How Can I Improve Philosophy Essays? 2

July 11, 2016

Students always ask me how they can write better essays. Philosophical essay writing is a particular skill and, to get the best marks, you have to write in a way different to how you would in subjects like English or history.

One thing to remember when you`re writing your essays is that you`re trying to build up a dialectic, a discussion between two or more opposing views. You have to weigh these views up against each other and show which one is the better, if either. I often tell my students to think about it like a tennis match. Making an argument is like hitting the ball. The other side then have to make a counter-argument, they have to show what is wrong with the first argument. That is how they hit the ball back. Of course the first side will then want to make a counter-counter-argument, they will try to hit the ball back again, and so on.

The better the argument the better the shot, the harder it is going to be to return the ball. The two sides go on like this, hitting the ball at each other, until one makes a really good argument, a really good shot, and wins the point.

Try to remember this analogy when writing your essays. You need to set both sides of the argument up to battle against each other. If there is no one hitting the ball back, your essay is never going to get better than a C grade, and if the balls being hit back aren`t good, B will be your highest possible mark. You need to remember that, when writing philosophical essays, each side needs to be given the opportunity to make their best arguments possible and, if you structure your essays so that they can do this in a communicative way, engaging with each other, you`ll be on your way to getting the best marks possible.

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