Philosophy is a broad field, and even narrowing it down to a specific time period, for example 19th Century Philosophy, can leave open a wide range of possibilities for good research paper topics. Whether you’re in Philosophy 101, a course on history of philosophy or a more specific course, you can find ample opportunities to research 19th century philosophers and schools of thought like American pragmatism on Questia.
Here are some tips and tricks for how to research 19th Century Philosophy.
Limiting online resources
Plugging a topic like “19th Century Philosophy” into Google is going to give you far too many results to be useful, and a lot of those resources won’t have citations and bylines that back up the information they offer. One way to limit your initial Internet research is to limit your search, not just with keywords, but with commands that the search engines understand. If you want to make sure your resources are academic, rather than crowd-sourced, you can start by using the command “site:.edu” in the search bar. This means you’re only getting results that are published through a university website. For example, you might find Richmond, Indiana’s Earlham College legacy page, which hosts the course home page for Philosophy 44: Nineteenth Century Continental Philosophy, as developed by Peter Suber, taught in 1998-99.
Suber also offered a list of questions responding to late Enlightenment philosopher Kant’s work Critique of Pure Reason. In Suber’s view, a study of 19th Century Philosophy requires knowledge of Kant, because so many of the philosophers in the era were so heavily influenced by Kant’s writings. One way to approach your 19th Century Philosophy research paper topic is to choose one of the philosophers responding to Kant and the points that philosopher makes in direct opposition—or agreement—to Kant’s philosophies.
Peer reviewed sources
By using the .edu limit, you can also quickly find articles from the peer reviewed Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, particularly the category archives for “19th Century European” and “American Philsophy.” But one way to guarantee you are using peer reviewed sources when gathering your information is to go to Questia. Not only can you limit by searches such as “Philosophy, American 19th Century” or “Philosophy, Modern 19th Century,” but you can do broader searches and limit your results by clicking the “Peer reviewed periodical” filter in the left hand margin. Books listed in Questia include The Nineteenth Century edited by C. L. Ten, volume 7 in the Routledge History of Philosophy. This book features essays on philosophers including Nietzsche and J. S. Mill, but also covers the relationship between 19th century philosophers and schools of thought such as utilitarianism, positivism, American pragmatism and the philosophy of biology.
Questia also offers topic headers for schools of thought of 19th Century Philosophy, beginning with the lingering romantics and their transcendentalist heirs, and moving into the dialectical materialists, such as Karl Marx. You can also look at the Questia introductory essays for other schools to get you started on research paper topic ideas, such as:
- European utilitarianism
- Positivism, which denies the traditional philosophical school of metaphysics
- Darwinism, which, while a scientific theory, had a great impact on 19th Century philosophers
Starting a paper
Still struggling with how to start your paper for Philosophy 101? While you’re browsing Questia, try out one of the tutorials, such as the “9-step writing guide,” to help you get started. Get tips on how to find your topic, research and take notes, and develop your thesis, among other tasks. These tools can be handy whether you’re looking at how 19th Century Philosophy fits into the overarching history of philosophy or if you’ve narrowed down your subject to Marx’s response to Kant.
For more philosophy topics, visit Questia.
What topics in 19th Century Philosophy interest you? Tell us in the comments.