 2020 PhilPapers Survey " . Discussion is welcome in the PhilPapers Survey 2020 discussion group .

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  1. PDF A Brief Guide to Writing the Philosophy Paper

    arguments or theories in philosophy papers, you must always practice philosophy. This means that you should explain the argument in your own words and according to your own understanding of the steps involved in it. You will need to be very clear on the precise logical structure of an author's argument (N.B. this may not be

  2. How to Write a Philosophy Paper: [Outline Example + Writing Tips]

    7 min read Table of contents 1 What is a Philosophy Paper? 2 Philosophy Paper Outline Structure 2.1 Philosophy Research Paper Introduction 2.2 Body Sections 2.3 Writing a Philosophy Paper Conclusion 3 Template for a Philosophy Essay Structure 4 How to Format a Philosophy Research Paper 5 10 Steps to Write a Great Philosophy Paper Like a Pro

  3. PDF How to Write a Philosophy Paper

    How to Write a Philosophy Paper Shelly Kagan Department of Philosophy 1. Every paper you write for me will be based on the same basic assignment: state a thesis and defend it. That is, you must stake out a position that you take to be correct, and then you must offer arguments for that view, consider objections, and reply to those objections.

  4. PDF Writing Philosophy Papers: A Student Guide

    Introduction1 The Writing Process3 A Series of Steps5 Peer Response Form9 Basic Skills in Writing Philosophy11 Identifying a Philosophical Problem13 Organizing Your Ideas15 Defining Concepts17 Analyzing Arguments21 Comparing and Contrasting25 Giving Examples27 Applying Theory to Practice31 Testing Hypotheses33 Forms of Philosophical Writing37

  5. LibGuides: How to Write a Philosophy Paper: Structure & Outline

    Structure "A philosophy paper presents a reasoned defense of some thesis. So a philosophy paper typically does at least one of the following: Defend a thesis by offering plausible reasons to support it Defend a thesis by showing that arguments against it are unconvincing Criticize a thesis by showing that the arguments for it are unconvincing

  6. PDF Tips for Writing a Philosophy Paper Jan19

    (i) Introductory Paragraph: This paragraph should be brief, ranging in length from one-third of a page to half a page. In this paragraph, identify your topic and state your thesis claim, which is the conclusion for which you will argue.

  7. Step-by-step Guide to a Philosophy Paper

    1. Introduction a) the question that drives the paper ( i.e., should teachers be required to study phil. of .ed?) b) the position that the paper will take on the question c) how the paper will argue that position 2. Background information (this could also be covered in the introduction)

  8. 2.6 Writing Philosophy Papers

    Create thesis statements that are manageable and sufficiently specific. Collect evidence and formulate arguments. Organize ideas into a coherent written presentation. This section will provide some practical advice on how to write philosophy papers. The format presented here focuses on the use of an argumentative structure in writing.

  9. Library Guides: Philosophy Research and Writing: Sample Papers

    Philosophy Research and Writing: Sample Papers Examples of Philosophical Writing One of the most difficult things about writing philosophy papers as a new undergraduate is figuring out what a philosophy paper is supposed to look like!

  10. Resources

    The Basics of a Philosophy Paper 1. Introduction and Thesis 2. Define Terms 3. Reasons 4. Objections and Responses to Objections 5. Conclusion General Tips A Quick Practice Exercise... Practice: What is wrong with this paragraph? Answer Key Developed by Ann Bruton Adapted from: Harvard University's Short Guide to Philosophical Writing

  11. How to Write a Philosophy Paper (for Beginners) (with Pictures)

    Part 1 Creating an Outline 1 Find reliable, relevant sources, and read them carefully. Use your school's library or search online to find reliable sources. Try philosophy textbooks, articles published in scholarly journals, and texts written by philosophers. When using the internet, be sure to only use scholarly articles.

  12. Philosophy Paper Format: Guide How to Write a Philosophical Essay

    Writing a philosophy paper is an intellectual endeavor that requires precision, critical thinking, and the ability to articulate complex ideas with clarity. Whether you're a student delving into philosophical discourse or a philosopher refining your thoughts, understanding the suitable format is essential.

  13. Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper

    Major Guidelines Make an outline Make the structure of your paper clear Be concise, but explain yourself fully Use simple prose Presenting and assessing the views of others Miscellaneous points Minor Guidelines How You'll Be Graded Revising Your Paper Further Advice What Does One Do in a Philosophy Paper?

  14. PDF Guidelines on Writing, Formatting, and Citation for Philosophy Students

    3. How to Format Term Papers This document demonstrates, by example, what I consider to be minimal acceptable guidelines for formatting short writing assignments in philosophy courses. I've laid out this document itself in the needed format. Some of you may wish to add "bells and whistles" (such as more elaborate

  15. How to Write a Philosophy Paper (with Pictures)

    Planning Your Philosophy Paper. 1. Give yourself time. Writing a good philosophy paper takes time and careful planning, so make sure that you begin working on the assignment as soon as possible. Philosophy papers require skillful argument and rational thought, which takes time to develop. [1] [2]

  16. Writing in Philosophy

    To write a philosophy paper, first, read the paper assignment prompt (a.k.a. topic prompt) several times. Make sure you understand exactly what you're being asked to do. ... Format. There are two main types of philosophy paper assignments: Expository (Explanatory) - this type of paper assignment asks you only to explain something ...

  17. Philosophy

    Philosophy is the practice of making and assessing arguments. An argument is a set of statements (called premises) that work together to support another statement (the conclusion). Making and assessing arguments can help us get closer to understanding the truth. At the very least, the process helps make us aware of our reasons for believing ...

  18. How to Write a Philosophical Essay: An Ultimate Guide

    Composing a philosophy essay is an essential step in studying philosophy. Before you craft any paper, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with the assignment, read the questions thoroughly, and have a clear perspective of the prompts like "compare," "contrast," or "describe.". Visit the example on compare," "contrast," or ...

  19. Philosophy Essay Ultimate Guide

    What Format Should You Use for a Philosophy Paper? As a philosophy and psychology essay writing service, we can attest that most students use the APA guidelines as their philosophy essay format. However, your school has the final say in what format you should stick to. Sometimes, you can be asked to use a different college philosophy essay ...

  20. SAMPLE SHORT PHILOSOPHY PAPER: For Illustrative purposes only

    General Guidelines for Writing Philosophy Papers. Clarity and straightforwardness of thought and language are crucial: avoid flowery styles and long, superfluous introductions and conclusions. ... (Normally, I'd use footnotes and have complete citations, but I'm limited by html format here.) Notice how, in describing the problem, I try to ...

  21. Philosophy Paper

    1. Argumentative Philosophy Paper philosophy.utoronto.ca Details File Format PDF Size: 66 KB Download 2. Philosophy Paper Ideas clas.sa.ucsb.edu Details File Format PDF Size: 156 KB Download 3. Philosophy Paper Outline haverford.edu Details File Format PDF Size: 104 KB Download 4. Philosophy Paper Title oyc.yale.edu Details File Format PDF

  22. PhilPapers: Online Research in Philosophy

    PhilPapers is a comprehensive index and bibliography of philosophy maintained by the community of philosophers. We monitor all sources of research content in philosophy, including journals, books, and open access archives . We also host the largest open access archive in philosophy . Our index currently contains 2,839,288 entries categorized in ...

  23. Design Philosophy Papers

    Design Philosophy Papers (DPP) exists to advance critical, philosophical engagement with design and 'the world as designed'. It welcomes contributions from a variety of disciplines and a range of philosophical perspectives. It is particularly interested in issues such as sustainability, unsustainability, design ethics, design futures and ...