On Writing an Ethical Argument Evaluation Paper (PHIL 302)
Revised fall 2016
Before you begin writing, it is crucial to pick a subject, topic, or a specific argument that interests you.
Your paper will be a critical evaluation of the soundness of an argument. If you already have an
argument, then you can go on to the next step.
If not, you may choose to discuss one from an author you
have read, or you may formulate your own. In some courses, you may consider a case study for your
paper. In that case you will formulate an argument that purports to defend a resolution to the case.
should note that it is not crucial that you pick an argument with which you agree. It is about equally
difficult (or easy) to write a paper opposing an argument as it is to write one supporting it, so you should
probably choose an argument that is interesting first.
Your paper will have seven parts:
C. Explanation and defense of premise one
D. Explanation and defense of premise two
A. Objection (explained and defended) to premise one
B. Objection (explained and defended) to premise two
VI. Answers to objections
A. Answer/rebuttal to objection to premise one (explain/defend)
B. Answer/rebuttal to objection to premise two (explain/defend)
NOTE: PLEASE CLEARLY LABEL EACH SECTION OF YOUR PAPER USING THE MAIN
HEADINGS LISTED HERE – see the Sample Papers
For your introduction, describe and explain the problem that gives rise to the argument you are
discussing. DO NOT explain the argument, summarize the argument, or repeat the argument. Explain
what the problem is that you are trying to solve (or that the person whose argument you are discussing is
trying to solve). Discuss why this particular subject is a problem, give a little history to set up the
problem, etc. This section is usually two or three paragraphs.
On Writing an Ethics Paper 2
At the end of your introduction, it is natural to point out that there is a position that you (or someone
else) takes on the problem. Your paper is a critical evaluation of the argument that someone (you or
someone else) gives in support of his or her position on this problem.
For example, if you are going to
discuss your argument against the teaching of values in our schools, you would assert here that you are
against it. On the other hand, if you are going to discuss William Bennett's argument in favor of such
teaching, you would point out here that he is in favor of it.
The point here is that your paper is about an
argument that supports some position on the problem you have outlined in the introduction. State that
position here. You should note two important things: the position stated here should be exactly the
conclusion of the argument in the next section, and this is not the place to express your opinion. You
may, in fact, disagree with the position defended by the argument that your paper is about, and it is fine
to point that out here, but do so in one sentence only.
For example, you might say: "Bennett's position on
this subject is that values should be taught in schools. I am, however, opposed." This part of the paper is
normally one or two sentences long.
Immediately following the position statement you should present the argument that supports the position
(either yours or someone else's). It should be presented with numbered premises and a conclusion that is
also numbered. There should be a horizontal line separating the premises from the conclusion. For
(1) If the teaching of values in schools will revive America's flagging morality, then values should be
taught in schools.
(2) The teaching of values in schools will revive America's flagging morality.
(3) Therefore values should be taught in schools.
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