2nd Paper Assignment
Instructions: Write a 2-3 page paper answering one of essay topics below. The rough draft will
be due on in class on Wednesday October 24. It will be graded based on completion. I must
have a paper copy by that day. No late rough drafts will be accepted. The final draft is due on
Wednesday Monday November 5 by midnight and on Canvas. The paper will be marked down
an additional 3 points for each class section that it is late.
1) What makes a person’s life go well? Is the experience of happiness ultimately the only thing
that matters as Bentham and Mill seem to think or does a connection to reality also matter
as Nozick thinks? Be sure to discuss Nozick’s Experience Machine and the reason why it is
seen as a problem for hedonistic theories like Bentham and Mill’s.
2) Can utilitarians provide an adequate account of rights? That is, can they make sense of the
idea that we cannot, say, violate a person’s right to free speech or right to life even if doing
so would bring about the greatest amount happiness for the greatest amount of people? Or
do utilitarians ultimately have to say, with Bentham, that talk of ‘inalienable rights’ is
‘nonsense on stilts’ in order to remain consistent with their ethical theory?
• Use Ursula LeGuin’s story, “The Ones Who Walked Away From Omelas” to
illustrate the problem.
• Explain the distinction between act and rule utilitarianism and its significance to
• Address some of the problems typically associated with rule utilitarianism.
3) Peter Singer claims that spending money on luxury goods is like not saving a child drowning
in a pond in all morally relevant respects. Since the latter is clearly immoral, so too is
spending money on luxury goods. Explain and critically evaluate Singer’s argument. Do
you find it convincing? If not, why not and what do you think those of us in the affluent parts
of the world owe those in more impoverished parts?
4) In chapter 2 of the Groundwork, Kant tries to derive the Formula of Universal Law (i.e. Act
only on that maxim which you can at the same time will to be a universal law) from the
reflection on the very concept of a rational agent. Reconstruct and critically evaluate his
5) You are free to come up with a topic of your choosing but you must run it by me first.
Format: The paper must be typed, double spaced with 1 inch margins and 11-12 pt. font,
stapled, and submitted to me by the beginning of class on the dates specified. E-mailed papers
will not be accepted.
Grading Rubric Checklist: Before turning in your final drafts, print out the grading rubric from
eCompanion, assess yourself according to each category, and staple your assessment to your
final draft. Do not wait until the last minute to complete this step as you may find that you need
to make some adjustments to fit the criteria!
Late policy: Late papers will be docked 1/3 grade for each class session that they are late.
Plagiarism: If you plagiarize any portion of your paper, you will receive an automatic F and will
be reported to the administration.
Note: The criteria you will be assessed on are the hallmarks of good philosophical writing and
are extremely difficult to achieve. Doing so will require revising your paper a number of times.
The final draft that you turn in should really be your third or fourth draft.
Organization, Clarity and Concision (40%)
When developing a complex philosophical position, effective organization is essential. Your
paper should begin with a brief introduction that includes a clear, easily identifiable thesis
statement as well a a roadmap in which you explain how you will clarify and defend your thesis.
When reading your paper, it should be clear at all times how your claims relate to your thesis.
Think of a thesis paper as a thesis-driven paper—everything that you include and every
organizational decision that you make is in service of clarifying and defending your thesis.
The body of your paragraph should include section titles.
Each paragraph in the body of your essay should begin with a topic sentence. Your topic
sentence is the main point you are trying to make in your paragraph. You can think of it as a
mini-thesis for the paragraph.
Each paragraph in the body of your essay should end with a concluding sentence. Your
concluding sentence summarizes the main point you made in your paragraph. You can think of
it as the take-away message for the paragraph. Concluding sentences give your reader a
sense of closure when they reach the end of the paragraph.
Example of a paragraph with a topic and concluding sentence:
“Canada is one of the best countries in the world for three reasons. First,
Canada has an excellent health care system. All Canadians have access to medical
services at reasonable prices. Second, Canada has a high standard of education.
Students are taught by well-trained teachers and are encouraged to continue
studying at university. Finally, Canada's cities are clean and efficiently managed.
Canadian cities have many parks and lots of space for people to live. In short,
Canada is a desirable place to live.”
Your paper should include a conclusion in which you briefly restate your thesis, summarize what
you did, and point out weaknesses in your approach.
Your prose should be clear. That is, your reader should have no difficulty understanding you.
One effective strategy for ensuring this involves giving your paper to a friend to read. If they can
follow your discussion from start to finish, even without knowing anything about your topic, then
your paper is likely clear and well-organized.
Finally, your discussion should be concise. One of the key skills involved in this paper is
determining what is necessary to convey the argument, and what is not. As much as possible,
limit the scope of your discussion to what is necessary to answer the question asked. That
being said, it is entirely possible to include too little in your discussion—make sure that you have
completely answered the question. You might feel like you are repeating yourself somewhat—
this is not necessarily a problem for philosophical writing.
Your discussion should accurately describe the views relevant to the topic you choose.
Argument Strength (15%):
You should make sure that your conclusion(s) actually follows from your premises. Although
your premises need not be true (that’s too much to ask), they shouldn’t obviously be false. You
should also make sure that your reader can easily identify your premises and conclusion(s). To
do so, you can either present your argument (s) in numbered premise form or skillfully employ
premise and conclusion indicators.
Critical Comparison (10%):
The central points of agreement and/or difference between all views discussed (including your
own) are made explicit.
Considers and Responds to Objections (15%):
After you have presented your argument, assume that your reader disagrees with you, and that
he/she has at least one reason for disagreeing. Devote at least one section of your paper to an
objection. In that section, you should explain the objection in the best light possible and then
respond to it. You can title this section “Objection (s)” or use a more informative title.
Grading Rubric for Thesis Papers
Presents a single, clear thesis
Clearly, concisely, and accurately explains the
organization of paper
Key philosophical terms are clearly defined
and used consistently
Each body paragraph has a topic sentence
and addresses only that topic
Each body paragraph has a concluding
Good transitions between paragraphs
Uses examples to illustrate difficult concepts
Paper is free of awkward prose and
Ideas are clearly and logically organized.
Transitional words and phrases clearly show
how the ideas contained in different
paragraphs are related.
Discussion is free of irrelevant content,
The conclusion follows from the premises.
The premises are plausible.
Premises and conclusions are easily
identifiable because either arguments have
been presented in numbered premise form
or the author skillfully uses argument
All theories are correctly described and
accurately attributed to their authors.
Quotations are analyzed and explained well
Key concepts are used correctly throughout
Descriptions are thorough, capturing all
premises of key arguments.
The central points of agreement and/or
difference between all views discussed are
Presents strong objections to one’s
argument(s) in the best light possible
Offers (a) convincing response(s)
Briefly summarizes what happened in the
Highlights most interesting points
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