This is exact copy of what my professor gave me:
First Argument Paper
Length: Four pages (~1200 words)
In this paper, you are to choose one of the normative ethical theories listed below and critique it. You can do this without necessarily fully disagreeing with the theory or even thinking it is the worst one, though that might help make your argument more convincing to a reader. The ethical theories you can choose from are: Ethical Egoism, Utilitarianism, Kantian Ethics, and Social Contract Theory. You are to write a four-page double-spaced paper. The paper should be in the argumentative form. This means that your thesis statement should clearly state which of the above theories you will arguing against and the main reasons why (e.g., “I will argue that Utilitarianism is a poor moral theory because while it takes the consequences of actions seriously, it ignores the reasons and intentions behind those actions.” Or, “I will argue
that ethical egoism is not a good moral theory because it fails to be a guide to action and because it arbitrarily prioritizes my own self-interest over others.”) The paper should have the following
I) A brief introduction that concludes with your thesis statement.
II) An accurate summary of the ethical theory you will critique
III) A defense of the reason or reasons that you use to support your thesis (i.e. the premises).
IV) Raise a possible objection to your own argument (i.e. what could someone who reads
your paper and even agrees with your conclusion, plausibly object to in your argument).
V) Your response to that objection (i.e. a good reason to think that the objection fails or
does not work).
VI) A conclusion that summarizes what you have shown with your argument.
You will be graded on the overall quality of your paper and argument. I expect your
paper to have few spelling or grammar errors. Many spelling or grammar errors will reduce your
grade. Please write a full paper; do not simply fill in the outline points above. I am specifically
looking for a good summary of the ethical theory, a good critique of it, and an appropriate
objection to your argument. The first two features of your paper should not be controversial
(meaning either side of the debate will agree you have summarized the ethical theory correctly,
provided good reasons to think it is a poor theory, and provided a plausible objection to your
argument). The hard part of the paper is offering a response to the objection. Whatever position
you take you will need to defend it with good reasons. That will require a good bit of thinking
on your part if you wish to do it well, but it is the heart of what philosophy is and a test of good
reasoning skills. If you want to do some more research on a specific ethical theory (especially if you are looking for possible objections and responses in a critical paper), you may look that
theory up in the free online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu
Please note that the SEP is a professional encyclopedia that is often highly technical and difficult
to read for beginners, but it is by far the best and most accurate source of information available
(and it’s free!).
Note: If you use a source, make sure you cite it properly. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a link on its home page that gives instructions on how to cite from a web-based
Here are some important links:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/utilitarianism-history/ (talks about Bentham’ view)
Ethical Egoism: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/egoism/
Social Contract Theory: http://plato.stantord.edu/entries/contractarianism/
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