Question regarding the philosophical ethics

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Reference no: EM131052950

Philosophical Ethics

Paper and Presentation


So that you may demonstrate what you have learned during the semester, all of you will be required to write a short paper on a moral issue relevant to your life. In addition, some of you will also make a presentation. The topic of discussion is open to you, and generally very broad latitude is given to the students. However, your topic must be approved by the professor before you present and the method of analysis must follow one of the three prescribed formats discussed below. Failure to have your topic approved or to follow one of the three formats may result in a lower grade, up to and including an "F" for your presentation grade.

For those who will present, your grade will have an oral and written component. The oral component is graded primarily on how clearly and intelligently you analyze your moral issue in front of your peers. The written component consists in a 3-4 page paper in one of the three prescribed formats plus hardcopies of any other presentation materials (if possible). Note: Both your oral presentation (if applicable) and your written paper must be original work; you may not simply copy your written portion from another source and present it in "your own unique style". If either the oral or written component consists entirely or largely of words or ideas from an attributed source, you will receive an "F" for your entire participation grade. If you fail to attribute a source, you are guilty of plagiarism and the penalty indicated in the Plagiarism section of this syllabus will be vigorously applied. Write and present your own ideas.

Ground Rules

1. You must respect yourself and others. Your grade will be adversely affected by a lack of respect. Respect for others is characterized by civil listening and discourse. Respect for yourself is characterized by choosing a reasonably serious topic and giving it the care and attention that any serious thing merits.

2. Whatever method of analysis you choose, you must engage the question intellectually. Discuss the reasons for holding or rejecting a particular position; if feelings are relevant to a particular issue, then also discuss the reasons why the feelings are relevant, and in what context.

3. Put your topic in the form of a question which anticipates a "yes" or "no" answer. N.B. You may qualify your "yes" or "no" with any number of conditions. For example, you may say something like: "So, the utilitarian would say ‘yes it is moral to plagiarize your term paper, provided your scholarship is at risk'." Or: "I would say that, yes, it is moral for student athletes to take steroids, provided there is good evidence that the other guys are doing it, too." Ethical inquiries are about a choice for action, and actions are something you either do or not do. Hence, your discussion should terminate in a clear statement of action.

4. Choose a topic with moral and not merely practical implications. "Do condoms reduce the occurrence of STDs?" is not a moral topic: "Can schools distribute condoms to students without parental consent?" is or can be a moral topic.

Choosing a topic

Choose any topic that is of interest and importance to you. Some broad areas which have provided fruitful discussions in the past have included:

  • Stem cell research ("Is stem cell research justified, even if it involves taking human life")
  • Abortion ("Is abortion ever moral" "Is it ever permissible to legally restrict access to an abortion")
  • Just war ("Can a preemptive war be a just war")
  • Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide ("May we kill the elderly and infirm" "May we assisted with a suicide" "Is ‘allowing to die' the same as ‘assisting in suicide'" "Is suicide ever moral")
  • Marriage and Family ("Whether ‘May-December' marriages are ever moral; "Is same-sex marriage moral")
  • Teen/Minor issues ("Is teen breast augmentation moral" [actual topic] "Should condoms be distributed in high schools")
  • Sex ("Is pornography moral" "Is premarital sex moral" "Is bestiality moral" "Is adultery ever moral")
  • Public Policy ("Is free speech a right" "Is all speech protected as free speech")
  • Religion ("Is it moral for the State to restrict religious freedom; e.g., prevent Muslim women from wearing head scarves or ban Christians from wearing crosses?" "Can religious mandates [e.g., the prohibition against eating pork] be imposed on nonbelievers?" "Should all religions be treated equally" "Is toleration morally good")
  • Inter-cultural ("Is it ever moral to restrict cultural practices, e.g., debt slavery")

The above are samples only; you may select any topic of your choice. NOTE: You will find it easier to select a topic and to write
about if you being thinking about your topic right away.

NOTE: There is the possibility that time constraints will prevent completing all presentations in class. If this occurs, students who do not present will be given the option of either presenting outside of class or of being graded on the written portion only. 

No penalty will be assessed if this occurs.


Your paper must be 3-4 pages in length when printed in Times New Roman 12 point type, double-spaced, with one-inch margins on all sides. Your paper must conform to one of the three following formats:

The Quaestio Format:

1. State your moral issue in a "yes/no" format.

2. Raise three (3) objections to the position you will argue for. For example, if you believe it is moral to plagiarize your presentation, then raise the three best objections you can think of against your position.

3. Present the argument for your position following the guidelines outlined in the Ground Rules section, above.

4. Directly reply to the three objections you initially raised.

The Survey Format:

1. State your moral issue in a "yes/no" format.

2. Survey four (4) opinions on the question. These may be historical, contemporary or popular opinions, or you may develop your own original opinion. "Survey" means to fairly present, in your own words, an opinion on how to answer the question.

3. Following each opinion, discuss the consequences (good or bad) associated with that position. The objective here is to make clear how this opinion may affect other decisions not discussed when the opinion is consistently applied. For example, if one argues that it is moral to euthanize the terminally ill because society's resources can be better used by someone who can contribute more to society, then would it not also be true that anyone can be euthanized, provided someone else would make better use of those same resources?

The Free-form Format

1. State your moral issue in a "yes/no" format.

2. Develop a sustained 3-4 page argument pro or con. NOTE: Though this format is tempting to many, it is harder than it looks. Be careful!

Reference no: EM131052950

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