Paper Assignment, Due Monday, January 31st, 2011
Instructions: The purpose of this writing assignment is to test your ability to explain and evaluate a topic of contemporary interest using your skills as a critical thinker. Clear, logically developed writing is essential for completing the assignment successfully. Choose one (1) and only one topic from the list below. Then, in your own words, explain the arguments specified in the topic description. Your goal is essentially fourfold:
1. In an initial paragraph, introduce both your topic and your own thesis, i.e. what you intend to prove in the paper, concerning this topic.
2. Explain the arguments given on one side of the issue. This might be arguments in support of illegal immigration, or arguments for gun control, etc. (This will depend on what topic you choose, obviously.)
3. Explain the arguments given on the opposing side of the issue you've chosen.
4. Finally, by pointing out the various strengths and weaknesses of the arguments, explain which side you believe is more convincing. This is where you will argue for own thesis. This will require you to articulate your reasons for rejecting (or accepting) the different arguments given you have analyzed, e.g. "I think 'x''s position on 'y' is better than 'z''s because of the following reason...", and to argue in support of your own viewpoint. Remember that your goal here is not merely to expound upon an opinion, but to support it with good evidence. Remember, too, that you should anticipate possible objections to your own thesis and offer reasons to defend your point of view.
Papers should be in the 1,200 - 1,400 word range (roughly 5-7 pages with a 12 or 14 double-spaced font). Papers with poor spelling and/or grammar will not be received favorably. Papers that show evidence of original thinking and personal reflection on the material will be received favorably. You must cite all sources. Any standard formatting, e.g. MLA, APA, is acceptable, so long as it is easy for the instructor to track down sources, if required.
CHOOSE ONE OF THE FOLLOWING TOPICS:
1. Illegal Immigration
Possible Thesis Statements:
Some relevant questions: How does illegal immigration affect the economy? How does it affect society as a whole? What is the relationship between illegal immigration and crime? Does illegal immigration depress wages? Does it benefit society in some ways? Should those in a country illegally have rights? What rights, if any, should they have, and why? How can the illegal immigration issue be evaluated with the different ethical theories, e.g. Kant, utilitarianism, virtue ethics, etc., discussed this semester?
2. Gun control
Possible Thesis Statements
Compare and contrast the different arguments on each side of the gun control issue.
Here are some on-line sources:
3. Animal Rights
Possible Thesis Statements:
It is frequently claimed that animals have no rights, while human beings do. But is this really true? Consider the work of Peter Singer, who argues that not all life is, in and of itself, valuable. There may be cases in which human beings are no longer valuable enough to go on living, while in some cases perhaps animals might be said to possess a right to live and not to be made to suffer. Is Singer right about this? What evidence might be used against him? What counterevidence might he give against these objections? (Consider, for instance, that although utilitarians often support animal rights, relativists, egoists, and Kantians often do not.) Students wishing to do this assignment are expected to research the different sides on the animal rights debate and to come to a definite conclusion (thesis) that resolves these questions. Some recommended library sources include
“In Defense of Animals” [Video] B5704.S554 I 52
Right Thing to Do: Basic Readings in Moral Philosophy ed. Rachels. BJ21.R54 2003
Peter Singer. Animal Liberation HV4708 .S56 1990
4. Is being virtuous what makes for a good life?
Some writers, such as Robert Solomon, argue that a virtuous person will generally be successful in life while a less virtuous person will not. Indeed, some argue that a virtuous person will make a better citizen, a better friend, and even a better business person than a vicious person will. But is this true? Or is virtue simply a device societies use to control us, as the Ring of Gyges story suggests? What is the alleged connection between virtue and success? What are virtues, and what makes them virtuous? How do these traits contribute to one's overall success in life? How do virtuous persons approach everyday tasks, such as those in business, differently than their less virtuous counterparts? What ethical theory will best help us understand the answers to these questions? Are Solomon and others correct? Why or why not?
Possible thesis statements:
(See the Net Library references for Solomon (search under "Robert Solomon," and check the library and internet for business ethics issues.)
You should make use of at least three sources when researching your chosen topic (whether it is topic 1, 2, 3 or 4 above). The bibliographical information for these sources must be cited in your paper.