Writing in the Discipline
1. In what ways is writing important to your profession?
Philosophy involves interpretation, analysis, and argumentation about reality, knowledge, ethics, and other basic aspects of human experience and thought. These are very subtle subjects, and working on them productively requires a careful attention to complex details that often can only be done in writing. So writing is important throughout Philosophy: not just for professional presentations and publications, but also for the studies and exchanges that are conducted by anyone who wants to understand philosophical subjects well.
2. Which courses are designated as satisfying the WID requirement by your department? Why these courses?
Philosophy’s Writing in the Discipline plan designates the following courses, which are taken by all Philosophy majors.
PHIL 205: Introduction to Logic (or PHIL 305: Intermediate Logic)
PHIL 351: Plato, Aristotle and Greek Philosophy
PHIL 356: Descartes, Hume, Kant and Modern Philosophy
PHIL 460: Seminar in Philosophy
The logic course introduces and exercises formal techniques of argument evaluation that promote the skills of identifying, supporting and critiquing philosophical positions in our other courses. The other three WID courses are writing-intensive, and they progressively exercise writing skills of explaining and evaluating some of the most influential philosophical positions and debates.
3. What forms or genres of writing will students learn and practice in your department’s WID courses? Why these genres?
In PHIL 205 or PHIL 305, students learn to write with special conventions of symbolic logic, and practice formal analysis and evaluation of arguments. These promote the skills of written identification and critique of philosophical positions in our other courses.
In PHIL 351 and PHIL 356, students practice formal writing with clear analysis and evaluation of philosophical positions. They receive instruction and feedback about using good grammar and good reasoning to defend or criticize philosophical positions, and they are introduced to the responsible use of relevant scholarly resources.
In PHIL 460, students receive guidance and feedback on a substantial term paper that engages with recent scholarship and follows disciplinary conventions of philosophical publications.
4. What kinds of teaching practices will students encounter in your department’s WID courses?
Cumulatively over the course of this plan, students receive lots of instruction and feedback from their teachers on the forms and contents of their philosophical writing. They exercise their skills frequently in shorter writing assignments, and have multiple opportunities for longer papers. And they engage in peer collaboration and peer review under the teachers’ supervision.
5. When they’ve completed your department’s WID requirement, what should students know and be able to do with writing?
When students have satisfied Philosophy’s requirements for Writing in the Discipline, they should understand the typical goals and forms of philosophical writing, and they should have practiced using common conventions of philosophical publications. More generally, they should have sustained practice in using clear academic prose to analyze and evaluate arguments about reality, knowledge, ethics, and other basic aspects of human experience and thought.