Philosophy 3100 - Ethical Theory

Term Paper

30 points (15% of your grade for the course)

Due Wednesday, April 29, in class

Write a 5 or so page (~1500 word) paper related to one of the topics that we studied this semester.

Regarding format, your paper must:

Failure to conform to these rules will hurt your grade.

Regarding content, your paper must have a clearly stated thesis. Your paper cannot be a mere “book report” of the views of others (though it can, and definitely should, provide the reader with whatever background is necessary for understand the paper's thesis and argument -- and this background providing may take several pages). You must have a view on the topic on which you are writing. You must make it blatantly obvious to the reader what that view is. Here are some examples of some theses that a paper in this class might defend:

Here are some other topics you might express your view about one way or the other:

In each case, a good paper structure to adopt is something like this:

Your thesis can be directly about the views of someone we've read this semester, or it can just be your own view on one of the topics we've studied. If it’s the latter, it would still be a good idea to incorporate some of the views or arguments of one or more of the philosophers we read. E.g., if some philosopher has an argument against your thesis, it would be a good idea to show how you can answer that argument.

To repeat, the main purpose of your paper will be to defend its thesis – to persuade the reader, through rational argument, that this claim is correct. There are several ways to defend a thesis. One of the most straightforward ways is to come up with a positive argument for it. Another way is to rebut what you take to be the main argument(s) against your thesis. Obviously, this would require first explaining the argument(s) you will be rebutting. If you have the space, you should consider and reply to objections to your position. In some cases, doing this is mandatory.

If you are having a hard time coming up with a thesis, you might begin by consulting your initial reaction to, say, one of the arguments we studied. Then try to think of what you would say if you wanted to persuade a friend that your initial reaction is correct. When you do this, you will be laying out an argument for your view, an argument that could form the centerpiece of your paper. You may find that when you subject your own thesis and the reasons you hold it to scrutiny, you actually convince yourself that your thesis is mistaken. If that happens to you, you might be able to turn all of this into a paper arguing against your original thesis.

Regarding style, you should:

General Guidance. Here are two helpful guides on writing a philosophy paper. Please look them over.

Cheating: You are encouraged to discuss your paper with others in the class; however, the paper you turn in must be your own work. Students turning in duplicate or near-duplicate papers will receive an F for the entire course and may be subject to expulsion from the university. I take cheating very seriously.

Do not quote much or at all in your papers. I want to hear the ideas in your own words. But if you must use the words of others, put them in quotation marks and cite the source. Otherwise, you are plagiarizing. Plagiarism will earn you an F for the whole course and possible expulsion from the university.

Late Paper Policy: Your score will go down two points for every day your paper is late. Late papers may be submitted to me by email at In any such email, ask me to reply back to you to confirm that I got your paper and could open the attachment. If you forget to attach the paper, your paper won’t count as having been turned in. If the email system malfunctions and your message is never delivered, your paper won’t count as having been turned in.

Extra Assistance: I am more than happy to provide assistance to you as you work on your paper. Feel free to come to office hours with questions or just to run a rough outline by me.