The Big Questions: A Short Introduction to Philosophy, 8th Edition, (2009) Cengage ISBN 978-0-495-59515-1
Before your start writing your reflection paper, please re-read the handouts about reading philosophy, writing philosophy, and writing philosophical reflection papers.
Reflection papers require concise, focused, and superbly organized writing. Your assignment is to write a paper of no more than one page (and, preferably, no more than one paragraph—see below) that analyzes one specific idea from one of the PRIMARY TEXT EXCERPTS from Chapters 1-2. You choose the text and the idea to write about; the point of the assignment is for you to reflect deeply on a topic that matters to you. If you need help selecting a topic, you should consult with your professor. In general, a good strategy is to write about whatever you consider to be the most important (or interesting, relevant, controversial, wrong-headed, or strange) point raised in the reading.
What exactly do you need to do? First, review the reading handout and make sure that you have read the primary text excerpt carefully enough to be able to make a considered judgment about which topic you will write on. Your reflection paper has to focus on a single topic, so make sure that you have identified just one point to write about. Second, read and reread the bits of text that are relevant to that topic. Take some good reading notes and see if you can summarize the point concisely and clearly. Third, reflect on what you have uncovered, with an eye to forming your own opinion about the text and about the topic. Questions you might want to consider include: What is the philosopher's point? Why does he or she care about this? How does this point connect with other ideas we’ve studied in class? Why do you find the topic interesting or important? Is the topic at all relevant to your life?
These reflections will provide the raw material for your reflection paper. Your reflection paper should be a carefully crafted distillation and summary of your reflections. You may take up to one page, but should aim to write a single, superb paragraph. One format to try is this:
First: A sentence that clearly and concisely identifies your topic. Your sentence should be free of jargon (or it should explain any jargon that is absolutely necessary), and it should get to the heart of the matter straightaway. Don’t start with a general introduction to your topic and then take four or five sentences to describe it – your goal should be to crystallize the essence of the topic in one excellent sentence. Concision, clarity, and focus are crucial.
Second: A sentence that explains the philosophical significance of your topic. You can explain how it fits in with the rest of this week’s assignment, how it connects up with other issues we have read about or discussed, or why you find it important or interesting. You may spend several sentences doing each of these things if you wish, but please keep in mind that an excellent sentence focusing on just one of them is vastly preferable to a mediocre “kitchen sink” answer.
Third: A sentence that sets out your opinion about this topic. To maintain focus and clarity, it is best to write about just one evaluative point as concisely and carefully as you can. Space may remain to raise a second point, but only do this if you are sure that the rest of your paper is just right. Leave yourself enough time to rewrite, edit, and proofread your paper.
(Hint: A sufficiently clear and focused and concise paper should “sound right” when you read it out loud, and should be reasonably clear to a friend who is not in the class.)
As you begin writing, please ask yourself whether your paper satisfies the following criteria:
Does your reflection paper….
(1) Focus on a single topic?
(2) Discuss this topic clearly?
(3) Discuss this topic accurately?
(4) Discuss the heart of this topic?
(5) Avoid unexplained jargon?
(6) Use concise, active, clear language?
(7) Demonstrate that you really understood the topic that you wrote about?
As you plan your papers so that they will satisfy these criteria, please consider doing the following: Select a topic that you find interesting; read, re-read, and really think about the parts of the reading most directly related to your topic; design your essay with the reflection paper criteria in mind; start writing early so you have time to prepare several drafts; before submitting your paper, go over your prose one more time for clarity, concision, and depth.
This material may consist of step-by-step explanations on how to solve a problem or examples of proper writing, including the use of citations, references, bibliographies, and formatting. This material is made available for the sole purpose of studying and learning - misuse is strictly forbidden.When asked, “What is the meaning of life?”, many people respond by referring to their children, God, or the afterlife, i.e. things ‘outside’ their lives. Thinkers like Solomon and Higgins argue that such responses fail to answer the question; in this brief reflection...