Phil. 2320 Ethics in Public and Private Life
Term Paper Outline
N. Meriwether, Instructor
To construct an outline and bibliography for an argumentative term paper.
Length: No less than 2 pages of information about what you intend to write on. All
writing should be in complete sentences, not phrases or half-sentences.
Attach under Blackboard/Outline and Term
Formatting: The entire outline, especially the heading, should be formatted according to
MLA. (See Purdue Owl MLA under the Bb link)
Important: You can write on a different topic for the Term Paper if you want to change it.
You are not obligated to writing on the same topic for your Outline and your Term Paper.
I hate to be negative, but before you begin your outline, several warnings are in order.
1) You must! integrate the theories we cover into your paper. If your paper could have
been written before you took the course, or without ever taking it, you may fail. In fact,
you should consider analyzing an issue in respect to a theory we cover, such as
examining euthanasia from an Aristotelian, utilitarian, or Christian perspective, or a
comparison of two theories in respect to an issue such as euthanasia or marijuana
2) The integration of a theory with your topic must not be superficial, hurried, or
perfunctory. You must demonstrate strong comprehension and insight into the theory.
3) You must be able to explain the theory or theories you cite. Your target audience is
another student who hasn’t yet taken ethics. Therefore, you must explain the theories to a
general audience, not merely apply them.
4) Be sure to take Dirty Harry’s advice very seriously: “A man’s gotta know his
limitations.” In other words, don’t write on an issue or topic that you don’t
understand. Write on something you understand, at least basically.
You will find several helpful resources for choosing a topic and preparing both the
Outline and the Term Paper under Outline and Term Paper on Bb:
1) Guides for both the Outline and Term Paper.
2) A link to Purdue Owl MLA for formatting.
3) A podcast on the Outline and Term Paper that focuses on how to choose a topic.
You’ll want to have the guides open on your computer as you listen.
4) A document that provides you with ideas as to how to apply the theories we cover.
This is especially helpful since we have only covered the first two. This will give you
some idea as to what the other theories teach.
Step 1 Determine Your Thesis
A thesis is a statement of the view you intend to defend, not a general statement of the
topic of your paper.
• Right I intend to argue that (one of) Aristotle’s arguments for legislating morality is
• Wrong I intend to write about Aristotle’s arguments for legislating morality.
• Right I intend to defend the thesis that euthanasia is never morally permissible.
• Wrong I intend to write about euthanasia, and take a position at the end of my paper.
Step 2 Prepare an Outline
II. Exposition. (What your issue is, and why it is important.)
III. Arguments in support of thesis. You don’t have to develop these in detail for the
outline, but there should be enough for me to know what your arguments are.
• If you are writing on a topic in practical ethics, that is, what we should or shouldn’t
do, you are required to have an external source for your counterargument.
• If you are writing on a topic in metaethics, that is, theoretical questions in ethics, you
are not required to have an external source for your counterargument unless I require
it after reading your outline.
So if you’re writing on a topic in practical ethics, you must indicate where you found a
counterargument in your outline.
V. Response to counterarguments. Something about what you intend to say. This is a very
critical part of your paper.
Here you can summarize what you’ve covered, and also add any limitations on your
paper (topics or considerations you avoided for lack of time and space, and there will be
things you avoided).
Step 3: Prepare a Works Cited Page
Include a works cited page with entries from class readings and articles you find on your
topic. I would say no fewer than three, and no more than five entries. These must be
formatted according to Purdue Owl MLA. (A simple Google search will locate it, but
here’s an address:
Selecting a Topic
Any topic not listed below must be approved first by me. Items in bold are especially
suited to our course content. Students who wish to write on the topics marked with an
asterisk (*) should contact me to receive assistance.
• Are prudence and virtues unified?
• Is the state (polis) necessary for human happiness?
• Can self-love generate selflessness?
• Is temperance possible?
• Are there non-blameworthy voluntary actions? Blameworthy involuntary actions?
• Is theoretical study the highest human activity?
• Analyze one of Aristotle’s virtue (Bk. III) and (a) apply it to your profession, (b) show
where his analysis is lacking, or (c) compare it to a virtue in Christian or Stoic
• Does knowledge of the universal produce sin?
• Can Christians really act selflessly, since what the really want is to get to heaven?
• Is the atonement inherently unethical?
• Is goodness without God possible?
• Is natural law known to all people?
• Can human dignity be defended without appeal to our being created in the divine
• *Is Christianity/God necessary for ethics? (For this topic, see the document entitled
“Does Ethics Need God?” under Lesson 3/Learning Resources.)
Christian Ethics and Aristotle
• *Is drug addiction a disease or a vice? Or a result of human sinfulness requiring
repentance? Recall that Aristotle believes all our actions are voluntary except
those that result from “ignorance of the particulars.” So no one can ever blame
another person, his genes, or his environment (society, corporations, advertising,
parents, etc.) for his bad choices or immoral actions. Is Aristotle right about this
in respect to opioid addiction, which many claim is a “disease, not a character
• Is Stoicism inhuman?
• Does Boethius have a weaker/stronger approach than other Stoics?
• Is contentment in Christian ethics the same or different than contentment in Stoic
• *If everything we think, do, or say is determined by the basic laws of physics and
chemistry, is morality impossible? Recall that Aristotle believes
• *Is morality relative? (Expand on the issues discussed in the Lesson 3 Discussion
• Does Hobbes’ state of nature supply a morality without God or a purposive universe?
(Can one justify morality simply by appealing to our desire to avoid harm, i.e., If
you steal/murder/lie/disobey authority, other people can do it to you.)
• Does Bentham’s version of utilitarianism support STEM to the detriment of the
• Does Mill’s qualitative distinction among pleasures work/fix Bentham’s version? Does
it improve on Bentham?
• Is Mill correct that utilitarianism is compatible with Christian moral philosophy
• Is Mill correct that utilitarianism is compatible with Aristotelian moral philosophy?
• Is Kant correct that Kantian deontology is compatible with CMP?
• Is Kantian deontology compatible with Aristotelian moral philosophy?
• Who is right about legislating morality, Mill or Aristotle?
• Is Kant correct that no one can ever be sure he has acted morally? Compare with CMP
(innate depravity), Aristotle.
• Does K’s 2nd version of the categorical imperative support natural law? Does his 3rd
• *Does K’s 2nd version of the categorical imperative support traditional marriage? Does
his 3rd version of the categorical imperative support progressive views of
Practical Ethics: The following topics are practical ethics.
• Same-sex marriage, sexual ethics, abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, human
cloning, euthanasia. However, in addition to the external source for the
counterargument, you must draw substantively from the theories we cover for
your arguments in support of your thesis. (See above.)
• If you wish to write on either abortion, same-sex marriage, or transgenderism, you may
wish to focus on just one aspect of these issues, since they are very difficult to
deal with in a 7-page paper, e.g., the morning after pill, same-sex adoption or
surrogate parenting, or transgender athletes.
• I provide articles on abortion and same-sex marriage under Lesson 7/Learning
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