1000 TO 1750 WORD PAPER

PHI 2010- Introduction to Philosophy
Writing Assignment Tips

  • Word count. Please provide me with the word count on the final version of your essay. Next time I’m deducting 10 points for failure to do so.
  • The purpose of these writing assignments is to demonstrate mastery of the material. I should read your essay and think “man, Billy really knows his Plato”.
  • I want you to explain these philosophical concepts in your own words. Think about it like this, you have a friend who is really interested in these ideas but has never read any philosophy. How would you explain it to them? Teach me the material. This is how you demonstrate mastery of the material. If you think that you understand something, try and teach it to someone else. Then you’ll know whether or not you really get it.
  • I don’t need a hook to get me interested in your essay, “Since the beginning of time, man has pondered the nature of…”. First of all, these claims are almost always false. Second, they are fluff that add nothing to the value of your essay. I don’t need biographical information either.
  • Instead you should have a thesis statement in your first paragraph. “In this essay I will present the Allegory of the Cave, explain Soccio’s interpretation of the Allegory, and evaluate his interpretation.” BOOM. Get to work. You are wasting words if you are telling me about his life story, or if you are using flowery language.
  • Don’t use big ol’ fancy words if you don’t understand what theymean. People think that philosophy is about saying complicated things in a complicated fashion. Wrong. Good philosophy is about taking complex ideas and making them digestible.
  • Don’t use curse words. Ever. You are producing a scholarly work.
  • Avoid slang and “text speak”.
  • ADDRESS EVERY ELEMENT OF THE WRITING PROMPT. Take the prompt and copy/paste it into your document. Make sure that you have at least a paragraph that addresses each element of the prompt. Then delete the prompt from your essay.
  • WRITE AN OUTLINE. Writing an outline helps to organize your ideas. Don’t jump around all over the place in your writing, it makes it difficult to read (and to grade).
  • You should have paragraphs. This will help to organize your ideas.
  • PROOFREAD YOUR WORK. Start at the last sentence and read it backwards. Have a friend take a look. Autocorrect will capture misspelled words, but it won’t capture words that have no business being in your essay.
  • The bulk of your essay should be spent unpacking philosophical material and demonstrating that you understand. Then you get to opine. The latter is a lot easier than the former. Examine the length of your sections, did you spend more time talking about your view than the view in question? That is almost always a serious mistake.
  • Be charitable in your interpretation. This is really important. If you are going to attack someone then you want them to be accurately represented. Not only is this the right thing to do it also makes your victory all the more enjoyable. Some of you made it seem as though Plato was an idiot. Plato is not an idiot. You gave an uncharitable reading of the Allegory and then proceeded to beat him up for his silly ideas. Analogically, this is like beating up a baby. Congratulations, you beat up a baby. You want to take on the Mountain from Game of Thrones. Now that is a real victory! This is unfortunately common in this American life of ours. We disagree with someone, when we are explaining what they believe do so with a bias. This makes us look more reasonable, but that is merely an appearance. If I’m asking you to explain a view then you can be assured that it is for a good reason.
  • When you evaluate a view you will provide reasons for why you agree or disagree. These reasons will also fall within the scope of the Principle of Charity.

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