Writing and defending a senior philosophical thesis is the culminating experience for UMM philosophy majors. In this course, majors develop a piece of their philosophical writing, creating multiple drafts in response to comments from a variety of philosophical viewpoints, and orally defend their thesis.
As one of the purposes of the defense is to allow students the opportunity to revise and refine a piece of writing more than is normally possible with a paper written at the end of a semester for a seminar, the senior thesis should not be a paper that a student creates ex nihilo his or her final semester. Instead, the student should use as the basis for her thesis either (1) a paper written for a previous philosophy class, or (2) a paper that the student researched and developed independently, but has already substantially completed prior to starting the senior defense. Using a previous seminar paper as the basis for one's senior thesis is not supposed to preclude the student significantly modifying the conclusion or argument of that paper or from developing the paper in new directions. In fact, such modification and expansion is not only permitted, but is encouraged.
In order for the thesis to serve its purpose and be a profitable experience for the student, multiple drafts of the thesis have to be circulated in a timely fashion. We have developed the following requirements for successfully completing the defense.
Official Timeline for Senior Defense:
*February 23 (6-8 PM, Imholte 217): Public Powerpoint Presentations of Senior Thesis Projects. Since we're interested in your getting lots of feedback, and also think it's beneficial for the sake of our intellectual community if your research projects were known to each other, we request that you stay for all presentations if at all possible.
By end of the 2nd week of classes:
*Meet with your adviser (who must be a faculty member of the Philosophy Discipline).
*Review defense procedure (outlined in this document).
*Give adviser copy of the paper you'll be using as the basis of your senior defense. Discuss with adviser ways in which you'd like to modify and/or extend this paper for your senior thesis.
*Make sure that you are enrolled for a grade, rather than pass/fail.
By end of the 3rd week:
*Meet with adviser, who will have read over your paper, and discuss what ways you'll be revising the paper. (Sometimes this can be accomplished during the first meeting, if the adviser is already familiar with the paper).
*Decide who your "outside" committee member will be (this must be a faculty member in a discipline other than philosophy).
By end of 5th week:
*Give your adviser the first draft of your thesis. If you do not give your adviser a draft of your thesis by this time, you will not be able to complete the defense.
By end of 6th week:
*Meet with adviser to discuss the first draft and any changes that should be made before circulating it to the committee.
By end of 8th week:
*Have a second draft of your thesis ready, and circulate it to all of your committee members. If you do not give your adviser a draft of your thesis by this time, you will not be able to complete the defense.
By end of 12th week:
*Give advisor your penultimate draft of thesis, and meet with any committee members who request to discuss it. Note that any committee member, at his or her discretion, may ask to see a penultimate draft of the thesis, to make sure that your revisions have adequately addressed his or her concerns, before you circulate the final draft.
By end of 13th week:
*Circulate final draft of thesis and schedule defense.
By end of 15th week:
Note that the dates above are deadlines; if you want to circulate drafts of your thesis earlier than these deadlines, or circulate more drafts than mentioned above, you are very welcome to do so. The structure above is supposed to represent the minimum number of drafts, done at the latest permissible time.
On-line examples of recent senior theses:
"Lewis’ Preemptive Causation and Kim’s Theory of Particular Events", Joe Gold, Spring 2008
"Not Absurd Enough", Patrick Boyle, Spring 2007
"Could a machine ever understand?", Wayne Manselle, Spring 2005
"A Defense of Physicalism", Jessica Engelking, Fall 2004
"If Counterfactuals were Assessable, then a Method for Assessment would Exist", Cassandra Maki, Fall 2004
"Vegetarianism is Obligatory", Jesse Gurr, Spring 2004
"Alternate Possibilities in Libertarian Free Will", Nat Sayles, Spring 2004
"Pragmatic and Conceptual Concerns Regarding Proportional Punishment", Allison Friedly, Spring 2004