Guide to Preparing Essay Outline

In: Philosophy and Psychology

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Guide to Preparing Your Essay Outline

(N.B. This guide is to be read in conjunction with the ‘Introducing Philosophy’ booklet handed out at the beginning of the course)

An essay outline for this course comprises two components:

• A thesis statement

• A section-by-section summary of the developing argument.

• References

A thesis statement

Your essay should be a good philosophical argument. Such an argument, at minimum, provides good reasons in support of a conclusion. Thus, the first step in writing a good essay is to be clear of the conclusion, i.e. the claim that you are going to be defending. It should be possible to present the claim in no more than a sentence or two that tells the reader what it is that you will argue, and why and how. This is what is known as a thesis statement, and your essay outline should begin with this.

A good thesis statement should:

• Be no longer than a sentence or two

• It should be something philosophically controversial (though not necessarily sensationalist), in that it should not merely be a statement of fact, nor of style, nor of context.

• It should include a reference to the target idea or text.

Examples:

“Pascal’s (1632-62) famed defence of religious faith by appeal to the utility of believing in God rather than the truth of the belief is unsatisfactory since, although it professes to start from a position of metaphysical ignorance, in practice it smuggles in unwarranted assumptions about the utility of believing in the existence of God”.

“Pascal argues that the practical advantage of believing in God outweighs the disadvantages, although this has been challenged by many critics who contend that the argument only succeeds if one conflates pragmatic reasons for believing with epistemic reasons for believing. In this essay, I shall defend Pascal from this…...

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