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Nietzsche offers a critical work on ethics in The Genealogy of Morals. As a philologist, or someone who studies the origins of words and concepts, Nietzsche investigates the genesis of our notions “good” and “bad” and how these notions have transformed over time. Curiously, Nietzsche concludes, “How much blood and horror are behind all ‘good’ things?”NO PLAGIARISM (Professor will run paper will be run through plagiarism tool*)FOLLOW OUTLINEOUTLINES FOR DEVELOPING A PHILOSOPHY TERM PAPERFROM YOUR SYLLABUS:Essay (33%)You are required to write a philosophical essay of 4-5 pages, doublespaced. Your essay may cover or extend any topic or reading in ourcourse. The following criteria will be used to evaluate your essay:1. Does the paper present a focused topic—one narrow enoughto consider the central question or theme slowly and with care?2. How carefully and rigorously does the student read the textsthey’ve chosen for consideration?3. Does the paper exemplify the qualities of reflection, rigor,organization, readable prose, and creativity?4. Does the paper cite at least one outside source (other thanwhat we have read in class) that has strong intellectual merit?WHAT IS A PHILOSOPHICAL ESSAY?Your final paper is meant to be a reflection on our interesting work together thissemester. There are no strict rules for writing an essay in Philosophy, but someof the best rules of thumb are the criteria listed above and below. Please use thisoutline as your guide.A philosophical essay is foremost a response to a primary text or work ofphilosophy. Great philosophical texts are to Philosophy like elements are toChemistry or numbers are to Mathematics. The first indicator of a goodphilosophical paper is often that it is in a serious, sustained conversation with agreat text.In any case, your topic will need to be: (1) textual, or carefully based on thereadings in our course and/or outside readings related to philosophy and to yourtopic; (2) rigorous; and (3) limited, so that the focus or scope of the topic is nottoo broad and can be treated with care and rigor.2POSSIBLE PAPER TOPICS(1) Textual InterpretationClosely consider a passage or text that we have read in this course and offer ascholarly interpretation of it.(2) Write on a Question or IdeaInterrogate a philosophical theme or idea that you find fascinating and worthy ofreflection. Be sure to link this question or idea to passages in great philosophicaltexts.(3) Write on a PhilosopherWrite about any one of the philosophers that we have read in this course, or writeabout the major themes or philosophical motifs posed by a specific thinker. Onceagain, be sure to link these ideas to passages in one or more of the philosopher’stexts.(4) The Relevance of PhilosophyWrite about the relevance or importance of a philosophical text for a specificsocial, historical, or political issue (i.e. How has Beauvoir’s Second Sex shapedcontemporary feminism?)(5) A Critique of a TextIf you choose to focus on a critique of a text, it is helpful first to say yes to thework at least three times! In other words, don’t give a hasty, simple critique oftheir work. Find the reason why these authors are eternal; only then can youbegin to engage in an honest, critical dialogue with them.CHOOSING INSPIRING TEXTSYou should note two things about writing an essay in the humanities. First, wetend to place much greater emphasis on reading and interpreting primary texts(i.e. Plato’s Republic) than on reading and interpreting a secondary source (i.e.How to Read Plato’s Republic).3Second, if you choose to use secondary sources, no online sources other thanpeer-reviewed academic articles should be cited unless otherwise noted orapproved in advance. At the beginning of your research, it may be helpful to usethe Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy ( or the StanfordEncyclopedia of Philosophy ( for a basic overview orsummary of a book or topic. These sites have peer-reviewed, introductory, andaccessible essays on many philosophical topics. Notice that these articles alsohave extensive bibliographies at the bottom of the page for further independentresearch.In addition to these peer-reviewed websites and primary texts, it cansometimes be helpful to use an online database for scholarly articles. Themost commonly used library database for philosophical journal articles isJSTOR (Full Text). This database offers more specialized or focuseddiscussion on specific philosophical texts. It can also be help if you findyourself worried about how to write a philosophy essay in general. Youcan read many examples here of good philosophy essays that will giveyou a template for how to write your own essay.Always remember: It is best to stick to primary texts or “great books” as yourreferences. Read your primary texts the most carefully and thoughtfully and citethem.Finally, remember that any ideas or quotations taken from sources beyondyourself must be cited with a footnote and included in your bibliography.Failure to cite references is a form of plagiarism and must be reported tothe Academic Judiciary Committee (see required “Academic Integrity”statement).Engaging and reflecting upon philosophical texts that have proven the test oftime, articles that have been peer-reviewed by academics, occasional newspaperarticles from so-called papers of record (Washington Post, New York Times), orcherished works from other areas of humanities such as the arts (film, music,visual art, literature, etc.), is a way of having a more thoughtful, more interesting,and more thorough discussion. It democratizes the process since many of ushave access to these works. It avoids abstract philosophical or moral claims. Andit moves us away from personal opinions like “I feel” or “I believe” to things thatare regarded excellent both publicly and through the test of time. Such works arenot merely to be regarded as ultimate authorities, of course, but they are helpful,often inspiring or even arresting bases for intelligent public discourse.4THINGS YOU WANT TO AVOID IN YOUR WRITING (IN GENERAL)• Avoid empty, generic and generalizing introductory statements andconclusions.• Avoid dictionary definitions. Philosophy is more nuanced and less certainabout the definition of something. In many situations in Plato, for instance,we have seen that an attempt to define something like justice or virtueproduces several competing definitions rather than one firm or fixed one.Dictionaries are never authoritative because they lead us to the sameproblem of many, competing definitions. However, if you are interested indoing philosophical or etymological work on a specific term, we can worktogether using the Oxford English Dictionary (our most philological Englishdictionary) or various lexicons in other languages.• Avoid personal language like “I feel” or “I believe.” Our “beliefs” are simplythings that were often given to us by someone else for a specific purpose.We too often falsely think that they are unique to us or our own. Turn yourquestion toward what something is or the subject under discussion ratherthan toward false individualism and deceptive egoism.• Avoid writing a biography or history paper. A philosophy paper is not areport about the life or biography of a philosopher. Some biographical andhistorical details may be significant, but try to focus your attention on thephilosopher’s text(s) or philosophy.• Avoid absolute certainty. Ask questions instead of repeating dogma. Agood philosophical essay rarely begins or concludes with absolutecertainty. Try beginning with uncertainty rather than false presumptions orgeneralizing statements. Remember that philosophy is a method ofquestioning and opening ourselves up to questions, not a method ofconcluding and resolving and binding down (i.e. religion, law, etc.).FINAL NOTEThese are simply suggestions. The main goal now is for each of you to slowdown, reflect, limit your focus, and write about what you find most compelling,pressing, or interesting among the work we’ve read and discussed. This “slowingdown” or “pause” is especially key to philosophical writing. Thinking, asDescartes might have said, is what takes place while reflecting alone andmeditating in silence, or taking a walk in nature. Others think that philosophytakes place in dialogue or serious conversation with another person about themeaning of life.5Philosophical writing itself can also help us think. It moves us not from point A topoint B like in a scientific article or a how-to manual, but rather in a circular ordownward path where your question will likely not lead to a simple answer butrather only to more questions. You’ll get easily overwhelmed, misguided, or evenmake a false choice if you try to do too much. It bears repeating: Don’t take ontoo much.The important thing is to write about something interesting, even urgent, eitherfor you or for us as a society, perhaps something that’s come up over the courseof the semester. Anything that relates to the class is very welcome, as long as it’slimited enough (not too broad) to be rigorous, and is textual (is in serious dialogwith one or more of the texts we have read).Right now the task is to reflect, perhaps look over your notes, listen to a movingpiece of music, or even read a (good) newspaper, and find a topic interesting toyou. I think it’s very important to first give you an open space to do that, lest webecome unreflective, rule-following cogs in the machine of the university.And finally, don’t stress out. Remember that this is not your thesis or major life’swork; this is a term paper meant to be an interesting and hopefully enjoyable wayto respond to the course. Take meaningful writing breaks, get plenty of rest,including short naps, and turn off your internet and your cell phone.

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