Emails and Philosophy

Hi everyone! Beginning with the basics: I’m Emily Kaplan and I’m from right outside Chicago. This is my last semester and I am not at all excited to graduate, but hoping to work in some law-related position for a year or two before I attempt law school. I love watching movies and reading, in particular when the stories involve crime. In terms of my writing experience, I actually have not had many opportunities to write outside of school; I’m not part of a newspaper and I don’t write for any online site. For me, writing had always been a nice break from scantron tests and blue books, but it was contained in a school setting– until I had to start looking for jobs.

Email has become an unavoidable part of my life. I have always used it as a medium to contact teachers, but it has now transformed into a first impression; it is how I meet potential employers. When I write emails, I focus on keeping them short and succinct- tell the recipient everything they need to know with no extra words. I’ll start by introducing myself, then get straight to the point. It normally sounds a little something like this: “My name is Emily Kaplan and I am a senior majoring in Organizational studies at the University of Michigan with a double minor in writing and criminal justice. I am writing because…”

How I start emails is actually quite similar to how I begin a philosophy paper, the other medium of writing that I want to focus on.  Unlike with English papers, where the goal is to show the reader where you’re going through your thesis, in a philosophy paper the writer must tell the audience exactly what he/she plans to prove. Last semester I took a philosophy class called Law and Society and wrote a paper about the regulation of freedom of expression. After defining a few key terms, I introduced my paper:

In this paper, I will argue that the occurrences at the University of Greater Discord, despite a lack of spoken words, also   constitute speech under the First Amendment and consequently, that Mill would hold they too should be protected by the First Amendment. I then engage with other philosophers’ views on regulation of speech, specifically Feinberg and Scanlon, outlining why they may argue the incidents under review at the University of Greater Discord, are exceptions and thus should not be protected. Finally, in light of this discussion, I will argue that the University of Greater Discord should regulate students’ speech when it impedes other students from feeling safe at school.

Just like with my email, I tell the reader exactly what I plan to do. Unlike in my email, this introduction takes up six lines. The major difference between writing for philosophy and composing emails is the extent to which the writer is free to elaborate. In an email, I give only basic details, with hopes to schedule a phone call or in-person meeting to delve further into my background. When writing a philosophy paper, on the other hand, I write absolutely every single thing that I can think to write on a topic. I ask myself “why” after every point, both in my head and in the actual paper, and then proceed to record the answer. This allows my readers to observe my train of thought, an opportunity not provided by my typical email.


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