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Paper #2: Topics and Guidelines
1. Assignment: Write an essay of 1200-1800 words (~4-6 pages), which engages with the
readings and ideas from unit two.
2. Due Date: Due Sunday, 3/13, by 11:59 pm. By that time, please upload a digital copy to
Blackboard (Coursework → Week 10 → Paper #2 → Scroll down to Attach File, and click Browse
3. Late Penalty: Late papers will be penalized –10 points (out of 100) for the first day, and –2
points for each additional 24 hour period after that. For instance, turn it in by 11:59pm on 10/14,
receive –10 points; turn it in on 10/15, receive –12 points; and so on.
4. Suggested Topics: Please choose one of the following prompts.
Note: You may design your own paper topic based on the material from Unit Two, but you
must first get instructor approval for any topic NOT listed below.
1) Abortion: You will present Thomson’s or Marquis’s argument, and argue
either that abortion is prima facie morally wrong, or that it is not.
(Note: You should restrict your attention to cases where the fetus is healthy, the mother’s life is
not in danger, and the pregnancy is the result of consensual sex.)
2) Animal Rights: You will present either Cohen’s or Norcross’s argument, and argue
either that eating factory-farmed meat is morally wrong, or that it is not.
3) Famine Relief: You will present Singer’s argument, and argue either that we are
morally obligated to donate money to famine relief, or that we are not.
4) Procreation: You will present Young’s argument, and argue either that it is morally
wrong to procreate, or that that it is not.
5. How to Begin: First, decide which of the above topics you want to discuss. Then decide what
stance you will take regarding that issue. Did any particular topic or reading excite you? Do you
feel passionate about any of these issues? Write about that.
Next, you must read The Pink Guide to Taking Philosophy Classes by Professor Helena de
Bres (esp. pgs. 11-17 ; alternatively, check out the the web version here – especially the two tabs on
(I also strongly recommend Harvard’s excellent Brief Guide to Writing a Philosophy Paper, and
professor Amy Kind’s ‘How to Write a Philosophy Paper’.)
6. Structure: After completing the preliminaries, you will then write a paper following roughly
the same guidelines as the first paper. The only difference for this paper is that you will have the
space to spend twice as much time carefully presenting and critically evaluating the view that you
are writing about.*
*Note: Typically, this will involve discussing two objections in detail, rather than only one, as you did in
the first paper. (Though it’s certainly possible that, in some instances, you may find that a single objection
is SO ripe for exploration that you’d like to take a very deep dive into just this one criticism, rather than try
to cover two in less detail.)
7. Grading Rubric: Primarily, I will be looking for two things when I assign grades:
(1) Clarity: Do you explain yourself in a way that is clear, concise, persuasive, and
well-organized? Imagine that you are writing for someone who has never taken
a philosophy course. Your writing should be clear enough so that they would
(a) easily understand you,
(b) would learn something new about a philosophical problem and the ideas
of a historical figure, and (c) maybe even be persuaded by you.
(2) Critical Reasoning: Does your treatment of the view demonstrate your ability
to think critically? It should be apparent that you have thought about the view
and the objections carefully, that you understand their implications, and that
you have put some thought into your response.
8. Academic Dishonesty: As per the syllabus, any student caught cheating or plagiarizing will
automatically receive an F.
Plagiarism is defined as any case of presenting someone else’s work as your own (e.g., by copying
an internet source, another student’s work or ideas, or any other source at all without citation). So,
be sure to cite any and all ideas that are not your own.