Discussion Post
April 4, 2021
April 4, 2021

Mid-term exam

The Assignment:

a 4-5 page (double spaced) paper that explains, applies, and evaluates a
normative ethical theory (Pick one: Mill/Bentham’s Utilitarianism, Kantian
Deontology, or Aristotle’s Virtue Theory).

how the theory guides our moral decision-making. Pick a social problem and
apply the ethical theory to the problem. Then evaluate how well you think
theory does in practice.

Six Parts

  1. Introduction

(1 paragraph)

  1. Introduction
    to Topic: This paper is about…

    1. What
      is the social problem?
    1. What
      is the ethical theory?
    1. How
      do you think the ethical theory would evaluate the issue?
    1. Thesis
      Statement: What do you think about how the theory applied to the issue? Does
      the theory ‘get it right’ from your point of view? Why or why not?

      1.  Example: “I will argue that [Utilitarianism]
        is an insufficient theory when applied to [killing an innocent person looking
        for a check-up to steal his organs and save 5 people] because utilitarianism
        fails to look at [individual rights], which is integral to this situation.”
  • Introduce the
    Social Problem

(1 paragraph)

In this
paragraph, (a) introduce a social issue, (b) explain why it is a problem, and
(c) describe the controversy (what are the various sides?).

For Example:

  1. Abortion
    is the early termination of a pregnancy.
  2. Abortion
    is a social problem because many people want the procedure to be illegal and/or
    strictly regulated; while others think it should be legal and/or widely
  3. The
    main disagreement seems to be whether or not a fetus counts as a person. Some
    argue that if a fetus is a person then abortion is murder, while others argue
    that an early stage fetus is still part of the mother’s body and is not a
    person in its own right. 
  • Introduce the Normative
    Ethical Theory


  1. Explain
    the ethical theory in detail. Who is the main author of the theory? What are
    the main arguments? Explain how an ethical decision is made.
  2. Explain all
    essential terms

    (e.g. categorical imperative, greater goodness principle, golden mean). Use
    examples/thought experiments to demonstrate what the term is all about. If I
    used a term in the Powerpoint, you should probably use it in the paper.
  3. Use quotes directly from the
    readings and then explain those quotes to help illustrate the theory. Don’t let
    the quotes do the talking for you – use short quotes then explain what they
    mean (one sentence or less is a good length). Don’t quote outside sources, use
    the primary sources: the readings.
  • Apply the Ethical
    Theory to the Social Problem

    • paragraphs)
  • Explain
    how the ethical theory would evaluate this social problem. What would Mill or
    Kant say about your social issue? What is the morally right policy according to
    the philosophers?  
  • Critique the

(2-3 paragraphs)

  1. What
    are the shortcomings of the ethical theory? Even if you think the theory is
    appropriately applied to this issue, what are the possible objections? What is
    the weakest part of the theory? Check
    the last few slides of the PowerPoint for specific ways the theories are
    usually weakest
    . Choose the best critique and use it.  
  2. If
    you think the theory fails to offer a convincing evaluation, then make sure to
    pick the strongest form of the argument before you critique it. Don’t offer a
    “straw man” argument to make your critique seems stronger than it is.   
  • Respond to the

(1-2 paragraphs)

  1. How
    does the theory overcome the objection? Or if it doesn’t, why not? Take the
    critique of the application seriously and answer why you think the theory can
    answer that critique or not.


Have a clear
thesis statement.

Make a claim then
provide evidence (i.e. quotes).

Use short quotes
and explain what the quote means.

Write simply and


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