Second Argument Paper
Length: Four pages (~1200 words)
In this paper, you are to choose one of the applied ethical issues we discussed in class and
argue for a position within the debate (pro or con). The ethical issues you can choose from are:
poverty, euthanasia, abortion, or capital punishment.
You are to write a four-page typed, double-spaced paper. The paper should be in the
argumentative form. This means that your thesis statement should clearly state what you are
going to be arguing for or against (e.g. “I will argue that abortion is morally permissible in some
cases because we believe that it is sometimes morally justified to harm other persons.”
will argue that it is morally impermissible to eat meat because the way meat is obtained causes
pain and suffering to the animals it comes from.” You can’t use the last example.) The paper
should have the following structure:
I A brief introduction that concludes with your thesis statement.
II A good summary of the ethical issue under debate.
III) A defense of the reason or reasons that you use to support your thesis (i.e. the
premises). This part should be the largest part of your paper because it is the most
IV Raise a possible objection to your own argument (i.e. what could someone who reads
your paper and even agrees with your conclusion, plausibly object to in your argument).
V) Your response to that objection (i.e. a good reason to think that the objection fails or
does not work).
VI A conclusion that summarizes what you have shown with your argument.
You will be graded on the overall quality of your paper and argument. Since you have
two weeks to complete this assignment, I expect your paper to have few spelling or grammar
errors. Many spelling or grammar errors will reduce your grade. Please write a full paper; do not
simply fill in the outline points above. I am specifically looking for a good summary of the
ethical issue, a good defense of your view within that issue, and an appropriate objection to your
argument. These two features of your paper should not be controversial (meaning either side of
the debate will agree you have summarized the ethical issue correctly, provided good reasons to
think your view is true, and provided a plausible objection to your argument). The hardest part of
the paper is offering a response to the objection. Whatever position you take you will need to
defend it with good reasons. That will require a good bit of thinking on your part if you wish to
do it well, but it is the heart of what philosophy is and a test of good reasoning skills.
Whichever topic you choose to write on please make sure you carefully read all the
articles related to that topic that were assigned in class. You will be expected to reference those
articles when appropriate. So, if you choose the abortion topic, please make sure to carefully
read both the Judith Jarvis Thomson article and also the article by Don Marquis. You do not
need to choose either of their specific conclusions to defend, but you should show some
awareness of their views and arguments in your own paper.
Also, it might be best to steer away from topics which cause a strong emotional response. While
it probably is a good thing to rationally consider topics and positions that cause strong emotional
responses, sometimes the emotional part wins and seriously hurts the rational argument you are
attempting to give. So, if you think you can be rational about the topic, then there is no problem
However, if you feel you cannot overcome the emotional reaction or objectively distant yourself
from it, then you might want to choose another topic to write about.