Dr. Devlin Russell
Submit your essay under “Applied Essay” on this course’s Moodle site.
You must submit on or before October 28 (11:59PM).
The point of this assignment is to perform some ethical reasoning: to argue from a
theory of the fundamental ethical principle to a specific prescription about a specific
First, pick the two theories that you think are most likely to be true, out of the following:
Divine Command Theory, Utilitarianism, Kantianism, Ethical Egoism, and Natural Law
Theory. Explain the two theories.
Next, perform The Best Test: argue for which theory, out of the two you picked, is the
best. Perform The Surprise Test, The Overreach Test, and The Stress Test to determine
the strengths and weaknesses of each theory. Weigh these strengths and weakness, and
explain why one theory is better than the other.
Finally, apply the best theory to a specific moral issue. Pick a specific moral issue that
you find interesting, perplexing, or controversial. Argue for a specific answer about
what to do in this case using the best theory.
Important Components of Your Essay
You must have a thesis. This is the claim you will be trying to convince your reader to
believe. It must be a firm position on what a person ought to do in some specific case.
Choose a case that is often controversial.
Argument for the Best Ethical Theory
An argument is a series of claims made in support of a position.
For this argument, you must state and explain the two theories that you think are most
likely to be true. Further, you must give reasons to believe that one of the theories is
better than the other: state and explain the major strengths of this theory, and explain
how these strengths outweigh its weaknesses and the strengths of its competitor.
Use the following tests to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the two theories.
The Surprise Test
If the theory were true, would certain known facts be surprising?
The Overreach Test
In explaining one fact, does the theory go too far and create difficulties for explaining
The Stress Test
Are claims offered as reasons to believe the theory really true?
Argument for Your Thesis
For this argument, state and explain your thesis. Use the theory you have argued is best
to prove your thesis. Explain how this theory shows a person specifically what they
ought to (or ought not) do in a particular circumstance.
You must do all this in no more than 1200 words.
You may but need not use outside sources.
You must provide citations and references for all your sources, plus page numbers
All citations and references must be complete and consistently follow a professional
style guide (MLA, APA, etc).
Citations and references do not count toward the word limit.
This assignment is an argumentative essay. As such, the aim of your essay is to
convince your reader to believe your thesis. Therefore, your essay will be evaluated on
how rationally persuasive it is.
An essay cannot be rationally persuasive if it is unclear, inaccurate, or fails to provide
sufficient explanation of crucial claims. Therefore, your essay will also be evaluated on
how clear and accurate it is and how well it explains crucial claims.
This assignment will be given a holistic letter grade for its overall quality as an
Also, you may lose marks for violating the technical requirements.
As always, you are welcome to come to your TA’s or my office hours for help.
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