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227 Philosophy Thesis Topics To Use Right Now

philosophy thesis topics

A philosophy dissertation everyone’s favorite. The long list of philosophers and their allegories or theories is not a subject most students would want to listen to comfortably. However, students still have to write a philosophical thesis in their undergraduate or post-graduate to graduate. Let us narrow down this elephant in the room for you.

What Is A Philosophical Thesis?

A philosophical paper is not a report of what various scholars have had to say on a particular issue. It is a reasoned defense of a particular thesis. Unlike other papers that present the latest findings of tests or experiments, this paper tries to persuade the reader to give in to a particular point of view together with grounds or justification for its acceptance.

The introduction of a philosophy paper states what the writer is trying to show the reader. When writing a dissertation in philosophy, follow the following simple guidelines for efficiency:

  • Very carefully and think about your topic
  • Have a rough idea of what you intend to establish
  • Determine how you’ll go about convincing the reader that your thesis is correct.

For an outstanding philosophy thesis, ensure that you say what you mean and in a way that minimizes the chances of being misunderstood. It is the general rule thumb for this paper that every student should have at his/her finger-tips.

What To Avoid in a Philosophy Dissertation

Understanding the do’s and don’ts of any paper is essential in ensuring that you stick within the scope of what is required of you. Here are some of the things to avoid in philosophical thesis papers for college:

  • Lengthy quotations: It is essential to understand that quotations are an essential part of philosophy papers. However, stating long quotes that run into paragraphs or more does not make your paper sound original. One will only see this as a duplication of another person’s work.
  • Circular reasoning: If you presuppose the truth of whatever it is that you are trying to bring out in the course of arguing for it, then you are guilty of begging the question.
  • Lengthy introductions: An intro should only serve the purpose of giving the context of your philosophy topic and creating interest in the reader. You can do it in less than four short and precise questions. Overloading your introduction only serves to drain your readers’ energy before they get into the real deal – the body.
  • Fence sitting: Most students are guilty of presenting several positions in their papers and then saying they are not qualified to settle the matter. Do not close by saying that philosophers have been divided over a particular issue. That only shows how shallow and scanty you were in your research process.

Always organize your work carefully, using the right words to present your stance without any disputes. The stance should also come out naturally without making the reader feel that you are forcing him/her to ascribe to your particular point of view. It is also essential to support your arguments with undisputed evidence. Do not assume that your reader may not be skeptical of your arguments. Every reader is skeptical of whatever they read, and if sufficient evidence is not provided, then you might not convince anyone at the end of your 20-page long thesis. Now, for you to have a strong thesis, ensure that it is:

  • Answering a specific question;
  • Engaging; one that can be challenged or opposed, thus also defended;
  • Passes the “so what? Or why should I care?” test;
  • Supported by your paper; and
  • Not too broad nor too vague.

To have a strong argument in your philosophical paper, demonstrate these sorts of things that make your opponent’s views false in a fashion that does not presuppose that your position is correct. Your philosophy research topics will play a significant role in supporting this claim. You can find philosophy research paper topics from:

Early American Imprints of 1639 to 1819 Early English Books Online of 1475 to 1700 Internet archives The War Diaries of Jean-Paul Sartre The Metaphysics of Morals by Emmanuel Kant

And many more sources that are readily available in your college library or online catalogs. We now advance to our professional philosophy topics list:

Sample Thesis Topics For Philosophy of the Human Sciences

  • Critique of mainstream assumptions and practices of human behavior globally
  • How are constructions of human nature affect our associations and lineation
  • Adopting a human science framework to the problem of racial discrimination in the US
  • How to adopt positivism in a world bombarded by negative news all the time
  • A rigorous and systematic approach to man’s natural behavior
  • The role of the Greek philosophers in shaping human sciences around the 18th century
  • How existential phenomenology found its way from Europe
  • Cultural and biological dimensions of human science research programs
  • The role of qualitative research methods across the discipline of the human sciences
  • How humanistic psychology offers more substantive findings in human science tradition
  • An evaluation of the colleges and universities dedicated to humanistic/human science philosophy
  • Discuss the impact of the American infusionism into the cultures and systems of the world
  • Fundamental tenets of Western civilization in developing countries
  • An assessment of the ancient nature of human interactions
  • Political and cultural standards acceptable to all human interactions

Philosophy Potential Senior Thesis Topics

  • A philosophical perspective of evil actions and evil persons
  • How the ideology of Darwinism has affected the aspect of natural selection
  • Distinguishing the underlying differences between intervention and information
  • Psychoanalysis of melancholia in teenagers
  • Investigating the use of biology in dealing with human philosophical issues
  • The evolution of philosophical writings from the 15th century to the 21st century
  • Examine the connection between shame and an immoral piece of art
  • How depression relates to natural and interactive children
  • What is the logic behind nightmares and madness in dreams?
  • An investigation of how man is adapting to the invasion of privacy by new technologies
  • The ethical and practical arguments against voluntary euthanasia
  • Discuss the relationship between value, dignity, and human virtue in the Modern Virtue Theory
  • The evolution of personal and corporate responsibility in the 21st century
  • Trends in sex and sexuality as seen in the 21st century
  • Why arousal of an emotion in the listener is essential in the delivery of any speech

Undergraduate Philosophy Thesis Topics

  • Modern science: Should we employ a monistic or pluralistic model?
  • How moral philosophy can help improve our understanding of folk psychology
  • Why is it close to impossible to escape mental externalism?
  • The emergence of technology and resulting bioethics as seen in the 21st century
  • Investigate the willingness to accept punishment after committing a civil crime
  • Why artificial intelligence may not be a genuinely creative entity
  • Discuss empathy, fiction, and morality in the development of fiction stories and folklores
  • The role of sporting activities in developing virtues and morals in the society
  • Is voluntary suicide justified for any reason whatsoever?
  • Why postmodern philosophical theories and market anarchism are enemies
  • Discuss the ultimate goal of humanity in the backdrop of the changing roles
  • Give a detailed analysis of the relationship between fate, destiny, and free will
  • What is the essence of dreams and visions to man?
  • Evaluate the sources of your self-worth in the light of personal attributes
  • What is the impact of a person’s name on who they become in the future?

Best-Rated Political Philosophy Thesis Topics

  • Consider the dividing line between distributive justice and the family
  • Investigate the gendered basis for care and caregiving
  • What are the underlying differences between multiculturalism and feminism
  • Discuss the liberal versus radical feminist positions on pornography
  • How social beings should live together considering the underlying differences
  • Following the example of Plato, discuss what it means to have an ideal society
  • Given the knowledge and resources available, discuss the best form of society using the US as a case study
  • The evolution of democracy in the US presidential election
  • How the history of the past several centuries has impacted the role of citizens in participation in democracy
  • What is the essence of having a conservative free-market economy in the 21st century?
  • The role of the government in regulating the economy
  • Should the economy incorporate both capitalist and socialist structures?
  • Do we have an economically viable socialist alternative to capitalism?
  • Is it worth fighting for an economically viable alternative to capitalism?
  • The conservative view of the post-World-War-Two period

Thesis Topics on the Renaissance and Philosophy

  • The impact of the renaissance period o man’s view of the world
  • Compare and contrast the High Renaissance in Rome as compared to the of Northern Europe
  • The impact of the scientific revolution on the renaissance period
  • The early renaissance period in Florence and the existence of the Flemish art
  • Discuss the contributions of some of the godfathers of the Renaissance
  • The perfect interplay between music and painting during the renaissance period
  • The humanist intellectual, cultural, and artistic revolution of the Renaissance
  • Religious symbolism and naturalistic beauty as exemplified in the renaissance period
  • The role of sexuality and eroticism in the works of the 16th-century renaissance art
  • How the discoveries of the renaissance period helped shape people’s attitudes towards life
  • Identify and explain the role of the Carolingian Renaissance on the Bible
  • The impact of the Great migration and economic changes on literature and art
  • Discuss how art patronage was conducted in Italy during the Renaissance
  • How science has made advancements in renaissance culture and art
  • Impacts of the early Renaissance on the medical innovations

Master Thesis Topics in Philosophy

  • Discuss the benefits and impacts of the renaissance period on the man
  • How the renaissance period played a part in the reformation of the world
  • A comparative analysis of philosophy, art, and culture during the Renaissance
  • How much influence did the renaissance period have on dressing?
  • Conduct a critical analysis of Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance
  • The contribution of sculptors of the Italian Renaissance
  • Discuss artistic renaissance humanism during 1400 and 1650
  • The Renaissance and religion: A case study of the Catholic church
  • Artistic revolution as a significant element of the Renaissance
  • The role of William Shakespeare in the renaissance period
  • Discuss the classical and Renaissance humanities art of the Greco-Roman artists
  • The cultural, economic, and political influence of the Renaissance
  • The age of revolutionary, Renaissance, and enlightenment period
  • The representation of nature in the European renaissance artistic works
  • How Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Rafael contributed to the new era of the Renaissance

Introduction to Philosophy Thesis Topics

  • Discuss whether people are good or evil by nature
  • What are the limitations to free will in making personal decisions?
  • What is the impact of the belief in God on a person’s way of life?
  • Discuss the compatibility issues between science with religion
  • Give a detailed argument for or against utilitarianism
  • What is the logic behind psychological and ethical egoism?
  • Ascertain the relevance of morals to culture or society
  • The role of Aesop’s fables in contributing to human philosophy
  • Discuss the history and development of African philosophy
  • What are the central tenets of African Sage Philosophy?
  • The critical role played by altruism and group selection
  • Conduct a detailed analysis of the American Enlightenment Thought
  • How does the American Wilderness Philosophy vary from that of today?
  • A case study of Anselm’s Ontological Argument for the Existence of God
  • Critically evaluate motion and its place in nature
  • Discuss association in the philosophy of the mind
  • How Bolzano’s mathematical knowledge played a crucial role in human philosophy

Thesis Papers Topics on Buddhist Philosophy

  • The view of sin and punishment between the Buddhist and Hindu religions
  • Buddhist believe in rebirth, which is determined by the actions one does in daily life.
  • Misconceptions about sexuality in the Buddhist religion
  • Discuss the relationship between Shinto with China and Buddhism
  • Analyze the four noble truths of Buddhism
  • The concept of salvation according to the Zen Buddhism religion
  • A detailed study of the confluence of Buddhism and Hinduism in India
  • An analysis of the faith and practices of Buddhism as a religion in India
  • The role of Mahatma Gandhi in advancing the ideologies and practices of Buddhism
  • Evaluate the vase of treasure hidden in the Buddhist iconography
  • Compare and contrast the various variations between Buddhism and Christianity
  • Elements of the Buddhism religion that make it sacred
  • Discuss the concept of anger and how to manage it in the Buddhism religion
  • Cultural histories and the expansion of the Buddhism religion in China
  • Differences in the Japanese versus Chinese Buddhism practices

Types of Philosophy Thesis Topics

  • Discuss the role of aesthetics in the study of philosophy
  • How epistemology has contributed to the growth in philosophical literature
  • Elaborate the role of ethics on the survivability of a society
  • How logic has been crucial in making rational decisions in a man
  • What are the limitations of metaphysics as a branch of philosophy?
  • Analyze the philosophy of mind given the fundamental tenets
  • Discuss the major revolutions of the African philosophy
  • Why does Eastern philosophy have a lower absorption rate?
  • Reasons why Western philosophy has a greater acceptance in the world as compared to others
  • Give the unique characteristics of the ancient and classical philosophy
  • Why the medieval and post-classical philosophies have a place in the modern world
  • The modern and contemporary philosophy in terms of improvements
  • Discuss the philosophy of language theories and stances in Europe
  • What is the impact of the philosophy of science theories and stances?
  • Discuss the epistemological stances of different philosophical schools of thought

Epistemology Paper Topics

  • The concept of skepticism among different readers
  • Analyze the internalist vs. externalist accounts of knowledge and justification
  • Discuss the structure of knowledge and justification
  • What contributes to contextualism in epistemology?
  • Impacts of the relevant alternative accounts of knowledge
  • Discuss the pros and cons of the epistemology of lotteries
  • A case study of foundationalism and coherentism
  • The impacts of facts and beliefs on people
  • Is skepticism doomed to an inevitable defeat?
  • Arguments and positions in epistemology in the 21st century
  • The pros and cons of different positions in epistemology
  • Relevant arguments and principles in epistemology: A case of The Closure Principle
  • Critically discuss Shoemaker’s ‘self-blindness’ concept
  • How the epistemology of attitudes like the belief is very different from the epistemology of other mental states
  • Fundamental flaws in various epistemological theories

High-Quality Philosophy Project Topics

  • Discuss the concept of happiness
  • Why egoism is a negative trait
  • Discuss the motive behind acts of charity
  • Is love merely an illusion of the mind?
  • Are criminals evil by nature?
  • Is the current generation less affectionate?
  • Discuss the concept of true friendship
  • Is there happiness in achieving nothing?
  • Does a perfect life exist?
  • Why do people struggle to attain perfectionism?
  • The impact of technology of taking away emotions
  • Analyze time management among high school versus campus students
  • Is obsession replacing true love?
  • Is the concept of ‘You Only Live Once’ viable?
  • Why are most geniuses’ introverts?

Easy Philosophy Paper Topics

  • Discuss the existence of fate in the modern world
  • Can we achieve an ideal society?
  • Is life meaningful after all?
  • Why should people work, yet they will die in the end?
  • Is the concept of feminism overhyped?
  • Is every human action predetermined?
  • Discuss the components of the human consciousness
  • Why do people tend to do the bad instead of the good?
  • Are atheists deceiving themselves?
  • Why is the world changing so fast?
  • Is there life after death?
  • Why must everyone go to school?
  • Who determines what clothes each gender should don?
  • The impact of religious beliefs on science
  • Does death usher in the new life?

Top Philosophical Topics To Write About

  • Will the world ever come to an end?
  • Why do people have different religions?
  • Does stealing originate from the person’s mind?
  • Who is responsible for the rot in the society
  • The role of parents in instilling morals
  • Why do people believe in revenge?
  • What makes man different from animals?
  • Why should we care about our neighbors?
  • Is humility a virtue for ladies?
  • Why are most men aggressive
  • Discuss the role of sleeping at night
  • Should people eat food after all?
  • Is man the biggest threat to himself?
  • Is the judicial system serving justice?
  • Will robots make the world better?

Good Philosophy Topics

  • Do beliefs and superstitions match?
  • Is sex necessary?
  • Why should people love each other?
  • Should a woman head the house also?
  • Are other planets mere superstitions?
  • Are the stars in the sky fantasies?
  • Why bother about planning?
  • Do aliens exist?
  • Why is man rational?
  • What is the effect of finding a purpose in life
  • Do shooting stars fall on earth?
  • Why do fiction movies move people?
  • Does the moon exist?
  • Are we living reality or a fantasy?
  • Can one love more than two people?

Interesting Philosophy Topics

  • Was man made out of clay?
  • Do guns protect?
  • Does true love exist among teenagers?
  • Beauty and morality
  • Religion and power
  • Memories and love
  • Peace and war
  • Religion and own belief system
  • Angels and demons
  • Heaven and earth
  • Plastic surgery and ethics
  • Character and upbringing
  • Dreams and the future
  • The rich and the poor
  • Is death inevitable

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How to Write a Philosophy Paper

  • Develop a Thesis
  • Formulate an Argument
  • Structure & Outline
  • Grammar & Style

Developing Your Thesis

What is a Thesis?

philosophical thesis examples

The thesis is the most important part of your paper; it tells the reader what your stance is on a particular topic and offers reasons for that stance.

Since the rest of your paper will be spent defending your thesis--offering support for the thesis and reasons why criticism of the thesis may not be valid--it's crucial that you develop a strong thesis.

A strong thesis will:

philosophical thesis examples

  • Answer a question;
  • Be engaging;  it can be challenged or opposed, thus also defended;
  • Pass the "so what? why should I care?" test;
  • Be supported by your paper;
  • Not be too broad nor too vague.

Source: Writing Guide for Philosophy. George Mason University.

Image source:  Sergui Bacioiu.  Ripple effect on water.  CC BY 2.0.  Wikimedia Commons.

Thesis Resources

  • Developing Your Thesis An overview of writing a thesis statement with guided questions for evaluating the quality of your statement. Everettcc.
  • How to Write a Thesis Statement Emphasizes the characteristics of a well-developed thesis statement. Indiana University.
  • Thesis Statements "...describes what a thesis statement is, how thesis statements work in your writing, and how you can discover or refine one..." University of North Carolina.
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  • Last Updated: Jan 22, 2024 10:48 AM
  • URL: https://libguides.lvc.edu/philosophypaper

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  • How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on August 15, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .

Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.

You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:

  • Start with a question
  • Write your initial answer
  • Develop your answer
  • Refine your thesis statement

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Table of contents

What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.

A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.

The best thesis statements are:

  • Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
  • Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
  • Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.

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Professional editors proofread and edit your paper by focusing on:

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See an example

philosophical thesis examples

The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.

You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.

You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?

For example, you might ask:

After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .

Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.

In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.

The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.

In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.

The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.

A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:

  • Why you hold this position
  • What they’ll learn from your essay
  • The key points of your argument or narrative

The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.

These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.

Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:

  • In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
  • In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :

  • Ask a question about your topic .
  • Write your initial answer.
  • Develop your answer by including reasons.
  • Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.

The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .

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McCombes, S. (2023, August 15). How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved February 19, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/thesis-statement/

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Tackling the Philosophy Essay: A Student Guide

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This short book, written by recent Cambridge PhD students, is designed to introduce students to the process of writing an essay in philosophy. Containing many annotated examples , this guide demonstrates some of the Do's and Don'ts of essay writing, with particular attention paid to the early stages of the writing process (including the creation thesis statements and essay outlines).  This book may also be useful to instructors looking for teaching-related resources.

Tackling the Philosophy Essay  (select one of the following formats):

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Guide To Grammar

To view information relating to the presentation of extended essays, dissertations and general paper (all parts) see Undergraduate Exams .

Tackling the Philosophy Essay  is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License . You are free to download, copy, reuse, distribute and adapt this work as long as it is for non-commercial purposes, is also under the same licence, and attributes the original work to the authors. If in doubt, or if you wish to collaborate or address any issues found, please feel free to email the authors at  [email protected]

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  • 2.6 Writing Philosophy Papers
  • Introduction
  • 1.1 What Is Philosophy?
  • 1.2 How Do Philosophers Arrive at Truth?
  • 1.3 Socrates as a Paradigmatic Historical Philosopher
  • 1.4 An Overview of Contemporary Philosophy
  • Review Questions
  • Further Reading
  • 2.1 The Brain Is an Inference Machine
  • 2.2 Overcoming Cognitive Biases and Engaging in Critical Reflection
  • 2.3 Developing Good Habits of Mind
  • 2.4 Gathering Information, Evaluating Sources, and Understanding Evidence
  • 2.5 Reading Philosophy
  • 3.1 Indigenous Philosophy
  • 3.2 Classical Indian Philosophy
  • 3.3 Classical Chinese Philosophy
  • 4.1 Historiography and the History of Philosophy
  • 4.2 Classical Philosophy
  • 4.3 Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Philosophy
  • 5.1 Philosophical Methods for Discovering Truth
  • 5.2 Logical Statements
  • 5.3 Arguments
  • 5.4 Types of Inferences
  • 5.5 Informal Fallacies
  • 6.1 Substance
  • 6.2 Self and Identity
  • 6.3 Cosmology and the Existence of God
  • 6.4 Free Will
  • 7.1 What Epistemology Studies
  • 7.2 Knowledge
  • 7.3 Justification
  • 7.4 Skepticism
  • 7.5 Applied Epistemology
  • 8.1 The Fact-Value Distinction
  • 8.2 Basic Questions about Values
  • 8.3 Metaethics
  • 8.4 Well-Being
  • 8.5 Aesthetics
  • 9.1 Requirements of a Normative Moral Theory
  • 9.2 Consequentialism
  • 9.3 Deontology
  • 9.4 Virtue Ethics
  • 9.6 Feminist Theories of Ethics
  • 10.1 The Challenge of Bioethics
  • 10.2 Environmental Ethics
  • 10.3 Business Ethics and Emerging Technology
  • 11.1 Historical Perspectives on Government
  • 11.2 Forms of Government
  • 11.3 Political Legitimacy and Duty
  • 11.4 Political Ideologies
  • 12.1 Enlightenment Social Theory
  • 12.2 The Marxist Solution
  • 12.3 Continental Philosophy’s Challenge to Enlightenment Theories
  • 12.4 The Frankfurt School
  • 12.5 Postmodernism

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Identify and characterize the format of a philosophy paper.
  • Create thesis statements that are manageable and sufficiently specific.
  • Collect evidence and formulate arguments.
  • Organize ideas into a coherent written presentation.

This section will provide some practical advice on how to write philosophy papers. The format presented here focuses on the use of an argumentative structure in writing. Different philosophy professors may have different approaches to writing. The sections below are only intended to give some general guidelines that apply to most philosophy classes.

Identify Claims

The key element in any argumentative paper is the claim you wish to make or the position you want to defend. Therefore, take your time identifying claims , which is also called the thesis statement. What do you want to say about the topic? What do you want the reader to understand or know after reading your piece? Remember that narrow, modest claims work best. Grand claims are difficult to defend, even for philosophy professors. A good thesis statement should go beyond the mere description of another person’s argument. It should say something about the topic, connect the topic to other issues, or develop an application of some theory or position advocated by someone else. Here are some ideas for creating claims that are perfectly acceptable and easy to develop:

  • Compare two philosophical positions. What makes them similar? How are they different? What general lessons can you draw from these positions?
  • Identify a piece of evidence or argument that you think is weak or may be subject to criticism. Why is it weak? How is your criticism a problem for the philosopher’s perspective?
  • Apply a philosophical perspective to a contemporary case or issue. What makes this philosophical position applicable? How would it help us understand the case?
  • Identify another argument or piece of evidence that might strengthen a philosophical position put forward by a philosopher. Why is this a good argument or piece of evidence? How does it fit with the philosopher’s other claims and arguments?
  • Consider an implication (either positive or negative) that follows from a philosopher’s argument. How does this implication follow? Is it necessary or contingent? What lessons can you draw from this implication (if positive, it may provide additional reasons for the argument; if negative, it may provide reasons against the argument)?

Think Like a Philosopher

The following multiple-choice exercises will help you identify and write modest, clear philosophical thesis statements. A thesis statement is a declarative statement that puts forward a position or makes a claim about some topic.

  • How does Aristotle think virtue is necessary for happiness?
  • Is happiness the ultimate goal of human action?
  • Whether or not virtue is necessary for happiness.
  • Aristotle argues that happiness is the ultimate good of human action and virtue is necessary for happiness.
  • René Descartes argues that the soul or mind is the essence of the human person.
  • Descartes shows that all beliefs and memories about the external world could be false.
  • Some people think that Descartes is a skeptic, but I will show that he goes beyond skepticism.
  • In the meditations, Descartes claims that the mind and body are two different substances.
  • Descartes says that the mind is a substance that is distinct from the body, but I disagree.
  • Contemporary psychology has shown that Descartes is incorrect to think that human beings have free will and that the mind is something different from the brain.
  • Thomas Hobbes’s view of the soul is materialistic, whereas Descartes’s view of the soul is nonphysical. In this paper, I will examine the differences between these two views.
  • John Stuart Mill reasons that utilitarian judgments can be based on qualitative differences as well as the quantity of pleasure, but ultimately any qualitative difference must result in a difference in the quantity of pleasure.
  • Mill’s approach to utilitarianism differs from Bentham’s by introducing qualitative distinctions among pleasures, where Bentham only considers the quantitative aspects of pleasure.
  • J. S. Mill’s approach to utilitarianism aligns moral theory with the history of ethics because he allows qualitative differences in moral judgments.
  • Rawls’s liberty principle ensures that all people have a basic set of freedoms that are important for living a full life.
  • The US Bill of Rights is an example of Rawls’s liberty principle because it lists a set of basic freedoms that are guaranteed for all people.
  • While many people may agree that Rawls’s liberty principle applies to all citizens of a particular country, it is much more controversial to extend those same basic freedoms to immigrants, including those classified by the government as permanent residents, legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, and refugees.

[ANS: 1.d 2.c 3.c 4.a 5.c]

Write Like a Philosopher

Use the following templates to write your own thesis statement by inserting a philosopher, claim, or contemporary issue:

  • [Name of philosopher] holds that [claim], but [name of another philosopher] holds that [another claim]. In this paper, I will identify reasons for thinking [name of philosopher]’s position is more likely to be true.
  • [Name of philosopher] argues that [claim]. In this paper, I will show how this claim provides a helpful addition to [contemporary issue].
  • When [name of philosopher] argues in favor of [claim], they rely on [another claim] that is undercut by contemporary science. I will show that if we modify this claim in light of contemporary science, we will strengthen or weaken [name of philosopher]’s argument.

Collect Evidence and Build Your Case

Once you have identified your thesis statement or primary claim, collect evidence (by returning to your readings) to compose the best possible argument. As you assemble the evidence, you can think like a detective or prosecutor building a case. However, you want a case that is true, not just one that supports your position. So you should stay open to modifying your claim if it does not fit the evidence . If you need to do additional research, follow the guidelines presented earlier to locate authoritative information.

If you cannot find evidence to support your claim but still feel strongly about it, you can try to do your own philosophical thinking using any of the methods discussed in this chapter or in Chapter 1. Imagine counterexamples and thought experiments that support your claim. Use your intuitions and common sense, but remember that these can sometimes lead you astray. In general, common sense, intuitions, thought experiments, and counterexamples should support one another and support the sources you have identified from other philosophers. Think of your case as a structure: you do not want too much of the weight to rest on a single intuition or thought experiment.

Consider Counterarguments

Philosophy papers differ from typical argumentative papers in that philosophy students must spend more time and effort anticipating and responding to counterarguments when constructing their own arguments. This has two important effects: first, by developing counterarguments, you demonstrate that you have sufficiently thought through your position to identify possible weaknesses; second, you make your case stronger by taking away a potential line of attack that an opponent might use. By including counterarguments in your paper, you engage in the kind of dialectical process that philosophers use to arrive at the truth.

Accurately Represent Source Material

It is important to represent primary and secondary source material as accurately as possible. This means that you should consider the context and read the arguments using the principle of charity. Make sure that you are not strawmanning an argument you disagree with or misrepresenting a quote or paraphrase just because you need some evidence to support your argument. As always, your goal should be to find the most rationally compelling argument, which is the one most likely to be true.

Organize Your Paper

Academic philosophy papers use the same simple structure as any other paper and one you likely learned in high school or your first-year composition class.

Introduce Your Thesis

The purpose of your introduction is to provide context for your thesis. Simply tell the reader what to expect in the paper. Describe your topic, why it is important, and how it arises within the works you have been reading. You may have to provide some historical context, but avoid both broad generalizations and long-winded historical retellings. Your context or background information should not be overly long and simply needs to provide the reader with the context and motivation for your thesis. Your thesis should appear at the end of the introduction, and the reader should clearly see how the thesis follows from the introductory material you have provided. If you are writing a long paper, you may need several sentences to express your thesis, in which you delineate in broad terms the parts of your argument.

Make a Logical and Compelling Case Using the Evidence

The paragraphs that follow the introduction lay out your argument. One strategy you can use to successfully build paragraphs is to think in terms of good argument structure. You should provide adequate evidence to support the claims you want to make. Your paragraphs will consist of quotations and paraphrases from primary and secondary sources, context and interpretation, novel thoughts and ideas, examples and analogies, counterarguments, and replies to the counterarguments. The evidence should both support the thesis and build toward the conclusion. It may help to think architecturally: lay down the foundation, insert the beams of your strongest support, and then put up the walls to complete the structure. Or you might think in terms of a narrative: tell a story in which the evidence leads to an inevitable conclusion.


See the chapter on logic and reasoning for a developed account of different types of philosophical arguments.

Summarize Your Argument in the Conclusion

Conclude your paper with a short summary that recapitulates the argument. Remind the reader of your thesis and revisit the evidence that supports your argument. You may feel that the argument as written should stand on its own. But it is helpful to the reader to reinforce the argument in your conclusion with a short summary. Do not introduce any new information in the conclusion; simply summarize what you have already said.

The purpose of this chapter has been to provide you with basic tools to become a successful philosophy student. We started by developing a sophisticated picture of how the brain works, using contemporary neuroscience. The brain represents and projects a picture of the world, full of emotional significance, but this image may contain distortions that amount to a kind of illusion. Cognitive illusions produce errors in reasoning, called cognitive biases. To guard against error, we need to engage in effortful, reflective thinking, where we become aware of our biases and use logical strategies to overcome them. You will do well in your philosophy class if you apply the good habits of mind discussed in this chapter and apply the practical advice that has been provided about how to read and write about philosophy.

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philosophical thesis examples

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The PhD theses in this collection must be cited in line with the usual academic conventions. These articles are protected under full copyright law. You may download it for your own personal use only.

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Humean constitutivism: a desire-based account of rational agency and the foundations of morality , predictive embodied concepts: an exploration of higher cognition within the predictive processing paradigm , impacts of childhood psychological maltreatment on adult mental health , epistemic fictionalism , thinking for the bound and dead: beyond man3 towards a new (truly) universal theory of human victory , function-first approach to doubt , abilities, freedom, and inputs: a time traveller's tale , concept is a container , analysing time-consciousness: a new account of the experienced present , emotion, perception, and relativism in vision , justice as a point of equipoise: an aristotelian approach to contemporary corporate ethics , asymmetric welfarism about meaning in life , mindreading in context , economic attitudes and individual difference: replication and extension , mindful love: the role of mindfulness in willingness to sacrifice in romantic relationships , embodied metacognition: how we feel our hearts to know our minds , temporal structure of the world , every body’s gotta eat: why autonomous systems can’t live on prediction-error minimization alone , radical pluralist theory of well-being: towards a new pluralist conception of welfare , shape of subjectivity: an active inference approach to consciousness and altered self-experience .

philosophical thesis examples

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Digital Commons @ USF > College of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy > Theses and Dissertations

Philosophy Theses and Dissertations

Theses/dissertations from 2023 2023.

Karl Marx on Human Flourishing and Proletarian Ethics , Sam Badger

The Ontological Grounds of Reason: Psychologism, Logicism, and Hermeneutic Phenomenology , Stanford L. Howdyshell

Theses/Dissertations from 2022 2022

Interdisciplinary Communication by Plausible Analogies: the Case of Buddhism and Artificial Intelligence , Michael Cooper

Heidegger and the Origin of Authenticity , John J. Preston

Theses/Dissertations from 2021 2021

Hegel and Schelling: The Emptiness of Emptiness and the Love of the Divine , Sean B. Gleason

Nietzsche on Criminality , Laura N. McAllister

Learning to be Human: Ren 仁, Modernity, and the Philosophers of China's Hundred Days' Reform , Lucien Mathot Monson

Nietzsche and Eternal Recurrence: Methods, Archives, History, and Genesis , William A. B. Parkhurst

Theses/Dissertations from 2020 2020

Orders of Normativity: Nietzsche, Science and Agency , Shane C. Callahan

Humanistic Climate Philosophy: Erich Fromm Revisited , Nicholas Dovellos

This, or Something like It: Socrates and the Problem of Authority , Simon Dutton

Climate Change and Liberation in Latin America , Ernesto O. Hernández

Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa as Expressions of Shame in a Post-Feminist , Emily Kearns

Nostalgia and (In)authentic Community: A Bataillean Answer to the Heidegger Controversy , Patrick Miller

Cultivating Virtue: A Thomistic Perspective on the Relationship Between Moral Motivation and Skill , Ashley Potts

Identity, Breakdown, and the Production of Knowledge: Intersectionality, Phenomenology, and the Project of Post-Marxist Standpoint Theory , Zachary James Purdue

Theses/Dissertations from 2019 2019

The Efficacy of Comedy , Mark Anthony Castricone

William of Ockham's Divine Command Theory , Matthew Dee

Heidegger's Will to Power and the Problem of Nietzsche's Nihilism , Megan Flocken

Abelard's Affective Intentionalism , Lillian M. King

Anton Wilhelm Amo's Philosophy and Reception: from the Origins through the Encyclopédie , Dwight Kenneth Lewis Jr.

"The Thought that we Hate": Regulating Race-Related Speech on College Campuses , Michael McGowan

A Historical Approach to Understanding Explanatory Proofs Based on Mathematical Practices , Erika Oshiro

From Meaningful Work to Good Work: Reexamining the Moral Foundation of the Calling Orientation , Garrett W. Potts

Reasoning of the Highest Leibniz and the Moral Quality of Reason , Ryan Quandt

Fear, Death, and Being-a-problem: Understanding and Critiquing Racial Discourse with Heidegger’s Being and Time , Jesús H. Ramírez

The Role of Skepticism in Early Modern Philosophy: A Critique of Popkin's "Sceptical Crisis" and a Study of Descartes and Hume , Raman Sachdev

How the Heart Became Muscle: From René Descartes to Nicholas Steno , Alex Benjamin Shillito

Autonomy, Suffering, and the Practice of Medicine: A Relational Approach , Michael A. Stanfield

The Case for the Green Kant: A Defense and Application of a Kantian Approach to Environmental Ethics , Zachary T. Vereb

Theses/Dissertations from 2018 2018

Augustine's Confessiones : The Battle between Two Conversions , Robert Hunter Craig

The Strategic Naturalism of Sandra Harding's Feminist Standpoint Epistemology: A Path Toward Epistemic Progress , Dahlia Guzman

Hume on the Doctrine of Infinite Divisibility: A Matter of Clarity and Absurdity , Wilson H. Underkuffler

Climate Change: Aristotelian Virtue Theory, the Aidōs Response and Proper Primility , John W. Voelpel

The Fate of Kantian Freedom: the Kant-Reinhold Controversy , John Walsh

Time, Tense, and Ontology: Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Tense, the Phenomenology of Temporality, and the Ontology of Time , Justin Brandt Wisniewski

Theses/Dissertations from 2017 2017

A Phenomenological Approach to Clinical Empathy: Rethinking Empathy Within its Intersubjective and Affective Contexts , Carter Hardy

From Object to Other: Models of Sociality after Idealism in Gadamer, Levinas, Rosenzweig, and Bonhoeffer , Christopher J. King

Humanitarian Military Intervention: A Failed Paradigm , Faruk Rahmanovic

Active Suffering: An Examination of Spinoza's Approach to Tristita , Kathleen Ketring Schenk

Cartesian Method and Experiment , Aaron Spink

An Examination of John Burton’s Method of Conflict Resolution and Its Applicability to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict , John Kenneth Steinmeyer

Speaking of the Self: Theorizing the Dialogical Dimensions of Ethical Agency , Bradley S. Warfield

Changing Changelessness: On the Genesis and Development of the Doctrine of Divine Immutability in the Ancient and Hellenic Period , Milton Wilcox

Theses/Dissertations from 2016 2016

The Statue that Houses the Temple: A Phenomenological Investigation of Western Embodiment Towards the Making of Heidegger's Missing Connection with the Greeks , Michael Arvanitopoulos

An Exploratory Analysis of Media Reporting of Police Involved Shootings in Florida , John L. Brown

Divine Temporality: Bonhoeffer's Theological Appropriation of Heidegger's Existential Analytic of Dasein , Nicholas Byle

Stoicism in Descartes, Pascal, and Spinoza: Examining Neostoicism’s Influence in the Seventeenth Century , Daniel Collette

Phenomenology and the Crisis of Contemporary Psychiatry: Contingency, Naturalism, and Classification , Anthony Vincent Fernandez

A Critique of Charitable Consciousness , Chioke Ianson

writing/trauma , Natasha Noel Liebig

Leibniz's More Fundamental Ontology: from Overshadowed Individuals to Metaphysical Atoms , Marin Lucio Mare

Violence and Disagreement: From the Commonsense View to Political Kinds of Violence and Violent Nonviolence , Gregory Richard Mccreery

Kant's Just War Theory , Steven Charles Starke

A Feminist Contestation of Ableist Assumptions: Implications for Biomedical Ethics, Disability Theory, and Phenomenology , Christine Marie Wieseler

Theses/Dissertations from 2015 2015

Heidegger and the Problem of Modern Moral Philosophy , Megan Emily Altman

The Encultured Mind: From Cognitive Science to Social Epistemology , David Alexander Eck

Weakness of Will: An Inquiry on Value , Michael Funke

Cogs in a Cosmic Machine: A Defense of Free Will Skepticism and its Ethical Implications , Sacha Greer

Thinking Nature, "Pierre Maupertuis and the Charge of Error Against Fermat and Leibniz" , Richard Samuel Lamborn

John Duns Scotus’s Metaphysics of Goodness: Adventures in 13th-Century Metaethics , Jeffrey W. Steele

A Gadamerian Analysis of Roman Catholic Hermeneutics: A Diachronic Analysis of Interpretations of Romans 1:17-2:17 , Steven Floyd Surrency

A Natural Case for Realism: Processes, Structures, and Laws , Andrew Michael Winters

Theses/Dissertations from 2014 2014

Leibniz's Theodicies , Joseph Michael Anderson

Aeschynē in Aristotle's Conception of Human Nature , Melissa Marie Coakley

Ressentiment, Violence, and Colonialism , Jose A. Haro

It's About Time: Dynamics of Inflationary Cosmology as the Source of the Asymmetry of Time , Emre Keskin

Time Wounds All Heels: Human Nature and the Rationality of Just Behavior , Timothy Glenn Slattery

Theses/Dissertations from 2013 2013

Nietzsche and Heidegger on the Cartesian Atomism of Thought , Steven Burgess

Embodying Social Practice: Dynamically Co-Constituting Social Agency , Brian W. Dunst

Subject of Conscience: On the Relation between Freedom and Discrimination in the Thought of Heidegger, Foucault, and Butler , Aret Karademir

Climate, Neo-Spinozism, and the Ecological Worldview , Nancy M. Kettle

Eschatology in a Secular Age: An Examination of the Use of Eschatology in the Philosophies of Heidegger, Berdyaev and Blumenberg , John R. Lup, Jr.

Navigation and Immersion of the American Identity in a Foreign Culture to Emergence as a Culturally Relative Ambassador , Lee H. Rosen

Theses/Dissertations from 2012 2012

A Philosophical Analysis of Intellectual Property: In Defense of Instrumentalism , Michael A. Kanning

A Commentary On Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's Discourse on Metaphysics #19 , Richard Lamborn Samuel Lamborn

Sellars in Context: An Analysis of Wilfrid Sellars's Early Works , Peter Jackson Olen

The New Materialism: Althusser, Badiou, and Zizek , Geoffrey Dennis Pfeifer

Structure and Agency: An Analysis of the Impact of Structure on Group Agents , Elizabeth Kaye Victor

Moral Friction, Moral Phenomenology, and the Improviser , Benjamin Scott Young

Theses/Dissertations from 2011 2011

The Virtuoso Human: A Virtue Ethics Model Based on Care , Frederick Joseph Bennett

The Existential Compromise in the History of the Philosophy of Death , Adam Buben

Philosophical Precursors to the Radical Enlightenment: Vignettes on the Struggle Between Philosophy and Theology From the Greeks to Leibniz With Special Emphasis on Spinoza , Anthony John Desantis

The Problem of Evil in Augustine's Confessions , Edward Matusek

The Persistence of Casuistry: a Neo-premodernist Approach to Moral Reasoning , Richard Arthur Mercadante

Theses/Dissertations from 2010 2010

Dewey's Pragmatism and the Great Community , Philip Schuyler Bishop

Unamuno's Concept of the Tragic , Ernesto O. Hernandez

Rethinking Ethical Naturalism: The Implications of Developmental Systems Theory , Jared J.. Kinggard

From Husserl and the Neo-Kantians to Art: Heidegger's Realist Historicist Answer to the Problem of the Origin of Meaning , William H. Koch

Queering Cognition: Extended Minds and Sociotechnologically Hybridized Gender , Michele Merritt

Hydric Life: A Nietzschean Reading of Postcolonial Communication , Elena F. Ruiz-Aho

Descartes' Bête Machine, the Leibnizian Correction and Religious Influence , John Voelpel

Aretē and Physics: The Lesson of Plato's Timaeus , John R. Wolfe

Theses/Dissertations from 2009 2009

Praxis and Theōria : Heidegger’s “Violent” Interpretation , Megan E. Altman

On the Concept of Evil: An Analysis of Genocide and State Sovereignty , Jason J. Campbell

The Role of Trust in Judgment , Christophe Sage Hudspeth

Truth And Judgment , Jeremy J. Kelly

The concept of action and responsibility in Heidegger's early thought , Christian Hans Pedersen

Roots and Role of the Imagination in Kant: Imagination at the Core , Michael Thompson

Theses/Dissertations from 2008 2008

Peirce on the Passions: The Role of Instinct, Emotion, and Sentiment in Inquiry and Action , Robert J. Beeson

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Philosophy theses and dissertations.

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This collection contains some of the theses and dissertations produced by students in the University of Oregon Philosophy Graduate Program. Paper copies of these and other dissertations and theses are available through the UO Libraries .

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  • Living Legality: Law and Dussel's Philosophy of Liberation  Ospina Martinez, Juan Sebastián ( University of Oregon , 2024-01-10 ) In this dissertation I examine the theoretical underpinnings necessary for a philosophy of liberationaccount of law and suggest an alternative conceptualization of the function of law and political institutions, following ...
  • Making Sense of the Practical Lesbian Past: Towards a Rethinking of Untimely Uses of History through the Temporality of Cultural Techniques  Simon, Valérie ( University of Oregon , 2024-01-10 ) This dissertation focuses on the practice of untimely uses of lesbian history, and in particular the diverse practices of engagement with lesbian activist history, all of which aim to mobilize this activist history for the ...
  • An Argument for a Cartographic Approach to Technology  McLevey, Mare ( University of Oregon , 2024-01-09 ) This dissertation develops a way to study technology and politics that is an alternative to dominant approaches particular to contemporary philosophy of technology’s empirical and ethical turns. Dominant models fix ...
  • Nietzsche, Reification, and Open Comportment  Currie, Luke ( University of Oregon , 2024-01-09 ) This work primarily discusses the “fallacy of reification” from the perspective of Nietzsche’s late philosophy (particularly in the chapter on ‘Reason’ in philosophy in his Twilight of the Idols). While reification is ...
  • Time, Capitalism, and Political Ecology: Toward and Ecosocialist Metabolic Temporality  Gamble, Cameron ( University of Oregon , 2022-10-26 ) The ecological crises that have already marked the 21st century, and which will continue to do so on an increasingly intense and destructive scale, present theory in every discipline and field of study with a number of ...
  • Demystifying Racial Monopoly  Haller, Reese ( University of Oregon , 2022-10-04 ) Through analysis of private, public, and state reactions to the Great Depression and northward black migration, this thesis demystifies four key functions of race constitutive of capitalist racial monopoly: historical ...
  • Pragmatism, Genealogy, and Moral Status  Showler, Paul ( University of Oregon , 2022-10-04 ) This dissertation draws from recent work in pragmatism and philosophical genealogy to develop and defend a new approach for thinking about the concept of moral status. My project has two main aims. First, I argue that Huw ...
  • Ethics for the Depressed: A Value Ethics of Engagement  Fitzpatrick, Devin ( University of Oregon , 2022-10-04 ) I argue that depressed persons suffer from “existential guilt,” which amounts to a two-part compulsion: 1) the compulsive assertion or sense of a vague and all-encompassing or absolute threat that disrupts action and ...
  • Soul and Polis: On Arete in Plato's Meno  Smith III, Ansel ( University of Oregon , 2022-10-04 ) In “Soul and Polis: On Arete in Plato’s Meno,” I interpret Meno as a dialogue in which the pursuit of individual arete appears intertwined with political arete. While the differentiation of these two arete is itself ...
  • Place-in-Being: A Decolonial Phenomenology of Place in Conversation with Philosophies of the Americas  Newton, Margaret ( University of Oregon , 2022-05-10 ) Our experiences of place and emplacement are so fundamental to our everyday existence that most of us rarely dedicate much time to thinking about how place and emplacement impact the various aspects of our daily lives. In ...
  • Species Trouble: From Settled Species Discourse to Ethical Species Pluralism  Sinclair, Rebekah ( University of Oregon , 2021-11-23 ) In this dissertation, I develop and defend the importance of species pluralism (the recognition and use of multiple species definitions) for both environmental and humanist ethics. I begin from the concern that, since the ...
  • The Hybris of Plants: Reinterpreting Philosophy through Vegetal Life  Kerr, Joshua ( University of Oregon , 2021-11-23 ) This dissertation reexamines the place of plants in the history of Western philosophy, drawing on the diverse philosophical approaches of Plato, Aristotle, Goethe, Hegel, and Nietzsche, among others. I suggest that a close ...
  • Decolonizing Silences: Toward a Critical Phenomenology of Deep Silences with Gloria E. Anzaldúa and Maurice Merleau-Ponty  Ferrari, Martina ( University of Oregon , 2021-11-23 ) Motivating this dissertation is a concern for how Western philosophical, cultural, and political practices tend to privilege speech and voice as emancipatory tools and reduce silence to silencing. To locate power in silence ...
  • Mere Appearance: Redressing the History of Philosophy  Zimmer, Amie ( University of Oregon , 2021-09-13 ) The principal aim of this dissertation is to seriously consider what accounts of fashion and dress can offer—have indeed already offered—to philosophy. In recounting these histories, I have two primary goals. The first is ...
  • Universal History as Global Critique: From German Critical Theory to the Anti-Colonial Tradition  Portella , Elizabeth ( University of Oregon , 2021-09-13 ) This dissertation argues for a critical reconstruction of the concept of universal history. In doing so, it draws on theoretical resources offered by a materialist philosophy of history, as it is expressed in both German ...
  • Synoptic Fusion and Dialectical Dissociation: The Entwinement of Linguistic and Experiential Pragmatisms à la Wilfrid Sellars  Naeb, Cheyenne ( University of Oregon , 2021-09-13 ) This work will attempt to examine the relationship between experiential and linguistic pragmatism through the lens of the twentieth-century Analytic philosopher, Wilfrid Sellars. I maintain that Sellars meta-linguistic ...
  • Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Questionability of Truth  Emery, James ( University of Oregon , 2020-12-08 ) Does Nietzsche’s inquiry into the question of truth take him beyond the sense of truth as correctness found in Platonism toward a more Greek understanding of truth that brings concealment into an unsettling prominence ...
  • Feminism, Secularism, and the (Im)Possibilities of an Islamic Feminism  Akbar Akhgari, Paria ( University of Oregon , 2020-02-27 ) This project considers attempts by scholars from within as well as outside Muslim countries to analyze gender and sex equality with a new approach that brings Islam and feminism into one discourse, often called “Islamic ...
  • To Write the Body: Lost Time and the Work of Melancholy  Hayes, Shannon ( University of Oregon , 2019-09-18 ) In this dissertation I develop a philosophical account of melancholy as a productive, creative, and politically significant affect. Despite the longstanding association of melancholy with the creativity and productivity ...
  • Reparative Critique in Jamesian Pragmatism, Foucauldian Genealogy, and Contemporary Political Philosophy  Sheehey, Bonnie ( University of Oregon , 2019-09-18 ) My dissertation develops and defends a concept of reparative critique that presses critical philosophy beyond its affinities with negative judgment. In the wake of Post-Kantian philosophy, critique has become associated ...

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  • Three Columns

Information on Thesis Proposals

Creating a Thesis Committee

The first step in creating a thesis committee is for a committee chair or advisor to agree to supervise your thesis. Minimally, the committee chair must be a tenured or tenure-track faculty of the CSULB Philosophy Department. Your committee must additionally consist of at least two other faculty members, at least one of whom must also be a tenured or tenure-track faculty of the CSULB Philosophy Department. The department strongly recommends that your third member also be tenured or tenure-track in Philosophy, although it’s possible for the third member to be a part-time faculty member or a person with appropriate qualifications from another university department or another university. Please consult with your committee chair in determining appropriate persons to invite to serve on your committee. (Although many part-time lecturers in the department are generous in volunteering their time for committee service, we request that you remember that the University does not compensate them for it, and most have heavy teaching scheduleshere and on other campuses.) Your committee must be approved by the department.

Writing Your Thesis Proposal

The goal of your thesis proposal is to present the tenured and tenure-track faculty members of the department with a general outline of your intended thesis project together with a brief justification of its merit as a research project warranting a master’s degree. Take as your goal the creation of a concise, well-written document clearly articulating your project and its relationship to the philosophical literature. In general you should aim for 6-8 pages of text and a bibliography of 1-2 pages. A good thesis proposal will have three elements: (1) A clear and concise statement of the position you intend to articulate and defend in the thesis. (2) A well-researched statement relating your position to the philosophical literature indicating how your position connects with important thought on the subject by other philosophers. (3) An outline of how exactly you intend to structure your exposition in the thesis. This outline should present a chapter-by-chapter account, indicating how each chapter relates to the overall project.

The best strategy for writing your thesis proposal is to start early and interact regularly with your committee. Your committee is your resource for advice and feedback on your proposal while you develop it. The director of your committee is responsible for deciding when the proposal is ready for review, and the committee members must agree. Your committee members are also the ones who will present the proposal and defend it to the department. Thus, the more constructive interaction you have with them while writing the proposal the better. It is important to note that a student cannot submit a proposal to the department on his/her initiative without the approval of the thesis committee.

Some Common Proposal Difficulties

Writing a book report: Your thesis should make a modest contribution to the philosophical literature. A mere summary of the positions and arguments is inadequate. There are many ways you can contribute to philosophical thought: Your contribution could consist of finding a significant thesis or type of argument to constructively criticize. You could find an original extension of, or argument for, another person’s theory. You can develop a critical discussion of a view’s underlying methodological, epistemic, or ontological commitments. You can explore what is really at stake in a philosophical debate or the implications of a view. You can propose a useful organization of the positions in a debate. Whatever you choose, it must signify a step forward – an original contribution – albeit a modest one.

Cutting from whole cloth: While your thesis should contain your contribution to philosophical thinking on your thesis topic, your thesis is unlikely to introduce a totally novel and important way to conceive of or solve a problem in philosophy. Good research in philosophy is almost always grounded in a thorough understanding of the ways in which other people have thought about a philosophical topic or problem. Your thesis should build on the tradition.

Rushing to market: Think of your proposal as something that will take numerous drafts and some serious research to complete. Don’t try to slap together a document in order to meet a deadline. The timeline of an advanced degree is dictated exclusively by the amount of time it takes you to acquire and demonstrate a high level of competence in the field. When your proposal is ready for departmental review, you should be well on your way to writing the thesis itself.

Technical language: In general, it is better to state your thesis without technical language for a couple of reasons. First, expressing your project without reliance on technical jargon is an indicator that you have a good grasp of the issues. Second, not everyone in the department will necessarily be familiar with the terms you use. Of course, sometimes it is important to refer to technical terms in framing a view or problem. When you use technical language, you should always explicate its meaning.

Long historical exegesis: When relating your thesis topic to the philosophical literature the most important facts to include are the ones that indicate how your project connects to recent work on the topic. A proposal need not contain a lengthy synopsis of the history of your topic.

Personal histories: However you came to your topic, that story is not relevant to assessing its philosophical merit or its viability as a thesis project.

Submitting Your Thesis Proposal

Once your advisor and all committee members have accepted your proposal, the next step is for your proposal to be submitted to the department for review. Both your proposal and your thesis committee will be reviewed (solely) by tenured and tenure-track members of the department, and will be voted upon at a faculty meeting.

To prepare your proposal, first add a cover sheet including the title, the date, and the names of your committee members with the advisor identified and listed first. Each member of the committee will sign the cover sheet of your proposal, so include a signature line for each member. Once you have collected the committee signatures, you should prepare hard copies of your proposal for distribution to the faculty mailboxes in MHB seven days before the meeting where your proposal will be considered. (Under some circumstances, electronic distribution of your proposal may be possible; please consult your thesis advisor). All the tenured and tenure-track members of the department must receive a copy of your proposal.

Please note that you are responsible for all printing and photocopying of your proposal. The Department does not provide photocopying services for students for this or other purposes.

Some Example Thesis Proposals

Example 1: Back to the Future: Natural Law and the Original Meaning of the Alien Tort Claims Act

Example 2: Conceivability and Possibility Studies in Frege and Kripke

Information on Writing Philosophy Papers

Please familiarize yourself with the university’s academic honest policies if you have not already done so. They are available here: http://www.rochester.edu/college/honesty/docs/Academic_Honesty.pdf . Note in particular that it is a violation of these policies to use material from any source (other than yourself) in your papers without attribution and, where relevant, use of quotation marks. This applies especially to copying and pasting material from websites, which should always be avoided. You may, of course, make limited use of academically respectable web resources where relevant, as long as they are properly cited (I'm not picky about the exact format of your citations, as long as they contain the relevant information) and any quoted material is clearly placed in quotation marks (though this should still be a very limited portion of your paper). However, you should never make any use at all of student 'essay mills'--websites that offer students canned student essays for 'research' purposes: these essays are not research and do not meet the standards for scholarly sources; they have no place in the writing of your papers.

General Guidelines for Writing Philosophy Papers

  • Clarity and straightforwardness of thought and language are crucial: avoid flowery styles and long, superfluous introductions and conclusions. (No paper should ever start with a sentence like: "Since the dawn of time, mankind has pondered the question of...") The bulk of your paper should consist of philosophical exposition and analysis, in plain but precise language.
  • If you are writing an essay in response to an assigned essay topic, the most important thing is simply to make sure you answer the question that was asked , carefully and thoroughly. Avoid getting off on tangents that are not crucial to your topic, and avoid sweeping generalizations you can't support in the paper . In addition to the quality of exposition, one of the central things we look for in a philosophy paper is how well the thesis in question is supported. Even if the reader thinks some of your claims are false, your paper can be excellent if you do a solid job of defending your claims.
  • If you are asked to explain something, do not merely summarize what an author or lecturer has said. Explain and illuminate the relevant ideas or arguments in your own words, as if you were trying to help a fellow student gain a deeper understanding of them.
  • Avoid excessive quotation! Stringing together quotes is not explaining a position or an argument, and does not display your understanding of the material. Even paraphrasing in your own words is not enough. Again, explanation involves clarifying the claims, bringing out hidden assumptions behind arguments, noticing ambiguities as they arise and nailing them down, and so on.
  • In addition to careful explanation of positions or arguments, some paper topics ask for critical evaluation of those positions and arguments. An example of critical evaluation of an argument would be my lecture criticizing Thomson's argument for the conclusion that abortions wouldn't violate a fetus' right to life even if it were granted to have a full right to life. (I developed and used a distinction between positive and negative rights, and argued that the central parallel she appeals to in her argument fails to go through, since it involves a conflation of positive and negative rights.) Some paper topics ask you to do the same sort of thing, and if you're writing on such a topic, be sure that this component of your paper is strong and well developed.
  • Proofreading of papers is a necessity. So is decent grammar: incoherent grammar makes the effective communication of ideas impossible.
  • As for which topic you choose: You should choose something you're most interested in and have the most to say about. Beware of any topic that seems too easy: If it seems simple--like something you can dash off in a few paragraphs--then that's a good sign that you're not thinking deeply enough about it, and you should probably write on another topic. So choose your topic carefully.
  • This is important : If you use someone else's words, you have to use quotation marks and cite the source in a footnote. If you don't, it's plagiarism, which constitutes cheating and is a violation of the honor code. See note at top.

Sample Short Paper and Commentary

For Illustrative purposes only

Sample Essay Question : Is Socrates' position in the Crito , concerning the moral authority of the state, consistent with his view that one should never do anything that is wrong? Is it consistent with what he says, in the Apology , about what he would do if commanded by the state to cease practicing philosophy, or about what he did when commanded by the Thirty to capture Leon of Salamis for execution? Explain.

(Note: page references are to a different edition than the one you have ; paragraphs should be indented, but are not here due to limitations of html formatting; I have not here included footnotes for the same reason; and your papers should be double-spaced, rather than single-spaced.)

Socrates on the Moral Authority of the State

In the Crito , Socrates makes some surprisingly strong claims about the moral authority of the state, which might even seem to be inconsistent both with another fundamental claim he makes in the Crito and with certain claims he makes in the Apology . I shall argue that although these claims seem to be in some tension with each other, the crucial claims about the authority of the state in the Crito can plausibly be interpreted in such a way as to remove any real inconsistency with the other claims.

The first, rather striking claim about the moral authority of the state occurs at 51b of the Crito . Socrates argues that, because of the state's role as a provider of security, education, and various important social institutions (such as marriage), the citizens of the state are its "offspring and servants"; and from this he concludes that citizens are subordinate to the state and its laws to such an extent that if a citizen ever disagrees with the state's laws or orders, he "must either persuade it or obey its orders," even if the latter amounts to suffering death. The implication for his own case is clear: Socrates had tried to persuade the court of his innocence and of the injustice of his execution (as detailed in the Apology ), but he had failed; therefore, he argues, he must now obey the court and accept his death sentence--even though he still thinks that he is in the right on this matter.

The second, closely related claim, comes only a few paragraphs later, in 51e and 52. Socrates there argues that by virtue of remaining in the state, a citizen enters into an implied contract with it to obey its commands. More precisely, the claim is again that a citizen who has a disagreement with the state must either persuade it that it is wrong, or else obey it. In the voice of the personified laws: "either persuade us or do what we say" (52a). The implication, again, is that if one fails to persuade the state to change its mind, for whatever reason, then one must obey its orders. A citizen has no moral right to continue to resist the state, even if he is convinced that he is in the right and the state is in the wrong.

Now as mentioned above, these claims seem directly opposed to certain other claims Socrates makes. Most importantly, earlier in the Crito itself, Socrates had stressed that "one must never do wrong" (49b). Indeed, this serves as the driving principle behind the rest of his argument in the Crito . But is this really consistent with maintaining that one must always obey the state, if one fails to persuade it that something it orders is wrong? The obvious objection is that the state might well order one to do something wrong--e.g. because one of its laws is an unjust one, as Jim Crow laws were. In that case, Socrates' claim that one should never do anything wrong would entail refusing to do what the state orders-- even if one is unsuccessful in persuading the state that it is wrong. Thus, Socrates' claim that one should never do wrong seems inconsistent with his claim that one must always obey the final orders of the state. 

Secondly, it might be objected that Socrates' view of the moral authority of the state is inconsistent both with what he did when ordered by the Thirty to capture Leon of Salamis for execution, and with what he says he'd do if ordered by the state to cease practicing philosophy (both from the Apology ). When the Thirty ordered him to capture Leon, he refused, on the grounds that this would have been wrong (unjust and impious). ( Apology , 32c-d) This seems to be a recognition that one is morally obligated or at least permitted to disobey the state when what it commands is wrong--even if one fails to persuade it of its wrongness. And similarly, Socrates makes clear that he would disobey the state and continue philosophizing if it were to order him to stop--again, on the grounds that it would be wrong for him to stop philosophizing (recall that he saw philosophy as his life's mission, given him by the god). ( Apology , 29c-d) Again, this seems to contradict what he says in the Crito about the supreme moral authority of the state and its laws and orders.

I believe, however, that it is possible to read the crucial passages about the authority of the state in the Crito in such a way as to render them consistent with Socrates' exhortation never to do wrong, and with his remarks about disobedience in the Apology . To see this, it is necessary to distinguish first of all between two issues: (a) what the law might require you to do , and (b) what the law might require you to endure . With this distinction in mind, consider the following possible interpretations of Socrates' claim about the moral authority of the state in the Crito :

( i ) Citizens must obey any law or order of the state, whatever it asks them to do or to endure ;

(ii) Citizens must endure whatever any law or order of the state says they must--including the law that verdicts arrived at through proper procedures shall be carried out--but citizens need not and morally should not do what is prescribed by an unjust law.

Now which of these positions is it most plausible to attribute to Socrates in the Crito ?

There are passages that might seem to suggest i (e.g. 51e, 52a), but again, the obvious problem is that it seems inconsistent with his fundamental principle that one should never do wrong (49a)--at least on the assumption, which Socrates clearly accepts in the Apology , that the state is not infallible as regards judgments of right and wrong. Thus, a more charitable reading would interpret the passages about the moral authority of the state as referring implicitly to cases where the state does not require one to do anything unjust, but merely to endure something (or perhaps to do something that is not itself unjust, such as rendering some political service).

If the passages are read in this way, we can interpret Socrates' claim as ii above. When he says that one must obey the state's final laws and orders, what he means is that one must do anything it tells one to do within the bounds of justice , and that one must endure anything it tells one to endure. Thus, Socrates was not obligated to capture Leon of Salamis, and would not be obligated to cease philosophizing if ordered to, since that would be doing something wrong (i.e. something that is not within the bounds of justice); but he is obligated to accept and endure his punishment, as long as it was arrived at through proper judicial procedures. The latter is true, according to Socrates, even though the punishment is wrong; for by suffering it, he is not himself doing anything wrong, but only enduring something wrong. This is perfectly consistent with Socrates' exhortation never to do anything wrong.

Thus, what at first appears to be a blatant contradiction among Socrates' various claims is fairly easily remedied if we interpret the relevant passages in the Crito as making the claim in ii rather than the claim in i above. This interpretation is supported not only by the fact that it helps to reconcile Socrates' seemingly contradictory claims, but also by the fact that Socrates' examples of obedience to the state over one's own objections all involve having to endure something, rather than having to do something. He speaks in Crito 51b, for example, of having to "endure in silence whatever it instructs you to endure, whether blows or bonds, and if it leads you into war to be wounded or killed, you must obey." Though he does not explicitly formulate his claim as in ii above, his focus is clearly on the issue of having to endure something prescribed by the state, over one's own objections. Therefore, it is consistent with the text to interpret him as making only the claim in ii, which is fully compatible with his claim that one must never do wrong, and with his claim that under certain conditions one should refuse to do something the state orders (such as refusing to capture someone for an unjust execution, or refusing to cease carrying out your divine mission as long as you live).

As for the plausibility of Socrates' view, I believe that it is still overly demanding, even when qualified as in ii above. It's unclear why any of the factors Socrates mentioned should give the state such overriding moral authority that one should be morally obliged to endure execution without resistance even in cases where the state is genuinely in the wrong. It seems more plausible to hold that if one stands to be unjustly executed, one can rightly resist this punishment ( even if it would equally be permissible not to resist). One could do this, I think, without showing any contempt for the laws, or challenging their authority, since one still grants the state's authority to do its best to carry out the punishment, and simply asserts a moral right to do one's best in turn to avoid such wrongful punishment. But that's a topic for another paper.


Note, first of all, the concise, crisp introduction. The problem is plainly stated, and then I explain clearly what I'm going to do in the paper--all in just a few sentences. There's no rambling introduction with sentences starting with "Since the beginning of time, mankind has pondered the mysteries of etc."

The style is straightforward, striving for clarity rather than literary flair. Jargon is avoided as far as possible.

After the introduction, the problem is stated in more depth and detail, with textual references. Notice the spare use of quotes. I quote only a few words here and there, where necessary to illustrate the points. This might be extended to a few sentences, if necessary, but beware of over-quoting and letting someone else's words do your work for you. (The worst mistake is just stringing together quotes, which accomplishes nothing.) Notice also that textual references are given for the quotes, as well as for paraphrased passages. (Normally, I'd use footnotes and have complete citations, but I'm limited by html format here.)

Notice how, in describing the problem, I try to elucidate it, rather than just summarizing it. Summary is not explanation . Instead, I try to make clear where exactly the tensions among the various claims seem to arise and why, and how they apply to Socrates' own case. I've tried to go well beyond the superficial statement of the problem in the essay question, to illuminate and develop it.

Now having done that, one might just stop and claim to have answered the question: "No, the various positions are not consistent, and Socrates is just contradicting himself." But that would be a very superficial paper. Instead, I tried to dig beneath the surface a little bit, and to notice that the central claim can be interpreted in more than one way. So I first of all made a distinction between two possible interpretations, which in turn depended on a distinction between what you might be commanded to do and what you might be commanded to endure . That distinction enabled me to argue for an interpretation of what Socrates is claiming about the moral authority of the state that renders this claim consistent with his other claims. (Noticing and exploiting distinctions is a large part of what doing philosophy is all about.)

Whether or not you agree with that particular argument, you can see the difference between bringing the discussion to that level of detail and merely staying on the surface. So even if you would have taken a different position, the point is that a good paper would still be engaging with the issues at that level of depth, rather than remaining on the surface. If you think Socrates really is contradicting himself, for example, you might then also discuss the distinctions I pointed out, but then argue for an interpretation along the lines of the first interpretation instead, despite the inconsistencies with other things he says. (Of course, you'd have to be able to give an argument for why the text should be understood in that way, despite the fact that Socrates winds up with rather glaringly conflicting claims on that reading.)

Again, notice that I am striving for clarity , precision and thoroughness , along with a straightforward organization for the paper.

Abstracts and Introductions (WritePhilosophy Guide)

Abstracts and Introductions (WritePhilosophy Guide)

Where to start? Writing an introduction or abstract for your philosophy paper can be daunting – and with good reason. The first paragraph of your paper is also the most important. Before those opening lines are through, a reader will have made up their mind about the value, or lack thereof, of your work. While what comes next could sway their opinion (if they give you that chance), changing someone’s mind away from their initial impressions is a significant task. This can be to your detriment or to your advantage, depending on whether your introduction is strong or weak.

There are three things that we see all across student essays which always make an assessor cringe and put you on the defensive from the outset. These are:

Plato was an ancient Greek philosopher, born in around 428BC in Athens, whose work has been extremely influential in Western philosophy.

Unnecessary biography. Unless your paper is in intellectual history, writing about the life, times and influence of Plato (in which case, you’ve come to the wrong place!) this material is irrelevant. It does nothing to defend your thesis, which is the sole aim of your paper. Cut it and nobody will miss it. As for claims that the philosopher whose work you will be discussing is “one of the most important/influential/brilliant minds in philosophical history”, unless your essay will focus on proving this claim, it really shouldn’t be the first thing you say.

The question of who should rule is one of the most important philosophical questions.

Vacuous importance . A rumour has made the rounds that it’s vital to establish that your paper is very important, drawing the reader in by emphasising the vast significance of the topic. Your reader already believes that the topic is important or at least interesting – that’s why they’re reading your paper, or have set you this assignment. While there is merit to establishing the relevance of your contribution to the topic at hand, this needs to be done with specifics, which detail what it is that your paper contributes to this debate. You don’t need to show that the debate itself is important, but if you really feel the need to, simply declaring it so won’t suffice. For that, you’d want specific examples of the real-world significance or impact of the debate.

Last, and definitely least:

Since the dawn of time, man has argued over the question of who should rule.

Lost to history. Having lost count of how many times I have read this phrase in first-year undergraduate essays, I sympathise with the inability to offer specifics. But so vague and inconsequential a phrase has no place in your paper. Rhetorical flourishes might add a little spark to your paper, but should be attended to once the substance of the piece has been thoroughly finalised.

In each of these cases, it’s clear what has happened. Students are often faced with blank page syndrome. A bare Word document and a flickering cursor which demands that you type something – anything. So you type something meaningless, inconsequential, indisputable, just to get you started. That’s all fine, but you must go back and take it all out once you’re in flow. If you really must type something to combat the fear of the void, try this:

In this paper, I will argue that…

It lacks finesse, but this seven-word phrase is everything you need to get your paper going. At the very least, there must be one sentence, somewhere in your first paragraph, which you could add this phrase to, and make perfect sense. Your essay does one thing: it defends your thesis through a single line of argument . Your opening should be the single most important thing in the whole paper: that thesis. You will hardly ever go wrong by opening your paper with your thesis statement. If you want to start with “In this paper, I will argue that…”, then that’s absolutely fine. Plenty of well-written, published academic papers by professional philosophers do exactly that, and their readers likely thank them for it.

The rule is that you want your reader to be in absolutely no doubt what your thesis is before the end of the first paragraph . If you can accomplish that in the first sentence, more’s the better. Admittedly, sometimes your thesis will be a little more specific or convoluted, and you’ll need a sentence or two of preamble so that the thesis itself makes sense to the reader the first time they encounter it. But always get it in before the first paragraph is up. If you really can’t, consider whether you have understood your material and formulated your thesis clearly.

The rest of the abstract

Now that you have one sentence of your abstract nailed down, your thesis statement, what else should you include? The other thing which is ineliminable is a summary of your argument . You should explain in broad strokes how you intend to demonstrate the truth of your thesis to your reader. Before they go beyond that first paragraph, they should have a decent expectation of what lies ahead. What are the key premises in your argument? Which are controversial, which will you spend time defending? Are there any assumptions you will be making?

Related to, but distinct from this is an overview of the structure of the paper itself. In what order do you accomplish these tasks? Is your paper divided into a series of sections? If so, what does each section achieve which adds to the argument you are making? In laying out the structure of your paper, you can largely dispense with anything which is obvious or common across philosophical papers (e.g. there’s no need to explain that you will begin by stating definitions of key terms, or that you will end with a conclusion).

You might not need anything more than that. You have your thesis and your argument, which is everything that really matters in your paper. But you might want to add a little more. Situate the reader in the context of the philosophical literature that informs your work. If your paper responds to or draws upon the arguments of other philosophers, you might want to make that clear, citing that author, at this stage. If they in turn are writing in response to another source, then you can lay out that line of intellectual back-and-forth, until you trace it back to the original question that this line of research is trying to answer.

Beyond that, you may wish to make some form of claim for importance to motivate the reader to value your paper and read on. This must be specific, in two senses. First, it must be about the importance of this work , not the debate in general, couched in terms of how the truth of your thesis impacts on this debate. Second, it should have some specific real-world implications. If this debate informs policy, practice, behaviour or research, then spell out with a clear example a way in which the truth of your thesis would impact that. Your reader wants to know that they (or maybe someone else) will have to change what they think or what they do after they’ve read your paper. That’s what merits a claim to importance. If you can’t think of ways in which the truth of your thesis might have this impact, that’s fine. You don’t have to include this kind of claim, and trying to do so without grounds will ring hollow. You can largely assume that a reader who set an assignment or fished out a paper on this topic is interested enough to go on.

Composing an abstract

The only way to learn to write good abstracts or introductions is to practice. But we can gain some understanding by analysing and dissecting abstracts written by philosophers in published works. Let’s focus on the paper which has been an example running through this guide so far: James Rachels’ celebrated 1975 paper Active and passive euthanasia from the New England Journal of Medicine . Let’s look only at the abstract of this paper.

The traditional distinction between active and passive euthanasia requires critical analysis. The conventional doctrine is that there is such an important moral difference between the two that, although the latter is sometimes permissible, the former is always forbidden. This doctrine may be challenged for several reasons. First of all, active euthanasia is in many cases more humane than passive euthanasia, Secondly, the conventional doctrine leads to decisions concerning life and death on irrelevant grounds. Thirdly, the doctrine rests on a distinction between killing and letting die that itself has no moral importance. Fourthly, the most common arguments in favor of the doctrine are invalid. I therefore suggest that the American Medical Association policy statement that endorses this doctrine is unsound. Rachels, J. (1975) ‘Active and passive euthanasia’, New England Journal of Medicine , 292(2): 78-80.

There’s so much to like here. Within the first sentence, we know what Rachels’ topic is: the distinction between active and passive euthanasia. Though, strictly speaking, we might’ve got that from the title. Rachels then defines the ‘conventional doctrine’ against which he will argue. He systematically lists the arguments he will make against the conventional doctrine – first of all, secondly, thirdly, fourthly. By the end of the abstract, we know exactly what arguments he will make and in what order, which gives us the structure of the paper. Finally, he offers a thesis statement: “ the American Medical Association policy statement that endorses this doctrine is unsound. ” Thesis statement and importance claim rolled into one: not only will he be smashing down a distinction between active and passive euthanasia that is well-used in medical practice and policy, his doing so will invalidate the official policy of the American Medical Association. If you have any interest at all in this topic, you can’t not read this now.

But if we dig a little deeper, we might find some things we could tweak. This actually looks a little more like a draft abstract than the final polished article. With an editorial eye, take a look at that first sentence, the one that gives the crucial first impression:

The traditional distinction between active and passive euthanasia requires critical analysis.

This is not a particularly interesting statement. It establishes little more than that some people have drawn a distinction between active and passive euthanasia . It is vague about who (“traditional” is something of a weasel word, enabling the writer to escape specificity). This is a shame, because at least some of the people are the American Medical Association, a massive and influential organisation. “The distinction between active and passive euthanasia upon which the American Medical Association bases its euthanasia policy requires critical analysis” might be a second go at this. Now it’s a more startling and engaging statement, with an underlying threat: if you don’t read this, then you – like the AMA – might be deeply misguided. After all, so major and conscientious an organisation has committed this error.

But “requires critical analysis” is similarly insipid. This phrase doesn’t even specify that the distinction lacks critical analysis, which would add some urgency. Given that Rachels will suggest that the distinction “ has no moral importance “, leading to “ decisions concerning life and death on irrelevant grounds “, it is surprising that he chose such temperate language. Given that his title already told us we’re dealing with the distinction between active and passive euthanasia, he might’ve been able to cut this sentence already, and lead in with the high-impact stuff that comes later.

The second sentence, beginning “The conventional doctrine” again rather buries the lede. This is the doctrine of the American Medical Association and many besides, which only becomes clear in the final sentence. If something is important and widely endorsed, getting that across quickly will get us slavering to know more. Much the same goes for “This doctrine may be challenged for several reasons.” This is a passive voice construction, which does not explicitly say that this paper actually will challenge the conventional doctrine. Moreover, “challenged” is inconclusive. It suggests that he will raise some noisome arguments, but not that he will knock down the distinction so hard that “ the American Medical Association policy statement that endorses this doctrine is unsound “.

Were I Rachels’ editor (and to be clear, this is a superb piece in almost all respects and could benefit little from my attentions beyond this uncharacteristically mild opener), I would offer this advice:

  • Put the thesis front and centre. If you have dismantled a widely-used moral distinction between active and passive euthanasia and shown it to have no moral importance, lead with that.
  • Make it clear from the outset that this has serious implications for medical practice and policy, with specific reference to the invalidation of the AMA policy.
  • Replace some of the filler sentences (“This doctrine may be challenged…”) with a little bit more to explain how the four strands of argumentation come together (which they do) to compel the conclusion, rather than standing alone as four mere potential challenges to the conventional doctrine.

As a last bit of pedantry, I’d suggest that the American Medical Association policy statement is not unsound . Arguments are sound or unsound, valid or invalid. Statements are true or false, correct or incorrect. You can claim that the AMA statement is wrong, or that the arguments for that statement are unsound.

A very useful exercise which I set for all of my philosophy students to improve their abstract writing is to read through Rachels’ paper ( presently freely available here ) and rewrite his abstract accordingly, to foreground the thesis, clarify the structure of the argument (as opposed to argument s ) and emphasise the practical implications of his claim. [As a bonus question: what precisely is Rachels’ thesis? It may not be exactly what he says it is…]

This gives us a few principles for abstract or introduction writing:

1. Lead with your thesis . 2. Explain how your argument will demonstrate the truth of that thesis. 3. Summarise the structure of the paper (ideally, this will be evident from your overview of the argument) . 4. Give a brief precis of the context into which your work fits. 5. (optional) Offer specific examples of the importance of the thesis to this debate and/or to practical matters.

You do not need eloquent turns of phrase or grand claims to achieve this. If anything, they are more likely to detract from that to amplify your claims. Ultimately, the more precisely and concisely you can get all of this done in your introduction, the more space you have, and the more time your reader will have, for the good part: the argument itself.

Let’s look at one more example, from the same topic. Natalie Abrams’ 1978 paper responds to Rachels’ arguments under the selfsame title of Active and Passive Euthanasia . She writes:

This paper is divided into three sections. The first presents some examples of the killing/letting die distinction. The second draws a further distinction between what I call negative and positive cases of acting or refraining. Here I argue that the moral significance of the acting/refraining distinction is different for positive and for negative cases. In the third section I apply the above distinction to euthanasia, and argue that mercy killing should be regarded as analogous to positive rather than negative cases. On the basis of this, I then support active rather than passive euthanasia. Abrams, N. (1978) ‘Active and Passive Euthanasia’, Philosophy , 53(204): 257-63

Abrams’ abstract has no frills, no context, no claims for importance beyond her own endorsement of a particular view. She could equally have cited American Medical Association policy statements, used the Rachels paper to show that this distinction is contentious to the point that some (Rachels) have suggested it should be changed, and noted that her argument would invert that policy. But instead she focuses on her thesis and her argument. It’s not inspiring but it’s clear as glass and leaves us in no doubt at all as to what comes next. The only reason not to read on is if you’re already sold.

But that first impression is ugly. “ This paper is divided into three sections ” is a rough first sentence. If Abrams flipped the running order here, we would have a more compelling opener. With barely any modification, we get:

This paper shows that the moral significance of the acting/refraining distinction is different for positive and for negative cases. On this basis, I argue that euthanasia should be regarded as analogous to positive rather than negative cases, and therefore that active but not passive euthanasia is morally permissible. The paper is divided into three sections. The first presents some examples of the killing/letting die distinction. The second draws the distinction between negative and positive cases of acting or refraining, showing that the moral significance of the acting/refraining distinction is different for positive and for negative cases. In the third section I apply the above distinction to euthanasia, and argue that mercy killing should be regarded as analogous to positive rather than negative cases, supporting active rather than passive euthanasia.

This is a little repetitive. But by leading with the most interesting thing, the thesis and its implications for the euthanasia debate, this turnaround delivers an abstract that can’t be ignored. Layering in some of the significance in terms of the impact on actual policy might elevate it further. Again: it’s a worthwhile exercise to draft your own abstract for this paper, and try it out for other papers which you are reading as a way of summarising the argument for your own reference whilst practicing a pivotal writing skill.

Using your abstract to improve your writing

An introduction or abstract is not only a necessary component of your finished product, it can also help you to improve the structure of your paper. These tips can help you use this tool:

  • If you know what you want your paper to achieve, write your abstract as a statement of purpose, laying out what you intend to achieve. Keep it open in a second document on your screen, and refer back to it with each paragraph that you write. Always ask: does this contribute to what my abstract said I’d do? If not, you probably should cut the paragraph. If you don’t keep referring back to your abstract in this way, you risk veering off your topic and expending valuable time on a line of argument that won’t help you to establish your thesis.
  • When the body of your essay is written, move your introduction to a separate document and read the paper without it. Now, write a new introduction which summarises exactly what you read. Compare your new and old introduction. Is there anything missing in the new version which was in the old? If so, do you need to add that into your paper? Is there anything in the new version which wasn’t in the old? Has this taken you off on a tangent? Do you need to restate your thesis to make it fit what you’ve actually written? Draw on both versions to find the best phrasing for your abstract.
  • Use the sentences of your abstract as a rough guide for the paragraphs of your essay. If you have, say, a five-sentence abstract, you can try to use each sentence as the opening for each paragraph of the body of your text (deleting it or editing it later to prevent direct repetition). This should help ensure you stay on topic, and deliver exactly what is needed for your essay. If you find that you have to add a new paragraph in the midst which isn’t described by your abstract in order to make your paper’s structure work, consider adding a line for it into your abstract.
  • If you have the body of your essay in place but still can’t write an introduction which states a clear thesis and summarises the argument, take this as a sign that your paper lacks a clear focus.
  • Compare your introduction and your conclusion. The two should match very closely in terms of what is claimed – albeit the conclusion in the past tense. If there is any deviation between the two, this is a sign that your paper has wandered off track. You can either rewrite those sections which have strayed to bring it back to your original thesis, or rewrite your thesis and abstract to match the essay you have actually written.

Latest edit: 13/04/2021 by CJ Blunt

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25 Thesis Statement Examples That Will Make Writing a Breeze


Understanding what makes a good thesis statement is one of the major keys to writing a great research paper or argumentative essay. The thesis statement is where you make a claim that will guide you through your entire paper. If you find yourself struggling to make sense of your paper or your topic, then it's likely due to a weak thesis statement.

Let's take a minute to first understand what makes a solid thesis statement, and what key components you need to write one of your own.

Perfecting Your Thesis Statement

A thesis statement always goes at the beginning of the paper. It will typically be in the first couple of paragraphs of the paper so that it can introduce the body paragraphs, which are the supporting evidence for your thesis statement.

Your thesis statement should clearly identify an argument. You need to have a statement that is not only easy to understand, but one that is debatable. What that means is that you can't just put any statement of fact and have it be your thesis. For example, everyone knows that puppies are cute . An ineffective thesis statement would be, "Puppies are adorable and everyone knows it." This isn't really something that's a debatable topic.

Something that would be more debatable would be, "A puppy's cuteness is derived from its floppy ears, small body, and playfulness." These are three things that can be debated on. Some people might think that the cutest thing about puppies is the fact that they follow you around or that they're really soft and fuzzy.

All cuteness aside, you want to make sure that your thesis statement is not only debatable, but that it also actually thoroughly answers the research question that was posed. You always want to make sure that your evidence is supporting a claim that you made (and not the other way around). This is why it's crucial to read and research about a topic first and come to a conclusion later. If you try to get your research to fit your thesis statement, then it may not work out as neatly as you think. As you learn more, you discover more (and the outcome may not be what you originally thought).

Additionally, your thesis statement shouldn't be too big or too grand. It'll be hard to cover everything in a thesis statement like, "The federal government should act now on climate change." The topic is just too large to actually say something new and meaningful. Instead, a more effective thesis statement might be, "Local governments can combat climate change by providing citizens with larger recycling bins and offering local classes about composting and conservation." This is easier to work with because it's a smaller idea, but you can also discuss the overall topic that you might be interested in, which is climate change.

So, now that we know what makes a good, solid thesis statement, you can start to write your own. If you find that you're getting stuck or you are the type of person who needs to look at examples before you start something, then check out our list of thesis statement examples below.

Thesis statement examples

A quick note that these thesis statements have not been fully researched. These are merely examples to show you what a thesis statement might look like and how you can implement your own ideas into one that you think of independently. As such, you should not use these thesis statements for your own research paper purposes. They are meant to be used as examples only.

  • Vaccinations Because many children are unable to vaccinate due to illness, we must require that all healthy and able children be vaccinated in order to have herd immunity.
  • Educational Resources for Low-Income Students Schools should provide educational resources for low-income students during the summers so that they don't forget what they've learned throughout the school year.
  • School Uniforms School uniforms may be an upfront cost for families, but they eradicate the visual differences in income between students and provide a more egalitarian atmosphere at school.
  • Populism The rise in populism on the 2016 political stage was in reaction to increasing globalization, the decline of manufacturing jobs, and the Syrian refugee crisis.
  • Public Libraries Libraries are essential resources for communities and should be funded more heavily by local municipalities.
  • Cyber Bullying With more and more teens using smartphones and social media, cyber bullying is on the rise. Cyber bullying puts a lot of stress on many teens, and can cause depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. Parents should limit the usage of smart phones, monitor their children's online activity, and report any cyber bullying to school officials in order to combat this problem.
  • Medical Marijuana for Veterans Studies have shown that the use of medicinal marijuana has been helpful to veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Medicinal marijuana prescriptions should be legal in all states and provided to these veterans. Additional medical or therapy services should also be researched and implemented in order to help them re-integrate back into civilian life.
  • Work-Life Balance Corporations should provide more work from home opportunities and six-hour workdays so that office workers have a better work-life balance and are more likely to be productive when they are in the office.
  • Teaching Youths about Consensual Sex Although sex education that includes a discussion of consensual sex would likely lead to less sexual assault, parents need to teach their children the meaning of consent from a young age with age appropriate lessons.
  • Whether or Not to Attend University A degree from a university provides invaluable lessons on life and a future career, but not every high school student should be encouraged to attend a university directly after graduation. Some students may benefit from a trade school or a "gap year" where they can think more intensely about what it is they want to do for a career and how they can accomplish this.
  • Studying Abroad Studying abroad is one of the most culturally valuable experiences you can have in college. It is the only way to get completely immersed in another language and learn how other cultures and countries are different from your own.
  • Women's Body Image Magazines have done a lot in the last five years to include a more diverse group of models, but there is still a long way to go to promote a healthy woman's body image collectively as a culture.
  • Cigarette Tax Heavily taxing and increasing the price of cigarettes is essentially a tax on the poorest Americans, and it doesn't deter them from purchasing. Instead, the state and federal governments should target those economically disenfranchised with early education about the dangers of smoking.
  • Veganism A vegan diet, while a healthy and ethical way to consume food, indicates a position of privilege. It also limits you to other cultural food experiences if you travel around the world.
  • University Athletes Should be Compensated University athletes should be compensated for their service to the university, as it is difficult for these students to procure and hold a job with busy academic and athletic schedules. Many student athletes on scholarship also come from low-income neighborhoods and it is a struggle to make ends meet when they are participating in athletics.
  • Women in the Workforce Sheryl Sandberg makes a lot of interesting points in her best-selling book, Lean In , but she only addressed the very privileged working woman and failed to speak to those in lower-skilled, lower-wage jobs.
  • Assisted Suicide Assisted suicide should be legal and doctors should have the ability to make sure their patients have the end-of-life care that they want to receive.
  • Celebrity and Political Activism Although Taylor Swift's lyrics are indicative of a feminist perspective, she should be more politically active and vocal to use her position of power for the betterment of society.
  • The Civil War The insistence from many Southerners that the South seceded from the Union for states' rights versus the fact that they seceded for the purposes of continuing slavery is a harmful myth that still affects race relations today.
  • Blue Collar Workers Coal miners and other blue-collar workers whose jobs are slowly disappearing from the workforce should be re-trained in jobs in the technology sector or in renewable energy. A program to re-train these workers would not only improve local economies where jobs have been displaced, but would also lead to lower unemployment nationally.
  • Diversity in the Workforce Having a diverse group of people in an office setting leads to richer ideas, more cooperation, and more empathy between people with different skin colors or backgrounds.
  • Re-Imagining the Nuclear Family The nuclear family was traditionally defined as one mother, one father, and 2.5 children. This outdated depiction of family life doesn't quite fit with modern society. The definition of normal family life shouldn't be limited to two-parent households.
  • Digital Literacy Skills With more information readily available than ever before, it's crucial that students are prepared to examine the material they're reading and determine whether or not it's a good source or if it has misleading information. Teaching students digital literacy and helping them to understand the difference between opinion or propaganda from legitimate, real information is integral.
  • Beauty Pageants Beauty pageants are presented with the angle that they empower women. However, putting women in a swimsuit on a stage while simultaneously judging them on how well they answer an impossible question in a short period of time is cruel and purely for the amusement of men. Therefore, we should stop televising beauty pageants.
  • Supporting More Women to Run for a Political Position In order to get more women into political positions, more women must run for office. There must be a grassroots effort to educate women on how to run for office, who among them should run, and support for a future candidate for getting started on a political career.

Still stuck? Need some help with your thesis statement?

If you are still uncertain about how to write a thesis statement or what a good thesis statement is, be sure to consult with your teacher or professor to make sure you're on the right track. It's always a good idea to check in and make sure that your thesis statement is making a solid argument and that it can be supported by your research.

After you're done writing, it's important to have someone take a second look at your paper so that you can ensure there are no mistakes or errors. It's difficult to spot your own mistakes, which is why it's always recommended to have someone help you with the revision process, whether that's a teacher, the writing center at school, or a professional editor such as one from ServiceScape .

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Philosophical Theses Samples For Students

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WowEssays.com paper writer service proudly presents to you an open-access catalog of Philosophical Theses designed to help struggling students deal with their writing challenges. In a practical sense, each Philosophical Thesis sample presented here may be a guide that walks you through the important stages of the writing procedure and showcases how to pen an academic work that hits the mark. Besides, if you require more visionary help, these examples could give you a nudge toward a fresh Philosophical Thesis topic or inspire a novice approach to a banal theme.

In case this is not enough to slake the thirst for effective writing help, you can request personalized assistance in the form of a model Thesis on Philosophical crafted by a pro writer from scratch and tailored to your particular requirements. Be it a plain 2-page paper or a profound, extended piece, our writers specialized in Philosophical and related topics will deliver it within the pre-set timeframe. Buy cheap essays or research papers now!

Example Of Contextualism Thesis

Introduction, analysis of the human mind and the philosophy of consciousness thesis.

Philosophy of consciousness, undoubtedly, takes a leading position in Anglo-American philosophical thought of 20th and the beginning of 21st century. Numerous publications, devoted to the problems of consciousness are an indicator of that. Philosophy of mind is a branch of analytical philosophy, which studies philosophical aspects of consciousness problem. The central theme of philosophy of consciousness is relationship between consciousness and brain. In this context brain poses a problem of mind-body, while consciousness is understood as either the aggregate mental states, accessible only to the living being experiencing them, or as a state of monitoring internal processes by this subject.

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Example of thesis on exploring the theme of lost eden in hemmingways hills like white elephants.

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    Thinking for the bound and dead: beyond MAN3 towards a new (truly) universal theory of human victory  Clay-Gilmore, Miron J. (The University of Edinburgh, 2023-08-30) This project is a blend of Africana intellectual history and philosophical anti-humanism.

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    CRITICAL THINKING LAB HANDOUT A BRIEF GUIDE TO CONSTRUCTING THESIS STATEMENTS AND INTRODUCTIONS I. WHAT IS A THESIS STATEMENT? A thesis statement is a sentence, within an introduction, that asserts your position on a given topic. It is the central claim that you will be arguing for in your paper. HOW DO I CONSTRUCT A THESIS STATEMENT?

  14. Philosophy Theses and Dissertations

    Theses/Dissertations from 2020. Orders of Normativity: Nietzsche, Science and Agency, Shane C. Callahan. Humanistic Climate Philosophy: Erich Fromm Revisited, Nicholas Dovellos. This, or Something like It: Socrates and the Problem of Authority, Simon Dutton. Climate Change and Liberation in Latin America, Ernesto O. Hernández.

  15. Philosophy Theses and Dissertations

    Philosophy Theses and Dissertations Browse by By Issue Date Authors Titles Subjects Search within this collection: This collection contains some of the theses and dissertations produced by students in the University of Oregon Philosophy Graduate Program.

  16. Information on Thesis Proposals

    A good thesis proposal will have three elements: (1) A clear and concise statement of the position you intend to articulate and defend in the thesis. (2) A well-researched statement relating your position to the philosophical literature indicating how your position connects with important thought on the subject by other philosophers.

  17. SAMPLE SHORT PHILOSOPHY PAPER: For Illustrative purposes only

    In addition to the quality of exposition, one of the central things we look for in a philosophy paper is how well the thesis in question is supported. Even if the reader thinks some of your claims are false, your paper can be excellent if you do a solid job of defending your claims. ... Sample Essay Question: Is Socrates' position in the Crito ...

  18. Abstracts and Introductions (WritePhilosophy Guide)

    Writing an introduction or abstract for your philosophy paper can be daunting - and with good reason. The first paragraph of your paper is also the most important. Before those opening lines are through, a reader will have made up their mind about the value, or lack thereof, of your work. While what comes next could sway their opinion (if ...

  19. Philosophy Essays

    A good point to note is that argumentative philosophy essay topics do not represent personal feelings. Rather, they aim at defending reasonably a certain thesis. This tells you that before you begin with the introduction of argumentative essay topics philosophy, you must have a particular standpoint you are trying to defend so that you can ...

  20. Dissertations

    Rigid Designation, Scope, and Modality. Emergent Problems and Optimal Solutions: A Critique of Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Expressing Consistency: Godel's Second Incompleteness Theorem and Intentionality in Mathematics. Physicalism, Intentionality, Mind: Three Studies in the Philosophy of Mind. Frege's Paradox.

  21. PDF Sample Philosophy Thesis: 32,000 Words Contemporary Pragmatism

    12 For example see Rorty's CIS, EHO and PSH; and Putnam, ―Why Is a Philosopher?‖ in RHF. 13 Both philosophers generally aver the use of the term ―neo-pragmatist,‖ although it has be pressed upon them by a range of critics. See for example David L. Hildebrand, ―The Neopragmatist Turn,‖ Southwest Philosophy Review, 19(1), 2003, 79 ...

  22. 25 Thesis Statement Examples That Will Make Writing a Breeze

    What that means is that you can't just put any statement of fact and have it be your thesis. For example, everyone knows that puppies are cute. An ineffective thesis statement would be, "Puppies are adorable and everyone knows it." This isn't really something that's a debatable topic. Something that would be more debatable would be, "A puppy's ...

  23. Philosophical Thesis Examples That Really Inspire

    Philosophical Theses Samples For Students 5 samples of this type WowEssays.com paper writer service proudly presents to you an open-access catalog of Philosophical Theses designed to help struggling students deal with their writing challenges.