Resources for Students

Why Study Philosophy?

Philosophy is often thought to be a useless major and a useless discipline. This is a thoroughly undeserved reputation; a philosophy education can help you to succeed in many seemingly-unrelated career paths. Here are a few links for prospective philosophy students (or their parents).

Argument Maps

Argument maps may be an effective way to teach critical reasoning with fewer drawbacks than teaching formal logic (e.g. formal logic is time-consuming to teach, it is unintuitive to many students, the expressive capacity of classical logic is limited). I’m currently experimenting with argument maps in my courses.

  • I have a tentative handout on my own method. But there are still a lot of kinks to work out! Constructive advice is welcome.

  • MindMup is a free, online resource for argument mapping in the box-and-arrow style (though like a lot of existing standards, it uses a red-green color scheme that might not work for everyone).

  • Tim van Gelder (a Pitt grad like me!) has an old blog post on argument mapping, including some remarks about the benefits and history of the practice.

Reading Philosophy

It sounds odd at first, but one of the difficult skills you should learn in a philosophy course is how to read. Of course university students are generally literate, but many beginning students will not know how to read critically and effectively.

Philosophical Writing

Writing is an important part of learning philosophy. You don’t just write so that there is something to grade; writing forces students to confront their own understanding and to think through their own intuitions. Writing is thinking, in slow motion. However, philosophical writing is different from many other kinds of writing.

Plagiarism

A lot of current students don’t seem to understand precisely what plagiarism is or how to avoid it. Here are a few resources that might help.

Research

There are also some good resources for advanced students. These are NOT recommended for students looking to pump up short papers for introductory classes—they’re unlikely to be helpful at that level, and at worst may raise your instructor’s suspicions concerning plagiarism. Still, for the advanced and the curious, these are excellent tools.

  • The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is the best free resource for sophisticated introductions to topics in academic philosophy. It is especially helpful as a way to discover important papers, so you can look them up and read the original text.

  • PhilPapers, an outgrowth of Chalmers’ MindPapers project, is an excellent discovery tool for scholarly articles (though you often need library access to view the articles).

Practical Typography for Academics

It should be noted, first, that tinkering with typesetting is a devious trap that will distract you from the important work of producing text that is worth setting well! That said, academic writers should be familiar with the basics of typography and typesetting, and a little effort as you write may save you a lot of effort when you revise. (Just don’t get distracted when you have a deadline coming up.) Someday I may put together my own guide. If you’re looking for typographical advice in the meantime, I strongly recommend Butterick’s Practical Typography.