Morality of Abortion, Meat-Eating, and the Death Penalty

The main aim of an author who writes an argumentative paper is to convince people who read it—in particular, those who don’t already agree with the author—that the positions he or she takes are the most likely to be true. In this effort, the author (1) clearly states his or her positions, (2) presents arguments in support of these positions, (3) anticipates the best objections to his or her arguments, (4) charitably presents these objections, and (5) directly and fully responds to all of the objections. Thus a good argumentative paper is one whose author, by these means, succeeds in convincing critical readers, at least to some degree, that his or her positions are the most plausible ones.

First, state, within your introductory paragraph, your positions on the morality of abortion, meat-eating, and the death penalty in the U.S. If your positions contain qualifications (such as “abortion is morally wrong, except when . . .” or “meat-eating is morally permissible only under these conditions . . .” or “the death penalty should be imposed only if . . .”), go ahead and state them in this paragraph if you can do so in a sentence or two; otherwise, just indicate here that your positions have qualifications and then specify these qualifications in the paper’s body where you give your defense of your positions.

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Second, set out, in the first part of your paper’s body, your theory of independent moral standing (IMS). Such a theory is your view on what attributes give an individual intrinsic moral value and hence entitle that individual’s welfare to be considered by moral agents whenever their actions will affect the individual. To jog your memory, here is a list of several candidates we discussed in class: life, sentience, experiencing-subject-of-a-life, genetic humanity, moral autonomy, rationality, descriptive personhood, potential descriptive personhood, and having a future of high value. Which of these attributes—and/or any others—do you believe give an individual IMS? Since critical readers of your paper are not going to simply accept the attributes you list, be sure to give reasons why these attributes are, in fact, morally relevant or special from the moral point of view.

Third, initially defend your positions, in the second part of the paper’s body, by presenting what you take to be the best arguments for them, which in part will involve applying your theory of IMS to these positions. (Each of your positions should have one “central argument” in support of it.)

Fourth, further defend each of your positions in the body of the paper by anticipating, charitably presenting, and directly and fully responding to the one best objection to each of your central arguments in support of each position. Each objection should be a counterargument, rather than a mere counterclaim.

Finally, conclude your paper by noting any important limitations, implications, or consequences associated with the conclusions you have reached (i.e., with the positions you have defended). A conclusion you have reached may not apply to everyone or in all circumstances, so if it is limited in this way, you might point that out or, if you have already done so earlier in the paper, remind readers of it. If one of your positions implies something important (e.g., that most people, including yourself, are currently acting wrongly), then you may point this out. Or if a conclusion you have reached has as a consequence that people or our government should change their ways or policies, then you might mention that. Just remember to be relatively brief here and avoid stating anything whose logical connections to your positions are controversial. After reading this paragraph, your readers should readily agree with you that your positions have the limitations, implications, and/or consequences that you state they do.

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