Final Goal: To write a philosophy paper, per the guidelines


Final Goal: To write a philosophy paper, per the guidelines detailed in “Writing a philosophy paper” in week two. You will research and discuss one of the theories listed below. You need to pick one you understand and like or appreciate. You should strive to demonstrate adequate understanding of the theory first in the paper. At least half of the paper should be a discussion of the various components of the theory. Work to demonstrate your understanding of the theory. Then, you will apply the theory to a discussion of a contemporary topic. See the example at the bottom of this page. 

Week Three Goal: To complete the Proposal/Source Evaluation Worksheet. After crafting your introduction paragraph (or two) per the instructions in “Writing a Philosophy Paper” you will list and evaluate a minimum of three resources you intend to use in completing in the final paper.  Keep the following in mind as you compile the resources:

  • At least one resource must come from either the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy or the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Depending on the philosophy or philosopher some alternatives may be acceptable – check with your instructor).
  • It is good to find at least one peer-reviewed paper on either the philosophy or the topic or both. See the Philosophy Program Guide for links to many helpful resources. 
  • One can be from a credible internet resource such as Crash Course videos. TED or other scholarly, video resource. Depending on the topic, you may use websites or other credible online resources. What will be the best resource will depend on your topic.
  • The final paper should be no less than 1500 words, be double-spaced, and contain properly formatted citations and references. Ideally, MLA or APA will be used, but if your degree normally uses another system, check with your instructor.
  • NO WIKIPEDIA or other open resources.
  • There is no minimum word count on the “summary” section but must be at least several well-crafted sentences to describe the contents of the source and how you plan to use it. It should NOT be just copied and pasted from the resource. [Note, this list is not meant to be carved in stone or a complete list. As you research, your final list could be longer or contain some different sources.].

Theories to choose from (You must pick one of these or some other accepted moral theory – be sure you do some research before choosing. You will be using the theory to justify your position on the contemporary issue):

  • Care Ethics
  • Contractarianism
  • Divine Command Theory
  • Ethical Egoism (Ayn Rand)
  • Immanuel Kant’s Deontological Ethics
  • John Rawls’ Theory of Justice
  • John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism
  • Natural Law Theory
  • Prima Facie Duties (W. D. Ross)
  • Rights Theory ( use )
  • Virtue Theory (Aristotle)
  • If there is another theory you have read about and intrigued with, consult your instructor for permission or guidance

Contemporary topics: This is much more open-ended. When considering a contemporary topic, think about current events, some ethical issue you are passionate about, or an ethical issue you know a lot about, or perhaps even encounter in your professional or personal life.  If you have questions regarding selecting an issue please ask your Instructor for guidance. Just keep in mind the goal is to use your theory to argue for or against some position on that topic. 

Here is a link to a list of 30 ethical issues. Here is another website with dozens of topics and cases.

The Instructor’s feedback from this assignment may help you focus on your topic.  If you need help coming up with an idea of an ethical issue to critique with your ethical theory, you can begin by taking a look at the following website, but don’t feel constrained by this list.  This is an opportunity for you to be creative in your thinking and to do something that you are interested in learning more about!

If you have writing questions, please see the University Writing Center.

Introduction paragraph example: Say you want to write on transgender women competing in women’s sports and want to argue that it is morally right to allow these women even though they have a clear physical advantage. You choose to use W.D Ross’s Prima Facie Duties.

There has been much controversy lately about whether it is morally right to allow transgender women to compete in women’s sports. There are many voices against this, fewer in support of the practice. Using W.D Ross’s Prima Facie Duties a defense is made supporting the practice. After discussing the history and contents of the theory, the duties of reparation, justice, beneficence, and self-improvement are applied to this practice justifying the notion that denying transgender women the right to compete is morally unjustified.



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