​Ethics paper

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Paper formatting/length guidelines: 4-6 pages in length (double spaced), 12 pt. font (e.g. Times New Roman), 1-inch margins.

Option 1: Research paper
Pick an applied ethical topic that was not covered in class (a list of examples below). You will explain what the issue is, the different positions that are defended with respect to the issue (e.g. for or against), and lastly, use four different normative ethical theories to explain why the relevant action(s) would be considered right or wrong. (Normative ethical theories: Egoism, Utilitarianism, Kantianism, Social Contract Theory, Virtue Ethics, Natural Law Theory, Divine Command Theory). What would a utilitarian say about the issue? A Kantian?

While introducing the issue, you might want to provide a brief history of the issue (1 or 2 paragraphs). You might also want to structure the paper so that the first 2 pages are introductory with the remaining pages dedicated to applying the ethical theories to the issue at hand. Feel free to separate sections with their own headings (e.g. Introduction, Conclusion, Utilitarianism, Kantianism, etc.).

Possible topics: Cloning, Stem cell research, Gay Marriage, Polygamous marriage, Pornography, Female Genital Mutilation, Doping in sports, Confederate statues, Columbus Day, Affirmative action, Contraception, Redistribution of wealth, Minimum wage, Right to health care, Hate speech, Parent licenses, Foreign aid, Sweatshops, Black Lives Matter, Wikileaks, Having Children, Syrian Refugees, Religion in schools.

Option 2: Argumentative essay

Pick an applied ethical topic that was not covered in class (see above). You develop and defend a specific thesis (for, against, mixed). For example, “Columbus Day should no longer be celebrated in the United States”, “Open borders is the only morally defensible immigration policy”, “The United States should not accept Syrian Refugees.” Etc.

You should look to spend a few pages introducing the issue and making your arguments. State the reasons you have for defending the thesis and if suitable, support your arguments with evidence. The remainder of the paper should discuss some objections to your position and how you would respond to such objections. The paper should end with a conclusion section.

Some advice on writing argumentative essays (especially philosophy papers):

Make sure the thesis is clearly stated in the first paragraph. You might even want the first sentence to be a statement of the thesis. For example, “In this paper, I will argue that Columbus Day should no longer be celebrated”. In the introductory paragraphs, you should briefly summarize some of the arguments you’ll develop later in the paper. To support your arguments, don’t just state your view “I think X is wrong”, but actually provide reasons for why you think this. You might offer a thought experiment (hypothetical scenario) to appeal to commonly shared moral intuitions and then argue that there are relevant similarities to the issue at hand. You should also consider objections to your position and explain why they don’t hold up.


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