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Defending a Moral Claim: Short Essay Assignment


In this short, essay assignment you will be making a reasoned defense of a specific, moral claim. You can choose the topic of your essay on any ethical topic that we covered in class or you can choose from one of the topics I’ve listed below. One thing your essay must include is a short summary (no more than a page) of one of the central arguments from a relevant reading from class to your essay’s topic. Your essay should have a clear thesis - the view you are trying to defend – and clear arguments in support of it. We will talk about various parts of the essay in the upcoming weeks.

There are different ways you might structure this essay. One way is to present a central argument that you disagree with, and then respond by raising an objection or two to that argument. Another way is to present a central argument you agree with, and then to defend that position from an objection or two. So here you would consider and respond to an objection or two. The important thing to keep in mind is that you are trying to give a reasoned defense of your thesis.

Option 1 – Pick your topic
You may write about any topic that we’ve covered in this course. If you go this route, however, you should email me your topic just so that I can make sure it is on the right track and doable for a short essay.

Option 2 - Poverty
What obligations do relatively affluent people (middle-class members of developed countries, say) have when it comes to giving to organizations helping people in extreme poverty? Your essay should defend a specific thesis and consider at least one objection. 

Option 3 – Effective Altruism
Effective Altruism puts forward a distinctive approach to doing good in the world. Do you think the approach EA’s advocate is the right way to think about doing good? Why or why not? Your essay should consider and respond to at least one objection to effective altruism.

Option 4 – Animals
Avnish is a conflicted meat-eater. Like many Canadians, he likes other animals, has a pet dog, and thinks of himself as a compassionate person. But he also loves meat and can’t imagine giving it up. What obligations does Avnish have when it comes to purchasing meat and other animal products? Should Avnish avoid factory farmed products? Is he justified in purchasing from humane farms? Or should he adopt a vegan diet? In your essay, you should draw on at least one of the readings from class. You should also present at least one objection to your argument and consider one possible response to this objection.

Option 5 – Abortion
Michelle is a 21-year old university student who has become pregnant. At this point, she is 7 weeks pregnant. Michelle does not want to have a child at this point in her life and is planning on getting an abortion, although she has a few, lingering worries. Is it morally permissible for Michelle to abort the fetus? Why or why not? Your essay should consider at least one of the readings from our class. You should also present at least one objection to your argument and consider one possible response to the objection

•    Your essay should be in a 12 point font, with 1” margins, and 4 to 5 pages, no longer than 5 pages.
•    Double spaced, with page numbers on each page. 
•    DO NOT put your name on your essay. Instead, put your student number at the top-left.
•    Any standard method of citation is fine (APA, MLA, etc.). 
•    No title page, please. 
•    Your essay should start with a short introduction that presents your thesis and offers a concise summary of your essay. 

Citations and Sources
•    Your essay can draw on the textbook and any of the readings we’ve used for each topic. 
•    You do not need outside sources and I encourage you not to use them. If you do choose to use outside sources, they must be cited.

There are three main situations where you will need to include citations.

1.    Quotations: If you are including the direct words of an author, this needs to be in quotations and you should include a citation.
2.    Direct paraphrase: If there is an important passage from an author you are putting in to your own words, then you should also include a citation. 
3.    Paraphrase: If you are summarizing an important point or idea from an author, then you should include a citation.

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