Topic: Write a paper defending your view on one of the topics we have investigated or will investigate in the final part of the course. It is essential to structure your paper in the way outlined below. This is NOT a research paper—no outside sources are to be used (without my permission). Some possible topics:
• Defend Act Utilitarianism against an important objection.
• Attack Act Utilitarianism: raise an objection to Act Utilitarianism, and defend the objection against a possible reply.
• Defend Rule Utilitarianism against an important objection.
• Attack Rule Utilitarianism: raise an objection to Rule Utilitarianism, and defend the objection against a possible reply.
• Defend Kantian Deontology against an important objection.
• Attack Kantian Deontology: raise an objection to Kantian deontology, and defend the objection against a possible reply.
• Defend Aristotelian Virtue Ethics against an important objection.
• Attack Aristotelian Virtue Ethics: raise an objection to Virtue Ethics, and defend the objection against a possible reply.
• Defend Aquinas’s Natural Law Theory against an important objection.
• Attack Aquinas’s Natural Law Theory: raise an objection to Natural Law Theory, and defend the objection against a
In writing this essay, please make sure to include the following sections (not paragraphs):
(1) Introduction: State your thesis and lay out the plan of the paper. Say what your thesis is [e.g., that Act Utilitarianism is true], and what argument you will give in defense of that thesis [e.g., that the most powerful objection to AU fails). (30- 150 words)
(3) The Objection: Clearly present and explain what you take to be the most powerful objection to your position. This argument must be taken from one of our readings. You should explain it in your own words, using your own examples,
etc. (100-500 words)
(4) Your Response: Clearly present and explain what you take to be the best response to the objection you presented in (3).
This may or may not be something found in the readings, but if it is, you should explain it in your own words, using your
own examples, etc. (100-500 words)
(5) A Reply to Your Response: Clearly present and explain what you think is the best reply to the response you proposed
in (4). This may or may not be from our readings, but if it is, you should explain it in your own words, using your own
examples, etc. (100-500 words)
(6) The Last Word: Clearly present and explain your final response to the objection you’ve presented in (5). This should be
completely original (no secondary sources!), although I’m happy to talk over ideas with you. Your paper must contain at
least one original argument, response, objection, etc. (100-400 words)
(7) Wrapping Up/Conclusion: Discuss any remaining issues or potential problems that you have not yet addressed. In
particular, if there are any outstanding objections to anything you have said, you should take note of them here. You don’t need to reply to them (although of course you may)—it is fine to simply note that they exist but are too complicated for you to address in a paper of this size. This section doubles as a conclusion. (100-400 words)
Length: The minimum word length for this paper is 1000 words, and the maximum is 2500. These will not be strictly enforced, but they will be leniently enforced. 1,500-2,000 words is great.
Format: Please double-space and use a standard 12pt. font with 1-inch margins.
Sections 1 & 7: 5%
Section 2: 20% (accuracy and clarity in presentation; validity of argument) Section 3: 15% (accuracy and clarity in presentation; validity of argument). Section 4: 20% (quality of response and clarity in presentation).
Section 5: 10% (quality of response and clarity in presentation).
Section 6: 10% (quality of response and clarity in presentation). Originality: 10%
Composition: 10% (grammar, quality of writing, etc.)
Note: If you submit a draft to be by April 23rd, I’ll take a look at it and give you some comments. After that, I’m happy to discuss drafts with you in person, but not over email.1 I encourage you to take me up on this offer.
What follows should give you a basic picture of (the flavor of) what I’m looking for. (This paper isn’t about ethics, but the structure is the same.) The different sections in the outline correspond to sections, not paragraphs. And the sentence fragments I’ve included are just to give you a sense of the right style of writing. I highly recommend looking at the paper writing advice I’ve distributed as well.
Act Utilitarianism and Killing the Innocent
Introduction My aim in this paper is to argue that the “killing the innocent” objection shows that Act Utilitarianism is false. I will defend this objection against the reply that Act Utilitarianism never, or rarely, actually tells us to kill the innocent. In Section 2, I will explain the “killing the innocent” objection. In Section 3, I will present and explain the reply that says that Act Utilitarianism never or rarely tells us to kill the innocent. In Section 4, I will argue that this reply is a failure. In Section 5, I will present an important objection to what I’ve said in Section 4. In Section 6 I will give a response to that objection, and in Section 7 I will say where I think the debate stands after all is said and done.
The Main Thesis: Act Utilitarianism is a hedonistic form of act consequentialism. As such, it holds that an action is right if and only if it brings about the greatest balance of pleasure over pain for everyone affected. (Mill, Utilitarianism, p.5) One problem for this view is that sometimes killing the innocent is the act that will bring about the greatest balance of pleasure over pain for everyone affected. Consider a doctor who could save five of her patients by…But killing the innocent patient in this case is clearly wrong, hence…
The Problem: The above argument presupposes that the fact that Act Utilitarianism could, in theory, tell us to kill the innocent is a major problem. But many Utilitarians argue that their view would only very rarely tell us to kill the innocent. For example, they argue that in the case discussed in §2, the doctor should not harvest the organs of the innocent man. Their argument can be presented as follows:
1) Act Utilitarianism says that the doctor should harvest the innocent man’s organs only if that will produce the greatest balance of pleasure over pain for everyone in the long run.
2) Doctors harvesting the organs of their innocent patients will not produce the greatest balance of pleasure over pain the long run, since…
My Solution There are a variety of ways one might try to respond to this argument. What I will try to show in this section is that premise 2 of the Utilitarian’s argument is false, or at least doubtful. This is because…
An Objection Of course, a Utilitarian might reply by saying that… My Response I do not think that this response is convincing, since…
Wrapping Up Of course, there are other objections that might be made to the argument I’ve given in this paper. Perhaps the most important is that… The basic response to this would go as follows…
In conclusion, I’ve argued that Act Utilitarianism is false, since… The most obvious response to this objection fails, since… While this is not the last word on the matter, I think that, given what I’ve said here, we should tentatively accept the conclusion that Act Utilitarianism is an inadequate moral theory.
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