Philosophy 35 - 2.5.5 Close Read

At this stage, you will read for thoughtful engagement with the ideas and arguments presented in the text. Now is when you critically reflect on, evaluate, and understand the author’s writing.

At this point, you should not move any more quickly than you can think alongside the author. Use this time to follow up on questions you posed during flagging. Look up terms; do some research on concepts you do not understand. You do not need to understand the article perfectly, but you should understand it well enough to think about it. If you have a good understanding of what you read, you will have something to say about the material after you finish reading it.

Reading slowly and actively involves asking the author questions: How does this claim follow from that one? Where is the evidence to support this assertion? Is the evidence adequate to support the claim being made? What are the implications of this claim? How does this idea fit with the overall emphasis on some other set of ideas? If something in the text does not sit well with you, try to articulate what is bothering you. Write a short objection in the margin. Even if you are not sure, try to work out why you do not agree with the author. The more you can articulate your concerns and think through your own reactions, the more you will understand the material and your own reaction to it.

The close reading is intended to prepare you for talking and writing about the author’s work. That means you are preparing yourself to do philosophy alongside and with the author. Hold yourself to the same standards to which you hold the author. Provide reasons for your claims, support your opinions with adequate evidence, and consider possible objections.

Read Like a Philosopher

Identify a reading from Chapter 1 (or another introductory reading from this course). This exercise will work best if the reading is a fairly short, primary source reading from someone who is doing philosophy. Follow the three-step method for reading:

  • Pre-read
  • Fast read with flagging
  • Close read and revise flagging

Consider the following prompts in writing a short review of the article (no more than two paragraphs in length):

  • Provide a brief synopsis of the argument and dialectical structure of the text.
  • What are the primary claims that the author makes?
  • What evidence does the author provide to support those claims?
  • What methods does the author use to generate evidence or make arguments?
  • Is the evidence adequate to support the claims the author makes?
  • Where do you think the evidence falls short?
  • Do you agree with the author’s claims?
  • Where do you disagree, and why?

When you are writing philosophy papers, you should plan the structure of your argument in advance, spend time thinking about a thesis, and focus on an achievable aim relative to the length of your paper.

This lesson has no exercises.

The content of this course has been taken from the free Philosophy textbook by Openstax