Defend an answer to the following question: when, if ever, is


Topics for the Paper

    Write a 3-4 page paper on one of the topics below.  Please give the paper a title, number the pages, double-space the paper, use no more than 12 point font, and use no more than 1 inch margins. 

    See the “Paper Swap Guide” for more information on the paper swap.  Be sure to consult also “PHL 400 Handbook,” “PHL 400 Handbook Part II,” and the “Guide to Writing Philosophy Papers” before and after writing the paper. Good luck!

Paper Topics:

1.   Defend an answer to the following question:

When, if ever, is affirmative action morally acceptable?

  1. Defend an answer to the following question:

When, if ever, is abortion morally acceptable?

Keep in mind that if you chose to write on abortion, then you are discussing whether abortion is morally acceptable, not whether abortion should be legal. Keep in mind that if you chose to write on affirmative action, then you are discussing affirmative action as it currently applies in the United States to women and minorities.

Also, feel free to answer the question in a negative way. For instance, you can say that abortion is morally wrong or that abortion is morally acceptable. The same is true for affirmative action. You decide what answer to argue for. 


-Make sure that you clearly identify and explain the general principle upon which your argument is based. A general principle is a moral rule that applies to more than one case. Here are some examples of some forms a general principle can take:

a) If a person is in a situation in which ____, then it is morally obligatory for her to —–.

b) If a person is in a situation in which ____, then it is morally wrong for her to —–.

c) If a person is in a situation in which ____, then it is morally acceptable for her to —–.

-Be sure to include the following sections:

  1. Introduction (In this section, make sure to explain what you are going to do in the paper.)
  2. Argument (In this section, present your argument for your conclusion. [your conclusion is your answer to the topic question.] Number your premises and conclusion [in your argument, 1) and 2) are the premises and 3) is the conclusion] and put the argument in block form. Here’s an example of the block method [you would plug in something in the blanks]:
  3. If a person is in a situation in which _____, then it is morally obligatory/wrong/acceptable for her to —–. 
  4. In some/most/all cases, a person [you should plug in a “mother,” “policymaker,” or someone else] is in a situation in which _____.
  5. Therefore, in some/most/all cases, it is morally obligatory/wrong/acceptable for a mother/policymaker/someone else to


The argument cannot be an argument that we went over in class or an argument with blanks filled-in that is found in the document, “PHL 400 Handbook.” “PHL 400 Handbook” does provide advice about how to create your own argument.)

  1. Explanation (In this section, explain why you think your premises are reasonable. Your premises are 1) and 2) [not 3), which is your conclusion.] A good way to explain why 1) [your general principle] is reasonable is by describing a non-affirmative action/abortion example and explaining how 1) correctly evaluates that example. Explain 2) with an affirmative action or abortion example [depending on which topic you are writing about].) See “PHL 400-Handbook Part II” for advice about how to explain an argument.
  2. Objection (In this section, defend your argument from at least two of the best objections someone might make to a premise in your argument. For each objection, use an example to explain why the objector disagrees with a specific premise [1) or 2)] and provide your response. Make sure you say which premise is in question. See “PHL 400-Handbook Part II” for advice about how to defend an argument when you think it is good. [Suggestion:  a) consider how one of the authors we will discuss might respond to your argument, b) consider how an author we have not discussed might respond to your argument, c) consider how someone on the discussion board might respond to your argument, or d) consider how someone you know or can imagine might respond to your argument.]
  3. Conclusion (In this section, explain how you’re your 1,2,3 argument evolved as you wrote the paper. Perhaps you started with one way of wording 1) and then changed it because of an example you thought of. If so, then explain in your conclusion. If your 1,2,3 argument never changed, which is unlikely but possible, then state an alternative viewpoint and explain why you rejected it.)

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