2016-2017 Catalog

Writing in the Discipline - Philosophy


Philosophy as a discipline involves two kinds of formal written expression: (1) an academic prose whose general standards of clarity, evidence, interpretation, and citation are broadly shared with other humanistic disciplines, and (2) special conventions of symbolic logic, which formalize rules of argument and explanation. Publications in Philosophy virtually always employ the first, and often rely also upon the second. Overall, the two are deeply related in Philosophy, where a focus on abstract argument and explanation are fundamental to our interpretations and analyses. 


In general, the learning outcome of written communication is pursued progressively in the Philosophy major. Because it is so important to philosophical exchange and understanding, expository or critical academic prose is assigned and evaluated in almost all of our courses: we introduce the standards with appropriate guidance in the lower-level courses, and we require more sustained reasoning and more scholarly engagement in the upper-level courses. In addition, the formal analyses of our logic courses promote the skills of identifying, interpreting, supporting and critiquing philosophical positions in our other courses. 


More specifically, we propose that the general education requirement of Writing in the Disciplines be satisfied by the following two sets of courses (all of which are already part of the current curriculum). 


  1. PHIL 351 (Greek Philosophy) and PHIL 356 (Modern Philosophy) All Philosophy majors are required to take both of these courses, which cover primary texts from seminal periods of Western philosophy. Each section of each of these courses will include: (a) substantial formal writing assignments requiring effective expository form; (b) instruction and feedback about using good grammar and good reasoning to interpret, defend, or critique philosophical positions; and (c) introduction to the responsible use of relevant scholarly resources, together with disciplinary conventions of citation. 
  2. PHIL 205 (Introduction to Logic) or PHIL 305 (Intermediate Logic) All Philosophy majors must take at least one of these courses. Each section of each course will include instruction, assignments and feedback concerning: (a) translation of claims and arguments from ordinary English into standard logical forms with conventional symbols of modern formal logic; and (b) evaluation of symbolized arguments with the rules and strategies of modern formal logic. Each section will also include discussion of advantages and limitations of symbolic formulation versus expression in ordinary language. 


Approved by the Committee on General Education 

October 26, 2012