Writing About Philosophy

Writing About Philosophy

Writing about Philosophy

  1. General Purpose

Philosophy is the study and practice of making and/ or assessing arguments. The process of strategic statements working in unison to support conclusions, which also serve as statements, results in a deeper understanding of the truth or at least the organized search for the truth. The study of philosophy should result in students being able to effectively assess and analyze the arguments of others as well as being able to produce solid arguments of their own.Philosophers writeprimarily for other philosophers in academic setting. Writers should always assume that their readers are educated, well-read intellectuals.

  1. Types of Writing
  • Argument Reconstructionrequires the presentation of often complicated philosophical concepts in simpler terms, either as formal steps or spelled out clearly in prose. Argument reconstructions should define all important terms and explain premises while the writer’s thoughts, opinions, and personal conclusions should be either left out or clearly delineated.
  • Objections and Replies often follow the argument reconstruction
  • Original Arguments are persuasive essays that are based on the original thoughts of the author, and if other arguments are relied upon, they are openly discussed and cited properly.
  • Applications aresummarizations or reapplications of an argument, such as an ancient philosophy applied to a more modern problem.
  • Thought Experiments are hypothetical explorations of a theoretical principle against a real or imagined scenario.
  1. Types of Evidence
  • Writing in philosophy is about the soundness of the argument and the quality of the dialogue.
  • Logical proofs and progressions are required.
  • Deductive argument is usedas the evidence of the argument to provide support for the conclusion.
  • Inductive argument involves a premise in which there is some evidence, but conclusions are based in probability and theory.
  • Terms which are debatable or controversial should be defined in the terms that a writer is using.
  • In philosophy, primary sources are considered those works of great importance, and secondary sources are those works dedicated to the study of great works. Sometimes secondary sources are so great in their breadth and insight that they eventually become primary sources.
  1. Writing Conventions
  • Writing should be in active voice and avoid a conversational tone.
  • First and third person are both acceptable; second person should be avoided.
  • Argument is central to discussing philosophical principles.
  • Grand introductions and conclusions are frowned upon in favor of appeals to the rationality of an audience and the logic of the argument.
  • Consistency: Do not fall into the “seeing both sides of an argument” trap when writing for philosophy. It is an effective strategy to anticipate the objections to your argument and address those theories or concerns instead of ignoring them.
  • Avoid overstatement: Words that limit such as “never,” “none,” “always,” “no,” or “all” should be used minimally if ever.
  • Carefully consider the fallacies in the argument when writing. Remain consistent and focused rather than general and vague.
  • Do not attack other philosophers personally or engage in excessive praise. Philosophy is about ongoing dialogue.
  • Do not attempt to appeal to faith, bias, authority, or tradition.
  • Be careful to define controversial or debatable terms.
  • Concluding the paper with your final argument or thesis can be acceptable.
  1. Vocabulary/ Jargon/ Terms



Conceptual competenceRationality




  1. Citation Style

Chicago, Harvard

(Always double check with your instructor to ascertain what style she or he prefers.)


Sources Consulted:

Mogck, Brian David. Writing to Reason: A Companion for Philosophy Students and Instructor. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008. Print.

The Writing Center at UNC Chapel Hill. “Philosophy.” UNC College of Art and Sciences. Web. 15 May 2014.