Normative Ethical Theories

Please structure your paper according to the prompts below. Challenge yourself to rigorous and precise throughout, and don’t forget to use plenty of examples.

Required Sections
1. Introduction
Provide a very brief introduction. You can structure it however you like, but you must include a brief thesis statement, and a brief overview of the next sections.

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2: Explain what is at issue
Briefly explain why abortion is ethically controversial. In other words, explain why intelligent people disagree about this topic. What are the main points of disagreement? Do people disagree about how to interpret certain facts? If so, which facts? Do people disagree about which moral principles are relevant? If so, which moral principles? Do people disagree about how to apply the relevant principles or concepts? What exactly are the disagreements?

3: Explain your own view on abortion and support it with reasons
When explaining your view, you need to be very specific. Do you believe abortion is never justified? Always justified? Sometimes justified? In what types of cases is it morally permissible and what types of cases is it not? Be detailed. Use examples.

Supporting your view with reasons means explaining why you hold the view you do. As you do this, it is important that you base your view on a general ethical principle of some sort (or more than one principle – but at least one). It can be one of the principles we studied in normative ethical theory, or another principle you found elsewhere, or developed yourself. Here is a one way to structure this portion of your paper.

Begin with a brief statement of your position. For example, “I will argue that abortion is justified in cases when the mother’s life is in danger, but in no other cases” –or whatever your view is.
Then explain the general ethical principle you will use to support your view. To explain it, state the principle itself (this should be no more than one sentence), and then illustrate how it applies to real-life situations by providing at least one, and preferably two, examples that show what kinds of choices the principle supports or prohibits. Use examples that are not about abortion. Your argument will be much stronger if you can show how your view about abortion is rooted in a broader, consistent ethical perspective that applies to many different types of cases. Note: You are not required to use one of the ethical principles we have studied in class. This is your view, so you should use whatever principle(s) you think are true.

After you have explained and illustrated the general principle, show how it applies to abortion. It might apply in different ways to different types of scenarios. Discuss these scenarios and explain exactly how the principle applies in each one.

4: Describe and respond to at least one objection
A good philosophical paper will not only argue for a position; it will also consider possible objections and show why they don’t undermine the main argument. You will need to do this in your own paper. This also provides an opportunity to further clarify your own view. Use examples to illustrate and support the objection. It is often useful to compare abortion to other types of scenarios in which humans depend on one another.

You don’t need to think up a brand new objection, although you are welcome to do so. This is a good place to interact with some of the scholarly sources you have read. I recommend relying on one of the readings you disagree with most, and ask yourself how that author might object to your view. Use what you think is the strongest objection against your view. Using a weak objection will not earn an “excellent” grade.

Finally, explain why the objection does not ultimately undermine your own view. You are welcome to consider and respond to more than one objection, but only one is required.

To write this paper you will need to read and engage with at least three scholarly papers. You have already read two papers (one from Judith Thomson and one from Don Marquis). So, you need to read one more. This will help you contextualize your own argument within the scholarly discussion that has already taken place.

For your additional reading, please select from among the resources provided on the Recommended Resources on Abortion page. If you wish to use a reading not listed on that page, please consult with me in advance.

I recommend you select a reading whose conclusion you disagree with. Reading the paper might teach you something knew, and you might change your view. If you don’t, the paper will provide materials for Section #4 of your paper.

I have provided lecture videos on three of the papers provided on the Recommended Resources on Abortion page. If you select one of those three papers, you have the benefit of some lecture video help. See more details at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normative_ethics#:~:text=Normative%20ethics%20is%20the%20study,act%2C%20in%20a%20moral%20sense.&text=Normative%20ethics%20is%20also%20distinct,investigation%20of%20people’s%20moral%20beliefs.

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How you engage to the three sources are up to you. Here are some examples:

Use arguments from one of the authors to support your view. Make sure you give proper credit to that author, and cite the source clearly.

Clarify your own view by explaining exactly how it is similar and/or different from the view of one of the authors.

Use arguments from one of the authors as the objection to your own view.

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