Writer's WebPhilosophy Terminology

Defining Terms

Providing a list of philosophical terms that is both brief and comprehensive often seems like a contradiction of terms, but a few terms that routinely crop up in introductory courses are:

A Philosophical Glossary for Beginners provides additional definitions of terms that may be unfamiliar to an individual unused to reading philosophical texts, particularly some of the common Latin terminology. A Non-Philosopher's Guide to Philosophical Terms is another, humorous way to expand one's philosophical vocabulary (current list loosely based on Washington and Lee University's Rough Glossary).

Schools of Thought

Philosophers can typically be associated with different movements, or schools of thought, that gained momentum during different parts of its history. While this is far from exhaustive list, here is a brief overview of some of the major divisions:

More thorough explanations of these schools of philosophy, the philosophers who supported or objected to them, as well as their main arguments and common terminology are available at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Seeking Clarity

As emphasized in Writing a Draft, Philosophy essays are meant to be worded thoughtfully and concisely. One should never use any word or phrase within a philosophical piece of writing without a thorough understanding of its meaning. Clarity is just as important as correct terminology. Remember that searching for synonyms in a paper that feels redundant can be dangerous. One should be careful, particularly when analyzing another philosopher's text, to use the same terms in one's sources.

Imagine if someone who was interested in the material but had yet to take the class was reading your paper. Would he or she understand the content? The line of thought in the essay should be clear, and unfamiliar terms need to be briefly explained to the reader. However, "writing clearly" does not mean forsaking philosophical terms that might be unclear to someone outside the language. Clear writing is when one utilizes those terms in a way that makes their meaning and the author's intentions as transparent as possible. The best papers are those that can be validate the author's intention to be legible (Eubanks & Schaeffer 386).

Effective language often announces its intentions. A few examples include:

Works cited

Eubanks, P and Schaeffer, J. "A Kind Word for Bullshit: The Problem of Academic Writing." College Composition and Communication 59.3 (Feb. 2008): 372-388.


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