Final Composition

Your final project will culminate with a high quality research project in which you defend an original thesis on a topic of your choice.
This paper:

should be an in-depth investigation and analysis of a particular problem in the field of philosophy
should make frequent use of the principles that were developed in the course, and
should engage directly with some particular argument that you found in the class materials or in your research.
While your research may uncover various relevant and important empirical facts, this is primarily a normative, argumentative essay, in which you defend some position in philosophy. If you're not clear on the distinction between a normative and empirical claims, please use the discussion board to ask your questions.

Your final project should be structured roughly as described below.


A description of the topic you are investigating and an explanation of the philosophical and moral problems that are generated from the topic.

A clear and concise thesis statement, of the form “I will argue that xxx because yyy"


Describe the philosophical issue you intend to solve. In your description, go beyond the obvious, and try to embed your description in the larger philosophical literature.

Give a charitable (fair-minded) reconstruction of the argument that you will be criticizing. In a short essay like this, it is best to confine your analysis to a small argument, from within the larger problem. In such a short essay, it would be difficult, for example, to adequately defend the thesis, “I shall argue that functionalism is true.” Instead, focus on some smaller thesis such as, “I shall argue that Dennett's defense of functionalism is incomplete.” In a case like this, the charitable reconstruction would be of Dennett's argument for functionalism.

Introduce any empirical evidence that you've collected, and explain why it is relevant to your topic and how it helps to support your thesis.

Evaluate the argument you will be opposing in terms of the logic and principled support that the author is able to give to it. First, an argumentative essay is much easier to structure if you have some specific argument you can discuss critically. Second, since this is an argumentative essay, this evaluation is the most important part of the essay, will constitute your principal objection, and will be the place that you can introduce your own position and contribution to the debate. Take some time to develop it carefully.

A brief answer to your evaluation/objection, on behalf of the original author (since he/she is not here to answer for him/herself), or on behalf of defenders of that position.


Provide a brief restatement of your initial thesis statement.

Determine exactly what your argument allows you to claim. Don't claim too much (e.g., In conclusion, I've shown that the mind is identical with the body…), but be sure to locate exactly what your arguments have committed you to. But don't underestimate your conclusion, either.

Offer suggestions regarding what other investigations might be useful to continue the conversation particularly if there is empirical research that may be conducted. For example, if you are arguing that artificial intelligence is conceptually possible, you might suggest research projects to determine how scientists or philosophers may proceed, mention research that is currently underway, etc.


Your paper should be 1500 to 2500 words (usually 4-7 pages) in length and should cover the directives already given.
You should follow accepted research approaches and citation format (APA or MLA).
Your paper should be well developed and convey your understanding of the readings and concepts.
Your paper should be organized, coherent, and unified.
Your paper should be free of spelling and grammatical errors.
Use an even mix of hardcopy and online sources because there is a definite qualitative difference between the two types.
Be sure to document all contentions and “facts” mentioned in an academically acceptable manner. (See writing resources below)
Encyclopedias—especially Wikipedia—and dictionaries are unacceptable sources.

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