Philosophy 1030: Ethics
Pick a suitable topic. This would be some moral issue around which there is some “controversy.” “Controversy” here means that there are some questions concerning the issue about which reasonable people can disagree, i.e., there are relatively good arguments on both sides. This should be similar to the debate issues.
You must formulate a thesis, i.e., take a stance on the particular moral question. This will be the position for which your paper will argue. Your stance can be nuanced, but you still need to state it clearly and precisely. Your thesis should also be “controversial” in the above sense. There should be good arguments on both sides. Another way of looking at this is that your thesis should neither be too easy to prove (“slavery is bad”) nor too hard to prove (“adulterers should be stoned to death”). This should be similar to the debate resolutions.
You should set the stage, i.e., say what moral issue you will be discussing and perhaps its importance (i.e., tell the reader why he or she should be interested in continuing reading), state your thesis clearly and precisely. And perhaps say a bit about how you will be arguing for your thesis. Actual argumentation, however, should be reserved for the main body of the paper. This should be like opening remarks in the debates
Main body of paper
You should give a sustained, logically sound ethical argument—supported by empirical evidence, where appropriate—for your thesis. Everything you say should advance your argument in some way. In other words, anything that does not advance your argument—however interesting or brilliant it might be on its own—is irrelevant and worthless. This part of the paper should contain something like “rebuttal,” that is, you should consider objections to your argument and/or arguments against your thesis and reply to them. This will greatly strengthen your own argument. Your main argument should be as detailed and thorough in its discussion and argumentation as possible, given the length allotted. This should be like the main argument and rebuttal part of the debates.
Its ideas and arguments should also be organized in a logical manner. Outlining is the best way to achieve this.
Summarize or encapsulate your argument.
In addition to using primary texts, you must use at least two secondary sources. Secondary sources are sources other than the primary texts of major philosophers or other texts assigned for this course (e.g. Rachels). They can be of two types:
1) providing empirical evidence (medical effects of marijuana on nausea, number of people on death row who have been released, countries that have life in prison without parole for minors, etc.);
2) helping provide moral and/or logical arguments.
For the former it is OK to paraphrase and/or state the information and then cite the source.
For the latter is much better to use actual quotations, set off by quotation marks, and then comment on the quotations: “and X is correct because of the following considerations” or “but X is wrong for the following reasons.” Key here is that you can use secondary sources to help you make your argument, but you must, in the end, make your own argument. This is a college-level essay, not a “report.”
You must cite the relevant information—author, title, page number, publisher, date and place published—for any idea or expressions of ideas that you get from secondary sources. This applies both to actual quotations and to paraphrases (stating in your own words what someone else said). The particular style (MLA, APA, etc.) you use to accomplish this is not important as long as you are consistent and the relevant information is given.
The above does not apply to empirical data or philosophical statements that a well-informed, well-educated person would be expected to know: there are roughly 7 billion people in the world; Kant said that consequences don’t matter for morality; Mill thinks one should maximize happiness. More specific claims about empirical data or a particular philosopher’s stance do have to be cited.
You must be the genuine author of any sentences, phrase, paragraphs that are not within quotation marks, i.e., they must have been formulated by your brain. Anything else is plagiarism. Intentional plagiarism will result, at minimum, in an F for the paper.
Length: 5-7 pages, double-spaced, 12pt font, normal margins
Due Date: Day of the Final Exam