Order Description

So far we have studied the ethics of abortion, sexual morality, gay marriage, animal rights, and euthanasia. Pick one of these areas. Then, review a debate between two (or at most three) authors. First, carefully present the authors’ views. What are the authors’ main conclusions? What are the premises that support these conclusions? What are some reasons to believe that the premises are true? Next, object to one author’s argument. Why is the argument invalid (the conclusion does not follow from the premises) or why is one of the premises false? Finally, conclude by explaining the significance of your finding (i.e., how does it influence our moral thinking or apply to public policy?).

Length ~1000 words, standard format, works cited page (there is no expectation that you use outside sources), and double-spaced. Please do not use silly fonts, strange spacing, irregular margins, etc.

The Late Policy: This paper must be submitted in class paper (stapled) on 12/5. If, due to some extenuating circumstance, please email your paper directly to me at the start of class on 12/5. Late papers lose one full letter grade for each day late. Papers will not be accepted after 12/9.


Functions of the introduction: motivate the project (why does this paper matter), thesis (what I will argue), roadmap (what are the steps taken in this paper),

Thesis: you may bold or italicize your thesis. It is appropriate to say, “I will argue…” or “This paper will argue…”

The thesis is a contract between you and the reader.

Criteria of a good thesis: 1) specific 2) controversial 3) plausible (defensible) 4) value-added (novel contribution).

Example of a bad thesis: Schulmann thinks gay marriage is wrong. (Vague, non-controversial, no new contribution).

Better thesis: I will argue that Horkheimer and Adorno’s conception of a monolithic cultural apparatus is implausible given the practical limitations of generating a unified apparatus for the production of culture.


Clearly convey the position(s) you are considering. What is the central point of the author? How do they support this central point?

Transitions and Signposts: tell the reader what has been stated and what will be argued next. “It has been shown that X holds position Y for reasons A and B. Next, objections to A and B will be considered.”

Original contribution: after clearly presenting the positions, provide an original critique (e.g., show why the argument doesn’t follow from the premises or why one of the premises is false). Thought experiments maybe useful here.

Basic Structure: Intro, position 1, position 2, original contribution (objection), conclusion

General Tips: Clarity is King/Queen, avoid rhetorical questions, use peer review, and explain!

Grading Criteria:

Clarity of Exposition (40%)– proper spelling grammar and syntax, well organized, fluid and logical transitions

Accuracy of Presentation (40%) – careful and accurate recapitulation of the author’s argument

Original Contribution (20%) – substantive, well-developed, original


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