In a paper of 8 pages (without footnotes or title, double spaced in Times New Roman, 12 pt., 1” margins) please pick and defend a thesis that demonstrates your understanding of ethical theory. You have a great deal of freedom. Just be sure to pick a thesis and defend it (do not give a summary of the course, but focus on some one specific question in relation to the different theories). Write this as if you were writing it for an intellectual magazine or an undergraduate philosophy journal, i.e. you can expect a generally educated and anonymous audience who will have some familiarity with these thinkers but not great knowledge (Do not write about “our class”; this is for someone who does not know you and does not care about your studies). Freedom can be a burden, so I have provided a few possible questions to help you generate a thesis.
1. What is the quarrel over the nature of the Good in these three theories? How does this lead to their respective notions of how to lead a moral life? At least briefly, which do you find more compelling and why?
2. How is the notion of freedom different for Virtue Ethics, Deontology, and Utilitarianism? Briefly, which do you judge to be closer to the truth and why? [For utilitarianism look at both Bentham and the first few pages of Mill’s On Liberty (available free at Project Gutenberg)]
3. How do the historical events in Western Europe in the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s provide a challenge to Virtue Ethics? How are Deontology and Utilitarianism a response to this challenge? Briefly evaluate these attempts to cope with the problem.
4. Why is friendship so crucial to Aristotle’s project? Which is better this approach or the modern one favored by Mill and Kant?
5. What is the difference between happiness in Mill and happiness in Aristotle? Who gives us a better account of the moral life?
6. Pick one or more of these thinkers and write an essay on how they relate to your religious tradition or some other philosophical tradition.
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