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How To Write A Crap Philosophy Essay

Philosophy - HZT 4UI

Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.        
     - Bertrand Russell

This page is an overview of the course. Use the dropdown menu to see Daily Lessons which includes current assignments and due dates, tons of readings, articles, and videos on each topic, how to do MLA formatting of sources, and information on the debates and seminars.

Course Outline - units and expectations (also see below)
Timeline of Major Philosophers
Here are some Essay Writing Hints and a great guide for Writing History Papers, and another that clarifies the benefits of personal pronouns, and for writing Philosophy Papers specifically, and some more tips on Writing a Philosophy Paper and how to write a Crap Paper and a whole book on Academic Writing.

Major Assignment (1st term):  Ethics Essay Assignment, the philosophers,  Sample Process Work, Sample Final Essay, tips on topic sentences, Essay Rubric, Seminar Rubric
Major Assignment (2nd term):  Topic Ideas, how to find a theme,  Pop Philosophy Essay Assignment, list of philosophers to choose from,  Sample Essay #1, Sample Essay #2,  Essay Rubric, Seminar Rubric

Minor Assignments
​- Political Philosophy Group Seminars

Check out a professor's advice on writing a philosophy paper. 

Facebook Page - "KCI Philosophy" - for questions or comments (whatever really)

To get a library card to access books from WLU and UW, click this link

Due Dates for  February to June 2018 Semester:

Feb. 14 - Ethics Essay - choose a topic - Brainstorming Part A DUE
Feb. 28 - Ethics Essay - read, figure out the theory, find quotes - Brainstorm Part B DUE
Mar. 7 - Ethics Essay - think - Part C and writing outline DUE (on-line is preferred)
Mar. 21 - Ethics Essay - draft - Part D - put it all together in a rough draft
Mar. 28 - ETHICS ESSAY DUE - Firm due date.
Apr. 2-6 - Ethics presentations  and arguments based on essays.
April 4 - Pop Philosophy Essay - outline Part A DUE - Find a topic (a film, book, etc.) you feel strongly about, and figure out three main themes (not story lines) in the piece.  What's it about??  Together we'll figure out the best historic philosopher to connect.
April 6  - By this date you should have readings for the Pop. Phil. Essay from me. You should be spending time over the next couple weeks reading an entire piece by the philosopher and learning everything you can about the philosopher and his/her theories. READ as much as you can!! You should be an expert on this philosopher. People have questioned why I give three weeks to pull quotes - it's because I want you to have actually read a full essay and secondary sources about the essay in that time! That should take that long.
April 17 - MIDTERM
April 25 - Pop Phil Essay - outline Part B DUE - find three or more quotations from the writings of the major philosopher that connect to your piece of media. Then think about what you think about this philosophy.
May 2  - Pop Phil Essay - outline Part C DUE - outline a persuasive essay arguing your own opinions on this philosophy 
May 14-25 - Pop Philosophy Seminars
June 15 - take-home essay portion of the exam is due
June 27 - content portion of the exam

Fun and Exciting Philosophy Links

Units of Study

  1. Logic and Critical Thinking – How philosophers approach questions.  How can we argue logically?  
  2. Epistemology – What can we know?
  3. The Virtuous Person – Human nature and ethics.  How should we be?
  4. The Virtuous Society – Social and political philosophy.  How should we govern?
  5. Popular Philosophy – Independent studies exploring philosophy’s relevance in current media.
  6. The Virtuous Relationship - Sex, love, and friendship.  How should we get along?

Evaluation Breakdown

The essential learning will be demonstrated through…

  • an essay and informal debate     (15%)              -\    The first term marks will be
  • a midterm                                       (10%)                     first essay, debate, midterm,
  • discussion, quizzes, rants…         (20%)              -/    discussions, quizzes, rants…. 
  • an essay and formal seminar       (25%)
  • a final exam                                    (30%)              - the final will be in two parts 
The due dates for essays are the cut-off dates.  If it’s unlikely you’ll be able to finish the work by the assigned date, then please see me to negotiate a possible extension before the due date.  Plan accordingly.

Essential Learning  

(from The Ontario Curriculum: Grades 9 to 12, Social Sciences and Humanities, pp. 337-354)
Successful completion of all essential learning criteria below is required to earn the course credit.  Students will…
  • explore topics related to philosophy and formulate questions to guide their research
  • create research plans and locate and select information relevant to their chosen topics
  • assess, record, analyse, and synthesize information gathered through research and inquiry
  • communicate the results of their research through argumentative essays and discussions
  • demonstrate an understanding of the main areas and periods of philosophy
  • demonstrate an understanding of philosophical reasoning and apply critical thinking skills
  • demonstrate an understanding of the main questions and positions of philosophers in each unit
  • evaluate responses to some of the main questions by major philosophers (develop opinions)
  • demonstrate an understanding of connections between the theories and everyday life
  • use reasoning skills to develop, communicate, and defend their own responses to questions.

Everybody in college hates papers. Students hate writing them so much that they buy, borrow, or steal them instead. Plagiarism is now so commonplace that if we flunked every kid who did it, we’d have a worse attrition rate than a MOOC. And on those rare occasions undergrads do deign to compose their own essays, said exegetic masterpieces usually take them all of half an hour at 4 a.m. to write, and consist accordingly of “arguments” that are at best tangentially related to the coursework, font-manipulated to meet the minimum required page-count. Oh, “attitudes about cultures have changed over time”? I’m so glad you let me know.

Nobody hates writing papers as much as collegeinstructorshategradingpapers (and no, having a robot do it is not the answer). Students of the world: You think it wastes 45 minutes of your sexting time to pluck out three quotes from The Sun Also Rises, summarize the same four plot points 50 times until you hit Page 5, and then crap out a two-sentence conclusion? It wastes 15 hours of my time to mark up my students’ flaccid theses and non sequitur textual “evidence,” not to mention abuse of the comma that should be punishable by some sort of law—all so that you can take a cursory glance at the grade and then chuck the paper forever.

What’s more, if your average college-goer does manage to read through her professor’s comments, she will likely view them as a grievous insult to her entire person, abject proof of how this cruel, unfeeling instructor hates her. That sliver of the student population that actually reads comments and wants to discuss them? They’re kids whose papers are good to begin with, and often obsessed with their GPAs. I guarantee you that every professor you know has given an A to a B paper just to keep a grade-grubber off her junk. (Not talking to you, current students! You’re all magnificent, and going to be president someday. Please do not email me.)

Oh, “attitudes about cultures have changed over time”? I’m so glad you let me know.

When I was growing up, my mother—who, like me, was a “contingent” professor—would sequester herself for days to grade, emerging Medusa-haired and demanding of sympathy. But the older I got, the more that sympathy dissipated: “If you hate grading papers so much,” I’d say, “there’s an easy solution for that.” My mother, not to be trifled with when righteously indignant (that favored state of the professoriate), would snap: “It’s an English class. I can’t not assign papers.”

Mom, friends, educators, students: We don’t have to assign papers, and we should stop. We need to admit that the required-course college essay is a failure. The baccalaureate is the new high-school diploma: abjectly necessary for any decent job in the cosmos. As such, students (and their parents) view college as professional training, an unpleasant necessity en route to that all-important “piece of paper.” Today’s vocationally minded students view World Lit 101 as forced labor, an utterwasteof their time that deserves neither engagement nor effort. So you know what else is a waste of time? Grading these students’ effing papers. It’s time to declare unconditional defeat.

Most students enter college barely able to string three sentences together—and they leave it that way, too. With protracted effort and a rhapsodically engaged instructor, some may learn to craft a clunky but competent essay somewhere along the way. But who cares? My fellowhumanistsinsist valiantly that (among other more elevated reasons) writing humanities papers leads to the crafting of sharp argumentative skills, and thus a lifetime of success in a number of fields in which we have no relevant experience. But my friends who actually work in such fields assure me that most of their colleagues are borderline-illiterate. After all, Mark Zuckerberg’s pre-Facebook Friendster profile bragged “i don’t read” (sic),and look at him.

Of course it would be better for humanity if college in the United States actually required a semblance of adult writing competency. But I have tried everything. I held a workshop dedicated to avoiding vague introductions (“The idea and concept of the duality of sin and righteousness has been at the forefront of our understanding of important concepts since the beginning of time.”) The result was papers that started with two incoherent sentences that had nothing to do with each other. I tried removing the introduction and conclusion altogether, and asking for a three-paragraph miniessay with a specific argument—what I got read like One Direction fan fiction.

I’ve graded drafts and assigned rewrites, and that helps the good students get better, but the bad students, the ones I’m trying to help, just fail to turn in any drafts at all. Meanwhile, I come up for air and realize that with all this extra grading, I’m making 75 cents an hour.

I’m not calling for the end of all papers—just the end of papers in required courses. Some students actually like writing, and let those blessed young souls be English majors, and expound on George Eliot and Virginia Woolf to their hearts’ content, and grow up to become writers, huzzah. But for the common good, leave everyone else out of it.  

Instead of essays, required humanities courses (which I support, for all the reasons William Cronon, Martha Nussbaum, and Paulo Freire give) should return to old-school, hardcore exams, written and oral. You cannot bullshit a line-ID. Nor can you get away with only having read one page of the book when your professor is staring you down with a serious question. And best of all, oral exams barely need grading: If you don’t know what you’re talking about, it is immediately and readily manifest (not to mention, it’s profoundly schadenfroh when a student has to look me in the face and admit he’s done no work).

A Slate Plus Special Feature:

Students hate writing papers, and professors hate grading them. Should we stop assigning them? Listen to the debate on Slate Plus

Plus, replacing papers with rigorous, old-school, St. John’s-style tribulations also addresses an issue humanities-haters love to belabor: Paper-grading is so subjective, and paper-writing so easy to fake, that this gives the humanities their unfortunate reputation as imprecise, feelings-centered disciplines where there are “no right answers.” So let’s start requiring some right answers.

Sure, this quashes the shallow pretense of expecting undergraduates to engage in thoughtful analysis, but they have already proven that they will go to any lengths to avoid doing this. Call me a defeatist, but honestly I’d be happy if a plurality of American college students could discern even the skeletal plot of anything they were assigned. With more exams and no papers, they’ll at least have a shot at retaining, just for a short while, the basic facts of some of the greatest stories ever recorded. In that short while, they may even develop the tiniest inkling of what Martha Nussbaum calls “sympathetic imagination”—the cultivation of our own humanity, and something that unfolds when we’re touched by stories of people who are very much unlike us. And that, frankly, is more than any essay will ever do for them.

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