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Writing To Reason: A Companion for Philosophy Students and Instructors

ISBN: 978-1-4051-7099-4
160 pages
March 2008, ©2008, Wiley-Blackwell
Writing To Reason: A Companion for Philosophy Students and Instructors (1405170999) cover image
Writing to Reason presents the principles of writing a clear and well-argued philosophy paper in an easily-referenced numerical format, which facilitates efficient grading and clearer communication between instructors and students.

  • Points out the most common problems students have achieving these objectives
  • Increases efficiencies for instructors in grading papers
  • Presents students with clearer information, objectivity, and transparency about their graded results
  • Facilitates clearer communication between instructors and students
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Preface: A Users' Guide.

0.1. A note to instructors.

0.2. A note to students.

0.3. Acknowledgements.

Glossary of Philosophical Terms.

Part I: Writing Philosophy.

Chapter 1. Writing a Philosophy Paper.

1.1 What is a philosophy paper supposed to accomplish?.

1.2 Choosing a topic.

1.3 Moving through drafts.

1.4 The only outline you need is a sketch of the argument you plan to make.

1.5 The cardinal virtues: logical rigor and clarity of expression.

1.6 A checklist for spotting problems early.

Chapter 2. Philosophical Writing Advances a Thesis with an Argument.

2.1 Consuming arguments.

1 What is an argument?.

2 How is a philosopher's argument to be recognized?.

3 The principle of charity.

4 How is an argument to be criticized?.

2.2 Producing arguments.

5 A clearly stated, tightly focused thesis is essential.

6 The introduction states why you wrote the paper and why your audience should read it.

7 The body of your paper follows a strategy to demonstrate your thesis.

8 Consider objections to your view.

9 The conclusion of your paper explains the conclusion of your argument.

10 On words that indicate conclusions and premises.

11 Provide justification for every important claim.

12 What makes an argument philosophically interesting?.

Chapter 3. The Rudiments of Academic Writing.

3.1 Elements of style.

13 Use the first-person, active voice.

14 Avoid using a conversational tone.

15 The paper should have a title.

16 Pages should be numbered.

17 The correct use of punctuation.

18 The correct use of Latin abbreviations.

19 The correct use of Latin expressions.

20 The consistent use of pronouns.

21 Grammatical errors.

22 Using a term vs. mentioning it.

23 How to edit or add text within a quotation.

3.2 Elements of substance.

24 Avoid mere rhetoric: philosophy is not forensics.

25 Avoid using five-star vocabulary words.

26 The standard of precision in written discourse.

27 On expressions such as "It is clear that...".

28 Use accurate terms having clear referents.

29 Always look for the contrast term.

30 Watch out for mysterious agents!.

3.3 Substantive advice.

31 Never quote the instructor.

32 Never quote the dictionary.

3.4 A few frequently misused terms.

33 Philosophy vs. view vs. opinion.

34 Concept vs. conception.

35 Think vs. feel.

36 Statement vs. argument.

37 Sound, valid, and true.

Chapter 4. Explaining Philosophical Texts.

38 Make sense out of the text as a whole.

39 Make sense out of the main arguments in a text.

40 Every quotation requires explanation.

41 Every quotation requires specific attribution.

42 The consistent and meaningful use of technical terminology.

Chapter 5. The Rudiments of Academic Research.

43 Use the library, not the web.

44 Primary sources are your primary responsibility.

45 What kind of secondary sources should be used and how?.

Part II: Doing Philosophy.

Chapter 6. Academic Integrity.

6.1 Know your school's honor code and its policies regarding plagiarism.

6.2 What is plagiarism?.

6.3 How to avoid plagiarism.

6.4 Proper attribution bolsters one's scholarly credibility.

6.5 Cheaters are likely to be caught.

Chapter 7. How to Succeed in a Philosophy Course.

7.1 Practice the intellectual virtues.

7.2 Come to class prepared.

7.3 Ask substantive questions.

7.4 Respect the arduous process of careful reading and writing.

7.5 Why is philosophy so hard to do?.

7.6 Why is philosophy so hard to read?.

7.7 On the critical nature of philosophy and a few myths it is useful to discard.

Chapter 8. What Does it Mean to Do Philosophy?.

8.1 Philosophy inquires into our concepts and commitments.

8.2 Philosophy explicates what is implicit in our concepts and commitments.

8.3 Philosophical reflection and the public use of reason.

Appendix I: Keywords Cross-Referenced to Section Numbers.


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Brian David Mogck is the author of Is Logic Syntax of Language?: Carnap's Programme, Godel's Critique, and Wittgenstein's Evasion. He earned a PhD in philosophy from Emory University and taught at Emory, Spelman College, and Clayton College and State University. He received a JD from Columbia Law School, and is now an attorney in New York.
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  • Provides a guide to writing philosophy papers that addresses the needs of instructors, as well as students
  • Uses a simple numerical format that highlights the principles of writing a well-reasoned philosophy paper
  • Explains common problems in philosophical writing, as well as solutions
  • Presents students with clear and consistent standards of achievement
  • Streamlines the evaluation process for instructors, avoiding the need to repeat common comments and saving a great deal of time in grading
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“Long-suffering teachers of philosophy will love this volume. It offers sophisticated help for writers at various levels, expressed with simplicity and charm. Best of all, it is directed precisely to the improvement of philosophical writing and thinking.”

– Joseph W. Koterski, S.J., Fordham University

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