SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Reading and Writing Philosophy

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 1

The Module ‘Reading and Writing Philosophy’ provides first-year students with the necessary skills to evaluate philosophical texts and effectively present philosophical analysis. Working with brief, self-contained arguments extracted from philosophical texts from a variety of traditions, students will learn strategies for isolating the main idea of an argument (its conclusion) and for clearly demonstrating an argument’s structure. Through weekly formative assignments and practical exercises within a seminar environment, students will become familiar with tactics such as diagramming arguments and paraphrasing them in their own words before moving on to problems of interpretation and evaluation. They will then be challenged to develop coherent philosophical arguments of their own and to articulate them effectively in essay format. Strategies for producing structural outlines of longer arguments will be introduced, as will basic information regarding appropriate citations styles, research skills, etc.The final two weeks of the course will prepare students for their second term unit ‘Introduction to Logic’ through discussions of deduction and induction and related concepts. Throughout this module students in BA World Philosophies will be acquiring practical skills through direct engagement with the primary texts of philosophers to whom they are simultaneously being introduced in their three other first-term modules in the programme, but students wishing to enrol on this module from another programme will not be at a disadvantage.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • Identify arguments in short but complex passages of philosophical writing from a number of European and Non-European traditions.
  • Analyse the structure of arguments as relations between premises and conclusion.
  • Visually represent the structure of short arguments using the diagramming method.
  • Use paraphrasing to help simplify the presentation of arguments as well as to identify unstated premises/conclusions.
  • Employ specific criteria to evaluate philosophical arguments.
  • Develop an original philosophical thesis in essay format.
  • Distinguish between different kinds of true statements.

Scope and syllabus

Week 1: Introduction to Reading Philosophical Texts; Information on essay format, citation style, etc.
Week 2: Recognising arguments in natural Language: Premises and conclusions; Writing declarative sentences.
Week 3: Diagramming arguments; Producing structural outlines of longer arguments (1); Writing coherent paragraphs
Week 4: Paraphrasing arguments; Producing structural outlines of longer arguments (2); Aspects of interpretation
Week 5: Evaluating arguments; Criteria for philosophical judgements
Week 6: Producing arguments; Identifying and testing a thesis
Week 7: Form, structure and development of a philosophical essay
Week 8: Analytic writing: goals and tactics
Week 9: Inductive reasoning; Strong arguments and weak arguments
Week 10: Deductive reasoning and the concept of validity

Method of assessment

  • AS1 - Students will be give a brief, self-contained philosophical argument extracted from a primary text. Using the skills developed in weeks 1-5, they will be asked to provide a structural analysis, paraphrase and evaluation the argument. 1,000 words - worth 35%
  • AS2 - Students will again be given self-contained philosophical arguments extracted from a primary text. They will be asked to produce an original philosophical argument against the position of their source text, which they will develop using the skills learned in weeks 6-10. 1,500 words - worth 65%

Suggested reading

  • Tracy Bowell. Critical Thinking: A Concise Guide, 4th ed. Routledge, 2015 [SOAS e-book]
  • Timothy A. Crews-Anderson. Critical Thinking and Informal Logic. Tirril, 2007. [SOAS e-book]
  • Galen A. Foresman. The Critical Thinking Toolkit. Wiley-Blackwell, 2017. [SOAS e-book
  • A.P Martinich. Philosophical Writing: An introduction, 4th ed. Wiley Blackwell, 2016. [SOAS e-book]
  • Peg Tittle. Critical Thinking: An appeal to reason. Routledge, 2011. [SOAS e-book]


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules