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Ethical Questions


Please read these assignment instructions before writing your discussion, and re-read them often during and after the writing process to make sure that you are fulfilling all of the instructions. Please also utilize the assignment guidance, the modeled example, and the outlineprovided.

The following discussion is an exercise designed to help you begin the process of addressing a moral issue, a process that will continue in the next two assignments. In this exercise, you will do the following:

  • Formulate an ethical question within one of the given topic areasfrom the list provided.
  • Provide an introduction in which you briefly explain the topic and the particular question on which you will focus your paper.
  • State your position on the question at issue.
  • Identify one consideration that would support your position and one consideration that would challenge it.

The exercise should be in outline (not essay) format, with each part labeled and numbered as specified below.

    1. Part One: Formulate the Question
      Read through the list of available topic areas, and select a topic on which you would like to write your next two papers. Formulate a specific, concrete, ethical question pertaining to that topic, and place that at the top of your paper.

      The question should be specific enough to continue to discuss in last assignemnt (which is the length of the Final Paper assignment Week 5). For example, if you were interested in discussing the topic of capital punishment, a question like “Is capital punishment wrong?” would be too vague, and would need to be reformulated as a more specific question, such as “Should we execute people convicted of first degree murder?” or “Is it just to use capital punishment when there is the possibility of executing innocent persons?” or “Is the capital punishment system racist?”


    1. Part Two: Provide a Brief Introduction to the Topic
      Your introduction should focus on setting out the topic and scope of the discussion in a way that clearly establishes what exactly you will be talking about and why it is significant. It should also provide any necessary context such as the background, current state of affairs, definitions of key terms, and so on. You want to try to do this in a way that stays as neutral as possible, avoids controversial assumptions, rhetorical questions, and the like. In other words, you should try to construct an introduction to the topic that could be an introduction to a paper defending any position on the question at issue.

      It is important for your introduction to narrow down the topic as much as possible. Doing so will allow you to provide a more detailed consideration of the issues and explain the reasoning more clearly in later papers. In general, arguments and analyses are much stronger when they focus on addressing a particular issue thoroughly and in detail, and doing so often requires deciding on one particular question or point to discuss, and leaving other possible ones aside.

      You should label this section of your paper as “Introduction.”


    1. Part Three: Provide a Position Statement
      State clearly and precisely the position you intend to defend on the question you have formulated. This does not need to be more than one sentence.

      Note that providing a position statement does not necessarily presume that you are confident in your position, that other positions do not have merit, or that you cannot change your mind later. However, for now, it is important to at least tentatively take a stand on a position you believe to be better supported than others.

      Label this section as “Position Statement.”


    1. Part Four: Identify and Explain a Supporting Reason
      Identify and explain a plausible reason someone could give that supports the position you have taken and be sure to clearly explain why you think it supports that position. The explanation should aim to be three to five sentences (shorter explanations are possible, but will likely be inadequate; longer explanations are likely to be too verbose).

      Label this section as “Supporting Reason.”


  1. Part Five: Identify and Explain an Opposing Reason
    Identify and explain a plausible reason someone might give that would oppose or challenge the position you have taken and be sure to clearly explain why you think it would oppose or challenge it. The explanation should aim to be three to five sentences (shorter explanations are possible, but will likely be inadequate; longer explanations are likely to be too verbose). You should strive to articulate that reason in a way that someone defending a contrary position to your own would do. This requires stepping back from your own position and being able to think about the problem as objectively as you can. You should not attempt to respond to this opposing reason.

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