Your assignment is to write an essay that analyzes in detail a philosophical text in order to argue for your own original thesis or perspective on its claims

Prompt 1. On the first paper, many of you wrote about premises in Aristotle’s arguments that one could reasonably take issue with. Kant’s approach is somewhat different than Aristotle. He has a number of premises that, each on their own, can be hard to argue with, but they produce all together results that some of you seem to disagree with. For this paper, consider one of the broader implications of Kant’s theory that you want to take issue with, as a way of developing you own original perspective on Kant’s theory of ethics. For example: the way his theory seems to lead into unreasonably rigid rules for action; the way his theory seeks to ground ethics in something outside of feelings like compassion, empathy, and so on; the way his theory leads to perhaps extremes in the case of lying; or lastly, the way his theory forces us to ignore context. In developing your criticism of Kant’s theory, do your best to help us understand what, if anything, about our estimation of Kant’s theory of ethics changes when we take your perspective into account. Try to answer: why should we people who are interested in ethics be alert to the ideas you advance in your paper? Do your criticisms change a lot or a little? Do they suggest that there is something in Kant’s theory that could be revised or do they suggest we should use a different ethical theory altogether? (Note: it is totally possible in this option to take on one that you agree with and show how it might seem to be a fragile or confusing premise, but that actually it makes real sense and is important for us to understand). Prompt 2. One of the things Kant wants to do in developing his theory of ethics is suggest that we shouldn’t do things with a view to what the outcome or consequences of our action will be, but rather strictly in accordance with what our duty tells us is right (our duty being spelled out by the categorical imperative). If Mill were to respond even more explicitly to Kant than he does in the piece we read, what do you think he would say? How do you think Mill would take on Kant and what would he want to argue? And most importantly: who do you think is actually right? Which ethical theory is more cogent in your view? (Note: it is totally possible in this option to do the reverse and consider how Kant might respond to Mill). Prompt 3. Like anyone trying to develop a theory of ethics, Mill posits a number of basic claims, or premises, at different points in his argument, in order to then draw certain conclusions from them. Some examples of his premises include: his idea that some pleasures are “higher” than others; his idea that caring about my own happiness generally results in the happiness of others; his idea that the same actions with different motives have the same moral value; his idea that, generally speaking, most of us don’t need to concern ourselves with the impact of our actions outside of its impact on a relatively small number of people around us; and even the basic idea that it is possible to calculate on a scale the amount of overall happiness or well-being that comes about from some action. Develop your own perspective on Mill’s utilitarian theory of ethics by taking on one of these, or another one of your own choosing. Is there one of these that you want to challenge? If so, why and on what grounds? Does anything change for our estimation of Mill’s consequentialist version of ethics once we take into account your criticisms? If so, what is it and why do you think we should be alert to this? Does it change a lot or a little with respect to his theory? Does his idea of ethics still hold water if we take into account your criticisms? Why or why not? (Note: it is totally possible in this option to take on a premise or idea in Mill that you agree with and show how it might seem to be a fragile or confusing premise, but that actually it makes real sense and is important for us to understand). Prompt 4. Design your own prompt, about, say, a criticism of Mill that you want to pursue, or a critique of Singer, etc. These are just suggestions and you could do something else. No matter what you do for this option, you need to get my approval first, though. (A discussion of Aristotle in any version is off limits for this paper, however). Audience: An intelligent person (not necessarily an expert) who has read the text and is interested to hear your perspective on it in order to learn something they didn’t already know. Additional instructions: Your paper should formulate an argument about the text under consideration in your paper. Note, therefore, that you will use the guiding questions above to generate a perspective of your own on the text under consideration. You may not be able to address all the guiding questions, so you will need to pick and choose which ones are important to your paper. Your perspective, or standpoint on the material, will form your argument or thesis. Provide evidence for your argument by quoting and unpacking (explaining and putting things into your own words) some key passages from the text. Formatting details: Your paper should be typed in a standard 12-point font, double-spaced with standard 1” margins, have a title, and have a Works Cited page. I do not accept late papers, except under extraordinary circumstances. Unfortunately, I am unable to read drafts of papers, but am happy to review or discuss in office hours. I can also review your thesis over email. Resources: No outside research is required or allowed on this assignment. No references from websites are necessary or allowed for this assignment. You may draw on assigned readings, class notes, and lecture slides from the course. A great place to begin is simply by rereading the text and your notes! 

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