PHIL 390 Senior Thesis 1-6 s.h.
Intensive, independent study under the direction of one or more faculty sponsors. Intended as a capstone experience for philosophy majors. Typically culminates in a polished 30-40 page philosophical essay. Individual registration, which may span two semesters, requires approval of the faculty sponsor(s) and department chair. (LA, WS2)
(Errors & omissions are purely the fault of evil robotic weevils.)
Instructor: Dr. Achim Koeddermann, 417 Fitzelle Hall Telephone #3037
At SUNY-Oneonta, the Senior Thesis in Philosophy is a written work of about forty typed pages (and preparatory meetings, stretched over one or two semesters), with an attached bibliography, which represents the result of a major independent research effort. Students receive three credits upon the successful completion of the thesis (or up to 6 by agreement between student and instructor). The Senior Thesis (and possibly a presentation) will be evaluated according to the standards of the profession, the syllabus determines details. The written part of the thesis has to carry more than 50 % of the work to be evaluated. The supervisor reserves the right to submit each paper to at least one other professor for evaluation, and to recuse himself from supervision of subjects not qualified to direct or beyond the boundaries of the field of philosophy. In consulting a second, more specialized professor in the department for advice, the student has to bear in mind that such work is not an entitlement, but a privilege.
According to the interests and abilities of the students, a Senior Theses may be customized: recent successful examples range from exploratory over apologetic to innovative formats. A typical Senior Theses may examine closely a single outstanding work (eminent text) or different or obscure works of a single author; a shared philosophical question discussed by several philosophers, an interdisciplinary question which examines works (or works of authors) in different disciplines, or the philosophically founded rejection/refutation of a position. If it is innovative, it may also merely consist in the development of a position. The Senior Theses has to reflect a thorough assessment upon examination of original texts, after which an original argument is developed. In refuting some of the counterarguments, the Senior Thesis at Oneonta will not necessitate a public defense IF it demonstrates awareness of the counterarguments and offers answers to them. In from, the Thesis should follow the pattern of Clear and Distinct Cartesian Method. With the help of staff from Milne Library, an Introduction to Library Research will be prepared to assist you if necessary (similar projects referenced here are pursued in Skidmore, Gettysburg colleges or Tufts/ Denver Universities).
Supplementary exercises will complement the work: example I
Senior Thesis, first Handout:
First meeting: thesis exercise:
Excerpt from Stanley Fish, The Last Professor, NY Times Jan. 18/09:
“…This is a very old idea that has received periodic re-formulations. Here is a statement by the philosopher Michael Oakeshott that may stand as a representative example: “There is an important difference between learning which is concerned with the degree of understanding necessary to practice a skill, and learning which is expressly focused upon an enterprise of understanding and explaining.”
Understanding and explaining what? The answer is understanding and explaining anything as long as the exercise is not performed with the purpose of intervening in the social and political crises of the moment, as long, that is, as the activity is not regarded as instrumental – valued for its contribution to something more important than itself.”
In view of the Thesis assignment, it is clear that ANY THESIS as application (celebrated before Oakeshott by Aristotle, Kant and Max Weber, among others) can really flourish in today’s educational landscape.
Tell us why you think so. Or should the University of Phoenix approach be right? “John Sperling … is refreshingly blunt: “Coming here is not a rite of passage. We are not trying to develop value systems or go in for that ‘expand their minds’” nonsense.””
Make your claim with your thesis project/title in mind.
- Select a topic. (This can be challenging. If your topic is too narrow, you will have difficulty finding enough information; if it is too broad, you will be swamped with information) See also Tips and examples for writing thesis statements (From Purdue University).
- Background information can often be found in encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other reference works. If you decide to use the information, don't forget to cite it in proper fashion. Remember to paraphrase, use your own language, and don't replace your arguments with quotations.
- Find books (Books often treat a topic more comprehensively than journal articles. Books can be a good place to find an overview of a topic. References to additional articles and books can often be found in a bibliography at the end of a chapter.) Your paper qualifies as a research paper if it includes at least one primary and one secondary source in book form.
- Find articles (Journal articles usually have the most up to date information on a topic. Since journal articles are often more focused than books, they may provide more specific information than books. References to additional articles and books can often be found in a bibliography at the end of an article.) Remember to demonstrate the level of your research by quoting from refereed journals.
- Consider supplementary materials (such as internet sites)
- Organize the findings.
- Use the information to address the research topic.
Free Primary Texts
There are many sources of complete (out of copyright, public domain) philosophy texts available online such as:
- Project Bartleby
- Online books page
- Over 35,000 public domain books available full text online. Search/browse by author, title, subject. Provides several editions of Plato's Republic (which includes Plato's allegory of the cave)
- Online Library of Literature
- Includes Candide by Voltaire.
- ALEX catalog of electronic texts
- "Public domain documents from American and English literature as well as Western philosophy". Search/browse by author, title, date. Also possible to search the content.
- Project Gutenberg
- About 35,000 books included. Links to over 100,000 books via Project Gutenberg Partners, Affiliates, and Resources
- Readings in Modern Philosophy
- Search by philosopher.
Selected Reference Works
- ***Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy*** REF B51.R60 1998
- 10 volumes. A good place to begin your research.
- Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (link on the Milne Library home page under Databases by Name A-Z)
- Online version of the print encyclopedia. Provides up-to-date articles on philosophical themes (such as metaphysics, ethics, law); world philosophies (such as African, Japanese, Tibetan); periods; world religions (such as Islam, Christianity, Buddhism), individual philosophers.
- Hint: To find articles on thinking machines, use terms such as "artificial intelligence" or philosophers such as "Alan Turing".
- Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy REF B41.C35 1995
- Great Thinkers of the Western World REF B72.G74 1992
- Great Thinkers of the Eastern World REF B5005.G74 1995
- Oxford Companion to Philosophy REF B51.O94 1995
- "Thousands of sorted links to philosophy resources on the internet," including reference works, topics, journals, books, e-texts, organizations, and more.
How to Find Books
MilneCat (link on the Milne Library home page)
- Milne Library online catalog gives the location and availability of books, videos, compact discs, reserves, and other materials. It does NOT have information about individual journal articles.
- To view detailed information about an item, click on the number link on the left of the entry.
- Availability is shown by numbers to the right (e. g. 1/0). The first number is the number owned by the library; the last number is how many are checked out.
- Subjects are listed at the bottom of the detailed entry. These subjects will link to other materials on the same exact subject.
- The BASIC SEARCH allows you to search by fields such as (Words Anywhere, Words in Title, Words in Author, Subject begins with)
- "Words Anywhere" searches are useful if you do not know the precise subject, title or author. If you are unsure of the ending of a word or wish to search the stem of a word, use the wildcard symbol * .
- The ADVANCED SEARCH allows limiting by language, collection, document type, year.
Loeb Classical Library
Primary texts in classical philosophy. Specific texts can be located by using the Advanced Search feature in the Library Catalog. Enter the subject or author and “Loeb Classical Library” as the series.
Hartwick College (link on the Milne Library home page)
SUNY Oneonta students may borrow materials with a valid SUNY ID card.
Where to Find Journal Articles
ThThe databases below are all located on the right side of the Milne Library home page under "Annotated Database A-Z List". The journal "Environmental Ethics", located on the Periodicals floor in Milne Library, is an excellent source for articles.
Citations: How to Write a Bibliography. Covers both APA (American Psychological Association) and MLA (Modern Language Association) styles.
Microsoft Office Word 2007 has a tab for managing references including endnotes, footnotes, and bibliographic citations. Not all types of citation are included. As a non-thinking piece of software, it can make mistakes, so it is important to check for accuracy. Many databases such as EBSCO also provide citation generation.
Evaluating Web Sites
*Anyone* can publish on the Internet. Therefore, it is important to learn to evaluate any information found on the net.
Five points to consider in the evaluation of a web site:
1. AUTHORITY: Who is responsible for creating the page? Does the URL contain .edu (education), .gov (US government), .org (organization) .int (international organization)? Or does the URL contain .com (commercial) or .biz (business)? Is it a personal site (.name)? (Country codes also may be part of a URL. See Domain name registries around the world. It is possible to limit a search to a certain country by adding the country domain in Google: Advanced Search.)
2. CURRENCY: Is there a date indicating when the page was created or updated? Is the information up to date? Are the links current and functional?
3. COVERAGE: What is the purpose of the site? Does it address your research topic? Is it detailed or broad? What kind of information is it providing: historical? background? statistical? factual? conceptual? a study?
4. OBJECTIVITY: Is the site expressing a slanted point of view or trying to sway your opinion?
5. ACCURACY: Can you verify that the information is correct? Are the facts consistent within the page? Do they match up with what you found in print sources? Are sources for the information cited?
When you use information from a book, article, or web site, don't forget to cite it in proper fashion! Remember to paraphrase and use your own language. For further tips see:
Turnitin.comis often used at the College at Oneonta to detect plagiarism.