As for practical issues such as length, footnoting, etc. here are some guidelines:
Double space using a 12pts. Font;
The essay should be a minimum of four (4) pages.
There should not be any need to cite. The purpose of the essays is to develop your own thought process. Therefore, everything you put down should be either your own thoughts or a very brief summary (in your own words) of someone else’s words (only if needed to set up or clarify your own presentation).
Feel free to use “I” (capitalized, please!).
Do not copy ideas from any other source. To do so will defeat the whole purpose of the class and you will gain nothing from it.
Follow formal writing using college level standard English. If you do not have adequate writing skills, contact the Writing Center and get help immediately, long before you write your first essay.
Take advantage of your spell and grammar checkers! Write in full sentences with correct grammar, verb agreement, and spelling. Sentences should follow in logical sequence.
For those of you who may be a bit rusty, an essay begins with an introduction, which includes a thesis statement (what you will focus on in the essay), a “body” of paragraphs, and ends with a conclusion that relates back to the thesis and demonstrates how the body of the essay has fulfilled the thesis. Sometimes, it is helpful to write your conclusion first, then work backward, but do this only for your own benefit, not in the final submission.
Philosophy is a process of thinking logically to come to a conclusion supported by evidence. Philosophy deals with the “grey” areas of knowledge. In other words, if you want to know the dimensions of a room, you can take a yard stick and come up with a “definite” answer. Science usually has definite answers. Either it is or it isn’t. Ask someone to identify their favorite color and what you end up with is “opinion.” It is something personal to the individual and there is no “good” or “bad” or “best” answer. Philosophy deals with the areas between the definite and opinion. Philosophy deals with multiple conclusions, and while there may not be one right answer, there can be wrong answers (not supported by evidence) and there can be best answers (the ones making the most sense and best supported). There can be more than one “right” or “best” answer.
Why explore an issue if there is more than one right conclusion? Bertrand Russell summarizes the reason eloquently. He points out that the process of doing philosophy results in expanding not only our minds, but also, by expanding our mind our universe is expanded. The process of philosophy takes us out of the mental boxes that constrict and limit our existence.
The purpose of the essays is to explore this philosophical process together, always mindful and respectful of diversity. This requires going into the readings and the assignments with an open mind. There is a Confucian Analect (saying by Confucius) that tells a story about a prospective student who meets with Confucius for tea. Wanting to impress Confucius with his learning in order to be admitted to the academy, the prospective student tells Confucius that he has read everything Confucius has ever written. Confucius offers tea and begins to pour it into the student’s cup but, when it is full, he keeps on pouring. The student, shocked, points out that the tea is pouring everywhere. Confucius looks at him and says, “If the cup is full, then there is no more room for the tea.”
The same applies to our class. If you come with the conviction that you already know everything and already have your mind filled (closed to all but your own views), there is little that the class will have to offer you. Keep the mind open and receptive and this can be an exciting experience.
Note: Saying something is right or good because it is the law, or because it comes from your religion, or because it is tradition, or because Mom said so, does not constitute a justification. That only tells us the source, not why it is right. The same goes for rejecting ideas because they are from another religion, or another country, or said by someone from another race. Good and Right ethics are determined by their justifiability – not their source. Giving a source as your justification (for example: “The Bible says…”), will result in a “0” for the essay.
Essay Topic (for both essays):
A case of applied ethics… Pick a controversial applied ethics issue from the textbook (e.g., physician-assisted suicide). Provide a clear identification of a case (e.g., recent case of Brittany Maynard) that pertains to the issue and the moral dilemma it poses. Finding a relevant case requires a nominal amount of research (the case does not have to be a legal one; it may be a news item, etc.). Your thesis statement should reflect your own moral position concerning the case. Provide reasons/arguments both against and in support of your moral argument or position.
Repeat this assignment picking another topic for your second essay. One of your essays may be based on your case presentation topic.