You'll be graded on three basic criteria:

  • 2.6 Writing Philosophy Papers
  • Introduction
  • 1.1 What Is Philosophy?
  • 1.2 How Do Philosophers Arrive at Truth?
  • 1.3 Socrates as a Paradigmatic Historical Philosopher
  • 1.4 An Overview of Contemporary Philosophy
  • Review Questions
  • Further Reading
  • 2.1 The Brain Is an Inference Machine
  • 2.2 Overcoming Cognitive Biases and Engaging in Critical Reflection
  • 2.3 Developing Good Habits of Mind
  • 2.4 Gathering Information, Evaluating Sources, and Understanding Evidence
  • 2.5 Reading Philosophy
  • 3.1 Indigenous Philosophy
  • 3.2 Classical Indian Philosophy
  • 3.3 Classical Chinese Philosophy
  • 4.1 Historiography and the History of Philosophy
  • 4.2 Classical Philosophy
  • 4.3 Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Philosophy
  • 5.1 Philosophical Methods for Discovering Truth
  • 5.2 Logical Statements
  • 5.3 Arguments
  • 5.4 Types of Inferences
  • 5.5 Informal Fallacies
  • 6.1 Substance
  • 6.2 Self and Identity
  • 6.3 Cosmology and the Existence of God
  • 6.4 Free Will
  • 7.1 What Epistemology Studies
  • 7.2 Knowledge
  • 7.3 Justification
  • 7.4 Skepticism
  • 7.5 Applied Epistemology
  • 8.1 The Fact-Value Distinction
  • 8.2 Basic Questions about Values
  • 8.3 Metaethics
  • 8.4 Well-Being
  • 8.5 Aesthetics
  • 9.1 Requirements of a Normative Moral Theory
  • 9.2 Consequentialism
  • 9.3 Deontology
  • 9.4 Virtue Ethics
  • 9.6 Feminist Theories of Ethics
  • 10.1 The Challenge of Bioethics
  • 10.2 Environmental Ethics
  • 10.3 Business Ethics and Emerging Technology
  • 11.1 Historical Perspectives on Government
  • 11.2 Forms of Government
  • 11.3 Political Legitimacy and Duty
  • 11.4 Political Ideologies
  • 12.1 Enlightenment Social Theory
  • 12.2 The Marxist Solution
  • 12.3 Continental Philosophy’s Challenge to Enlightenment Theories
  • 12.4 The Frankfurt School
  • 12.5 Postmodernism

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Identify and characterize the format of a philosophy paper.
  • Create thesis statements that are manageable and sufficiently specific.
  • Collect evidence and formulate arguments.
  • Organize ideas into a coherent written presentation.

This section will provide some practical advice on how to write philosophy papers. The format presented here focuses on the use of an argumentative structure in writing. Different philosophy professors may have different approaches to writing. The sections below are only intended to give some general guidelines that apply to most philosophy classes.

Identify Claims

The key element in any argumentative paper is the claim you wish to make or the position you want to defend. Therefore, take your time identifying claims , which is also called the thesis statement. What do you want to say about the topic? What do you want the reader to understand or know after reading your piece? Remember that narrow, modest claims work best. Grand claims are difficult to defend, even for philosophy professors. A good thesis statement should go beyond the mere description of another person’s argument. It should say something about the topic, connect the topic to other issues, or develop an application of some theory or position advocated by someone else. Here are some ideas for creating claims that are perfectly acceptable and easy to develop:

  • Compare two philosophical positions. What makes them similar? How are they different? What general lessons can you draw from these positions?
  • Identify a piece of evidence or argument that you think is weak or may be subject to criticism. Why is it weak? How is your criticism a problem for the philosopher’s perspective?
  • Apply a philosophical perspective to a contemporary case or issue. What makes this philosophical position applicable? How would it help us understand the case?
  • Identify another argument or piece of evidence that might strengthen a philosophical position put forward by a philosopher. Why is this a good argument or piece of evidence? How does it fit with the philosopher’s other claims and arguments?
  • Consider an implication (either positive or negative) that follows from a philosopher’s argument. How does this implication follow? Is it necessary or contingent? What lessons can you draw from this implication (if positive, it may provide additional reasons for the argument; if negative, it may provide reasons against the argument)?

Think Like a Philosopher

The following multiple-choice exercises will help you identify and write modest, clear philosophical thesis statements. A thesis statement is a declarative statement that puts forward a position or makes a claim about some topic.

  • How does Aristotle think virtue is necessary for happiness?
  • Is happiness the ultimate goal of human action?
  • Whether or not virtue is necessary for happiness.
  • Aristotle argues that happiness is the ultimate good of human action and virtue is necessary for happiness.
  • René Descartes argues that the soul or mind is the essence of the human person.
  • Descartes shows that all beliefs and memories about the external world could be false.
  • Some people think that Descartes is a skeptic, but I will show that he goes beyond skepticism.
  • In the meditations, Descartes claims that the mind and body are two different substances.
  • Descartes says that the mind is a substance that is distinct from the body, but I disagree.
  • Contemporary psychology has shown that Descartes is incorrect to think that human beings have free will and that the mind is something different from the brain.
  • Thomas Hobbes’s view of the soul is materialistic, whereas Descartes’s view of the soul is nonphysical. In this paper, I will examine the differences between these two views.
  • John Stuart Mill reasons that utilitarian judgments can be based on qualitative differences as well as the quantity of pleasure, but ultimately any qualitative difference must result in a difference in the quantity of pleasure.
  • Mill’s approach to utilitarianism differs from Bentham’s by introducing qualitative distinctions among pleasures, where Bentham only considers the quantitative aspects of pleasure.
  • J. S. Mill’s approach to utilitarianism aligns moral theory with the history of ethics because he allows qualitative differences in moral judgments.
  • Rawls’s liberty principle ensures that all people have a basic set of freedoms that are important for living a full life.
  • The US Bill of Rights is an example of Rawls’s liberty principle because it lists a set of basic freedoms that are guaranteed for all people.
  • While many people may agree that Rawls’s liberty principle applies to all citizens of a particular country, it is much more controversial to extend those same basic freedoms to immigrants, including those classified by the government as permanent residents, legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, and refugees.

[ANS: 1.d 2.c 3.c 4.a 5.c]

Write Like a Philosopher

Use the following templates to write your own thesis statement by inserting a philosopher, claim, or contemporary issue:

  • [Name of philosopher] holds that [claim], but [name of another philosopher] holds that [another claim]. In this paper, I will identify reasons for thinking [name of philosopher]’s position is more likely to be true.
  • [Name of philosopher] argues that [claim]. In this paper, I will show how this claim provides a helpful addition to [contemporary issue].
  • When [name of philosopher] argues in favor of [claim], they rely on [another claim] that is undercut by contemporary science. I will show that if we modify this claim in light of contemporary science, we will strengthen or weaken [name of philosopher]’s argument.

Collect Evidence and Build Your Case

Once you have identified your thesis statement or primary claim, collect evidence (by returning to your readings) to compose the best possible argument. As you assemble the evidence, you can think like a detective or prosecutor building a case. However, you want a case that is true, not just one that supports your position. So you should stay open to modifying your claim if it does not fit the evidence . If you need to do additional research, follow the guidelines presented earlier to locate authoritative information.

If you cannot find evidence to support your claim but still feel strongly about it, you can try to do your own philosophical thinking using any of the methods discussed in this chapter or in Chapter 1. Imagine counterexamples and thought experiments that support your claim. Use your intuitions and common sense, but remember that these can sometimes lead you astray. In general, common sense, intuitions, thought experiments, and counterexamples should support one another and support the sources you have identified from other philosophers. Think of your case as a structure: you do not want too much of the weight to rest on a single intuition or thought experiment.

Consider Counterarguments

Philosophy papers differ from typical argumentative papers in that philosophy students must spend more time and effort anticipating and responding to counterarguments when constructing their own arguments. This has two important effects: first, by developing counterarguments, you demonstrate that you have sufficiently thought through your position to identify possible weaknesses; second, you make your case stronger by taking away a potential line of attack that an opponent might use. By including counterarguments in your paper, you engage in the kind of dialectical process that philosophers use to arrive at the truth.

Accurately Represent Source Material

It is important to represent primary and secondary source material as accurately as possible. This means that you should consider the context and read the arguments using the principle of charity. Make sure that you are not strawmanning an argument you disagree with or misrepresenting a quote or paraphrase just because you need some evidence to support your argument. As always, your goal should be to find the most rationally compelling argument, which is the one most likely to be true.

Organize Your Paper

Academic philosophy papers use the same simple structure as any other paper and one you likely learned in high school or your first-year composition class.

Introduce Your Thesis

The purpose of your introduction is to provide context for your thesis. Simply tell the reader what to expect in the paper. Describe your topic, why it is important, and how it arises within the works you have been reading. You may have to provide some historical context, but avoid both broad generalizations and long-winded historical retellings. Your context or background information should not be overly long and simply needs to provide the reader with the context and motivation for your thesis. Your thesis should appear at the end of the introduction, and the reader should clearly see how the thesis follows from the introductory material you have provided. If you are writing a long paper, you may need several sentences to express your thesis, in which you delineate in broad terms the parts of your argument.

Make a Logical and Compelling Case Using the Evidence

The paragraphs that follow the introduction lay out your argument. One strategy you can use to successfully build paragraphs is to think in terms of good argument structure. You should provide adequate evidence to support the claims you want to make. Your paragraphs will consist of quotations and paraphrases from primary and secondary sources, context and interpretation, novel thoughts and ideas, examples and analogies, counterarguments, and replies to the counterarguments. The evidence should both support the thesis and build toward the conclusion. It may help to think architecturally: lay down the foundation, insert the beams of your strongest support, and then put up the walls to complete the structure. Or you might think in terms of a narrative: tell a story in which the evidence leads to an inevitable conclusion.


See the chapter on logic and reasoning for a developed account of different types of philosophical arguments.

Summarize Your Argument in the Conclusion

Conclude your paper with a short summary that recapitulates the argument. Remind the reader of your thesis and revisit the evidence that supports your argument. You may feel that the argument as written should stand on its own. But it is helpful to the reader to reinforce the argument in your conclusion with a short summary. Do not introduce any new information in the conclusion; simply summarize what you have already said.

The purpose of this chapter has been to provide you with basic tools to become a successful philosophy student. We started by developing a sophisticated picture of how the brain works, using contemporary neuroscience. The brain represents and projects a picture of the world, full of emotional significance, but this image may contain distortions that amount to a kind of illusion. Cognitive illusions produce errors in reasoning, called cognitive biases. To guard against error, we need to engage in effortful, reflective thinking, where we become aware of our biases and use logical strategies to overcome them. You will do well in your philosophy class if you apply the good habits of mind discussed in this chapter and apply the practical advice that has been provided about how to read and write about philosophy.

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How to Write a Philosophy Paper

  • Finding Books
  • Finding Articles
  • Citing Sources
  • Other Resources

Writing a philosophy paper can be a challenging task, especially if you have never written one before. This step-by-step guide is designed to help you through the writing process. 

Step One: Choose a Topic!

Your professor may assign you a particular topic on which to write, or they may have you choose from a list of topics. Either way, when you have your topic, you are ready to move on to the next step.

Step Two: Gather Resources!

The books and articles that you will need to write your topic on may be provided by your professor. If not, you’ll have to do some research.

If you know, or have a pretty good idea of, which articles and books you’ll have to read for your paper, you’ll want to check our library’s catalog to see if we carry the books or ebooks that you need. You’ll also want to check our library’s electronic resources for the journal articles that you’re looking for. Your best bets for finding journal articles in philosophy are Academic Search Ultimate  and Philosopher’s Index . You may also find the books or articles that you need at one of the databases listed on our other resources tab. Note that you may have to order books or articles through Interlibrary Loan , so it is best to start your research as early as possible.

If you are not sure which articles or books are out there on your topic, there are some great online resources that can help you browse. For general overviews and bibliographies for most topics in philosophy, your best bets are the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy . For lists and descriptions of, and links to, recent works on particular topics in philosophy, try browsing Philpapers , using their Topics drop down menu.

Step Three: Read!

Once you’ve gathered all of your resources, your task now is to read them carefully to figure out what you’ll need from each book or article to write your paper. Need help reading difficult philosophical texts? Here is a helpful guide.

Step Four: Decide on a Thesis!

Your professor may already have assigned a particular thesis for you to explore or defend in your paper. If not, you’ll have to decide that based on your research. Which author that you’ve read, or view that you’ve read about, do you think has it right? Which author that you’ve read, or view that you’ve read about, do you think has it wrong? You may find that your thesis shifts a bit while you are writing your paper, but it is best to have a clear focus as you begin the writing process.

Step Five: Outline your Paper!

The general structure of your paper should follow the basic Introduction/Body/Conclusion model. In the introduction, you’ll provide enough context to introduce your thesis and then you’ll introduce that thesis. In the body of your essay, you’ll provide the main arguments or evidence that you will offer in support of your thesis. Try numbering your main claims or the stages of your main argument and designate a paragraph (or two) of your essay to each. In the conclusion, you’ll summarize your paper and offer any suggestions for further avenues of research or further questions that still need to be answered.

Step Six: Write a Draft!

Once you’ve outlined your ideas, you’re ready to write a first draft. Need help getting started with writing a philosophy paper? Here is a helpful guide.

Step Seven: Get Feedback!

Once you have a draft, try to get feedback on what you have so far. Your professor might be willing to look at a draft of your paper, or discuss it with you in person. You might also ask one or more of your peers to read through your draft and offer suggestions. Try reading the paper aloud. This might help you notice any clumsy locutions or grammatical errors.

Step Eight: Revise!

After receiving suggestions from either your professor or a friend (or both), revise your paper accordingly. These revisions could be minor, and so you might be able to finish this step pretty quickly. But some revisions might require you to go back and reconfigure or add something to your outline. So make sure you leave enough time for these sorts of revisions.

Step Nine: Finalize and Submit!

Fill in all citations and complete your bibliography. After that, the paper is done. Find out how your professor wants you to submit your paper and turn it in. That’s it!

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How to Write Philosophy

Last Updated: June 17, 2022 Approved

wikiHow is a “wiki,” similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. To create this article, 15 people, some anonymous, worked to edit and improve it over time. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 91% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 50,397 times. Learn more...

Clarity, grammar, and logical flow are important components to any piece of philosophical writing. However, with these three things in mind, there are multiple forms your writing can take, depending on what feels most accessible for you. This article will walk you through several options.

Free your mind of all conventional restrictions or inhibitions.

In philosophy, you get to express yourself as you are.

Write letters.

The letter is a brilliant way to deepen your understanding of the world.

Keep a diary.

Writing in a diary regularly will help you build your writing skill.

Keep a notebook

This is similar to a diary, but captures a singular thought and not the development.

Write poetry.

One of the most provocative and exciting styles is philosophy in poetry.

Use Socratic dialogue.

This is the original way of writing down philosophy, pioneered by Plato.

Use creative writing.

A short story, a play or an opera can also put across philosophical ideas.

  • The novel is one of the best ways to put across ideas. However it requires a lot of input and you yourself will have to be pretty good at creative writing if you want to perform this type of writing. One example would be Ayn Rand or Dostoyevsky's 'The brothers Karamazov' or 'Crime and Punishment'.

Write out your beliefs.

Philosophical works also good ways to get your ideas across.

  • After writing a basic philosophical statement add some more "big" words to replace more common ones (i.e. good, bad, nice, etc.)and transitions to get your basic idea across.
  • After doing so, re-read and make sure you make sense; afterwords read it to a friend or relative and see how they react; after correcting what mistakes they are able to find in your grammar or logic you are practically done. Feel free to and an introduction and/or conclusion or have a friend/relative do that for you.
  • Read Thomas Paine's Common Sense, or some Immanuel Kant to get a good format as well.

Community Q&A

Community Answer

  • You must be reasonably good at writing, both formally and creatively, if you aren't take a writing course. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Dedicate time regularly to both writing and thinking. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
  • Don't spend to much time writing and thinking otherwise your performance will go down and the quality of your writing. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0

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How to Write a Philosophy Paper

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Writing Philosophy: A Student's Guide to Writing Philosophy Essays

Profile image of Lewis Vaughn

Writing Philosophy is a brief tutorial/manual that covers the basics of argumentative essay writing and encourages students to master fundamental writing skills with minimal teacher input. It provides step-by-step instructions for each phase of the writing process, from formulating a thesis and creating an outline, to writing a final draft. For the benefit of both students and teachers, it uses a rulebook format that encapsulates core principles of good writing while providing models of well-written essays, outlines, introductions, and conclusions.

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Brendan Shea

This is a guide to writing philosophy papers aimed at introductory students prepared by the philosophy faculty at Rochester Community and Technical College. It includes sections on reading philosophy and writing philosophy, as well as an explanation of common grading criteria for essays in philosophy

how to write a philosophy paper book

Brian D. Earp

I wrote up the following tips a couple of years ago when I was teaching assistant for an introductory philosophy class at Yale led by Daniel Greco called “Problems in Philosophy.” The tips were intended, then, for college students, many of them right out of high school, and most of whom had never written a philosophy paper before. So the focus is on clarity and mastering the basics. With that in mind, I hope you will find these tips helpful for teaching or writing in philosophy (or any other relevant field or discipline).

Benjamin P. Davis

I wrote this "tip sheet" for philosophical writing a la other tip sheets passed around in creative writing workshops. I invite feedback on what has worked for your students and how you might modify my suggestions.

South African Journal of Philosophy

Ewa Latecka

This article aims at presenting the argument for the modification of Dennis Earl’s “four-sentence paper” template into the “six-line essay” writing intervention. The underlying reason for this research is a relative paucity of literature covering the topic of philosophy writing interventions at a beginner’s level. In order to fill this gap, the article takes the following course. For general background, it presents the general views on teaching essay writing and the relative unavailability of philosophydirected methods and techniques. It then describes Earl’s template in relative detail. Further, it refers to my experience teaching philosophical writing to University of Zululand students. Next, it describes the specific group of students with whom I first tried the method in 2019 and whose needs prompted the modifications. I then explain the “six-line essay” model step by step, commenting on the rationale behind each step and the way in which it is presented to students. True to form, the article also presents objections and the relevant counterarguments. Finally, the article points to the possibility of further, more structured research, with formal questionnaires/ structured interviews and their subsequent analysis.

tilahun guade

IJOLTL: Indonesian Journal of Language Teaching and Linguistics

Assessment of essay writing varies in product oriented, primary trait scoring system, and process oriented. This study examines how rubric in argumentative essay writing are developed. The findings emphasized that essay writing focused on the argumentative essay. Models of essay utilized for TOEFL test are considerably suggested for the topics. In addition, descriptors of the essay elaborated for standard assessment refer to characteristics of a good paragraph outlining: topic sentence and controlling ideas, developing sentences, and concluding sentence; and those for essay writing would emphasize on introductory paragraph whose thesis statement is included in the paragraph, developing paragraphs for details, and concluding paragraph.

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Since argumentative writing skills play an indispensable role in higher educational contexts, the students are required to produce academic works representing their academic insights and critical perspectives towards problematized issues around them. Conversely, the students may frequently encounter intricacies while applying complicated syntactic forms and proper aspects during writing Discussion essays as one of the argumentative writing genres. For this reason, the current study aimed at exploring how Talk-Write technique facilitates the students in writing Discussion essays. This study involved 30 EFL students and an experienced writing teacher at a university in Indonesia. The data were analyzed through thematic analysis following the notions of Talk-Write (Meyers, 1985; Ling, 1986; Radcliffe: Crasnich & Lumbelli, 2005). The findings indicated that Talk-Write technique enables the students to produce the Discussion essays. Besides, it stimulated them to speak actively in English while negotiating ideas, exchanging debatable arguments and positioning stance and voice. Briefly, Talk-Write technique can facilitate the students in exchanging vocal to scribal dialogue, gaining pivotal and desired ideas and fostering professional competencies as the talkers and the writers and personal styles.

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This study investigated students&#39; practice of philosophical thinking through collaborative writing in secondary education. A philosophy course was developed following the rationale of the learning communities in which writing was used as an epistemic tool. 45 students organized into 13 teams participated in the course. In this study, a subsample of six students working in 2 teams during one collaborative argumentative writing activity were analyzed. These groups were selected on the basis of their output (high and medium quality) and because both followed an integrating construction strategy for collaborative writing. Data collected included audio, video and computer screen recordings of both groups&#39; discourse and writing activity during collaborative writing (using Camtasia and Atlas-ti software). Analysis focused on collaborative writing interaction (types of talk; evidence of philosophical competences - problematization, argumentation and conceptualization; regulation of ...

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Using information fairly and acknowledging sources accurately is an essential part of any research project. Citations provide information to help readers locate the sources you use and provide a way for you to credit other scholars for their original ideas or findings. Most researchers use  style guides or manuals  to format their citations in a consistent way so their readers can quickly identify and locate cited sources.

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  • Chicago Manual of Style This link opens in a new window & more less... The online version of the Chicago Manual of Style. Includes both the 15th and 16th editions.

Annotated bibliographies help to organize and summarize your research on a topic, which can help motivate you to write. An annotated bibliography includes a citation and a brief statement of its argument or purpose in your words. You can also include how you would use the source in your research.

  • Writing an annotated Bibliography & more less... From the Univ of Toronto Library

  • Oxford Bibliographies Online: Philosophy This link opens in a new window & more less... Regularly updated annotated bibliography addressing themes and topics in Philosophy
  • African-American Holiness Pentecostal Movement: an annotated bibliography by Sherry S. DuPree ISBN: 0824014499 Publication Date: 1995-11-01
  • John Rawls and His Critics : an annotated bibliography by David T. Mason; J. H. Wellbank; Denis Snook ISBN: 0824092856 Publication Date: 1982-08-01

There are three general types of resources that may appear in an annotated bibliography. Primary sources provide your   first-hand evidence. Secondary sources include analysis or commentary on a primary source. Tertiary sources are summaries or compilations of primary and secondary sources. For example, if you were writing a paper about James Baldwin, a primary source would be anything written by James Baldwin , a secondary source would be articles and books analyzing James Baldwin's writings , and a tertiary source would be an encyclopedia entry about James Baldwin . An annotated bibliography is a type of tertiary source.

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Guest Essay

The Most Important Writing Exercise I’ve Ever Assigned

An illustration of several houses. One person walks away from a house with a second person isolated in a window.

By Rachel Kadish

Ms. Kadish is the author of the novel “The Weight of Ink.”

“Write down a phrase you find abhorrent — something you yourself would never say.”

My students looked startled, but they cooperated. They knew I wouldn’t collect this exercise; what they wrote would be private unless they chose to share it. All that was required of them was participation.

In silence they jotted down a few words. So far, so good. We hadn’t yet reached the hard request: Spend 10 minutes writing a monologue in the first person that’s spoken by a fictitious character who makes the upsetting statement. This portion typically elicits nervous glances. When that happens, I remind students that their statement doesn’t represent them and that speaking as if they’re someone else is a basic skill of fiction writers. The troubling statement, I explain, must appear in the monologue, and it shouldn’t be minimized, nor should students feel the need to forgive or account for it. What’s required is simply that somewhere in the monologue there be an instant — even a fleeting phrase — in which we can feel empathy for the speaker. Perhaps she’s sick with worry over an ill grandchild. Perhaps he’s haunted by a love he let slip away. Perhaps she’s sleepless over how to keep her business afloat and her employees paid. Done right, the exercise delivers a one-two punch: repugnance for a behavior or worldview coupled with recognition of shared humanity.

For more than two decades, I’ve taught versions of this fiction-writing exercise. I’ve used it in universities, middle schools and private workshops, with 7-year-olds and 70-year-olds. But in recent years openness to this exercise and to the imaginative leap it’s designed to teach has shrunk to a pinprick. As our country’s public conversation has gotten angrier, I’ve noticed that students’ approach to the exercise has become more brittle, regardless of whether students lean right or left.

Each semester, I wonder whether the aperture through which we allow empathy has so drastically narrowed as to foreclose a full view of our fellow human beings. Maybe there are times so contentious or so painful that people simply withdraw to their own silos. I’ve certainly felt that inward pull myself. There are times when a leap into someone else’s perspective feels impossible.

But leaping is the job of the writer, and there’s no point it doing it halfway. Good fiction pulls off a magic trick of absurd power: It makes us care. Responding to the travails of invented characters — Ahab or Amaranta, Sethe or Stevens, Zooey or Zorba — we might tear up or laugh, or our hearts might pound. As readers, we become invested in these people, which is very different from agreeing with or even liking them. In the best literature, characters are so vivid, complicated, contradictory and even maddening that we’ll follow them far from our preconceptions; sometimes we don’t return.

Unflinching empathy, which is the muscle the lesson is designed to exercise, is a prerequisite for literature strong enough to wrestle with the real world. On the page it allows us to spot signs of humanity; off the page it can teach us to start a conversation with the strangest of strangers, to thrive alongside difference. It can even affect those life-or-death choices we make instinctively in a crisis. This kind of empathy has nothing to do with being nice, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

Even within the safety of the page, it’s tempting to dodge empathy’s challenge, instead demonizing villains and idealizing heroes, but that’s when the needle on art’s moral compass goes inert. Then we’re navigating blind: confident that we know what the bad people look like and that they’re not us — and therefore we’re at no risk of error.

Our best writers, in contrast, portray humans in their full complexity. This is what Gish Jen is doing in the short story “Who’s Irish?” and Rohinton Mistry in the novel “A Fine Balance.” Line by line, these writers illuminate the inner worlds of characters who cause harm — which is not the same as forgiving them. No one would ever say that Toni Morrison forgives the character Cholly Breedlove, who rapes his daughter in “The Bluest Eye.” What Ms. Morrison accomplishes instead is the boldest act of moral and emotional understanding I’ve ever seen on the page.

In the classroom exercise, the upsetting phrases my students scribble might be personal (“You’ll never be a writer,” “You’re ugly”) or religious or political. Once a student wrote a phrase condemning abortion as another student across the table wrote a phrase defending it. Sometimes there are stereotypes, slurs — whatever the students choose to grapple with. Of course, it’s disturbing to step into the shoes of someone whose words or deeds repel us. Writing these monologues, my graduate students, who know what “first person” means, will dodge and write in third, with the distanced “he said” instead of “I said.”

But if they can withstand the challenges of first person, sometimes something happens. They emerge shaken and eager to expand on what they’ve written. I look up from tidying my notes to discover students lingering after dismissal with that alert expression that says the exercise made them feel something they needed to feel.

Over the years, as my students’ statements became more political and as jargon (“deplorables,” “snowflakes”) supplanted the language of personal experience, I adapted the exercise. Worrying that I’d been too sanguine about possible pitfalls, I made it entirely silent, so no student would have to hear another’s troubling statement or fear being judged for their own. Any students who wanted to share their monologues with me could stay after class rather than read to the group. Later, I added another caveat: If your troubling statement is so offensive, you can’t imagine the person who says it as a full human being, choose something less troubling. Next, I narrowed the parameters: No politics. The pandemic’s virtual classes made risk taking harder; I moved the exercise deeper into the semester so students would feel more at ease.

After one session, a student stayed behind in the virtual meeting room. She’d failed to include empathy in her monologue about a character whose politics she abhorred. Her omission bothered her. I was impressed by her honesty. She’d constructed a caricature and recognized it. Most of us don’t.

For years, I’ve quietly completed the exercise alongside my students. Some days nothing sparks. When it goes well, though, the experience is disquieting. The hard part, it turns out, isn’t the empathy itself but what follows: the annihilating notion that people whose fears or joys or humor I appreciate may themselves be indifferent to all my cherished conceptions of the world.

Then the 10-minute timer sounds, and I haul myself back to the business of the classroom — shaken by the vastness of the world but more curious about the people in it. I put my trust in that curiosity. What better choice does any of us have? And in the sanctuary of my classroom I keep trying, handing along what literature handed me: the small, sturdy magic trick any of us can work, as long as we’re willing to risk it.

Rachel Kadish is the author of the novel “The Weight of Ink.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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AI Writes Scientific Papers That Sound Great—but Aren’t Accurate

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F irst came the students, who wanted help with their homework and essays. Now, ChatGPT is luring scientists, who are under pressure to publish papers in reputable scientific journals.

AI is already disrupting the archaic world of scientific publishing. When Melissa Kacena, vice chair of orthopaedic surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine, reviews articles submitted for publication in journals, she now knows to look out for ones that might have been written by the AI program. “I have a rule of thumb now that if I pull up 10 random references cited in the paper, and if more than one isn’t accurate, then I reject the paper,” she says.

But despite the pitfalls, there is also promise. Writing review articles, for example, is a task well suited to AI: it involves sifting through the existing research on a subject, analyzing the results, reaching a conclusion about the state of the science on the topic, and providing some new insight. ChatGPT can do all of those things well.

Kacena decided to see who is better at writing review articles: people or ChatGPT. For her study published in Current Osteoporosis Reports , she sorted nine students and the AI program into three groups and asked each group to write a review article on a different topic. For one group, she asked the students to write review articles on the topics; for another, she instructed ChatGPT to write articles on the same topics; and for the last group, she gave each of the students their own ChatGPT account and told them to work together with the AI program to write articles. That allowed her to compare articles written by people, by AI, and a combination of people and AI. She asked faculty member colleagues and the students to fact check each of the articles, and compared the three types of articles on measures like accuracy, ease of reading, and use of appropriate language.

Read More : To Make a Real Difference in Health Care, AI Will Need to Learn Like We Do

The results were eye-opening. The articles written by ChatGPT were easy to read and were even better written than the students'. But up to 70% of the cited references were inaccurate: they were either incoherently merged from several different studies or completely fictitious. The AI versions were also more likely to be plagiarized.

“ChatGPT was pretty convincing with some of the phony statements it made, to be honest,” says Kacena. “It used the proper syntax and integrated them with proper statements in a paragraph, so sometimes there were no warning bells. It was only because the faculty members had a good understanding of the data, or because the students fact checked everything, that they were detected.”

There were some advantages to the AI-generated articles. The algorithm was faster and more efficient in processing all the required data, and in general, ChatGPT used better grammar than the students. But it couldn't always read the room: AI tended to use more flowery language that wasn’t always appropriate for scientific journals (unless the students had told ChatGPT to write it from the perspective of a graduate-level science student.)

Read More : The 100 Most Influential People in AI

That reflects a truth about the use of AI: it's only as good as the information it receives. While ChatGPT isn’t quite ready to author scientific journal articles, with the proper programming and training, it could improve and become a useful tool for researchers. “Right now it’s not great by itself, but it can be made to work,” says Kacena. For example, if queried, the algorithm was good at recommending ways to summarize data in figures and graphical depictions. “The advice it gave on those were spot on, and exactly what I would have done,” she says.

The more feedback the students provided on ChatGPT's work, the better it learned—and that represents its greatest promise. In the study, some students found that when they worked together with ChatGPT to write the article, the program continued to improve and provide better results if they told it what things it was doing right, and what was less helpful. That means that addressing problems like questionable references and plagiarism could potentially be fixed. ChatGPT could be programmed, for example, to not merge references and to treat each scientific journal article as its own separate reference, and to limit copying consecutive words to avoid plagiarism.

With more input and some fixes, Kacena believes that AI could help researchers smooth out the writing process and even gain scientific insights. "I think ChatGPT is here to stay, and figuring out how to make it better, and how to use it in an ethical and conscientious and scientifically sound manner, is going to be really important,” she says.

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Savannah Guthrie reveals this was 'the hardest' topic to write about in her book on faith

how to write a philosophy paper book

Savannah Guthrie’s new book on her intimate relationship with God required a leap of faith.

The “Today” show anchor, who has co-authored children’s books about a very capable royal named Princess Penelope Pineapple , battled doubts about her credentials and the significance of what she had to say.

“I actually told the publisher and the agent, ‘OK, let's try this, but everyone needs to know that at any time, I might just say I don't think I can do it or it doesn't feel right and everyone has to be OK with that,’ ” Guthrie, 52, says. “For a long time, I felt like maybe this is just God giving me a project to work on to bring us closer together.”

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She quieted her fears by convincing herself that she should at least try. “I'm just going to put one foot in front of the other,” Guthrie says. “I feel something exciting here. This is something I'm so passionate about.”

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From Guthrie’s faith bloomed “ Mostly What God Does: Reflections on Seeking and Finding His Love Everywhere .” The title comes from Ephesians 5:1-2 (The Message) which says, “Mostly what God does is love you.”

“This book is a series of reflections about faith, and it's from the heart,” Guthrie says. “It's really vulnerable and personal. And it's that way because in so many ways, this is the book that I need to read. … I need to be reminded, like we all do, that God loves us and is on our side and has an eternal promise to be present to us. It's not a promise that everything's going to work out our way, or on our timing, or that we're just going to crush life. It's simply a promise that I am here for you. And I'm here with you.”

Guthrie is clear to state in her book that it is not a memoir, in part because her career has been “mostly a blur” she writes. “And I can’t write about other things – things I do remember but I don’t want to talk about,” like the dissolution of her first marriage to journalist Mark Orchard. “There is no scandal here, just disappointment.”

But in her book, broken down into six parts that she’s identified as the essentials of faith – love, presence, praise, grace, hope and purpose – she writes openly of struggling with anxiety and being “utterly terrified” before her 2012 debut as “Today” host . In those moments, Guthrie turned to God.

“God is with me,” she writes. “He’s got me. I am not alone. Whatever happens, I will never be alone. He has brought me to this moment, and he is not about to abandon me now.”

In “Mostly What God Does,” Guthrie says that she and her sister referred to God as “the sixth member of our family” growing up. Faith is how she and Jenna Bush Hager , host of “Today with Hoda & Jenna,” first connected. Now, Guthrie is the godmother of Bush Hager’s son Henry “Hal,” 4, and Bush Hager is the godmother of Guthrie’s daughter Vale, 9.

“I just think of how much good (the book is) going to do,” says Bush Hager, who leads the Read with Jenna book club . “What we need right now, in our world, is more love, and that's basically the thesis of everything she's writing about.”

In addition to writing about God’s unfailing love, Guthrie also addresses the tough questions that people of faith may grapple with: Why would an all-powerful God allow suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people?

“Those were the hardest essays for me to write, but I felt I couldn't ignore them,” says Guthrie. “Spoiler alert: There is no answer. I'm not resolving those unanswerable questions. … I think what I've learned over the years that faith and doubt are not opposite. They are features, they are part and parcel. They go hand in hand. If you don't have doubts sometimes or questions, then I'm not sure you're thinking hard enough about everything, because this world invites doubt, and God invites our questions and is OK with those questions and is eager to engage.”

As for Heaven, Guthrie can’t be 100% sure it exists, but she hangs her hat and potentially her future angel wings on hope.

“I wrote I would rather be hopeful and wrong than hopeless and turn out to be right,” she says. “It's about how are we spending our present? How are we spending this life? What does that posture of hope produce in our own lives? Does anyone know for sure? No, by definition, they don't. No one lives to tell. But for me, the choice became quite simple. I don't need to have all the answers, but I do need to have hope.”

Jenna Bush Hager gets real about her book club, parenting and co-hosting 'Today' show


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  1. PDF A Brief Guide to Writing the Philosophy Paper

    Begin by formulating your precise thesis. State your thesis clearly and concisely in your introduction so that your reader understands what your paper sets out to achieve. Get to the point quickly and without digression. Don't try to introduce your argument within a grand historical narrative, for example.

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    Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper guidelines on grammar, below). What Does One Do in a Philosophy Paper? Three Stages of Writing Early Stages Write a Draft Rewrite, and Keep Rewriting Minor Points How You'll Be Graded What Does One Do in a Philosophy Paper? Your paper must offer an argument.

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    Collect evidence and formulate arguments. Organize ideas into a coherent written presentation. This section will provide some practical advice on how to write philosophy papers. The format presented here focuses on the use of an argumentative structure in writing. Different philosophy professors may have different approaches to writing.

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    1. Every paper you write for me will be based on the same basic assignment: state a thesis and defend it. That is, you must stake out a position that you take to be correct, and then you must offer arguments for that view, consider objections, and reply to those objections.

  5. Research Guides: Philosophy: How to Write a Philosophy Paper

    Step One: Choose a Topic! Your professor may assign you a particular topic on which to write, or they may have you choose from a list of topics. Either way, when you have your topic, you are ready to move on to the next step. Step Two: Gather Resources!

  6. Writing Philosophy: A Student's Guide to Writing Philosophy Essays

    Writing Philosophy: A Student's Guide to Writing Philosophy Essays is a concise, self-guided manual that covers the basics of argumentative essay writing and encourages students to master fundamental skills quickly, with minimal instructor input. Opening with an introductory chapter on how to read philosophy, the book then moves into the basics of writing summaries and analyzing arguments.

  7. How to Write a Philosophy Paper

    How to Write a Philosophy Paper is a handbook which provides students with a ready arsenal of analytical and compositional techniques. It is intended for undergraduate students in any type of philosophy course and is written and organized in a userfriendly manner. The first half includes discussions of the nature of philosophy and a variety of ...

  8. Guide for Writing a Philosophy Paper

    I am writing a book! If you to know when it is ready (and maybe win a free copy), submit your email on my website: I won't spa...

  9. Tackling the Philosophy Essay: A Student Guide

    This short book, written by recent Cambridge PhD students, is designed to introduce students to the process of writing an essay in philosophy. Containing many annotated examples, this guide demonstrates some of the Do's and Don'ts of essay writing, with particular attention paid to the early stages of the writing process (including the creation ...

  10. How To Write A Philosophy Paper

    This series walks you through the steps of writing a philosophy paper anywhere from a 2 page reflection to a 50 page term paper.

  11. Writing Guides

    Writing Guides A Brief Guide to Writing the Philosophy Paper Harvard College Writing Center Doing Philosophy by Joel Feinberg Call Number: Available at Robert W. Woodruff Library Book Stacks (B52.7 .F45 2014) ISBN: 9781285055015 Publication Date: 2013-01-01 How to Write a Philosophy Paper - Yale University

  12. How to write a Philosophy Paper (Basics)

    This series covers the basics of how to write a philosophy paper, including the basic structure, how to summarize an argument, and how to write objections.Sp...

  13. How to Write a Philosophy Paper

    James Sidney Stramel. University Press of America, 1995 - Philosophy - 73 pages. How to Write a Philosophy Paper is a handbook which provides students with a ready arsenal of analytical and compositional techniques. It is intended for undergraduate students in any type of philosophy course and is written and organized in a user-friendly manner.

  14. 8 Ways to Write Philosophy

    How to Write Philosophy Download Article Author Info Last Updated: June 17, 2022 Approved Clarity, grammar, and logical flow are important components to any piece of philosophical writing. However, with these three things in mind, there are multiple forms your writing can take, depending on what feels most accessible for you.

  15. LibGuides: How to Write a Philosophy Paper: Resources

    Print books found on the upper level of Bishop Library. Doing Philosophy: A Guide to the Writing of Philosophy Papers. Call Number: B 52.7 .F45 2008 ... Writing Philosophy: A Student's Guide to Writing Philosophy Essays. Call Number: B 52.7 .V38 2006. ISBN: 9780195179569. Philosophical Writing. Call Number: Ebook. ISBN: 9781119010050. Last ...

  16. PDF How to Write a Philosophy Paper

    How to Write a Philosophy Paper 1. Every paper you write for me will be based on the same basic assignment: state a thesis and defend it, employing textual citations and inferences to support that thesis.

  17. How to write a philosophy paper

    An illustration of an open book. Books. An illustration of two cells of a film strip. Video. An illustration of an audio speaker. Audio An illustration of a 3.5" floppy disk. ... How to write a philosophy paper by Stramel, James S. (James Sidney), 1960-Publication date 1995 Topics Philosophy -- Study and teaching (Higher), Written communication

  18. Writing a philosophy book

    Things are trickier with the book I'm planning at present, for the argument is more complex, and there are murky depths which will surface only when the writing process begins. I usually aim at 7 or 8 chapters, and squeeze the initial plan into a couple of pages. It took about 2 years (including a term of sabbatical leave) to produce a ...

  19. PDF Rosati, How to Read a Philosophical Article or Book

    1. Identify the general problem or issue that the author is discussing. 2. Identify the specific theses or conclusions (the solution or view) that the author intends to argue for or defend. Usually philosophers will indicate early on in an article the general issue they are discussing and the specific position they aim to defend.

  20. Writing Philosophy: A Student's Guide to Writing Philosophy Essays

    How to Write a Philosophy Paper Brendan Shea This is a guide to writing philosophy papers aimed at introductory students prepared by the philosophy faculty at Rochester Community and Technical College. It includes sections on reading philosophy and writing philosophy, as well as an explanation of common grading criteria for essays in philosophy

  21. Creating a Bibliography

    Library Guides Philosophy Creating a Bibliography Philosophy An overview of scholarly resources in philosophy How to Cite Using information fairly and acknowledging sources accurately is an essential part of any research project.

  22. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    provide when you are writing a paper. Here are some useful guidelines: o If you're writing a research paper, do not assume that your reader has read all the sources that you are writing about. You'll need to offer context about what those sources say so that your reader can understand why you have brought them into the conversation.

  23. Opinion

    But leaping is the job of the writer and there's no point it doing it halfway. Good fiction pulls off a magic trick of absurd power: It makes us care. Responding to the travails of invented ...

  24. AI Writes Scientific Papers That Sound Great—But Aren't Accurate

    The results were eye-opening. The articles written by ChatGPT were easy to read and were even better written than the students'. But up to 70% of the cited references were inaccurate: they were ...

  25. Savannah Guthrie reveals this was 'the hardest' topic to write about in

    In "Mostly What God Does," Guthrie says that she and her sister referred to God as "the sixth member of our family" growing up. Faith is how she and Jenna Bush Hager, host of "Today with ...