hilosophy is more of an intellectual activity in which one engages than a specific subject matter which one studies. Consequently, a philosophical essay should show this intellectual activity at work--by intelligently discussing a chosen philosophical issue or problem and by critically defending a stand towards it. Your stand may be a constructive and positive one, defending an already-proposed solution or justifying your own answer to an issue; or else it may be a critical and negative one, disagreeing with a purported solution and undermining arguments in support of it. In either case, your stand must be backed up by reasoning and evidence. For suggestions on how to develop critical disagreement, as well as critical agreement, with a philosophical point of view, see Approach under Philosophical Commentary. The main difference between a commentary and an essay lies in its length and scope. While a commentary is intended to be relatively short and to focus on a single philosophical work or specific philosophical view, an essay allows for a more extensive discussion of a philosophical problem and a more sustained development of a solution. An essay is likely to call for more research than a commentary.
Philosophical thinking is argumentative. It does not merely assert views, but attempts to establish them. Your essay should likewise set out to establish a stand in the context of a problem. The problem and your stand towards it may focus on a point of interpretation, on underlying assumptions, on further implications, on a critical assessment, on a critical defence. Whatever your focus, in the introduction state the general issue or problem and your intent or direction in the essay. The reader should have a clear idea where philosophically you are heading. For example, if your topic is Plato's theory of virtue and what you find troublesome is his claim that knowledge equals virtue, your introduction may look like this:
In the Republic Plato...
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