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 Humans as Thinkers
Rodin's Thinker

Course Description                                      Class Schedule

Humans as Social Beings                            Term Paper Instructions

Unit 4:  Humans as Thinkers Assignment

Due:  March 31, 2003

Length:  2-4 pages

Your purpose is to identify, analyze, and take a stand on an important ethical issue.

    1.In paragraph one Identify a genuine ethical/moral problem and offer a possible solution to this problem  (present a hypothesis). 

    Introduce a current moral/ethical issue, identifying the dilemmas it    involves.  Then clearly state a thesis regarding this ethical issue.  Your purpose in this essay is to present an examination of how good this thesis is, not to justify it and it alone.  You are trying to initiate an inquiry aimed at considering just how good this proposed thesis really is.  You need to be specific about your thesis.

    Yes--Specific:  The US government should adopt a national health plan like the Canadian system or The US government should not adopt a national heath plan like the Canadian system.

    No--Non-specific/open ended:  What should the US government do about the  current health insurance crisis?

    2.In paragraph two state what means and consequences will be involved in accepting the thesis.

    To accept the thesis is to pursue the course of action it calls for and to accept the consequences.  Therefore, you need to do the following:

  • state what means will be employed to achieve the stand presented in paragraph one
  • state what the results, the consequences, of these means are likely to be.  
  • You must determine what means must be employed and what the results are likely to be if the thesis is accepted.  A degree of uncertainly surrounding the likely consequences must be considered, but determining both positive and negative results—that is, drawing inferences—is important.

    If the US government adopts a Canadian type health system, what means will be used to achieve this goal and what will be the effects?

    If the US government does not adopt a Canadian type health system, what will be the results?

    Focus on the main means and consequences, those most likely to occur.

    3.In paragraph three (and more if necessary), state the reasons for ACCEPTING the thesis AND the reasons for REJECTING the thesis.    

    In light of the means and consequences described in the previous paragraph, state the strongest reasons you can both for and against your thesis.  Be sure to include every important reason you can find on both sides of the question.  Simply state the reasons on both sides; do not argue the merits of these points.

    4.In paragraph four (and however many more are needed), evaluate the stated reasons on both sides of the issue.

       Merely stating the reasons on each side is not enough.  Some reasons are  not very  good ones.  One should look at each reason with a critical eye in  order to decide just how good a reason it is.  Reasons can be bad if they are,  for example, based on (1) faulty logic, or (2) a poor understanding of the facts, or  (3) completely unacceptable values.  Examine each reason to see whether or not it is really true or acceptable.  Keep the strong reasons; reject  weak or faulty ones.  Explain in each case why you think the reason is strong or weak.  Evaluate the reasons using the methods of ethical thinking  discussed in class:  utilitarianism, duty ethics, and virtue ethics.

    5.In the last paragraphs, present and support your particular stand by explaining the significance and certainty of the reasons you have deemed acceptable/good/logical.  In other words, decide now on a position or thesis that you think the reasons will support.

     Your justification for a particular course of moral behavior is based, at least in part, on some value or principle.  State the value(s) on which your justification is based.  You must now decide how important each of these values and principles really is.  You must consider which values/principles outweigh the others in the task at hand.  You must also consider how certain it is that each value/principle will be satisfied if the course of action called for is pursued.

The ability not only to formulate an opinion but also evaluate that opinion based on an analysis of the reasons for and against this opinion is the heart of this assignment.  Important ethical issues should not be decided on the basis of a "gut reaction" or "feeling"; they should be decided on the basis of sound reasoning that can withstand severe analysis!  This essay is your opportunity to demonstrate your analytical and evaluative skills.


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