Historical Review of the Problem. Ethics and Morality: Right and Wrong

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After a few, brief introductory remarks perhaps alluding to the difficulty of the problem or the length of time that thoughtful people have been considering it (maybe previewing the Historical Periods you’ll cover), you’ll want to delve back into time as far as you can in order to pick up the first references in history to your topic: in ancient times, these could as easily involve religion or literature as overtly philosophical writ-ings. (Even regarding a current, cutting-edge topic like Artificial Intelligence, you may be able to find references in the ancient religious or philosophical literature to artificially created beings invested with the power of thought–consider Greek mythology or stories in the Hebrew Bible; but you will definitely need to look into the ancient take on concepts like “consciousness,” “thought,” “mind,” and “life.” ) See what you can find, as far back in time as seems reasonable, given the problem or question you are investigating. You most probably will be able to find some philosophical beginnings in the writings of Plato and Aristotle, and frequently these will be very substantial, considering that these two philosophers laid the groundwork–set the agenda–for Western Philosophy in almost all of its aspects. From the Ancient Greeks, then, work your way up through Western history: from the time of the Roman Empire to the Medieval Period, the Renaissance and Early Modern Periods, the Modern Period, and up through the 20th and 21st Centuries. You will not find an equal amount of information for every time period, but your review must be continuous (no gaps!) and should cover the especially important contributions to your problem or question and, of course, the philosophers who made those contributions. Remember that your Historical Review is a summary of a rather long period of time–possibly 3,000 years!–so you will have to be quite selective regarding what to include and what to leave out (or simply mention in passing) and very concise in your explanations of everything that you do include. At the end of your review, you will write a transition to the next section (SA#3) of your Composite Research Paper, informing your readers that you intend to extract the major competing theories and arguments from your Historical Review so that you can consider them one at a time: this will be your Philosophical Analysis. It is important to remember that both the Historical Review and the Philosophical Analysis must be entirely objective and neutral in their presentations of philosophical views, theories, ideas, attitudes, and so on.

Here’s what is required: (1800 to 2,100 words?/approximately 6 to 7 pages, maybe more!)

1. Introduction: Write a few, brief introductory remarks (see above) about the difficulty of the

problem or question, the length of time thoughtful people have been considering it, or some other comments designed to prepare the reader for what is to follow: an Historical Review of the philosophical (or religious, etc.) literature concerning your philosophical problem. A good strategy: preview the names and approximate dates (span of years) of the Historical Periods.

2. Exposition: Begin at the beginning, as far back as you can find references to your topic. Work your way up through Western history (it may also include Middle Eastern cultures, since they have been very influential on Western philosophy), from Ancient Times (especially the Greek and Roman periods) up through the Medieval Period, the Renaissance and Early Modern Peri-ods, and the Modern Period, all the way up through the 20th and 21st Centuries to the present. Be selective and concise–remember that you are summarizing a vast period of time, and that you only have time and space for the most important contributions to your investigation. Refer to the six “Schools of Philosophical Thought” documents posted on Blackboard for assistance.

3. Transition: Inform your readers of your intentions for the next section of your Composite Re-search Paper (SA#3): that is, you intend to extract, or separate out, the most important theories and ideas concerning your topic in order to consider them one at a time, in isolation from their historical context. This will be your Philosophical Analysis, and that, in turn, will be the prelude to your Synthesis-Argument section (SA#4), in which you will evaluate and choose among the alternative theories, defending your own theory or position and concluding your investigation.

4. Documentation: Be sure to credit–with an in-text citation keyed to your Works Cited List–all source materials from which you have derived summaries, written paraphrases, and/or lifted quotations, and make sure you put those quotations between “quotation marks.” Use paraphrases (“translations” into your own words) of your sources (our texts, websites, reference works like encyclopedias and specialized dictionaries, etc.) as appropriate, and direct quota-tions when these will clarify and enliven your discussion. In-Text Citations: When page numbers are available, put the pages on which the originals can be found in parentheses—after the paraphrase or quotation, but before the period (36). Like that. For quotations, make sure the wording and punctuation are exactly like the original, try to make it read smoothly with your own introductory remarks (“According to Thompson,…”), and put the parentheses after the “closing quotation marks” (63). Like that. Indicate in your prose (in your own sentence) who is responsible for the original idea or words (Thompson, or Aristotle, or some other philosopher or writer, or an anonymous writer) and if it isn’t clear in your summary itself which book or other source is being cited, then put (Thompson 36) or (“Aristotle” Encyclopedia Britannica), like so. Works Cited list: At the end of your Historical Review, skip two lines, center “Works Cited” (without the quotation marks), and list under those words all of the books, websites, and other sources that you referenced (you should have several) in roughly the form I used in your sylla-bus (under “Required Texts”). Websites must have real titles–more than just a URL, as in the inadequate <weirdunidentifiable resource.com>. You may also add a Works Consulted list for those sources that you read or looked over but did not actually reference. If you’re feeling ambitious, you may consult the OWL website for accurate and professional citations. Other-wise, until we get into more detail later, this will do for your initial source documentation

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