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Philosophy 160 Introduction to Ethics

Cypress College Dr. Robert Greg ‫ ריע‬Cavin


Spring Semester 2010 Phone: 484-7007
Office: HUM-221

CRITICAL THINKING EXERCISE

This assignment is to write a paper that demonstrates your ability to think critically and in depth
about one of the issues in ethics — either metaethics, normative ethics, or applied ethics — that
we have discussed or will discuss in class. Each paper must critically analyze the arguments of
two opposing ethicists, with an emphasis on the cogency of the reasons each gives for his/her
conclusions. Note that you may use readings from Fieser’s anthology that we have not discussed
in class. Topics you might want to consider include (but are not limited to):

Metaethics

Plato versus Mackie on ethical skepticism

Nielsen versus Mackie on ethical objectivism

Ayer or Hare versus Mackie on ethical non-cognitivism

Normative Ethics

Aristotle versus either Schneewind or Louden on virtue ethics

Nozick versus Rawls on Rawl’s theory of Justice (ambitious)

Bentham versus Davis on consequentialist ethics

Applied Ethics

Sullivan versus Rachels on euthanasia

Marquis versus Thomson on abortion

Regan versus Machan on animal rights

Your paper must be 5 - 10 pages in length, typed in a 12 (or 13) point font, double-spaced, and
carefully proofread (use a spelling and grammar checker and consult the attached list of common
errors in grammar and punctuation). Only new and original (no previous) work is acceptable.
The paper must clearly exhibit your mastery of the critical thinking concepts and techniques
studied in the course.
Each paper must contain two parts:

(1) An expository section (about 2 ½ pages long for a 5 page paper) in which you (a)
identify the main point of disagreement between your two authors on your chosen
issue and (b) charitably state, explain, and illustrate the main argument each gives for
his/her position, i.e., the main "pro" and "con" arguments on the subject (e.g., Regan’s
main "pro" argument for animal rights versus Machan’s main "con" argument against
it)

(2) A critical section (about 2 ½ pages long for a 5 page paper) in which you critically
evaluate these arguments. It is not necessary to tell me who's "right"; what I want you
to do is show me that you can identify the strengths and weaknesses of each argument.

Of course, your own considered judgments on the topic are welcome. Limit your paper to one
specific "pro" and "con" argument — depth is far better than breadth. Each paper should begin
with a thesis paragraph in which you tell your reader (me) about the topic of your paper and, in
particular, state the thesis of your paper — the main point that you will argue in it, e.g., that
Rachels’ argument has such-and-such strengths or such-and-such weaknesses.

You must approve your paper topic with me at least three class sessions before the paper is due if
you are planning on writing on a topic other than those suggested above. Although there is no
"rewrite" option for papers, I will be pleased to comment on drafts during office hours before the
due date (see syllabus for tentative due date). To ensure fairness to all, extensions on the paper
will be granted only with my consent to a VALID excuse PRIOR to the due date. Note well:
Late papers that are not excused will be accepted but at most two thirds credit. Absolutely no
exceptions! Papers that plagiarize in any way will receive the grade of “F.” The paper is de-
signed to aid in the development of your critical thinking and writing. The paper counts 33.33%
of your class grade.

Here are some tips on writing a better paper. First, in the expository section of your paper, state
your two chosen arguments in the step-by-step (premise and conclusion) format used in the
library lecture notes and PowerPoints, but use your own words in going on to explain and
illustrate each argument. Second, in the critical section of your paper, assess the logical strengths
and weaknesses of these two arguments by asking the following questions of each: (1) Are the
steps (premises) of the argument true, questionable, or false? (2) Does the conclusion follow
logically from the previous steps (premises) of the argument? Throughout the paper, try to be
clear and precise.