Philosophy proceeds through debate. Beginning with Plato’s dialogues, philosophical writing, like philosophy itself, is a conversation. Great writers in philosophy make great philosophers by engaging in dialogue with their interlocutors. The best writings engage with the broadest range of viewpoints, holding their ideas up for scrutiny from all perspectives, and responding to as many opposing voices as possible. In this course, we will be reading philosophical writings whose contributions to philosophy is marked by their scope, depth, clarity and force of argumentation.
Your task as philosophical writers is to contribute to this conversation. This involves staking out your own positions on matters of philosophical controversy and situating them relative to the other positions in a debate. This includes both those that support of your point of view (in full or in part), and potential challenges.
You will do this by learning to articulate and defend clear, precise and specific theses on matters of philosophical controversy; identifying your interlocutors and situating these theses within a dialectic; motivating your theses to your interlocutors (and motivating their positions, in turn); adducing evidence in support of your positions and identifying and assessing potential counter-evidence; and analyzing your arguments against those of your detractors so as to arrive at a clear, convincing and plausible defence of your position.
The lectures and assignments in this class are designed to help you to achieve these writing goals. They aim to familiarize you with the basic methods and standards of philosophical writing and the key concepts involved in philosophical discourse (premises, conclusions, arguments, soundness, validity, etc.), and to instruct you in their use, in a sequenced, step-wise manner, and through frequent in-class writing workshops.