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Philosophical Skills


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to students enrolled in the BA programme Philosophy: Global and Comparative Perspectives.


Philosophy comes in a wide variety of styles and uses many different methodologies. But all types require mastery of the craft of careful textual analysis and clear articulation of an argument. This course will introduce students to the core tools of philosophical analysis, argumentation, and writing, as well as provide an opportunity for students to hone these skills through intensive work with philosophical texts.

The course will be divided into two parts:

In the first part of the course, students will learn the following skills of textual analysis and argument construction, by focusing on the analysis of a single philosophical text over an extended period:

  • Learn what an argument is and basic properties of arguments (validity and soundness);

  • Identify basic inference types and distinguish them from their fallacious cousins;

  • Master the structure of different types of arguments (such as inferences to the best explanation, infinite regresses, reductio ad absurdum arguments);

  • Reconstruct arguments;

  • Learn the principles of philosophical charity.

In the second part of the course, students will apply the skills learned in the first part of the course to their own philosophical writing and will learn the essentials of philosophical essay writing:

  • Devise an initial question and construct a thesis statement;

  • Structure an essay;

  • Build your own argument: critiquing texts, developing counterexamples, and offering evidence;

  • Learn to formulate your ideas clearly and precisely;

  • Seek information effectively and efficiently: using library services, evaluating sources, compiling and referencing bibliographical materials.

In the second part of the course, students will learn these skills by working with several texts from a global and comparative perspective that engage with the text studied in the first half of the course. This will culminate in the writing of an original philosophical essay, complete with bibliography.

The accompanying tutorial sessions (co-ordinator Dr. B.J.E. Verbeek) aim to acquaint students with ongoing philosophical research. Philosophy is not a stock of wisdom, but an ongoing practice of asking questions. Which are the right questions to ask? How are they interconnected? Can we hope to answer them, and if so, how? In this series of biweekly lectures philosophers of the Leiden Institiute for Philosophy present samples of their ongoing research. The lecture series aims to give first-year students an idea of the handwork of philosophy.

Course objectives

This course aims to train students essential philosophical skills concerning reading, understanding, researching and writing philosophical texts. The tutorials aim to acquaint students with ongoing philosophical research.

Students who successfully complete the tutorial sessions will have a good understanding of:

  • examples of ongoing philosophical research projects at Leiden University.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • understand the aim and structure of a philosophical text;

  • identify and analyse the arguments in a philosophical text;

  • provide helpful feedback on the work of other students;

  • find and work with relevant literature on a topic in philosophy;

  • write a text synopsis, commentary, and an argumentative essay.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars, 2 hours per week

  • Tutorials, a series of 6 short lectures, each 1 hour

Class attendance is required for both seminars and tutorials.

Assessment method


Throughout the semester there will be mandatory exercises for training specific skills (reading, summarizing, argument analysis, argument construction, components of essay writing). These assignments will include students' feedback on each other’s work (peer review).

  • Attendance and participation: 15%

  • Exercises: 15%

  • Mid-term written text exposition: 30%

  • Final essay: 40%

  • Written report of one of the tutorial sessions


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests (see above).


The resit covers the Mid-term written text exposition and the final essay (70%) and consists of a paper.
The results for exercises and participation remain in place.
Active participation in class is required for admission to the resit.
Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

Students will have an opportunity to discuss the grading of their final essays with the instructor within 30 days after publication of the exam results.

Reading list

A full course syllabus will be distributed via Brightspace. We will use extracts from J. F. Rosenberg, The Practice of Philosophy: A Handbook for Beginners and A. P. Martinich, Philosophical Writing: An Introduction. These and all other texts will be made available either on Brightspace or through the university library.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


Not applicable.