How to Identify a Research & Philosophical Problems

To Identify a research & philosophical problems, philosophers and scientists rely on classical, rational and empirical accounts of problems that focus on intellectual problems defined in relation to theories. Philosophers have also begun to study the structures and functions of research problems not defined in relation to theories.

Furthermore, researchers have long pursued research problems often labeled as practical or applied. As yet, no account of problems specifies the description of both so called intellectual problems and so called applied problems.

The first step to take in writing an essay in philosophy is to Identify a research & philosophical problems one  wishes to shed light on. Identifying a research and philosophical problem invariably result in stating a thesis one wishes to defend. Thus, identifying the philosophical problem one wishes to analyze is very vital for a philosophical write-up. But what does a philosophical problem consist of?

The major challenge faced by students and researchers in philosophy is the belief that philosophical problems are merely everyday practical problems such as, the problem of infrastructural development, the problem of good governance, and the problem of insecurity.

To be sure, philosophical problems arise from practical issues of everyday life. But if  philosophers engage these problems merely as they are, they do nothing different from what natural scientists or social scientists do. But philosophical problems are more theoretical than practical. They are meant to identify issues with theories postulated for practical everyday problems, or theories that interpret other theories of everyday practical problems.

Concerning the issue of good governance, for instance, there are theories of justice and fairness postulated to resolve such a problem. A philosopher engages a particular theory or theories of justice, identifies a problem, and defends a thesis.

The problem could be that the main arguments tabled in support of a theory are not coherent or consistent, a theory does not fit with everyday experience or reality of the issue at hand, the criticism already levelled against a theory does not hold in the light of new evidences (defence of  a theory), or that a theory has become anachronistic or outdated.

Thus, a philosophical problem identifies a gap or lacuna that has been left open or unfilled in theories or scholarship. One a theoretical problem is identified, then, the writer postulates and defends a thesis that he or she is convinced can fill the obvious vacuum in scholarship.

How to Identify a Research & Philosophical Problems

What is the major challenge faced by students and researchers in philosophy? The major challenge faced by students and researchers in philosophy is the belief that philosophical problems are merely everyday practical problems. Here’s how Identify a research & philosophical problems:

  • Identify the Thesis

Besides identifying a philosophical problem, a philosophical paper is a defense of a thesis.  In  fact, the bulk of an essay in philosophy is dedicated to stating, explaining, analyzing, arguing for and responding to anticipated objections to a thesis. But what exactly is a thesis and how is it stated in a philosophical essay? Simply put, a thesis is a statement of the position/conclusion of  the argument of a writer.

It expresses the writer’s position on an issue. Thus, a philosophical essay is not complete if the writer simply describes a philosophical position without analyzing it in order to identify a philosophical problem and take a position.

A thesis is a statement that makes some clear, definite assertion about the subject under  discussion.   A philosophy paper is not a personal report of how one feels or what one believes or  a description of what has been said about a topic. It is an argument for a thesis. To avoid  mistaking a thesis for a description, personal feeling or belief, a writer must follow some definite steps in developing a thesis

First, the writer must explain what he or she means by his thesis.  If the thesis of an essay says  that abortion is wrong in any circumstance as against a position which defends the rightness of abortion in a particular circumstance, the writer must explain what “in any circumstance” means.

The next step would be to provide clearly stated arguments for the thesis, or the position, one holds and show why they are better than, or how they reaffirm, other positions. Very importantly too, a strength of a thesis depends on the extent to which one is able to identify, examine and respond to anticipated or foreseen objections.

Once these steps are followed somewhat religiously, the writer’s thesis will become evident and clear, rather than being difficult to pinpoint.

  • Citing the Appropriate Authority

People rely on authorities for many of the beliefs they have and the decisions they make; and it is legitimate to do so. But more often than not, such reliance on authority is done uncritically and  the fallacy of argumentum ad vericodium appeal to inappropriate authority  is often  committed.

In writing, particularly in philosophy, it is expected that one would also rely on authorities in making one’s arguments and stating one’s position.

If not for any reason, it is believed that such reliance is justified because the authority that has been depended upon by a writer has good reasons for his or her position. In fact, famous authorities in philosophy are relied upon because of the general belief that they have good evidence for their positions or arguments.

However, one must be careful not to mistake mere fame and authority for good evidence, since it is not always the case that an authority always has good evidence for claims. A bad argument cannot become good simply because a popular or famous philosopher has used the  same argument.

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