Knowing what other philosophers said about certain issues will only get you some of the marks. Philosophy is not like your other subjects, where there is a clear question and a clear answer - the marking scheme is quite loose.
You need to be able to
argue rather than just
explain the arguments.
A philosophy paper is a debate on paper so it should look more like a discussion. Imagine two people with different opinions having a (friendly) argument. That is how your essay should look like.
In your evaluation, your examiner is looking for:
Some extra tips…
Look at the question. What does it say? What
key terms and
arguments do you need to explain?
Your introduction will get you your KU points.
describe the argumentthat the question is asking you about:
NOTE: What you are doing here is *describing* and *explaining* things. You are just writing out what you learned in class. This part of your answer is similar to the questions in your exam that you do well in anyway, so keep up with what you're doing.
1. The sandwich:
Write a paragraph explaining why the argument is good/bad. Here you have to argue for why it is good/bad. You are trying to persuade someone else to agree with you, so you have to give them an argument.
Then write what someone might say if they disagreed with that point.
Finally, write a response to the person who thinks you’re wrong.
What you could also do:
Say you get a question about empiricism. In your intro, you talk about the key features of empiricism and describe what it’s about.
You can offer an alternative view - for example from a rationalist, like Descartes. You can say something like: “However, rationalists can offer an alternative view to this problem. They state that … x, y and z. This is a stronger argument than the one from empiricists because….
give your reasons and arguments here…
Write your introduction.
Give a strength of the argument, explaining it in detail.
Give a weakness of the argument, explaining it in detail.
This is where you answer the question. It is not a summary of your essay, but a conclusion of the arguments. E.g. given these strengths and weaknesses, utilitarianism is a stronger theory to deal with this issue because… or: having considered these points, Kantian ethics answer … question better…
What your examiners are looking for to award you top marks:
The evaluation displays
At least two arguments are treated in
sophisticated grasp of the issues is apparent.
Depth is demonstrated through the exploration of
points, examples and their implications. Counter-arguments are considered. Positions are argued for
and clearly related to the material discussed.
The response is legible, employing technical language accurately and appropriately, with few, if any,
errors of spelling, punctuation and grammar. The response reads as a coherent and integrated
In the level below…
There is an accurate and developed treatment of at least one argument. Counter argument is in
evidence. A detailed treatment is expected at the top end of this level. Alternatively, a range of
arguments may be present but a detailed treatment is lacking. Examples and counter-examples are
used evaluatively. The assessment shows a sophisticated grasp of a position.
The response is legible, and technical language is employed with partial success. There may be
occasional errors of spelling, punctuation and grammar and the response reads as a coherent whole.
Here are some differences between explanations and arguments:
Descartes said that our senses can deceive us or that we could be in a dream. He believed that the only certain thing we could know is that we exist. He shows in Meditations 1 that rationalism works better than empiricism as it gives us certainty.
This is an
explanation of what Descartes argued. All it does is tells us what Descartes says.
To get your evaluation marks, though, this is what you have to do:
The only thing we can know for certain is that we exist, or as Descartes puts it, I think therefore I am.
Because our senses sometimes deceive us, they could always deceive us, and therefore cannot give us certain knowledge. Similarly,
because we sometimes cannot distinguish between dreams and reality, we could conceive of being in a dream every time we are thinking. However, we can never doubt that we are thinking, and in order to think, we must exist. This is what Descartes proves with the Cogito argument in Meditations 1. This is an argument: it is attempting to PROVE that certainty can only be achieved through the use of reason with an appeal to Descartes’ argument.