Write a 500-750 word (2-3 pages) essay in which you (a) explain a single
argument, view, or objection and then (b) raise a single objection to that argument,
view, or objection. Roughly, the first half of the essay should be exposition, and the
second half evaluation.
The first line of your essay should begin: “In this essay I argue that…” followed
by a descriiption of your thesis statement. Please do not include an introduction or
conclusion. The point of the assignment is to develop your skills constructing the
substance of philosophical argumentative essay.
• The whole point of the essay is to convince the reader of a particular claim. Make
that main claim extremely clear and explicit. This is your thesis statement. Your
thesis statement should make a philosophical, and not merely descriiptive, claim
(e.g. “Direct manipulation of brain is permissible,” and not “Levy believes that
direct manipulation of the brain is permissible.”). Take a clear stand on a
• How do you choose a thesis statement? As we go through the material be on the
lookout for an argument or point that you disagree with. Then your thesis
statement would be that that argument or point is wrong.
• Your thesis statement should be of the form: “In this essay, I argue that…” Note
that the ‘that’ is crucial. The following is non-grammatical and non-sensical: “In
this essay I argue the extended mind hypothesis.” You need to argue that
something is true or false (or, alternatively: for a particular claim, or against a
particular claim, or in defense of a particular claim). For example, “In this essay I
argue that the extended mind hypothesis is false.”
• Ideally, your thesis statement should attempt to advance the dialectic. This
means that it should attempt to contribute something novel or original to a debate
that we’ve discussed in the course. For example, a thesis statement of the form “In
this essay, I argue that Levy’s view is correct” does not do this, it simply registers
agreement. So what do you do if you find that you want to write on a topic in
which you agree with the argument? In that case, try to come to the defense of the
argument against a new threat. Try to articulate what you think is the strongest
objection to the argument that you want to defend, and offer a counter response.
• If you have the space, try to add another layer of depth by anticipating and
responding to an objection to your position: “One might object to the argument of
this essay by claiming that…In response, notice that…”
• Fully explain all points. Imagine that the reader is someone with no prior
knowledge of the material. Strive to write so that such a reader can follow what
you are saying. To do this, you should be using the following phrases frequently:
“That is,…”, “In other words,…”, “For example,…”, and “To illustrate,…”. You
can test whether you’ve achieved this level of clear explanation by having a friend
or family member read your paper.
• This one should be obvious, but you should read your paper before submitting
it. If you can’t make sense of it, the TA and I surely won’t be able to. Good, clear
papers are easy to read.
Example 1. Raise an objection to the extended mind hypothesis. In that case you are simply raising an objection to an argument, so that your essay structure will be as follows:
(i) Thesis statement: “In this essay, I raise an objection to the argument for the
extended mind hypothesis”
(ii) Exposition: Explain what the extended mind hypothesis is. Explain the
argument for the extended mind hypothesis. [Note that in the exposition your goal
is to simply explain the target view or argument so that it is on the table for
discussion. Do not include any evaluation at this stage.]
(iii) Your objection. [Notice that you will not be in a position to raise your
objection until you’ve first explained the view.]
(iv) Space allowing, consider how your interlocutor (i.e. the person you are
debating) might respond to your point and offer a preemptive counter-response.
See these EXTREMELY good guides on philosophical writing:
• http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/guidelines/writing.html (provides a good
• https://www.public.asu.edu/~dportmor/tips.pdf (by ASU philosopher Doug
Portmore; more in depth)
My favorite piece of advice from the above Pryor article is to write while imagining that
your reader is lazy, stupid, and mean: “He’s lazy in that he doesn’t want to figure out what
your convoluted sentences are supposed to mean, and he doesn’t want to figure out what
your argument is, if it’s not already obvious. He’s stupid, so you have to explain
everything you say to him in simple, bite-sized pieces. And he’s mean, so he’s not going
to read your paper charitably. (For example, if something you say admits of more than
one interpretation, he’s going to assume you meant the less plausible thing.)”
Now, of course, those reading your paper will be none of these things! But if you
write with this idea in mind, it will help you achieve a high level of clarity and precision,
which is highly valued in philosophical writing. I still try to keep these things in mind
whenever I write.
Philosophical argumentative writing is a unique form of persuasive writing in which one
attempts to convince the reader, by way of rational argumentation, of the truth of a
particular claim (i.e. the thesis statement). If you have never written a philosophical
argumentative paper before:
• Read the guides by Pryor and Portmore.
• Consider running your thesis statement by your TA.
• Consider sending your TA a detailed outline (by the Wednesday prior to the
Sunday due date) for feedback.
• Consider making an appointment at the SHPRS Writing Studio: