Phil 1104 Philosophy and Social Ethics Paper
Final Phil 1104 Philosophy and Social Ethics Paper Assignment Instructions
Your final paper will be due at the start of finals week (Monday 12/14). In it, you will (in
8 pages) frame and develop a philosophical thesis claim through clear and structured
exposition and argumentation. A draft of the paper will be due 1.5 weeks before the final
paper deadline (Friday 12/4). Your draft should at least include an introductory
paragraph, a thesis claim, a works cited page and a rough outline.
You have a range of topics to choose from, and you are welcome to select your own as well.
For example, if you expressed a point in a reflection paper that you would like to develop
further, you could use your final paper as an opportunity to do so. You should have selected
a topic/prompt/question and have a rough idea of the thesis claim you will make in
responding to this question by Sat 11/21.
Your paper should be thesis driven. Your thesis claim should clearly answer a question by
making a distinct claim, and use sources and concepts from the course (and, if needed,
independent research) as well as argumentation to justify your answer to the question. You
can select a topic area and develop a thesis claim on your own, or you can choose a
research question from the below list and develop a thesis that answers that question.
Potential Final Phil 1104 Philosophy and Social Ethics Paper Questions:
1. On whether or not to reopen schools in a global pandemic: UConn is planning to
continue facilitating a primarily online mode of instruction for the foreseeable
future, at least through Spring semester. What considerations led them to make this
choice? Ethically, do you think it is the right choice? If you think it is, do these same
reasons extend to primary education as well, or are different considerations
needed? Why? At what point do you think it would be ethically appropriate for
UConn to return to an in-person mode of instruction?
2. On the federally guaranteed right to access abortion procedures: The Roe v. Wade
ruling in 1973 secured a constitutional right for pregnant women to choose whether
or not to terminate their pregnancy pre-viability. Further regulations on abortion
procedures are left up to the states, but undue interference in this decision during
this timeframe are not consistent with the Roe v. Wade ruling. If Roe v. Wade were
overturned or adjusted, many states may outlaw or restrict abortion much more
than they already do. Proponents of the ruling insist that this is a matter of women’s
rights to reproductive autonomy, and overturning the ruling would be unjust.
Opponents hold that this is a matter of the unborn fetus’ right to life, so allowing
abortion can be unjust. Take a stand. Should the right to an abortion be federally
protected, and to what extent? Why?
3. On abolishing the death penalty on the grounds that it is racist: Racism weighs heavy
on the collective consciousness of most Americans in the current political climate.
There are many possible paper topics in this arena, but this prompt specifically
focuses on the argument in Cholbi and Madva’s paper “Black Lives Matter and the
Call for Death Penalty Abolition.” Explain their argument that US capital punishment
practices represent a wrong specifically to black communities, and their call for
death penalty abolition based on this claim. Do you agree with their argument? Why
or why not? If you agree, do you also think this argument extends to other practices,
and if so, what? If you disagree, with what (do you disagree that the criminal justice
system is a racist institution? do you disagree that the death penalty should be
abolished because of this?) and why, and what ways forward would you suggest?
These are just three ideas of how you can extend content from our course to answer
specific, targeted questions. There are many more ideas, and I want to give you the freedom
to write a paper on something you find interesting. Contact me if you have a topic you are
interested in writing a paper on and I can help suggest philosophical articles that could
Your Phil 1104 Philosophy and Social Ethics Paper should:
➢ Respond to the prompt
➢ Define all terms and clearly explicate all theoretical language
→ Write for an audience that knows nothing about the content
➢ Have a clear and logical structure
→ Contain an introduction with a clear roadmap for the paper, culminating in a
targeted thesis claim
→ Smoothly transition between topics
→ Tie things back together in a brief conclusion
➢ Defend your position with reasons
→ Appropriately interpose your own writers voice/ voice of reason (say what
you think) with the voices of philosophers we discussed or that you
➢ Accurately represents relevant course concepts/content
➢ Contain appropriate formatting
→ 12 pt, Times New Roman font, double spaced, no added spaces between
paragraphs, 1” margins
→ Works Cited Page in MLA or APA format
A summary of course content:
If you would like to create your own prompt, here is a summary of the course content thus
far that you could use to guide your creation of a thesis claim.
→ What is moral subjectivism/relativism? Is morality subjective/relative? Why
or why not?
→ What is divine command theory of ethics? What is the “Euthyphro” problem
for such a theory? What further question does this dilemma pose? How do
particular ethical theories aim to answer this question?
→ What is the “why be moral” question? What is the difference between
instrumental and intrinsic value? Why (if we should) should we expect to
have reason to value moral behavior intrinsically? How do particular ethical
theories respond to this question?
➢ Ethical Theory
→ What is Utilitarianism? What is the principle of utility? What is the difference
between Bentham’s and Mill’s versions of “happiness”? Do you think there
are higher and lower pleasures? What are the four objections to
utilitarianism? Do you think they succeed?
→ What is Kantianism? What is a good will? What is the Categorical Imperative?
Why should we be motivated to act according to the Categorical Imperative?
Why does it provide exceptionless moral rules? Do you agree with the
Kantian Moral theory? Why or why not?
→ What is Aristotelian virtue theory? What is a “chief good,” and why does
Aristotle think there must be one single one for a human life? Do you agree?
What kind of thing is it (Eudaimonia) for humans? What is Aristotle’s picture
of a good life? Do you agree? Why or why not? How do we develop the
virtues? What is the doctrine of the golden mean? How can this guide us in
→ What is care ethics as a moral theory? What does it mean that the theory is
particularist rather than principle-based, and why? Do you agree? What does
it mean to “care”? Should we think about care ethics as a version of virtue
theory? Why or why not? Why should we care about caring? How do we
improve our ability to care?
➢ Pandemic ethics
→ What are the most pressing issues related to the pandemic? How should
individuals and governments respond to threats to public safety? What moral
imperatives does a global pandemic bring about? How can different
theoretical frameworks help us determine the nature and scope of our moral
obligations in these unprecedented times? Should schools return to
in-person? Should businesses open up? Should mask-wearing be mandated
everywhere? Should vaccine trials be expedited? When a vaccine is
developed and approved, how should it be administered? Should it be free?
Should it be required?
➢ Race and Racism
→ What is racism? What are the different types of racism? How do we apply
these definitions to individual persons, actions, institutions? Can you be
racist without knowing it? Is all race-based discrimination racist? What is
distinct about racism, according to the theorists we discussed? What are the
implications of this? Do you agree?
→ What are the effects of individual-level and institutional-level racism on our
nation’s practices today? What do we do about it?
→ What do Cholbi and Madva argue? Do you agree with them?
→ How do we ask and answer questions about the moral permissibility of
abortion? What do these questions and answers depend on? Is a fetus an
individual human being with separate moral rights, or are they a biological
part of their mother? Is abortion morally permissible? Should a woman’s
right to an abortion be legally protected? To what extent? How (if at all) are
these separate questions connected?
➢ Animal Ethics
→ Do nonhuman animals have moral rights? What is the nature of these rights?
Is factory farming unethical? Is there a “humane” way to raise an animal for
slaughter? Is animal product consumption unethical regardless of origin? Is
the practice of animal domestication and pet-ownership unethical? If so,
why? Is it because these practices harm animals? Or, do you think animals
have rights over and above rights not to be harmed (as we tend to think that
Phil 1104 Philosophy and Social Ethics Paper Rubric
Category Scoring Criteria Possible Score
Introduction/Thesis: The introduction clearly lays out the
problem/question and how this paper will answer it. It
draws the reader in, establishes the main point, and gives a
roadmap for the paper.
Body: The body paragraphs each have a main point that
contributes to the overall point. There is no added “fluff.”
The body paragraphs are in a logical order and there are
transitions between them. The paper ties things back
together in a conclusion.
Conclusion: The paper ties things back together and
extends beyond the paper in the conclusion
Takes a stance: The author takes a clear stance on the
chosen question or topic.
Persuasive and well-considered argument: The author
considers reasons both for and against the chosen position,
and makes a considered and persuasive case for their
Establishes context: The paper is grounded in the relevant
Philosophers’ perspectives are included, accurately
interpreted, and clearly add to the main point.
Research is done to form a nuanced point; citations are
added where necessary, and the author has a clear
understanding of the practical complexities of the issue.
Relates clearly to course content and connects ethical
questions to practical and/or legal ones
Prose: Writing style is appropriate for the audience 8
Follows formatting Directions: Times New Roman font,
Double Spaced, citations in MLA, APA, or Chicago format
Deductions Goes over or under length requirement (10 pt. Per page under, 5 pt per
page over), spelling/grammar mistakes (1 pt each), Lack of citation where
needed (1-3 pts), Failure to introduce or explain a chosen quote, misc.
Score Total Points 100
Phil 1104 Philosophy and Social Ethics Paper