Policies

Comprehensive Examination Question (2016/17)

Of the philosophers you have studied at Sewanee, identify the one whose work you most admire, and critically discuss an aspect of this philosopher’s work which you take to best exemplify this figure’s distinctive and exemplary philosophical virtues.

Comprehensive exams will take place on Saturday, Jan. 21 from 10:00-2:00 in the MAC Classroom in DuPont Library (G-31).   

NOTE:

  1. Your discussion should be centered around on one figure and one philosophical issue (question, problem).  You should choose a figure who addresses an issue which is both (i) central to the history of philosophy, and (ii) important to you personally, in a manner which you take to be especially promising.  Note: you may not write on the same figure and issue which is central to your Senior Research Paper.
  2. It is imperative that you begin with a clear, substantive thesis statement which you defend throughout the course of your essay.
  3. In the course of this discussion, be sure to cover the following (citing key texts or passages wherever possible):
    1. the figure’s official position with regard to this issue (provide a detailed and nuanced account);
    2. the specific way in which this figure approaches this issue, and how this approach relates to the figure’s general approach towards matters of philosophical inquiry (note: we are asking for a detailed and nuanced account of the figure’s methodology);
    3. the most important reasons which this figure gives in support of this position;
    4. how this figure’s position and approach are both like and unlike those which are exemplified by other prominent figures in the history of philosophy, and why you take this figure’s position and approach to be superior; and
    5. a significant objection to this figure’s position, and how this figure might best respond to this objection.
  1. You will be allowed to bring two pages of computer-generated notes: a sentence outline and a list of primary source quotations with references. Each page is limited to 550 words.  You must submit these electronically to the Dept. Chair prior to the exam.


ASSESSMENT GOALS FOR THE MAJOR:

  • PRIMARY GOAL: Synthesis of central issues, figures and methods within the major.
  • SUBSIDIARY GOALS:
    • identifying, clarifying and interpreting key texts
    • offering relevant, substantive theses
    • presenting arguments for theses
    • entertaining compelling objections
    • replying to objections
    • demonstrating philosophical insight
    • clear writing and speaking


ADDENDUM: USING PRIMARY SOURCE TEXTS:

A good essay is one which identifies, clarifies and interprets key texts in the right sorts of ways.

Quotations should be:

  • Properly introduced: to be adequately prepared for a passage, the reader should be aware of the source of this passage (author and text);  
  • Adequately motivated: it should be clear, in advance, what is at stake here;   
  • Appropriately focused (they should not include extraneous concepts, questions, or points of contention);
  • Thoroughly explained in light of their immediate context and also in terms of the author's philosophical thinking (i.e., the author's philosophical commitments, goals, and methods).  This will generally require you to express--in your own words--what the author is conveying.  A passage should almost never be taken to speak for itself: reliance upon an uninterpreted passage is justified only when its meaning is more-or-less completely obvious, transparent and unambiguous; and
  • Carefully applied to your interpretive argument: your interpretation of this passage and its implications should be put to work in a clear and productive manner.

 

Senior Thesis Requirement

All majors will be required to submit a research paper during their final semester.  It is expected that this will be a subsequently revised version of a research paper which was originally submitted in an upper-level philosophy course (most likely, either figure’s course or one of your junior/senior seminar courses) which was completed prior to your final semester.  While it is also possible to write this paper in connection with a course of independent study, this course must be likewise be completed prior to your final semester. A complete and polished draft of this paper is due by noon on Friday, March 3,  and a final draft is due by noon on Monday, April 10. In both cases, please submit a hard copy and an electronic copy both to your primary reader and to the Department Chair.  

 All majors will be required to publicly present and defend their research papers at the end of their senior year.  You will receive a grade on your penultimate draft, on your final draft, and your public defense.  These grades will, in turn, constitute a significant portion of your comprehensive exam grade.   Here is the complete analysis for your comprehensive exam grade:

 

Written Comprehensive Exam: 25%

Penultimate Draft of Research paper: 10%

Final Draft of Research Paper: 50%

Oral Presentation and Defense: 15%

 

In connection with this requirement, note the following policies:

  1. To satisfy this requirement, an independent research paper must (i) be 15-25 pages long (double-spaced with 12-point font and 1-inch margins); (ii) begin with a substantive and controversial thesis which is advanced throughout the entire paper; (iii) demonstrate mastery of the relevant primary sources; (iv) demonstrate familiarity with the literature by incorporating  at  least five secondary sources; (v) include an interpretive component as well as a critical, evaluative component; and (vi) includes notes, references and a bibliography which conform to The Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.), available online through DuPont Library.
  2. Your research paper cannot be on the same figure and topic as your written comprehensive exam.
  3. To be a candidate for honors students must either (i) have at least an ‘A-’ average on courses taking in the Dept. prior to their final semester, or (ii) secure at least an ‘A-’ on the initial, timed portion of their comprehensive exam.
  4. A good essay is one which identifies, clarifies and interprets key texts in the right sorts of ways.  Quotations should be:
  • Properly introduced: to be adequately prepared for a passage, the reader should be aware of the source of this passage (author and text);  
  • Adequately motivated: it should be clear, in advance, what is at stake here;   
  • Appropriately focused (they should not include extraneous concepts, questions, or points of contention);
  • Thoroughly explained in light of their immediate context and also in terms of the author's philosophical thinking (i.e., the author's philosophical commitments, goals, and methods).  This will generally require you to express--in your own words--what the author is conveying.  A passage should almost never be taken to speak for itself: reliance upon an uninterpreted passage is justified only when its meaning is more-or-less completely obvious, transparent and unambiguous; and
  • Carefully applied to your interpretive argument: your interpretation of this passage and its implications should be put to work in a clear and productive manner.