Choose from one of these two prompts:

1. Remember that Rachels offers 3 cases in his Introduction- Baby Theresa, Mary and Jody, and the Latimer case. All are real stories. But the people on either side in these cases either appeal to utilitarian ideas (i.e. the greater good) or deontological ones (i.e. about what is truly right or wrong). In each case, who is appealing to which, do you think? Explain why the people in these cases (e.g. the parents of Mary and Jody) are making use of either utilitarianism or deontology. Actually, this is a fair bit. Do not just label positions (e.g. Robert Latimer) as either utilitarian or deontologist, but rather explain why that position is one or the other. Make sure to quote both from Rachels chapter 1, as well as the latter chapters (i.e. 7, 8, 9, and 10). Make sure to Since each case has at least two sides, this requires that you explain 6 positions.

2. According to Kant, morality is absolute. When something is right or wrong, it is always right or wrong. When something is wrong, moreover, it is prohibited no matter what. Yet how can we know what the moral law is? According to Kant, we can ascertain what the moral law is by means of his ‘categorical imperative’ test. To evaluate this test, read Kant himself (i.e. “Morality and Rationality”) from our supplemental readings- make sure to quote from him. Also, read the Ken Westphal article (i.e. “Practical Reason: Categorical Imperatives, Laws, and Maxims”) and quote from that. Does the categorical imperative work to reveal the moral law? Or does it not? Make sure to consider the potential objections (e.g. from Foot) to this categorical imperative test. What do you think, exactly?

This is the rubric for how the essays need to be written:

  • When I say short essays, I do not mean a sentence. Nor do I mean a single paragraph. Never write a single paragraph. Ever. Rather, an essay is at least 5 or more substantive paragraphs, although you can write more. So you should be thinking of about 1000 words per essay- that is the minimum. More importantly, you are arguing for something. So at the very least, you will need an essay to do this effectively.
  • Relatedly, if you see others writing less (or one long paragraph) do not follow their lead. When I grade, I always evaluate essays according to the standards I am delineating here.
  • Always include page numbers and quotes from both Rachels, Singer, or Greene (not just the first page of the chapter) and the secondary sources to prove your points. For example, if the prompt is about David Hume and the prompt mentions a secondary source, make sure to quote both. Do not omit quoting from anything mentioned in the prompt. When you add page numbers and quotes, I can look up your points. I will be looking for this kind of detail.
  • Never upload a file that I would have to download. For instance, never upload something from Google docs that I have to ask permission to see. Nor send me a Pdf. When I open your Canvas submission, I should never see a file that I have to download. Rather, I should see your text. Remember, mere files will not get any credit.
  • Always save your essays (e.g. create a file for your essays), just in case there is a problem (e.g. with Canvas). I cannot just believe things like “…but I submitted it” without proof.
  • Concerning the form of your essays, remember that you are arguing for something. All the prompts ask you to consider some position (or positions) and evaluate it. Given this, you should always write in the first person. Given this, use phrases such as ‘I will argue that.’ Arguing in the third person makes little sense in argumentative essays. Why is this? You must let the reader know what your argument will be. Remember, saying something like “I will be discussing…” is not the same. You are not discussing. Nor considering. Instead, the reader has to know what you, the author, will be arguing. Similarly, in your conclusion, use phrases like “I have argued that” or “In this essay, I have shown that…” Remember, conclusions are not a place to draw an overall moral nor a place to offer pithy words of wisdom. Conclusions, rather, summarize what you have argued.
  • Similarly, all essays have a structure. First, in the introduction, you tell the reader what is coming in enough detail so he or she knows what to expect. This is the “I will be arguing” part. Second, the body of the essay elaborates on the points, and is the place to consider objections. Sometimes, in the prompts, I ask you to consider specific objections. Remember, you can always write more. Namely, you can elaborate as much as you like. The body of the paper is by far the longest part of the essay. Third, offer a conclusion. Conclusions, remember, are not just one sentence, nor do they offer pithy words of wisdom. Instead, they summarize your argument. In the conclusion, thus, you can say something like “In this essay, I have shown that…” and then recapitulate what you have said. It is worth remembering that all philosophical essays, even long books, have this structure.
  • Concerning the content of the prompts, remember the details. Consider a few aspects of this. First, make sure to get the view of Epicurus, Augustine, etc., correct. Although this may be difficult, creating caricatures (i.e. straw men) is not engaging with them. Second, always stick to the point. Examples are great, but they must be relevant. Same with analogies. Never let some illustration take the place of your argument. Third, make sure to cover all the components of the prompt. Do not omit any. Given these three points, it should be plain that writing philosophical essays can be difficult. Still, following such strictures makes for better essays.
  • Lastly, when considering how to answer the prompts, remember to be critical. Consider two aspects of this. First, do not feel as if you have to agree with a position. If a prompt asks about some thinker, that does not mean you have to defend that person. Second, most positions (e.g. idealism) have plausible and implausible parts. Often, it is better to agree with one aspect of a position and disagree with another, or agree or disagree only to a degree. Remember to think for yourself, and create your own view.