Philosophy 3100 - Ethical Theory

Topics for Term Paper


See syllabus for length requirements and due dates of papers. Read paper guidelines before reading this. As these guidelines say, you don't need to do a pre-assigned topic. In fact, it's great if you have your own idea. But if you don't have your own idea, you may write a topic addressing one of the following. If you do one of these pre-assigned topic, make sure to indicate the letter of this topic at the very top of your paper, right under your name.

Also, for your term paper, you may expand one of your shorter papers instead of writing on a new topic. You can do this, for example, by giving further reasons in favor of your thesis, by defending it against further objections, or both.

But if you want to start a new topic, and don't have your own idea, and want to write on something for the 3rd part of the course, here are some topics:

  1. What's is Ross' axiological theory? What do you think it is even a theory of (e.g., of welfare, of value for the world)? Are his arguments for it (or against other theories) sound? Is it a better theory than its rivals?
  2. Is Kant's theory (the principle involving universalizability) true? (Defending an answer to this question will involve discussing objections to Kant's theory and whether and how Kant's theory might be able to respond to them.)
  3. In a part of his reading that we didn't discuss in class, Kant writes, "Act in such a way as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of anyone else, always as an end and never merely as a means" (p. 29). What do you think Kant means by this? Formulate this idea as a criterion of rightness (i.e., in the form "an act is right iff _____"). What do the key phrases "never merely as a means" and "always as an end" mean? Give examples to illustrate your interpretations. Is the resulting moral principle plausible? Think of objections and determine whether any succeed.
  4. Which general approach to right and wrong, Consequentialism or Deontology, is better?
  5. Ross' deontological theory contains constraints but not options. The theory suggested by McNaughton and Rawling contains options but not constraints. Which view is more likely to be true?
  6. Explain and evaluate Ross' argument from promises against utilitarianism.

... shortly I'll include some topics relating to the Foot, Thomson, and Greene readings ...