Guidelines you have a free choice over your paper topic, provided that you observe the following:
1. The topic of your paper must be connected to the core issues we have studied in this course, i.e. the concept of soul/self, or personal identity, as well as to the readings we have done. That is, the focus of your paper may be historical, or it may be contemporary. You may choose to focus on a specific line of argument that has been touched in the readings and class discussions (e.g. for – or against – dualism). You may choose to explore one of the concepts we’ve encountered, and see how that could be applied in various problem cases. You may choose to write on one of the figures discussed in the text, and show that they have been unduly consigned to obscurity. You may want to investigate the underpinnings of some of the views we have encountered, or the consequences what follow from the view. You are free to approach the question from a philosophical perspective, or from the perspective of psychology, or art history, or any other relevant discipline. And so on.
2. Whichever topic you choose, keep in mind that you need to identify and state a thesis. With the thesis, you need to consider the arguments in favor of the thesis, as well as against (but more on this below). If you want feedback on your paper topic/thesis, there is a discussion forum you can use to sound off ideas.
If you wish to clear your topic with the instructor before you commence writing, you are invited (and, encouraged) to do so. (Note: I’d be more than happy to make suggestions for revisions and for possible sources at this stage of the project, instead of having to mark your paper down because you embarked on a project that didn’t fully satisfy the expectations.)
3. After you have chosen your topic, and selected your thesis, your goal is to argue for your thesis. We have seen how the issues are often nuanced, so due finesse is required in dealing with them. However, I would like you to avoid platitudinous conclusions of the form “Everyone makes good points on this issue…”. You should provide enough of a description of the issue that it can be understood by a reader who does not have extensive background knowledge in it (but you may assume that the reader is familiar with the assigned texts in this class). Also, try to keep your paper focused on the topic you choose, instead of covering a wide variety of (related) issues only at surface depth.
4. Anticipate (and refute) an objection (or two) to your position. In describing your opponent’s viewpoint, try to be as charitable as possible. That is to say, do not strawman the opposing views for an easy knock-down. Again, you need to incorporate the class readings with your objections – even if this requires you to extrapolate from the readings we have done. You should focus on just one (or two) objection(s) and cover it (them) thoroughly instead of throwing out every imaginable objection to your thesis.
Better yet, just focus on (what you take to be) the most compelling argument for your thesis, and then consider (what you take to be) the most pressing objections against it.
5. The use of Wikipedia as a source is not permitted!
This has less to do with the quality of Wikipedia entries (which is quite good overall), and more with the fact that Wikipedia is a tertiary source. Given that this is a 400-level course, you are expected to be able to use primary and secondary sources in your work, instead of relying on summaries made by others. However, it is acceptable to use Wikipedia as a starting point (follow the links to the primary/secondary materials).
6. As you are required to use material from the readings to support your arguments, make sure you cite all material that is not original to you. Failure to do so may be construed as plagiarism; the consequences from plagiarizing your paper minimally include a failing grade for the course.
7. The paper should be about 8-10 pages (approximately 2500-3000 words) in length. As for editorial conventions, please observe the following:
– Use a 12 point font, one inch margins, and double spaced text, except for long quotations (longer than three lines) which should be single-spaced and indented.
– You may freely choose which citation style to use, provided that you use it consistently.
– Please include a works cited page, again using the citation style of your choice. See the link to the Citation Guide.
– Use class txt books to support your argument
o Rise & Fall of Soul & Self: An Intellectual History of Personal Identity by Raymond Martin, John Barresi
o A Brief History of the Soul by Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro. plus any outside information you wish to provide.