Based on the book Intro to Philosophy knowledge and reality by Jack Crumly II
PHILOSOPHY 201, FALL 2021
Being and Knowing
PHILOSOPHICAL ESSAYS (2 ESSAYS, 10% EACH, 900 WORDS EACH)
Students will complete two short essays presenting their own philosophical theories about two issues covered in Part I of the course. Each essay should
respond to an assigned philosophical question provided by the instructor in his weekly videos and posted to Moodle. These questions will be based on the
upcoming week’s readings and deal with one or more central philosophical issues covered in the main text. The questions will also be similar to the
questions listed for that week on the syllabus, although they may not be exactly the same. Student should therefore be able to begin reading, taking notes,
and even writing parts of their essays before the questions are formally announced each week.
The purpose of the Philosophical Essay is to allow students to engage directly in the activity of philosophy by forcing them to wrestle with the ideas involved
in addressing deep philosophical issues. Essays should:
• Concisely articulate and thoughtfully justify the student’s own personal answer to the assigned question (for example, if the assigned question is “Do we
have free will?” the student’s essay should say whether the student thinks we have free will, what free will is, and present an argument for why that answer is
a good one).
• Consider and respond to likely objections to the student’s view (for example in the case of free will, the student should imagine how someone else might
critique their argument and what counter-examples or thought experiments might be used to argue against the student’s position, then provide a counterargument defending or modifying the student’s view).
• Position the student’s argument in the context of traditional philosophical debates on the topic, using a comparison of how the student’s view is or is not
like existing views on the subject to further refine and explain the student’s own position (for example in the case of free will, considering different accounts
of causation or determinism).
• Demonstrate that the student has thought deeply and originally about the topic and carefully considered existing philosophical arguments about the issue,
including pointing out connections to related issues (for example, views and arguments presented in our readings that are relevant to the student’s argument
should be mentioned and accounted for).
Essays should be concise, clear, and focused on the core philosophical issue and the student’s argument. It is not enough to assert an answer: that answer
must be explained and justified through both reasoning and conceptual examples. The writing style for philosophical essays is flexible and may range from
austere and analytic to literary and almost whimsical; students should explore different ways of writing about these issues and find what is best suited to
communicate their argument. However, you are dealing with very big, complex, and subtle issues in relatively short papers, so essays should waste
absolutely no space.
Being and Knowing TBCC PHL 201 FALL 2021
Philosophical essays, more than writing in almost any other subject, rely on extensive, repeated editing. It is often in the editing process that new objections
are discovered, new examples conceived, crucial refinements in the reasoning are made, and the essay really starts to take shape as a high-quality argument.
The best essays are likely to be written fairly quickly, but then edited and rewritten three, four, five, or even more times as the student continues to develop
their thinking and determines the best way to organized and communicate their argument.
Students will post at least one of their two Philosophical Essays to Moodle for other students to respond to. Essays must be posted by Monday night of the
relevant week to receive credit (e.g., if a student chooses to write about personal identity for week 5, the essay would be due before midnight on Monday,
October 18). Students may also elect to post their second Philosophical Essay; students who choose to do so will receive a 1 percentage point extra-credit
bonus to their course grades.
To post an essay to Moodle, go to the Philosophical Essays discussion forum for the relevant week and click “Add a new discussion topic.” Use the title of
your essay as the Subject of your discussion topic and copy the first paragraph of your essay into the Message section of the post. Click “Advanced” to
upload a copy of your essay in .docx or .pdf format as an Attachment, then click “Post to forum.” Each essay will have its own thread in the Philosophical
Essays discussion forum and students can respond and comment on each essay separately.
At the end of the course, students will select one of their Philosophical Essays or their Philosophical Response Essay II to revise and expand into a longer
paper taking into account new ideas, examples, and objections. Most students will choose one of their Philosophical Essays for this purpose (rather than the
Philosophical Response Essay II), so students should continue thinking about and taking notes on their selected topics in later weeks so they are ready to
revise and expand one of these essays at the end of the course.