Philosophy 1301

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University of North Texas


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ESSAY CRITERIA – PHIL-1301, SPRING 2024 The essay assignment is 25% of your final grade. This assignment is meant to test your ability to explain philosophy, specifically ethics, more in depth and to critically analyze and compare different approaches to ethics or environmental ethics. This must be a new essay written specifically for this class by you individually. You must get approval from your instructor before using part or all of an essay that was submitted for another class or a previous semester of Introduction to Philosophy. You have two topic choices: your essay must cover either Topic A or Topic B, not both. Whichever option you chose, you will pick only two approaches to cover in your essay. Topic A: Pick any two out of the following approaches to ethics: Ethical egoism, utilitarianism, Kant’s categorical imperative, Aristotle’s virtue ethics, or care ethics. First, give your own cohesive summary of each of those two approaches. Second, discuss the comparative strengths and weaknesses of each and give your own argument for which is a better approach to ethics and why. Topic B: Pick any two out of the following approaches to environmental ethics: Singer’s animal ethics, Leopold’s land ethic, or Sandler’s environmental virtue ethics. First, give your own cohesive summary of each of those two approaches. Second, discuss the comparative strengths and weaknesses of each and give your own argument for which is a better approach to environmental ethics and why. Essay Setup Summary: You should summarize each of the two approaches you are discussing, in about a paragraph each (or two each, if necessary). For this assignment, your summary should not give any judgment, but simply present a neutral explanation of the main ideas (any evaluation should be in your analysis). Your summary must be mostly in your own words; you can and should use key terms, and limited use of direct quotes is helpful, but you cannot just copy the text, notes, or other sources. Analysis: You should discuss and explain what you see as the strengths and weaknesses of each approach and give your own argument for which is better and why. This portion should not just repeat the strengths and weaknesses given in the text and notes or outside sources; you must focus mainly on your own clearly given analysis and your own rational argument. You do not have to argue that one view is better than the other, as long as you have a clear conclusion that you argue for. Your essay will have two main parts to it, a relevant summary of course material, and your own critical analysis or argument regarding the theories you are addressing; your summary and analysis should be roughly equal in length. In addition, your essay should begin with a one-paragraph introduction (including a thesis statement) and end with a one-paragraph conclusion. Due Date and Submission: Your essay must be submitted on ecampus by 11:59 PM on Wednesday, April 17! You will upload your essay as a Word document (.doc or .docx) on ecampus; it must be a Word document specifically. Your essay will be run through Turnitin, software to help identify potential cases of plagiarism and check for potential cases of uncited AI use in your writing (see below concerning AI use in your essay). (continued on next page) PHIL 1301 Essay Criteria Continued Length and Format: Your essay must be no less than 1000 and should not be more than 1500 words. It should be 12” Times New Roman font, double-spaced, with 1” margins on all sides. Any paper written below the minimum length will receive a lower grade (you may go beyond the upper word count if necessary, but not too much). Heading, direct quotes, footnotes, your works cited list, etc. do not count towards the 1000-1500 words. Sources and Citation: All sources of information, including assigned readings or the course notes, must be properly cited according to either MLA, APA, or Chicago style citation, resources for which can be easily found online. • You are required to cite the course materials relevant to the two theories you are writing on. You may use the assigned reading, your notes from lecture, or the online course notes for this, or any combination of the above. • You may use outside sources if you want to, but it is not required; if you use any outside sources, then you are required to properly cite them in your essay. Citing outside sources does not replace the requirement to cite the relevant course material. • The care ethics reading and any of the environmental philosophy readings should be cited as chapters in an edited volume; the source information for each is given in the PDF. • Use of artificial intelligence tools (for example, Chat GPT or similar) counts as an outside source and must be properly cited; this includes a works cited entry, indicating all places in your writing where you took information from AI tools, and using quotation marks when copying text directly. Remember, anything that is not your own thinking or idea must be properly referenced! Proper citation always includes two things: in-text citation (parenthetical references or footnotes) and full information for each source at the end of the essay (a works cited list). Any use of a source that is not referenced constitutes plagiarism. Direct word-for-word copying from a source without use of both quotation marks and source citation is also plagiarism. Plagiarism may result in a 0 on this assignment. Grading: The essay is worth 100 points and is 25% of your final course grade. Your grade on the assignment consists of the following criteria: Summary (25 points): Give a clear and cohesive summary of two philosophical approaches to ethics or environmental ethics, clearly covering the most important aspects and overall main idea of each. Analysis (25 points): Give your own comparison of the strengths and weakness of each ethical approach, and your own argument for which is better and why (or why both are equally good, etc.) Critical Thinking (25 points): Be sure to show careful and consistent reasoning throughout your essay, clearly explain your ideas, and give reasoning behind your judgments and conclusion. Writing (25 points): Be sure to write clearly, properly cite your sources, and make sure that your essay is mostly free of spelling and grammar errors; submit essay in proper format. Essays that are late and/or below the required word count will have points deducted outside of this grading criteria. Contact your instructor if you have any questions over the essay assignment!
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Singer's Animal Ethics vs. Leopold's Land Ethic
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Ethical principles in the environment are the holding back section of philosophy
investigating the moral connections between human beings and their natural environment. It acts
in various areas like animal welfare, ecosystem protection, and environmental sustainability. The
most controversial theories on environmental ethics are those of Peter Singer, who believed in
animal ethics, and Leopold's land ethic ethics. This essay gives a brief description of the outlined
positions. It further discusses their relative advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, it will
claim that although Singer's model provides an excellent starting point for animal welfare,
Leopold's land ethic offers a more complete and whole picture of environmental ethics.

Singer's Animal Ethics

Peter Singer advocates for the ethics of animals, which he explains as derived from the
principle of equal consideration of interests. Singer considers that moral consideration should be
determined by the ability to suffer rather than by species membership and intelligence (Vitale &
Bennett, 2021). This line of thought extends moral consideration from human beings to include
other sentient beings as they also have feelings of pain and pleasure. Singer argues that
speciesism, discrimination based solely on species identity as racism and sexism, is as invalid as
those acts (Vitale & Bennett, 2021). According to Singer's logic, species membership is no
longer the central consideration in determining our moral philosophy and ethical decisions. No
being, whatever his classification radically distorts their biology, has a right to moral
consideration grounded in the possibility of experiencing these feelings (Vitale & Bennett,
2021). This gives us an ethical responsibility to ensure that animals are in cruel conditions like
factory farming or animal testing. Singer supports the view that implementing a cost-benefit


analysis, which frames the activity as unethical practices that cause unnecessary suffering to
sentient beings, is a favorable approach (Vitale & Bennett, 2021).

For instance, Singer's contention that the suffering caused to animals due to factory
farming overcomes any benefits humans get from such practices can be cited. He proposes
ethical animal breeding methods within the boundaries, avoiding animal suffering (Vitale &
Bennett, 2021). Singer's methodology allows one to determine the moral rights of animals in a
concise, distinct, and unambiguous way. That vividness of clarification carries the prospects to
redirect policies and endorse actions that attenuate animal torments in different human

Strengths and Limitations of Singer's Approach

One of the main merits of Singer's animal ethics is that sentient beings are given much
weight in it, and this requires us to challenge the long-running view that ethics is totally about
humans. Singer's view of life's capacity for suffering as a fundamental justice criterion helps
humankind build empathy and compassion towards non-human animals, which opens the gates
toward humane treatment and animal welfare liberation (Gruen, 2022).

Although Singer's animal ethics have flaws, they are valid contributions to the field.
Opponents are convinced that it disregards the truth that a tremendous array of life forms have
the right to exist even when taken together. For example, plants may be considered non-sentient
but still have a relevant function in maintaining a natural healthy balance in the species'
environment (Callicott, 1999). Besides, Singer might only consider minimizing the suffering, so
he needs to reflect the intrinsic values of ecosystems and biodiversity adequately. A well-built


ecological system with no pain and its activities are connected environmentally, meaning
interactions exist between different lives.

Leopold's Land Ethic

Aldo Leopold, an ecologist and a conservationist, suggested an ethical land system that
gives moral attention to each species and the entire community of nature. He proposes looking at
the human perception differently: not as conquerors of the land but as an integral part of a
biological community. The land ethic concerns about worthy biological life underlies every
organism and everything connected. Leopold talks of an ecological responsibility coming into
action with human beings functioning as guardians of the soil that should be healthy and whole
forever for generations to come (Leopold, 1986). Leopold firmly declared that a thing is right if
it maintains the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. On the other hand, a
thing is wrong when it is eventua...

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