group photo from Thesis Defense
Group Photo from William’s Thesis Defense

One of the most rewarding experiences I had during my time as a philosophy major at the University of Southern Maine was completing a thesis paper and defense. The senior thesis is an independent research project available to philosophy majors at USM who wish to investigate an area or figure of philosophy in depth and formulate a position which they will defend through argument both on paper and before the philosophy faculty. I chose to pursue this project as a way to dig deeper into a philosopher who had always interested me, and to practice constructing a rhetorical argument on a greater scale than I had done previously. Students who elect to complete a thesis paper have the opportunity to work one-on-one with an advising member of the philosophy faculty who guides them through the process of formulating a thesis, presenting the thesis through sound argument and defending their position by anticipating potential objections. I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with Professor Robert Louden on my project. His career has been one characterized by unique and compelling argumentation on the philosopher Immanuel Kant, and his mentorship was invaluable. My paper, titled “Between Reason and the Heart,” focused on the early theological essays of G. W. F. Hegel and their uniqueness from his more mature and well-known works such as The Philosophy of Right and The Science of Logic. I was specifically interested in the emphasis Hegel places on the role of human emotion in religion as well as determining and fostering moral conduct in society through love as opposed to coercion.

Though an independent research project such as this suggests the student is meant to produce something exclusively their own, my experience with writing a thesis was just the opposite. My paper is grounded in the perspectives of the outstanding faculty of USM’s philosophy department and stands as a final culmination of the concepts and ideas aggregated from all my courses. From my first course at USM on existentialist philosophy taught by Professor Julien Murphy, to my final senior seminar on identity taught by Professor Jason Read, my time as a philosophy major has been a rigorous and rewarding survey of the ancient and contemporary discourses in the field of philosophy. My thesis paper is also built on the many enriching conversations and debates between classmates which in many instances shifted my entire approach to certain ways of thinking. This, I believe, is the greatest gift given to me by the philosophy department at USM: providing me the opportunity to put my deepest and most fundamental beliefs to the test of argumentation and to emerge with a clearer understanding of myself and the world around me.