Guide to Writing a Philosophy Essay Why Writing a Philosophy Essay is Hard Work George Walker Bush once said about being the President of the United States, “It’s hard work.” Such is also the case with writing a philosophy essay. What makes it hard work? 1. It’s abstract, and abstract thinking isn’t easy. 2. It’s technical, and technical writing requires considerable brain power. 3. It’s systematic, and being systematic requires being organized, which we all know is work. 4. It’s explicit, and being explicit entails knowing exactly what your point is and it requires the ability to find the correct language to convey this point, which can be a real pain. 5. It employs critical thinking skills, and critical thinking skills do not necessarily come naturally. 6. It’s foreign to many of us, and tasks that are foreign often require more time and effort to complete than tasks that aren’t foreign. 7. It can be emotionally challenging, and doing things that are emotionally challenging can be, well, difficult. What a Philosophy Essay Isn’t While there is considerable overlap between writing philosophy essays and writing of other sorts, a philosophy essay is unique in many respects. For example, being explicit, systematic and technical are characteristics of a good philosophy essay, yet if a short story was too explicit, systematic and technical it may end up being quite poor. For this reason, it is worth expanding on what a philosophy essay isn’t.
1. Creative writing—with creative writing, it can be quite important to be aesthetically pleasing and to show, as opposed to tell, your reader what your point is. However, in a philosophy essay being aesthetically pleasing is by no means a requirement, and explicitly revealing your point is critical to the task at hand. 2. Poetry—while there can be philosophical ideas contained in poetry, a philosophy essay is distinct from this. Vagueness, ambiguity and the like can be virtues of a poem; not so when it comes to a philosophy essay. 3. Editorials—editorialized writing is often written with emotionally charged language and consists of a series of loosely connected opinions. In philosophy essays, this is not the case. Opinions need to be backed by arguments and bound by a distinct and well defined goal. 4. Purely descriptive writing—being properly descriptive is very important in a variety of settings. For example, if your boss emails you and asks you to describe the expenditures for a particular month, accurate descriptions are essential. Likewise, if you are telling an adventure story for magazine, a clear and true account of the adventure can be just what pulls the reader in. Yet, while correct descriptions of events are important in a philosophy essay, they are not enough. An evaluative component is central. In essence, the task of a philosophy essay will be to not only describe a particular theory or position, but also to explain why it is a good one.