Joe Cruz, Professor of Philosophy, Williams College

Writing is a craft that may be done well or may be done poorly. Language can be dramatic or beautiful or boring or powerful or playful. There is a sense in which philosophical writing is no different. Many of the classic texts in Philosophy are carefully framed pieces of prose where the author is attempting to achieve a result that is aesthetically pleasing within an identifiable literary style.

Your first forays into philosophy, however, are not aimed at the craft of writing. The goals of this class are oriented toward the conceptual or analytical part of philosophy. We are interested primarily in your ability to think honestly and critically about philosophical questions. This is not to say that there is no interest in how you write. Rather, the writing aesthetic you should cultivate in this class is careful, simple, clear and direct. The tutorial that follows is designed to explore one way of making sure that your writing does not obfuscate your philosophical views.

You are invited to follow a series of links (in the menu bar above) to pages that trace the stages of writing a philosophy paper. The paper is on Berkeley’s Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous, but the lessons contained in the drafts apply to all the assignments in the class. Each page builds on the last. The final draft is a paper that would receive an excellent evaluation.