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Write a Position Paper
For your Final Paper assignment, you will be writing a “position paper” (word count of 1800-2300 words): this is a research paper in which you will address a particular issue introduced in the topic of the paper (see below for the list of topic choices). It should be written in a formal style, in the third-person voice, and it will present your original, considered solution or unique approach to solving the problem or settling the issue in question. It will be your opinion, but the main point of writing a position paper is to let others know not just your opinion or point of view on an issue, but also to know the reasons why you hold this point of view. The presentation of your “reasons why,” in other words, the sum of evidence you find to support your position, plus a statement of the position itself, comprises what philosophers call an “argument.” This kind of paper is also known as an “argumentative essay.” A philosophical argument is simply giving reasons (the premises of the argument) for why a particular claim (the conclusion of the argument) should be taken as true.
The introductory paragraph should present the issue in question and include a clear and precise statement of your thesis, which is your position on the issue. Another essential element of the position paper or argumentative essay is a consideration of at least one alternative position on the same issue, and this is typically an opposing view. So in this paper, you will assert and defend your own position, and you will also consider an opposing or alternative position on the issue and the argument(s) in support of that view. Finally, you will show why you reject that opposing or alternative position and instead hold the one you do. There are several different ways of organizing the paper, but, after you have stated your thesis in the introduction, often the opposing viewed is fairly presented first, then your understanding of the issue follows, with your position then asserted and shown to be superior to the opposing view. This can be done in “block” or “point-by-point” fashion: use the organization style that best suits your purposes. Your conclusion will re-state your “expanded” thesis, setting it back into its more general framework with a look forward toward related concerns. Your conclusion should be brief, but it should leave the reader with the belief that your position satisfactorily settles the issue, solves the problem, and leads to a better state of affairs. You may also want to use descriptive headings for each of the major sections of the paper. But don’t use the section heading, “Introduction” above your introductory paragraph: the title of your paper serves that purpose. And for the conclusion, don’t just use the word, “Conclusion” by itself: it should be “Conclusion: ……” where the “…..” describes or gives a snapshot of your final position.
Note that this is quite different from an informational report or even a commentary on a subject. You will be writing about at least two sides of an issue (usually the “pro” and the “con” positions), developing supporting evidence for both sides, analyzing, evaluating, and refuting competing arguments, and showing and explaining why your argument and the conclusion it supports (your thesis) is superior. For an excellent and detailed explanation (with illustrative examples) of how to write a position paper or argumentative essay (the document uses the term “argument essay”), please read the following document: Position Papers
(accessed on http://www.pearsonhighered.com/showcase/johnson-sheehan/assets/ch11.pdf). It tells you everything you need to know, and if you follow the instructions here to the letter, you are sure to get a high mark on the paper, and you will have gained valuable knowledge about to construct an important and respected style of academic essay.
Capturing Course Learning Outcomes
Try to incorporate relevant concepts and related issues discussed in the course into your discussion, keeping in mind the overall Course Learning Outcomes with which we began. The paper should demonstrate your learning of as many of these outcomes as possible. You should be thinking about the philosophical underpinnings of ethical inquiry itself as well as history of ideas, cultural practices, and ethical theories related to the issue in question and how they have evolved or been revised in contemporary philosophical thought. Your paper should bring in critical discussion of fundamental principles and central proponents of major ethical theories that shed light on your topic, and in so doing, you might also be able to reflect on how such theoretical analyses and philosophically motivated explorations into morally significant issues apply to your own experience or to the meaning or purpose of human life in general.
Just to refresh your memory, here, once again, are the Course Learning Outcomes for PHL 337:
- Identify, understand, and articulate important differences in diverse ethical systems.
- Demonstrate an understanding of philosophical methods for critical self-examination.
- Identify and explain the main tenets of deontological ethical theories, teleological ethical theories, Divine Command ethical theories, situational ethics, and Natural Law ethical theories; demonstrate familiarity with the concepts of altruism, nihilism, egoism, hedonism, asceticism, and utilitarianism.
- Analyze and evaluate typical moral decision-making procedures and value judgments based on an understanding of the ethical system or theory from which such values and judgments are determined.
- Clearly articulate how different ethical systems compare and contrast with the student’s own ethical perspective and particular ethical beliefs.
Organization and Formatting
It is important for you to state your thesis, which, again, is your position on the issue in question, clearly and unequivocally at the beginning of the paper. Note that you may adopt some sort of “middle ground,” as opposed to taking a strictly “pro” or “con” stance, but you will have to carefully explain and delineate such a position since simply saying that both sides get some things right and hence they also get some things wrong, could lead to your supporting a logically inconsistent view. A strong thesis is one that is both specific and significant: this means that the claim you are making, the position you are defending, is one with which an informed thinker may disagree. If your thesis merely states the obvious, or asserts what most people accept as common knowledge, it is not significant. This is a relatively short paper, so be sure to appropriately narrow the focus of your thesis so that you can accomplish what you need to do in the space allowed.
The paper should be somewhere between 1800 and 2300 words, or about 6-8 typewritten, double-spaced pages. You should include at least three citations from the course text (Rosenstand. The Moral of the Story: An Introduction to Ethics, 8th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2018), and two sources external to the course text, for a total of 5 sources cited in the paper. In addition to the external sources, you are encouraged to use the contemporary and historical sources we have studied throughout the course as well as the illustrative narratives included in the course text in supporting your thesis or considering opposing or alternative views. Also, you are free to bring in personal experience if it is relevant to your argument. This means that you may use the first-person voice if it makes sense in your exposition. Otherwise, stick to the third-person voice; avoid use of the second person (“you,” “your,” etc.).The paper should be written using MLA, APA, or CMS documentation style, with a type font similar to Times New Roman, 12 point. Be sure to cite all sources both within the text of the paper as well as on a works-cited page (MLA), list of references (APA), or bibliography (CMS). Avoid fancy fonts and flashy document-template formats, but you may include images, graphs, charts, or diagrams if they help establish a point. Be sure you have included all of the elements essential to the position paper or argumentative essay format.
Review Rubric and Proofread before Submitting
It is essential that you carefully review the Final Paper Rubric
both before you begin writing the paper and again, once you have completed it. It lays out, in specific detail, the criteria you paper must meet to achieve the highest possible score. If you fulfill all of the criteria in the “Exemplary” column, you will have written an “A” paper. If you feel that what you have fails to meet the criteria you are attempting to satisfy, then it is time to go back and think things through more carefully and edit your paper accordingly. Finally, do not submit your paper without proofreading it. No one ever gets it right the first time.
Please submit your paper in the “Submit your Final Paper” module below.
- List of Topics for Final Paper
Below is a list of topics for the Final Paper, which is to be written as a Position Paper. Please choose one of these topics for the central question around which you will construct your Position Paper. It is advisable to select the topic that concerns or interests you most personally as well as intellectually. Be sure to follow all of the assignment guidelines as well as consulting the Final Paper Rubric. Submit your paper in the “Submit your Final Paper” assignment module below.
- Can an unexamined life ever be worth living for a human being?
- Can a clear distinction be made between morals and ethics? Is the philosophical delineation of ethics as a principled form of moral inquiry and self-reflection really different from the practice of sharing moral ideals?
- Are there universal moral principles that are right for all persons at all times?
- Do people, at the end of the day, always do what they desire most? Or do people sometimes act strictly for the good of “the Other,” without even a trace of self-interest?
- Is there a reliable way for a person to rationally determine the ethically right thing to do in most cases of human behavior and decision making?
- Are religious ethics interchangeable with philosophical ethics? Can one take the place of the other in living a morally good and Socratically examined life?
- Are virtue ethics, or ethics of character, superior to an ethics of conduct?
- Can a theory of justice, such as that of John Rawls, that is grounded in an abstract conception of the social contract, ever provide a satisfactory practical framework for a totally egalitarian and completely just society?
- Are existentialist thinkers who claim that there is no pre-existing moral reality or pre-determined purpose in human life right?
- Are feminist ethics necessarily a version of the ethics of care? Is it possible for a version of feminist ethics to be based solely on the exercise of abstract, logical reason?