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(It is sometimes legitimate to say that you do not understand a particular philosophical theory or argument, provided that you can give a reason – such as "He seems to ignore the possibility that ..." or "I cannot see how this theory can avoid the objection that ...".This involves not blank incomprehension, but the comprehension of difficulties.) You must have a plan.However, it will be relevant to examine what we mean when we say that certain sorts of things exist, or are now past.
We will be delighted if you can surprise us with new insights and arguments, but a student essay can be very good without being very original.
Your primary aim should be to show sound understanding of the issues raised in the question, and to engage critically with the views and arguments of others who have addressed them.
the material suggested by your lecturers and tutors, as well as your lecture notes on the topic, if any. Don't try to read too much; it is much more effective to read a few items carefully (assuming that they are the right ones! If the question is about a particular philosophical text, concentrate on reading that text, rather than secondary literature. If you are asked to discuss a particular one of Kant's formulations of the "Categorical Imperative", for example, don't waste time and space summarising all the other formulations. Make sure that you understand what you are writing, and that your reader can do so too.
Remember that the reading should be a stimulus to your own thought; don't produce an essay that merely summarises what you have read. Explain all technical terms (use some of the many dictionaries and encyclopaedias of philosophy to check on their meaning, if you're unsure).
Such understanding and engagement is shown partly by structuring your essay clearly and by explaining the views and arguments of others (past philosophers, authors, lecturers) in your own words.
If you make quotations, keep them short, and always acknowledge the source.Importantly, also see the University’s Good Academic Practice Policy.Writing assessed essays offers you the opportunity to show your comprehension of some of the material covered in the module, and to demonstrate your own philosophical skills.But you may do better if you go on to "chance your arm" a bit, and say where and why you disagree with certain views or arguments, or offer suggestions of your own.We encourage you to think for yourself; you do not have to agree with the views of your lecturer, your tutor, or current orthodoxy – we mark your work more for clarity of understanding and cogency of argument than for the views expressed in it.Show a sense of proportion – for example, in giving your objections to a particular view, it will usually be best to deal with the least important objections first, to clear them out of the way quickly, and then to discuss the main objections in more detail. In this context, "argument" means any form of rational persuasion, including formally set out deductions as in logic, but also the pointing out of inconsistencies, vagueness, ambiguities, concealed presuppositions, false or dubious factual claims, and so on.There is limited scope for non-rational forms of persuasion in a philosophy essay – rhetorical flourishes or quotations from poetry may be ornaments to style, but your main concern in the essay must be with the giving of reasons.", you would do well to begin by defining the term "functionalism" as it is used in the relevant context.But often in philosophy there are no very technical terms involved, and the focus is on the puzzling nature of very familiar concepts.Notice how much the paper improves with each revision.The final draft will also give you a standard to aspire to!