Philosophy 7: Final Paper Basic requirements: Your paper is due by Midnight on the Thursday, of finals week. It should be at least 1700 words in length and must be submitted electronically in the drop-box at the ANGEL site.
Research Requirement: You must make substantial use of at least three authoritative sources in your paper. Though you may make use of websites, no website will count toward this requirement. E-journals, on the other hand, are perfectly acceptable.
Developing a topic: To develop a topic, I suggest (but do not require) that you use one of the three tactics listed below. If you have an idea which does not correspond to one of these tactics, that’s fine—I’ll let you know if there are problems with it. For each topic, I have listed the (a) basic strategy, (b) cautionary advice, and (c) the form that your thesis should take.
1. Comparative approach
a) Compare one of the philosophical texts we’ve read together with a text we haven’t read. Demonstrate how both texts are engaged with a similar theme, problem, or idea; in doing so, make sure that the differences between the texts are also made clear.
b) Avoid oversimplifying each thinker. Be sure that the point of comparison is not excessively general (they’re both interested in the “One”) but actually quite specific (i.e. the Bhagavad-Gita and Analects of Confucius have similar conceptions of social propriety… etc.)
c) The thesis should take the form of a clear statement of the specific similarity and how this similarity relates to the fundamental differences between the texts.
2. Exegetical approach
a) Find a passage (or set of related passages) in a text we have read which is on the verge of being too difficult or obscure for you to understand. With reference to the rest of that text and three or more quality sources, develop a fine-grained and detailed interpretation of the passage. Be precise, specific, and thoughtful. You may use your own examples and illustrations, but use these to illuminate something in the text. At all costs, stay centered on the text.
b) Do not give a running commentary or vague summary of the passage. I want you to “expand” on the passage, not simply restate it in your own words, or, even worse, oversimplify it through simple summary.
c) For your thesis, clearly state the interpretation you are attempting to support in your paper.
3. Critical response
a) Select a text from our course which interests you but with which you disagree. Isolate a passage (or small set of passages) from that text which presents the point you disagree with. After reconstructing the author’s position as generously as possible, offer a well reasoned critique of the author’s position. In doing this, try, as much as possible, to use principles your chosen author would agree with in your critique; in other words, don’t develop your critique on the basis of principles which would be fundamentally alien to or rejected by your chosen author— develop your critique on the basis of common ground. Use at least three quality sources to support your reconstruction of the thinker’s view and your critique of it.
b) Again, be sure to be as charitable as possible in your summary of the author’s position. Be sure to support your critique and your positive interpretation with argument and textual reference. This is not an opportunity to vent; do not turn this paper into an informal and unreasoned attack. Be measured, composed, and specific in your critique. If there is space for this, consider and reply to some imagined responses on the part of your chosen thinker.
c) Thesis: a clear statement of the position you’re critiquing and why you think it is limited, partial, or simply incorrect.
Grading Criteria: Form:
Does your paper reflect a serious effort?
Are there basic grammatical or spelling errors?
Does your paper have a cohesive structure (thesis, support, etc.)?
Does it have smooth (as opposed to awkward) syntax and flow?
Content: Is the paper factually accurate?
Does it explore the topic with depth and detail or is it merely superficial?
Does it reflect your own original work?
That is, is it clearly the case that you are not simply summarizing secondary sources or lecture notes?
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