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    How to Write a Philosophy Paper

    J. Dmitri Gallow

    October 7, 2013

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    “No one who has something original or important to say will willingly run the risk of being misunderstood; people who write obscurely are either unskilled in writing or up to mischief.”

    –Peter Medawar

    “If you can’t say it clearly, then you don’t understand it yourself”

    –John Searle

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    Outline

    1 What You’re Supposed to be Doing

    2 The Structure of a Philosophy Paper The Introduction The Exposition Thesis Defense Objections and Replies The Summary

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    What You’re Supposed to be Doing

    This is not a research paper or a report. You won’t (only) be asked to explain to me what the author has said.

    You must also engage with the author.

    You must tell me why you think that they are wrong. They’ve provided powerful arguments for their views. Where do those arguments go wrong?

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    What You’re Supposed to be Doing

    This is not a research paper or a report. You won’t (only) be asked to explain to me what the author has said.

    You must also engage with the author.

    You must tell me why you think that they are wrong. They’ve provided powerful arguments for their views. Where do those arguments go wrong?

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    What You’re Supposed to be Doing

    This is not a research paper or a report. You won’t (only) be asked to explain to me what the author has said.

    You must also engage with the author.

    You must tell me why you think that they are wrong. They’ve provided powerful arguments for their views. Where do those arguments go wrong?

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    Constructing a Thesis Statement

    Go back over the readings that we’ve had thus far. We’ve had people on both sides of every issue that we’ve looked at, so you should be able to find somebody you disagree with.

    Try to think about why you disagree with them. They provide reasons in favor of their views. What’s wrong with those reasons?

    Formulate a rough and working thesis statement about where the author has gone wrong — which premise of their argument is false (and why), or why the argument is invalid.

    You should feel free to change this thesis statement later on, but having one in mind will guide your progress writing the paper.

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    Constructing a Thesis Statement

    Go back over the readings that we’ve had thus far. We’ve had people on both sides of every issue that we’ve looked at, so you should be able to find somebody you disagree with.

    Try to think about why you disagree with them. They provide reasons in favor of their views. What’s wrong with those reasons?

    Formulate a rough and working thesis statement about where the author has gone wrong — which premise of their argument is false (and why), or why the argument is invalid.

    You should feel free to change this thesis statement later on, but having one in mind will guide your progress writing the paper.

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    Constructing a Thesis Statement

    Go back over the readings that we’ve had thus far. We’ve had people on both sides of every issue that we’ve looked at, so you should be able to find somebody you disagree with.

    Try to think about why you disagree with them. They provide reasons in favor of their views. What’s wrong with those reasons?

    Formulate a rough and working thesis statement about where the author has gone wrong — which premise of their argument is false (and why), or why the argument is invalid.

    You should feel free to change this thesis statement later on, but having one in mind will guide your progress writing the paper.

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    Constructing a Thesis Statement

    Go back over the readings that we’ve had thus far. We’ve had people on both sides of every issue that we’ve looked at, so you should be able to find somebody you disagree with.

    Try to think about why you disagree with them. They provide reasons in favor of their views. What’s wrong with those reasons?

    Formulate a rough and working thesis statement about where the author has gone wrong — which premise of their argument is false (and why), or why the argument is invalid.

    You should feel free to change this thesis statement later on, but having one in mind will guide your progress writing the paper.

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    What Makes a Thesis Statement Good?

    The narrower your thesis, the better.

    Bad thesis: Morality is relative to culture.

    Good thesis: In arguing against cultural relativism, Rachels claims that the cultural relativist is forced to say that female genital mutilation in the Sudan is not wrong. However, the cultural relativist is not forced to say this at all. I will demonstrate that a cultural relativist can consistently say that female genital mutiliation in the Sudan is wrong.

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    What Makes a Thesis Statement Good?

    The narrower your thesis, the better. Bad thesis:

    Morality is relative to culture.

    Good thesis: In arguing against cultural relativism, Rachels claims that the cultural relativist is forced to say that female genital mutilation in the Sudan is not wrong. However, the cultural relativist is not forced to say this at all. I will demonstrate that a cultural relativist can consistently say that female genital mutiliation in the Sudan is wrong.

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    What Makes a Thesis Statement Good?

    The narrower your thesis, the better. Bad thesis:

    Morality is relative to culture.

    Good thesis: In arguing against cultural relativism, Rachels claims that the cultural relativist is forced to say that female genital mutilation in the Sudan is not wrong. However, the cultural

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