How to write an ethical argument paper
Introduction to Ethics WRITING A GOOD ETHICS ESSAY The writing of essays in which you argue in support of a position on some moral source is not something that is intrinsically difficult. However such essays may be rather different from those that you have written before.
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What I want to do in this handout, accordingly, is to describe some of the more important characteristics of such essays, and to offer some suggestions which you may find helpful. A Clear, Concise, Informative Introduction A good introduction is short and to the point. You should indicate exactly what your topic is, and the view that you intend to defend. You should also tell the reader how your discussion will be structured, so that he or she knows from the very beginning the general lines along which you will be arguing in support argment your conclusion.
I need to see you in person. Then go on to devote two sections to a consideration of objections. Checklist for Objections to your Thesis: When you revisit the draft, you will have a fresh perspective. To do this, you might proceed as follows. As you revise your paper, ask yourself questions about the way you have written your paper. It should end with your thesis statement. How many objections to your thesis should you attempt to consider?
You should also indicate, very briefly, your main line of argument. Finally, you should do these things as concisely as possible, so that you can get on with the business of defending the view that you are setting out on the moral wirte in question. Illustration Suppose that you are writing about the morality of abortion. You might begin your paper as follows: I shall defend an extreme anti-abortion position by arguing, first, that no satisfactory rationale can be visit web page for any moderate position on abortion, and secondly, that an extreme pro-abortion position cannot be accepted without also accepting infanticide.
Is my introduction concise? Does it contain a clear statement of my main thesis? Does it indicate very briefly my main line of argument? Does it explain the overall structure of my essay? The Offering of Reasons for your View After setting out your thesis, and outlining your overall approach in the introductory paragraph, you need to have a section in which srite offer reasons for accepting the view that you are advancing.
Each reason should be set out in the form of an explicit, step by step argument, so that the reader can see right off both what your assumptions are, and how they are supposed to support your conclusion. Moreover, if you are offering more than one consideration in support of your thesis, it is important that different considerations not be mixed together in a single paragraph.
Different arguments require at least separate paragraphs - and preferably, separate subsections, pzper clearly labeled with an appropriate heading. For the latter will not only help the reader to follow your argument: How many reasons should you offer in support of your thesis? It is best to confine yourself to either one, or at most two, supporting arguments.
If you offer more arguments, there is a serious danger both that you will not set out any of the arguments in a sufficiently detailed way, and that you will not discriminate between interesting arguments in support of your thesis, and arguments that are at best marginal. In short, choose your best one aan two arguments, and develop that argument or arguments in a detailed and circumspect way.
Checklist for the Offering of Reasons: Have I set out an argument or at most two arguments to provide reasons for thinking that my thesis is na Have I made all of my premises clear and explicit? Have I developed my argument in a full and detailed way, so that all of my reasoning is clear to the reader? Consideration of Objections to your Arguments After offering reasons for accepting your view, you need to consider objections. The crucial point to note here is that objections come in two forms. First, there are objections that are directed against the reasons that you have offered in support of your thesis, and which claim, therefore, either that some of your assumptions are implausible, or that some of your reasoning is unsatisfactory.
Secondly, there are objections that are directed against your conclusion, and which attempt to provide reasons for thinking that the paer which you are advancing is false. Objections of the first sort are especially crucial, and your main obligation is to address such objections. The reason is that if all that you do is to rebut objections to your thesis, and you fail to consider objections to your argument, then you haven't shown that you have made out a satisfactory positive case in support of your thesis. How do you arrive at interesting objections to your own arguments? The crucial thing is to look carefully at the assumptions that you have made, and to ask yourself which of those are controversial, in the sense that they might well be questioned by an intelligent, thoughtful, and well-informed person.
Having located a controversial assumption, you need to consider why a thoughtful person might disagree with it, and then try to respond to that objection. Checklist for Objections to your Arguments: Have I carefully set out the most important objection to each of my arguments? Have I then responded, in a careful way, to that objection or objections? Consideration of Objections to your Thesis After you have carefully considered objections to your argument or argumentsthe next important task is to consider objections which, rather than being directed against the reasons erite you have offered pwper support of ohw view, are directed instead against your view itself, and which attempt to show that your view is incorrect.
Here you need to set out any such objection or objections in a clear, careful, and dispassionate fashion, and then indicate why you think the objection in question is unsound. How many objections to your thesis should you attempt to consider? Here, as elsewhere, trying to cover too much ground can result in a weak and superficial discussion.
Try to find the strongest objection, and address it in a detailed way. Checklist for Objections to your Thesis: Have I considered the most important objection against the thesis that I am defending?
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Have I responded carefully to that objection? Exposition of Arguments At the heart of a paper that examines some moral issue in a critical fashion is the setting out of arguments - both arguments in support of your positions, and arguments directed either against some of your assumptions, or against your position itself. Whenever one is setting out an argument, one needs to do so in a careful step-by-step fashion, so that it is clear wrige the reader both what assumptions the argument involves, and what the reasoning is - that is, how one is supposed to get from the assumptions to the conclusion.
One thing that it is very important to avoid is the setting out of more than one argument in a single paragraph. For this usually results in too brief an exposition of the arguments in question, and often in a muddling together of the two arguments, thereby obscuring the structure of the reasoning.
Checklist for your Exposition of Arguments: Are my arguments carefully and explicitly set out so that both all of my assumptions, and my reasoning, are clear? Have I, at any point, set out more than one argument in a single paragraph?
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Are objections and responses set out in separate paragraphs? Logical and Perspicuous Structure A crucial factor that makes for a good essay is the presence of a logical and perspicuous structure. So it's important to ask how one can both organize one's discussion in a logical fashion, and make that organization perspicuous to the reader.
The structure will be clear to the reader if you begin with an introductory paragraph of the sort described above, and then go on, first, to divide your essay up into sections and possibly also subsectionsand secondly, to use informative headings to mark out those sections and subsections. The reader will then be able to see at a glance how you have wfite your discussion.
Ethhical makes for logical organization? If you do the things mentioned above, in sections I through IV, in the order discussed, the result will be an essay whose overall logical organization is very strong. That is to say, start by setting out your thesis, and outlining your overall approach in the introductory paragraph. Follow this with a section in which you offer reasons for accepting the view that you are advancing.
Then write on to devote two sections to a consideration of objections. In the first, set out, and respond to, objections that are directed against any controversial assumptions that you have made in arguing in support of your own view. Then, in the second, consider objections that might be directed against your thesis itself. Individual sections also need to be organized in a logical fashion.
This is primarily a matter of setting out arguments in a step-by-step fashion, and of discussing different arguments in different subsections, as discussed above in section V. Checklist for Logical and Perspicuous Structure: Is my essay organized into sections in a logical fashion? Are the sections divided into appropriate subsections? Have I made the overall structure of my essay clear by using informative headings for sections and subsections?
There are various ways in which she can formulate this question, some of which will strongly argumsnt one answer rather than another. Suppose, on the other hand, that what she asks is whether people should be prevented from having access to important information about something which is not only natural laper very beautiful, but also a means of expressing feelings of tenderness and love. When the question is phrased this way, it seems likely that she pwper arrive a rather different conclusion.
Why are emotionally charged formulations bad? There are two reasons. First, they tend to alienate the reader or listener, thereby making it less likely that others will devote much time to a serious consideration of ehical arguments. But secondly, such formulations are even more dangerous with respect to one's own thinking, since what they typically do is to make it seem that the right answer is obvious, and this in turn usually prevents one from grappling with the issue in a serious way, and from subjecting one's own view to critical examination.
Checklist for Dispassionate and Unemotional Discussion: Have Wrute made use of emotively charged language? Is my discussion dispassionate and fair throughout? Obscurity is not a sign of profundity. I suspect that this point probably needs to be labored a bit, as there are reasons for thinking that many people, in their erite school education, are encouraged arguument express their ideas in a fashion which sounds profound. Consider, for example, the following experiment, carried out by two English professors at the University of Chicago. Joseph Williams and Rosemary Hake took a well-written paper, and changed the language to produce two different versions.
Both versions involved the same ideas ethival concepts, but one was written in simplified, straightforward language, while the other was written in verbose, bombastic language, loaded with pedantic terms. They then submitted the two papers to nine wite teachers, and found that all nine gave very high marks to the verbose paper, but downgraded the straightforward essay as too simple and shallow.
Williams and Hake then repeated the experiment with a group of ninety teachers, and came up with similar results. Three out of four high-school teachers and two out of three college teachers! What should you be aiming at, in terms of clarity, simplicity, and intelligibility?
One way of estimating how successful your essay is in these respects is by considering how it would seem to a secondary school student who knew nothing about the topic. Would he or she be able to read it without difficulty? Having read it, would he or she be able to say exactly what view you were defending and how you were supporting that view? But if there is any room for doubt, then you need to rewrite your essay so that your ideas are expressed in a simpler and more straightforward way.
Checklist for Overall Clarity and Conciseness: To what extent is the writing clear and straightforward?
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Is the writing concise? A Non-Religious, Philosophical Approach Many people defend ethical views by appealing either to religious or theological assumptions, or to moral principles that are religiously based. Such assumptions or principles are often of a highly controversial sort, and exercises 1, 2, and 3 were intended to illustrate how problematic an appeal either to religious and theological premises, or to moral principles that are religiously based, can be.
It is possible of course, that there are religious claims that, although controversial, can be shown to be reasonable. Any such defense, however, is a major undertaking, and in an essay of this length, the chances of success in doing that are not good.
In addition, paper, any learn more here of religious claims that is likely to be intellectually satisfactory requires a serious background in philosophy of religion. The Philosophy Department has a number of philosophers who are experts in the area of philosophy of religion, and if you are interested in exploring religious issues, you may well want to consider taking one of the philosophy of religion courses that the Department offers. This, however, is a course in ethics, and here you need na confine yourself to non-religious, philosophical arguments: Any such claims, then, are to be avoided.
Planning your Essay In the preceding sections, I have discussed the features that make for a good essay that is focusing upon the critical discussion of a moral issue. In this final section I want to mention briefly what I think efhical the most helpful idea for producing an essay that has these characteristics - namely, the formulation of an explicit plan, both for the essay as a whole, and for individual sections.
To do this, you might proceed as follows. First, on a filing card, or a small sheet of paper, list the main sections into which your discussion will be divided, as discussed above. Secondly, for each of those sections, take a filing card, and write down both the main claims that you want to advance in that section, and a brief description of any arguments that you'll be putting forward, or examining.
Thirdly, for each of the arguments that you'll be discussing, write down, on another filing card, the basic structure of that argument. Finally, re-examine everything just click for source you have written down. Can you see a more effective way of dividing the discussion up into sections? Is there a better way of organizing the material within a given section? Can any of your arguments be given a better step-by-step formulation? The plan that you initially draw up is not, of agrument, set in concrete, and as you do more reading for your essay, or talk to other people about the issue that you're considering, you'll often see a better way of organizing the material, or other arguments or objections that you need to consider, and so on.
You can then modify your original plan. The crucial thing is always to have at least a tentative plan in mind, for even when you're just beginning to think about a topic, that will help you to do so in a focused way.