Ethics Essay Assignments

The first and second essays are 4 to 5 pages in length and the third essay is 8 to 10 pages, all three typed and double spaced with standard fonts and margins.  Essays should focus on a single idea or issue, clearly stating your position at the beginning and then using evidence and reasoning to support your position, paying consideration to the objections and opposite positions of others.

You are welcome to use your life, current events, historical examples, or examples from fiction.  While there is no perfect form or structure for an argumentative paper, it is often good to state your position clearly, bring evidence together that supports your position, and then consider what objections others might have and why your position stands up to these objections.

You are welcome to use your own life experience, current events, historical examples, or examples from fiction.  You can also cite material we study or from outside the class by stating the Title of the Work in Italics, and the authors name.  You do not need to include a bibliography.

Please attach your essay to an email and send it to ericgerlach@gmail.com by the due date.

First Essay Assignment:

4 to 5 pages, due June 27th

Human cultures argue back and forth about whether or not there are objective, permanent standards of morality and ethics, much as the Egyptians believed that the harmony of the cosmos is permanent and the Buddha argued that all things are impermanent.  Are there things that are objectively good or bad, and why?  Make sure to use several examples from real life or hypothetical thought experiments, and anticipate objections and counterexamples of any possible opponents.

Second Essay Assignment:

4 to 5 pages, due July 18th

Pick one idea found in the Indian, Greek and Chinese thinkers we have studied, explain the idea using examples and apply it to an ethical problem we face in the world today to show that the idea is or is not useful for helping with the problem.  Ideas we have covered include the Jain principles of skepticism, the Jain leaky boat, the Buddha’s middle way, Buddha’s codependent arising, Buddha’s monkey mind, Heraclitus’ wisdom in common, Heraclitus’ river twice, Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean, Aristotle’s natural purposes, Epicurus’ happiness as the goal of life, Stoic acceptance of fate, Confucian compassion and balance, Mencius’ humanity as good, Xunzi’s humanity as evil, and Zhuangzi’s complementary opposites, as well as many more you can choose from.  Ethical problems include poverty, war, theft, hunger, racism, ecological destruction and many other things we are all too familiar with.

Third Essay Assignment:

8 to 10 pages, due July 29th

Pick one idea found in the European and modern thinkers we have studied, explain the idea using examples and apply it to an ethical problem we face in the world today to show that the idea is or is not useful for helping with the problem.  You can, if you wish, compare the contemporary ideas to earlier ideas found in the ancient thinkers we covered.  Ideas include: Kant’s universal morals, Bentham’s maximizing happiness, Mill’s minimizing pain, Nietzsche’s individual interpretation, Wittgenstein, Fanon, hooks, Said.

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