Seminar on Philosophical Writing (II)

PHIL 6903: Graduate Seminar in Philosophy. Ohio University, Fall 2021. Fridays 2:00-4:00pm, Bentley Hall 210.

For my office hours, click the menu on the left.

Course Description

Contemporary philosophers are writers, and most of what they publish are articles in academic journals. This course is part of a two-semester course on philosophical writing and methodology that introduces graduate students what a philosophy journal article needs to do and how to write one. Part I focuses on the clarity and coherence of philosophical writing and considers the choice of writing styles (for the syllabus for Part I, click here).

This part focuses on the metaphilosophical and methodological considerations that matter to how philosophers write. In particular, our guiding quetion is: Why are philosophy articles today written the way they are?

Through regular assignments and discussion, students will gain a deeper understanding of why and how philosophers write the way they do today.

Technology Requirements

Depending on the circumstances, this course may be offered online. If it goes online, you will need to have reliable internet and a computer with audio and video capabilities. Regardless of the mode of delivery, you will need to have Microsoft Word (or equivalent) to do assignments.

Course Policies

Note that some of the policies may not apply to this course because there may not be any relevant assignments.

Assignments and Final Grade

This is a pass/fail course. To pass, you should do the readings before each class, regularly participate, and make a good faith effort on all assignments. This last point is important: you will learn most from the process of doing the assignments rather than from the products themselves.

Required Texts

  1. Søren Overgaard, Paul Gilbert, and Stephen Burwood. An Introduction to Metaphilosophy. Cambridge University Press, 2013.
  2. Bryan W. Van Norden. Taking Back Philosophy: A Multicultural Manifesto. Columbia University Press, 2017.

You should have these books. Other readings, if any, will be provided.

Schedule of Topics

Note: Homework for the next class (if any) will be described in each week’s notes. For example, see notes for Class 2 to find homework for Class 3.

Class 1: Introduction

Required Reading
  • David Hume (1757), “Of the Standard of Taste”

Class 2: Old School Philosophical Essays?

Required Reading
  • Annette Baier (1986), “Trust and Antitrust”

Class 3: Anatomy of a Contemporary Journal Article

Required Reading
  • Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research, Ch. 1-2
  • J. Katzav and K. Vaesen. 2017. “Pluralism and Peer Review in Philosophy.” Philosophers’ Imprint 17 (19). (Read Sections 1-3; the rest is optional.)

Class 4: What is Metaphilosophy?

Required Reading
  • Overgaard et al., Ch. 1
  • Bruce Kuklick, “Philosophy and Inclusion in the United States, 1929–2001.” In The Humanities and the Dynamics of Inclusion Since World War II (ed. D. A. Hollinger), pp. 159–185. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.

Class 5: What is Philosophy?

Required Reading
  • Overgaard et al., Ch. 2

Class 6: Philosophy, Science, and the Humanities

Required Reading
  • Overgaard et al., Ch. 3

Class 7: The Data of Philosophical Arguments

Required Reading
  • Overgaard et al., Ch. 4 (read through p. 94; the rest is optional).
  • Robert Boice, Advice for New Faculty Members, “Rationale for a Mindful Approach to Writing” (on Blackboard). The book’s original page numbers don’t appear in the PDF, so we’ll use the PDF’s native page numbers. The above section is on pp. 8-9 of the PDF and is marked by yellow brackets.
  • Joan Bolker, Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day, Ch. 3 (on Blackboard).

Class 8: Analytic and Continental Philosophy [We’ll not cover this content in class.]

Required Reading
  • Overgaard et al., Ch. 5

Class 9: Philosophy and the Pursuit of Truth

Required Reading
  • Overgaard et al., Ch. 6
  • Boice, Advice for New Faculty Members, Ch. 11.
  • Sword, Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write, pp. 11–29. (This is a light reading, and you should just sample ideas and examples about how academics write.)

Class 10: What is Good Philosophy?

Required Reading
  • Overgaard et al., Ch. 7
  • G. A. Cohen, “Complete Bullshit.” In Finding Oneself in the Other (ed. Michael Otsuka), pp. 94–114. Princeton University Press, 2013. (Focus on Sections 1, 4, and 5.)
  • Sword, Air & Light & Time & Space, pp. 42–55. (Like the last reading from the same book, this is a light reading.)

Class 11: What Good is Philosophy?

Required Reading
  • Overgaard et al., Ch. 8
  • Boice, Advice for New Faculty Members, Ch. 10. Read only the parts enclosed by yellow brackets, especially Exercises 2, 4, and 6.

Class 12: Multicultural Philosophy

Required Reading
  • Forward by Jay L. Garfield (in van Norden).
  • Van Norden, Ch. 1
  • Bolker, Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day, Ch. 4. (This is included in the same PDF for Class 7.)

Class 13: Comparative Philosophy

Required Reading
  • Van Norden, Ch. 2

Class 14: Value of Philosophy and Philosophy’s Place in Society

Required Reading
  • Van Norden, Ch. 4-5