Ashford University Virtuous A

Assignment Three: Individual-Developed Essay

Due : Open Assignment

The third essay is to be designed by the individual student. The only stipulation is that it be based in the philosophy of ethics and ethical theory. A research paper is not required; a personal essay is acceptable for this assignment.


In the event that you’d rather not develop your own question, I have included several prompts below:

  1. Potential Papers
  1. Below are a couple prompts you might use if your imagination otherwise fails you.
  1. Remember: you can design your own prompts and write your papers on any relevant topic within the very large realm of the Philosophy of Ethics.
  1. (1) In the Nicomachean Ethics – in Book I, Chapter 4 (1105a30-35 and 1105b7-10) and Book I, Chapter 3 (1104b5-10) – Aristotle identifies four conditions that an action must satisfy to count as virtuous. (Roughly, the act must be done knowingly, as the result of the actor having decided on the act because it was virtuous, from a firm and unchanging state, and with enjoyment.) Drawing on the writings of one or more of the following, critique or defend one of these conditions as a necessary condition for an action being virtuous: Julia Annas, John Doris, John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant (or any other author you prefer).A successful answer to question (1) might look something like this. (You do not need to follow this outline as long as you answer the stated question.)
    • Offer a short statement in your own words of the condition that you will be defending or criticizing as necessary for an action to be virtuous, followed by the claim that you will be making about it (e.g. “In this paper, drawing on the work of X, I will argue that Y is (not) a necessary condition for an action to be virtuous.”)
    • Provide a paragraph explaining Aristotle’s reasons for identifying the condition as necessary. (Don’t just quote here: make it clear that you understand how Aristotle’s position here fits into his more general views about the nature of virtue.)
    • Offer a defense or criticism of this condition, drawing on one or more of the authors listed above, followed by your own assessment of this defense or criticism.
    • Offer one or perhaps two (critical or supportive) response (s) to this defense or criticism, either one(s) that you yourself devise, or one (s) that draw(s) on one or more of the readings we have done. These may be theoretical responses, or they might be examples or counterexamples that you describe or construct whose connection to the argument you make clear and explicit.
    • Evaluate this response.
    • Present a retort on behalf of Aristotle (or his imagined critic) to the response(s) thatyou have presented.
    • Evaluate this retort.
    • Evaluate the dialectic (though it’s fine if your paper ends in aporia…)
  2. (2) Using two or more of the authors we’ve discussed over the eight weeks, identify one of the roles that principles might play in the explanation or justification of moral action, and criticize or defend the claim that principles play that role. So, for example, you might discuss Daniel Batson’s suggestion that principles serve primarily as devices of rationalization in light of writings by Robert Nozick, or John Stuart Mill, or Immanuel Kant, or Judith Thomson (or vice versa, for one of the claims of one of those authors.) Or you might consider one or more of the principles that Judy Thomson extracts from her discussion of trolley cases in light of the writings of Cass Sunstein, or Fiery Cushman, or Josh Greene. (If you would like to draw on the work of a different author instead, check with your TF first to make sure that your proposal will work.)

A successful answer to question (2) might look something like this. (You do not need to follow this outline as long as you

answer the stated question.)

  • Articulate the view about the role of principles in explaining or justifying moral action that you plan to defend or criticize, and briefly articulate the grounds on which you intend to defend or criticize this view.
  • Explain your position more precisely, and offer one or more arguments on its behalf: either one(s) that you yourself devise, or one (s) that draw(s) on one or more of the readings we have done. These may be theoretical arguments, or they might be examples or counterexamples that you describe or construct whose connection to the dialectic you make clear and explicit.
  • Response to these arguments (again, perhaps drawing on the work of one or more of our authors.)
  • Evaluate this response, and offer a retort to it.
  • Evaluate this retort.
  • Evaluate the dialectic (though it’s fine if your paper ends in aporia…)

(3) Drawing on at least two of the authors that we have read this semester, present and defend a view about the morally correct action in one of the following cases: Bernard Williams’ Jim case, Bernard Williams’ George case, or Judy Thomson’s fat man case. Identify and explain at least one implication of this view for one or more of the moral theories we have discussed.

A successful answer to question (3) might look something like this. (You do not need to follow this outline as long as you answer the stated question.)

  • An articulation of the view that you intend to defend. E.g. “In this paper, I will argue that in the X case, the right thing to do is Y. I will show that this means that moral theory M is incorrect (alternatively: that moral theory N is importantly correct) because it assumes that in X-like cases the correct thing to do is [blah].”
  • Offer reasons for your view.
  • Explain why someone might hold the opposite view about the case you areconsidering, and identify the reasoning that lies behind this alternative picture.
  • Identify what you take to be a flaw in that reasoning, and explain why you think youralternative account avoids that flaw.
  • Evaluate this response, and offer a retort to it.
  • Evaluate this retort.
  • Explain the implications of your discussion for one or more of the moral theories wehave discussed.
  • Evaluate the dialectic (though it’s fine if your paper ends in aporia…)
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