William Wallace, Plato, Karl Marx, Noam Chomsky… All of these people might be entirely different, but there is one thing they have in common — they are all great and well-known philosophers. Philosophy is a systematic and critical study that connects many other disciplines.
Knowing how to write a good philosophy paper is a useful skill. It teaches to analyze data, come up with personal judgments, and convince others of your truth. Students involved in philosophy, political science, sociology, psychology, literature, or law classes may face the need to write a philosophy paper sooner or later.
In this post from the EssayPro experts, you will learn how to write a philosophy paper: from the very basics to helpful tips & tricks!
What is a Philosophy Paper: Definition, Types and Goals
A philosophy paper is a written work that contains the reasonable defence of the central argument, the so-called thesis statement. Building a thesis is the primary goal of this task. The core principle is conducting research to collect trustworthy sources and prove that the writer’s idea is dogma.
Unlike some other academic assignments, a philosophy essay is more than the mere report of the writer’s opinions along with the evidence from relevant sources. A student should think about some good reasons to trust their words. What we mean by saying, “My opinion is A,” is not enough; the main claim should sound this way, “My opinion is A, and I am sure in my position due to the following reasons…” or, “I believe that the offered considerations…serve as a persuasive point for my argument.”
A student can also recall the thoughts of known authors towards the chosen issue. If you wish to find out how to write a philosophy paper, study different types of this task before.
Different Types of Philosophy Papers
Without knowing the various types of philosophy writing, it is impossible to answer the question, “What is a philosophy paper?” A philosophy paper can be of several types:
- Thought experiment
If you’re a student of biomedical ethics or philosophy of medicine, you will most probably have to compose a response to a thought experiment. You will receive a particular scenario to which you will have to reply. This type of work is similar to a case study with the major difference: in a thought experiment for a philosophy class, a student will have to view a situation as impossible to an absurd one.
- Application paper
This one is similar to the previous type of work. Students should take the principles from an offered theory and use them in a new situation. Most often, you will have to compete with this type of philosophy paper for ethics or business ethics class. You should demonstrate a deep understanding of the observed theories. The main idea is to apply the studied concepts to the situation addressed in the prompt and find the most suitable solution.
- Compare and contrast writing
This type of philosophy essay tries to find differences and similarities between various people, subjects, or events. Students rarely have to cover only one of the sides, so be ready to do both compare and contrast things.
- Critical summary
A critical summary should be used on some findings as well as critical thinking. It is not just the list of the main points from the reading, but a detailed analyis and evaluation of them. A student may sound a bit subjective when writing this work.
- Research/exegesis papers
Figuring out how to write a philosophy research paper is not that tricky. It involves finding multiple sources related to the selected question and bringing the data together in a synthesised whole. The primary objective is to prove an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the chosen topic. Such works can work towards a critical analysis and explanation. It is not enough just to understand the concept, but realize the way relates to other parts of the text.
- Thesis papers
Do not confuse a thesis statement with the thesis as a separate piece of work! In a thesis paper, a student has to take a stance on a specific question and argue for that stance. The main idea is to defend a personal point of view using facts, statistics, quotes, and other evidence from the already existing, authoritative studies. A student must be able to express the central argument in one sentence. The rest of the paper should attempt to prove it.
What to Look for in a Philosophy Paper?
What are the essential elements that every philosophy paper should include? This section covers four major features that every good philosophy essay should contain.
It stands for the logical connection between the central argument and the supporting evidence. Most of the philosophers tend to reveal how the journey will end before it’s even half-the-way. Try to summarize longer works of distinguished philosophers in several lines making a syllogism. Paraphrasing the argument using own words will speed up the entire process.
It is critical to have a look at the various parts of the argument. If you say that “egg came first not the chicken”, it is not enough that everybody simply nods their head in agreement. It is necessary to explain why it is so. Adding words like “obviously” without providing evolutionary evidences from the credible sources would not be enough as well.
When speaking about outcomes and premises, one means the claim the philosopher is making and the supporting evidence. These two elements of a philosophy writing function similarly. Here is a good example to consider…
Premise one: Plato’s views on capital punishment as well as the opinions of most of his colleague-philosophers claim that the death penalty is an acceptable punishment for the most severe crimes.
Premise two: To murder, someone can be considered a severe crime.
Premise three: A death penalty is an acceptable measure to punish murderers.
Fallacies are defects that make your arguments weaker. Authors use them when there is a need for particular patterns of reasoning to argue for their concluding statements.
Critique of the Argument
The last element that should be present in any philosophy essay is the critique of the philosopher’s argument. Several reasons to criticize the argument or reject the hypothesis exist.
- It is internally contradictory
When the author states one thing in one part of the writing just to provide a complete opposite in another section. By reading these parts, it is possible to draw out the contradiction.
- It does not meet the goal
A claim may start with the defined purposes, but, in the end, fail to meet them. Introducing a crack in one’s foundation will result in a failure to achieve the author’s goals.
- The premises are incorrect
A philosopher might introduce some false arguments. Because of that, the conclusion might sound irrational or senseless. Perhaps, excluding several wrong statements will turn the writing in a more logical and concise piece.
- It has assumptions (justified or not)
Attentive observation of the analyzed piece will most probably detect specific assumptions. They are mainly made based on previous studies in the observed field. You should think whether the philosopher’s assumption is fair, unquestioned, or the offered argument relies on a justification of this assumption.
Anyway, it is not the only case when attentive, careful reading is required. When writing a paper, a patient reading alone can provide an insight that guarantees a great work of this type.
How to Outline a Philosophy Paper?
A philosophy essay has a standard outline made of introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion while a philosophy research paper has much more sections (methods, findings, discussion, appendix, etc.).
So, how to write a philosophy paper outline? First of all, let’s figure what should a philosophy paper include:
- a clear introduction that states what a student is going to argue in a paper and how;
- several arguments and counter-arguments in favour of your points;
- a summary of your position and way you’ve argued it.
Now let’s take a look at the most common philosophy paper outline that you can use as a template for your future works:
- Introductory paragraph (no more than 1/3 of a page)
- Background info (identify the special terms and features you plan to explore)
- Body paragraph one (e.g., the main reason why students should study philosophy as a separate class)
- Body paragraph two (e.g., another reason to join philosophy course)
- Body paragraph three (e.g., one more reason to get enrolled in studying philosophy)
- Conclusion (restated thesis + summary + call-to-action or hook)
You should not necessarily always start with the introduction. However, this section always appears at the beginning, and we should discuss how to write a philosophy paper introduction.
How to Write an Introduction for a Philosophy Paper? Brief Advice
When having doubt how to start a philosophy paper, insert your thesis statement in there. The best way to start your essay is to involve a hook sentence. It could be anything: from a funny joke to the dramatic statistics depending on your topic and tone of the paper. You may also start with a capturing question. Then, share the basic information about the issue. End up with a thesis statement.
To sum up, here is what to include in your opening paragraph to make it attention-grabbing:
- Hook sentence (fact, statistics, quote, etc.)
- Research question or problem
- The significance of the issue
- Background information
- Thesis statement
Try to make your intro clear, concise, and engaging!
The Elements of the Body Paragraphs
In the body, you should do your best to prove the thesis statement or find answers to the set question.
On the whole, make sure it includes:
- Evidence obtained from the works of other philosophers
- Anticipated objections
- Rejection of objections
- Transition words & phrases
The last element is required to make your work sound logical. It will help to unite all pieces into one whole.
To show the logical flow of your thoughts, you should not forget about 4 critical things.
Repetitive keywords and phrases
A writer must be consistent while referring to critical concepts and theories. The repetition of the keys will bind the separate sections of your writing together.
Pronouns to refer to things mentioned before
Avoid using phrases like, “This is wrong because…,” because your reader might get a bit confused as for what you mean. The pronouns allow your audience to sum up quickly which issues were covered earlier before moving on to the “because” clause. The main idea is not to let the readers figure out on their own what was said before or what the particular part of text refers to.
A writer should develop these elements by offering a couple or more phrases/sentences with the same grammar structure or involve the same parts of speech. Such structures are necessary to show that the specific piece of writing is providing a great number of illustrations of the same basic idea.
Transitions & bridging words
Those are the essential elements to let the reader follow the logical structure of the text without any problems. Below, you can find examples of transitional words sorted by categories.
How to Conclude a Philosophy Paper
One of the most disturbing issues is a philosophy paper conclusion. This part should leave a strong impression and motivate the reader to think about future scenarios or research instead of merely repeating everything said in the paper.
To conclude, here is what to include in the final paragraph of your essay:
- Rewritten thesis statement
- Summary of the topic sentences (the first sentences of each body paragraph)
- Interpretation of the findings and their significance
Forecasts for further studies or a compelling hook to finish your writing.
An essay conclusion is never just a summary of the main points! To recall the reason for writing, start with a paraphrased thesis statement (do not copy-paste it from your intro to avoid self-plagiarism). Then, list the topic sentences (claims) — the opening sentences from each body paragraph. Specify the importance of your study and its findings. How can society benefit from your research? One of the best ways to finish a philosophy essay is to offer a rhetorical question. And the last thing to remember: do not introduce any new information.
Useful Writing Tips That Can Help
We want to share this checklist with you to make sure your philosophy essay has everything necessary once you are done!
- A well-developed argument. Reread the argument several times to make sure it is well formulated and makes sense.
- Critique of the argument. Why are some of the arguments supporting the philosopher’s thesis are no good or irrelevant?
- Defence of the thesis. Which point of view do you oppose in your writing?
- Reasons to believe the thesis. Do they sound persuasive enough?
- Strong and weak sides of two opposing views. Compare and contrast analysis.
- Examples to help interpret the thesis. Do they help to make the thesis statement more plausible?
- The argument that the chosen philosophers are committed to the thesis by their own beliefs, though they do not explicitly endorse the argument.
- Discussion of the outcomes that the thesis would have if it were true.
Finally, revise the thesis statement in the light of some objection. Put a tick next to every completed point. Add the missing points to your paper. That would basically be your revision!
Philosophy Paper Example
Without a good philosophy paper example in front of your eyes, you may find it a bit complicated to write your first philosophy essay. That is why we recommend having a look at our free sample.
- Socrates on the Moral Authority of the State
“The last sentence is a hint of other topics that can be covered. If it were an extended essay, one could expand the existing text by adding the opposite points of view that interpret the works of Socrates in different ways.