ETHICS PAPER PROMPT

OVERVIEW

You will write a paper explaining, applying, and evaluating the moral theories of Mill and Kant. Imagine you are writing this paper for someone who has never studied ethics. They want to know what each theory says, how to apply it, and what you think about it.

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REQUIREMENTS

· 4-6 pages, double-spaced, 12 point font Times New Roman, 1-inch margins

· Bibliography (this does not count toward the 4-6 page requirement; use whichever style formatting you prefer—MLA, APA, etc.)

 

PAPER

You will explain the moral theories of Mill and Kant. Then you will apply each of their theories to an ethical dilemma. Finally, you will evaluate each theory and how well it handles the dilemma.

 

Your paper must include the following parts:

 

Part 1. Explain Mill’s theory of Utilitarianism using your own words. Be sure to explain Act Consequentialism as well as Hedonism. And be sure to provide good examples as you explain key parts of Utilitarianism. (You do not need to discuss Rule Utilitarianism.)

 

Part 2. Explain Kant’s moral theory using your own words. In particular, you should discuss the Formula of Universal Law and the Formula of Humanity. (You do not need to discuss the other formulations of the Categorical Imperative.)

 

Part 3. Apply Mill and Kant’s moral theories to the following case:

 

Jim finds himself in the central square of a small South American town. Tied up against the wall are a row of twenty Indians, most terrified, a few defiant, in front of them several armed men in uniform. A heavy man in a sweat-stained khaki shirt turns out to be the captain in charge and, after a good deal of questioning of Jim which establishes that he got there by accident while on a botanical expedition, explains that the Indians are a random group of the inhabitants who, after recent acts of protest against the government, are just about to be killed to remind other possible protestors of the advantages of not protesting. However, since Jim is an honored visitor from another land, the captain is happy to offer him a guest’s privilege of killing one of the Indians himself. If Jim accepts, then as a special mark of the occasion, the other Indians will be let off. Of course, if Jim refuses, then there is no special occasion, and Pedro here will do what he was about to do when Jim arrived, and kill them all. Jim, with some desperate recollection of schoolboy fiction, wonders whether if he got hold of a gun, he could hold the captain, Pedro and the rest of the soldiers to threat, but it is quite clear from the set-up that nothing of the sort is going to work: any attempt at that sort of thing will mean that all of the Indians will be killed, and himself. The men against the wall, and the other villagers understand the situation, and are obviously begging him to accept. (From “A Critique of Utilitarianism” by Bernard Williams)

 

What should Jim do? Suppose the Indians had been unable to communicate their preferences to Jim. Would that have made a difference to what he should do? Discuss this situation from the point of view of Utilitarianism and Kant’s moral theory. From a Utilitarian perspective, should Jim accept the offer? Is it wrong for him to refuse the offer? What factors should he consider when making his moral calculations? From a Kantian perspective should he accept the offer? Is it wrong for him to refuse the offer? You should apply the Formula of Universal Law and the Formula of Humanity to the situation.

 

Part 4. What do you think about each theory? Is it correct? What is the best objection to each theory (in your view)? Is it a serious problem? What do you think of the way each theory handles the case? Which theory do you think handles the Jim case better? Why?

 

GRADING

Your paper will primarily be graded for content, clarity, and understanding:

· How well do you demonstrate your understanding of the material? You should go out of your way to show me how well you understand the ideas you are working with. The most common comment that I write on student’s papers is, “Needs more explanation.” You might have an excellent understanding of the material, but you need to demonstrate that in your writing.

· Does your paper cover the issues and include all of the content it should? Did you define key terms and explain key ideas? Are the details and examples well-chosen? Do they arouse the reader’s interest and provide relevant, concrete, specific and insightful evidence in support of the claims made in the paper?

· Did you present the main ideas clearly and concisely? How well structured is your paper? Do all of the sentences in each paragraph work together to illuminate your meaning, or do some of them confuse or obfuscate the main point? Does each paragraph have a clear purpose? Is your writing style readable and rhetorically effective? Are there errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation? Does your paper read as though it were put together at the last minute?

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