PHIL 3120: American Philosophy

Dr. Robert Lane, University of West Georgia

Spring 2013

 

 

Term Paper Instructions

 

These instructions supplement the more general instructions found in my online document, "Writing a Philosophy Paper": http://www.westga.edu/~rlane/paperResources.html . I expect you to follow instructions in BOTH documents.

 

Before starting work on this project, read this document by James Pryor:  http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/guidelines/writing.html

 

Your term paper must be an argumentative essay about the philosophy of one or more of the figures covered in this class: Charles Peirce, William James, John Dewey, Hilary Putnam, and Richard Rorty.

 

The final version of your term paper is worth 30% of your total course grade.

 

 

Mandatory Term Paper Draft: due Tuesday April 2

 

Your draft must be turned in at the beginning of class on Tuesday April 2.

 

·         It must be a solid draft, something that you have already spent a good deal of time on.

·         It must contain an opening that explains to the reader what you’ll be doing; a solid, detailed, clearly structured body; and a conclusion that summarizes your results.

·         You should proofread it for grammatical mistakes and other technical problems, and include a bibliography, just as you would a final draft.

·         This draft must be at least 1,000 words.

 

I will not assign a grade to your draft. However, if it is clear that you have not much thought and effort into it, I will deduct 10% or more from the grade I assign to the final draft.

 

In response to your draft, I will give you written comments and suggestions as to how you can improve your paper. If the draft you turn in is of sufficient length (2,000 words minimum) and quality to qualify as an “A” paper as it stands, then I will accept it as the final draft.

 

Technical Requirements

·         Include a word-count at the beginning or end of your essay. Failure to include a word count may result in a reduction in the grade you receive for the final version of your term paper.

·         Include page numbers at the top or bottom of each page.

·         Your essay must be typed and double-spaced. This will give me plenty of room to write comments on your papers. No handwritten essays will be accepted.

·         Do not put your name anywhere on your essay. Rather, identify your paper with your student number (NOT your social security number). This will help me grade your papers anonymously.

·         You MUST include a bibliography, even if there is only a single source that you cite. See “Writing a Philosophy Paper” for details. Failure to include a bibliography may result in a reduction in grade you receive for the final version of your term paper.

 

 

Final Version of Term Paper (due Thursday April 18).

 

Your final paper must be turned in at the beginning of class on Thursday April 18.

 

Technical Requirements

·         Include a word-count at the beginning or end of your essay. Failure to include a word count will result in a reduction in your grade.

·         Include page numbers at the top or bottom of each page.

·         Your essay must be typed and double-spaced. This will give me plenty of room to write comments on your papers. No handwritten essays will be accepted.

·         Do not put your name anywhere on your essay. Rather, identify your paper with your student number (NOT your social security number). This will help me grade your papers anonymously.

·         Do not hand in your paper in a binder, folder, etc. Simply staple the pages together in the upper left corner.

·         You MUST include a bibliography, even if there is only a single source that you cite. See “Writing a Philosophy Paper” for details. Failure to include a bibliography will result in a reduction in your grade.

 

Printed copies of your papers must be turned in at the very beginning of class. No late papers will be accepted without penalty unless I have given you prior permission.

·         I will accept your paper at any time before the deadline (i.e., you do not have to wait until April 18 to turn it in).

·         If I receive your paper later than one hour after the beginning of class, you will lose one letter grade; if I receive it later than two hours after the beginning of class, you will lose two letter grades; if I receive it later than three hours after the beginning of class, you will lose three letter grades; I will not accept any papers later than four hours after the beginning of class on the due date.

·         I recommend that you have a copy of your paper printed out the evening before it is due. If you wait until that morning to print it out and you run into problems (lost disk, printer failure, etc.) which prevent you from turning your paper in at the beginning of class, you will be penalized.

 

Length: 2000 words minimum. DO NOT GO UNDER THE MINIMUM LENGTH OF 2000 words. If you do so, your grade will be significantly reduced. You may go over 2000 words, but remember that part of your grade will be based on conciseness, so in presenting your argument(s) you should be as concise as possible and avoid extraneous material.

 

 

A Reminder About Plagiarism

 

If you use another person's words or ideas without giving him or her credit, you have committed plagiarism and thereby violated the Honor Code of the University of West Georgia.

 

When you quote from someone else’s work, including from your textbook(s) or from my lecture notes, you must indicate that you are quoting, and you must cite the source, including the page number [this should be done in a footnote or an endnote]. Quoting without indicating that you are doing so constitutes presenting someone else’s words as your own. This is plagiarism.

 

When you use someone else’s ideas without indicating that those ideas are not your own, you have committed plagiarism. This is true, even if you are not quoting their exact words. If you employ someone else’s ideas in your paper, you must cite the source of those ideas [this should be done in a footnote or an endnote]. If you put their ideas into your own words but do not say that those ideas are someone else’s, you have committed plagiarism.

 

If you commit plagiarism in this class, you will receive an "F" for the entire course. You will also be reported the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs and recommended for disciplinary action, which may include expulsion from this institution.

 

 

Use of Class Lecture Notes

 

One of the most common errors in term papers for my courses is that students rely too heavily on my online lecture notes in writing their papers. One of the points of the paper is that you show me that you can read and critically respond to philosophical writing. You will do this only if your paper demonstrates that you are dealing with the source material about which you are writing. You will not do this if your paper explains my own lecture notes back to me. For this reason, I urge you not to refer to my lecture notes in writing your paper.

 

 

 

Suggested Topics

 

You may choose to write on a topic other than those listed below. However, if you choose to do so, you must discuss your topic with me and get my permission first. I encourage you to speak with me about your paper, in any case.

 

·         Critically evaluate Peirce’s attack on Cartesianism in “Some Consequences of Four Incapacities.”

 

·         Critically evaluate Peirce’s defense of the method of science and/or realism in “The Fixation of Belief.”

 

·         Critically evaluate Peirce’s use of the Pragmatic Maxim to explain the concepts of truth and reality in “How to Make Our Ideas Clear.”

 

·         Critically evaluate James’s Pragmatic Method, as explained in “What Pragmatism Means.”

 

·         Critically evaluate James’s pragmatic account of truth, as explained in “What Pragmatism Means” and “Pragmatism’s Conception of Truth.”

 

·         Critically evaluate Dewey’s criticism of the theory/practice dichotomy and its epistemological implications in “The Quest for Certainty.”

 

·         Critically evaluate the pragmatic account of truth that Dewey defends in “Truth and Consequences.”

 

·         Critically compare and contrast the respective versions of pragmatism put forward by two or three of the classical pragmatists (Peirce, James, and Dewey), using at a minimum the relevant texts that we read in class.

 

·         Critically evaluate Hilary Putnam’s attack on scientific realism in “Is There Still Anything to Say About Reality and Truth?”

 

·         Critically evaluate Hilary Putnam’s defense of internal realism and/or conceptual relativity in “Is There Still Anything to Say About Reality and Truth?” and Reason, Truth and History. (The latter is a book by Putnam published in 1981. The library owns a copy. If it is checked out, you may borrow my copy.)

 

·         Critically evaluate one or more of the three characterizations of pragmatism given by Rorty in “Pragmatism, Relativism and Irrationalism.”

 

·         Critically evaluate Rorty’s characterization of pragmatism as a form of “anti-authoritarianism” in “Pragmatism as Anti-Authoritarianism.”

 

·         Critically compare and contrast either Putnam or Rorty to any one of the three classical pragmatists (Peirce, James or Dewey), using at a minimum the relevant texts that we read in class.

 

In the topics listed above, “critically evaluate” means: make evaluative claims (“this theory is wrong”; “this account of meaning is good, but it is incomplete;”  “James’s argument is valid but relies on a false assumption”; “Dewey is wrong for the following reasons”; etc.) and support those claims with your own original thoughts.