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PHIL 440 - Civic Engagement: Philosophy Basics

This guide identifies library resources to support your research related to Philosophy 440 course work.

Philosophy for beginners

In general, there are two types of philosophy research.

  • Research about a specific philosopher -- What did this philosopher argue for (or against)?

Examples:  Socrates, Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger

  • Research about a philosophy topic -- who has written on this topic?  What do they argue for (or against)?

Examples:  phenomenology, metaphysics, ethics, free will,existentialism

Researching Specific Philosophers

Preliminaries

Find out when and where s/he lived, what s/he basic approach to philosophy is.

Sources:  Philosophical dictionaries, encyclopedias and companions

These sources can be found on the Quick Info tab of this guide.

Primary Sources

Find the relevant Primary Sources for a philosopher.

Important Primary Sources are generally listed in the encyclopedia and companion entries for that philosopher. 

Unless a 20th century philosopher, books are the best place to start. 

For 20th century philosophers, journal articles are usually the best place to start. 


Secondary Sources

Find relevant Secondary Sources for this philosopher.

Secondary Sources are generally commentaries or criticisms of a specific philosopher's published work.  Contemporary commentary and cricitism is found in journal articles, even if the philosopher wrote long before journals were conceived. 

Commentary and criticism before the 20th century was most often found in lectures and correspondence. Look lectures and correspondence published in books.

Researching Philosophy Topics

Preliminaries

Find out who is writing about the topic you are researching.

Sources:  Philosophical dictionaries, encyclopedias and companions

Primary Sources

Find the relevant Primary Sources for the topic.

Philosophers working in a topic area are generally listed in encyclopedia and companion entries for that topic.  These entries will also list the seminal works on the topic.  See the Quick Info tab for philosophy encyclopedia and companions.

Books are often the place to look for particular author's settled view about a specific topic.  Books may also bring together into one collection seminal articles written on a single topic.

Philosophers writing in the last century or so will probably first try out their ideas on a specific topic in a journal article or conference proceeding, and then move to a book once the ideas have been flushed out.


Secondary Sources

Find relevant Secondary Sources for this topic.

Secondary Sources are generally commentaries or criticisms of other philosophers' published work on a particular topic. 

Contemporary commentary and cricitism is found in journal articles, even if the philosopher written about lived long before journals were conceived. 

Commentary and criticism before the 20th century was most often found in lectures and correspondence and was often published in books.

Books on specific philosophical topics sometimes purposely include articles that respond to each other's arguments.These books can be quite helpful when researching a topic.

What does that term mean?

Need to find a definition of a philosophy term? 

Check out the philosophy dictionaries on the Quick Info page.


Getting help

Need help finding philosophy sources?

Contact the Philosophy Liaison, Kathleen McElhinney at kathleen.mcelhinney@usd.edu or 605-658-3370.

Need Help with Writing?

Contact the Writing Center.

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