Final Paper


1.  Goal


The final paper counts as your final exam. It is worth 25% of your final grade.


Our first paper's goal was to explain a complicated position simply; our second paper was a review of the literature. Both explanation and literature review are common college assignments. The third and final paper aims at another common goal: to "compare and contrast."


You have probably written "compare and contrast" essays before. For this class, you are assuming a bright but ignorant reader, so you must not take any knowledge for granted. You cannot assume the reader knows anything in advance about utilitarianism, Kantianism, and Aristotelian ethics. It is your job to convey enough of the the basic ideas of these ethical systems to enable a bright reader to appreciate your remarks about their similarities and differences.



2. What Your Paper Should Include

Your paper should include all the following:

  1. What utilitarianism is. You should explain the distinction between act and rule utilitarianism.


  2. What Kantianism is.


  3. What Aristotle's ethics is.


  4. Similarities and differences among the three systems, in areas such as the following:


    • The different emphases placed on performing or not performing specific acts in determining moral worth (the distinction between duty-based and character-based approaches; i.e., the difference between deontic and aretaic approaches)


    • The role of consequences in determining the morality of acts (the distinction between consequentialist and non-consequentialist approaches)


    • The distinction between act-based and rule-based approaches to duty


    • Different conceptions of the nature and the role of reason in determining morality of acts, rules, or persons


    • The relative importance of non-human animals


    • The degree to which each approach is consistent with "human nature" (able to be practiced by ordinary people with ordinary human desires)


    • The degree to which each approach is elitist or sexist


    • The degree to which each approach inspires human excellence


Extra-good essays will show how these different approaches can be applied to specific ethical problems, such as rights, justice, promise-keeping, lying, family values and duties to the less fortunate.


3. Sample papers


I have some sample papers, graded with comments, from previous semesters. They are "compare and contrast" papers limited to utilitarianism and Kant, but should still be useful. They range from F- to A+ in quality. Many are dialogs. The dialog approach is particularly useful for this assignment (three or four characters, each representing one position). If you would like to see papers , please make an appointment to come to my office, preferably during my office hours. Since students have stolen sample papers in the past, you cannot "borrow" sample papers. Viewing sample papers is optional and entirely at my convenience. These limitations apply to online students as well as on-campus students.





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