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Note: Please feel free to contact your instructor through the D2L “Classlist” with any questions relating to the development of your essay.
A case of applied ethics…
For each essay, pick one of the controversial applied ethics issues studied in the course. For example, you may choose to right on the morality of Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide, The Ethical Treatment of Animals, or on the Environment, Consumption, and Climate Change. Provide a clear description of a case (e.g., the case of Brittany Maynard on the topic of PAS) that pertains to the issue and clearly define the moral dilemma it poses (finding a relevant case requires a nominal amount of research – the case does not have to be a legal one; it may be a news item, etc.) Clearly state your position (i.e., your thesis statement) regarding the morality of the issue while appealing to your case to argue your point. Recognize potential counterarguments to your view.
General “Don’ts” for Formal Writing:
Do not use first-person language (e.g., “I”, “We”, “Our”, etc.) that renders your argument arbitrary and subjectively based. It is already understood by the reader that you stand by what you write. Stressing the first-person perspective weakens your position. You want the reader to accept your view not because YOU happen to present it but because it is reasonable to accept it.
Do not use words linked to first-person language that further render your argument arbitrary and subjectively based (e.g., “I believe”, “I feel”, “I think”, etc.). You want the reader to accept your view not because YOU happen to believe it or simply because it is your opinion but because it is reasonable to accept it.
Do not use acronyms without first spelling them out. For example, do not simply throw out the acronym “PAS” without defining it. Write “physician-assisted suicide (PAS)” and then you may simply use the acronym throughout the rest of the essay.
Do not use colloquialisms (e.g., “rehab”, “idiot”) unless part of a quote.
Do not use contractions (e.g., “don’t”, “can’t”, “I’m” – a double no-no since first-person AND a contraction, etc.) unless part of a quote.
Do not write about a topic that is not one of the approved topics from the course textbook.
Do not plagiarize the works of others.
General “Do’s” for Formal Writing:
Spelling, Grammar, Punctuation – Remember to use your computers to check for any spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. After you have finished your essay, be sure to re-check. There is no excuse for errors and they significantly demote your work.
Format – Stick to Modern Language Association (MLA) format throughout your paper (including your “Works Cited” page). No blue font, no paragraph headings, no bold font, etc.
Length – If you are asked to write a 4-page, double-spaced paper then please write a 4-page, double-spaced paper. Don’t hand in a 1-page paper. Don’t hand in a 5-page paper.
Introduction – Your introduction should start with general comments and end with a specific point; namely, your thesis statement (which is the point you are trying to make: “In this paper, it will be argued that X…”).
Body – Your body should be comprised of a list of reasons in defense of your position. In a 4-page paper, for instance, if you list three reasons, then make the first paragraph of the body of your essay about the first reason, the second paragraph about the second reason, etc. Along with each, make sure you acknowledge any reasons a reader might argue against you. For example: First paragraph of the body… “Although some might argue against X because… this is not a valid argument since X is the case for the following reason…” Continue on to the second con and pro to your thesis statement, and so on, to build the body of your essay.
Conclusion – Your introduction should start out with a specific point (a reinstatement of your thesis statement: “In this paper, it was argued that X…”) and end with more general comments. It should be balanced with your introduction in terms of length.
The purpose of the essays is to explore the philosophical process. This requires going into the readings and the assignments with an open mind. There is a Confucian Analect (saying by Confucius) that tells a story about a prospective student who meets with Confucius for tea. Wanting to impress Confucius with his learning in order to be admitted to the academy, the prospective student tells Confucius that he has read everything Confucius has ever written. Confucius offers tea and begins to pour it into the student’s cup but, when it is full, he keeps on pouring. The student, shocked, points out that the tea is pouring everywhere. Confucius looks at him and says, “If the cup is full, then there is no more room for the tea.”
The same applies to our class. If you enter with the conviction that you already know everything and already have your mind filled (closed to all but your own views), there is little that the class will have to offer you. Keep the mind open and receptive and this can be a rewarding experience.
Note that saying something is right or good because it is the law, or because it comes from your religion, or because it is tradition, or because Mom said so, does not constitute a justification. That only tells us the source, not why it is right. The same goes for rejecting ideas because they are from another religion, or another country, or said by someone from another race. Good and Right ethics are determined by their justifiability – not their source. Giving a source as your justification (for example: “The Bible says…”), will result in a “0” for the essay
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