We have studied four ethical theories, namely: Stoicism, virtue ethics (Aristotle), Utilitarianism (Mill), and deontological ethics (Kant). Because Stoicism is more of a collection of principles and techniques than a theory, it is not included on the final. Describe a moral dilemma in your life and explain what each philosopher would say to you about it. Argue for the position that you think is philosophically the best. “Philosophically the best” means according to reason, and not according to how you were raised, which theory you understood the best, or which one you found the best videos about.
If you are not using one of the dilemmas you submitted at the beginning of the semester, I urge you to share your dilemma with me to make sure it is an ethical dilemma.
Who is doing the work?
Think of this as a test. You do not want me, the reader, doing much work because that only demonstrates my understanding of ethics. You, the writer, need to do the work to demonstrate how much you’ve learned. So you can either imagine that you are writing to your instructor, or if that is too stressful, imagine that you are writing to your grandmother or some other intelligent person. You need to explain what the Greatest Happiness Principle is, but you don’t need to tell her that Mill was a nineteenth century British philosopher.
Structure of your essays:
The same as it has been on the applications. For a refresher, see Essay Format.
What separates a C paper from an A paper:
If all you do is apply each philosopher’s main point, you will earn no more than a C for that answer. You do need to mention each philosopher’s main point, but to earn an A or B, you must also mention something else. Here’s what you must mention to pass:
For Aristotle, the doctrine of the mean.
For Mill, the greatest happiness principle.
For Kant, the categorical imperative (both formulations).
What do I mean by “something else”? At the highest level, something that shows that you have read and thought about what each philosopher wrote beyond what we discussed in class. I do not have something specific in mind, so please do not try to second guess me.
This is not a research paper. There is no need to use additional sources. If you do use them—and even if it’s “only” Wikipedia—be sure to cite them.
Do not over-summarize. By this I mean do not say that a philosopher holds a particular view about something unless you use it in your essay. For example, do not mention the role of friends in Aristotle’s ethics unless you will talk about friends in your answer.
Keep in mind that while you need to explain what the moral dilemma is, doing so is largely grade neutral. By this I mean that, for example, a five page paper that has three pages in which you describe your moral dilemma is essentially a two page paper.
Do not use quotation web sites. Philosophy is not a subject that can be reduced to a bumper sticker or slogan. Even when the quotation is accurate, the lack of context renders it philosophically useless.
Generally, there’s no need to write “I think.”
Do not write “I feel” unless you mean it.
Use citations but avoid quotations.
Lastly, Here’s a list of Common mechanical errors.