How to apply moral theories to contemporary ethical dilemmas

PHIL 140 Short Essay One Guidelines and Rubric

The purpose of the short essays is to allow you to explore the moral theories you have studied with respect to a contemporary moral dilemma that interests you.

What you will learn in these writing assignments:

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· How to analyze and write about contemporary ethical dilemmas

· How to apply moral theories to contemporary ethical dilemmas

· How to find solutions to contemporary ethical dilemmas by discovering common ground.

Technical Requirements

Short Essay One is required to be

· 800 to 1,200 words (4-5 pages)

· 12 pt. Times New Roman font, double spaced, 1” right and left margins

· Microsoft .docx format (not .pages or .pdf)


[STEP ONE] Short Essay One will focus on the moral theories you learned in weeks 2 through 4. You can choose one or more of these theories to focus on in your paper.

· Egoism / Social Contract Theory

· Western Religious Morality

· Utilitarianism

[STEP TWO] For each Short Essay, choose one(1) Applied Ethics subject and dilemma to write about from the list of  Short Essay Applied Ethics Subjects :



For your Short Essay One paper you could choose to argue using Utilitarianism that it is unethical for governments to implement a social credit score

[STEP THREE] Your essay will be organized according to a modified Rogerian Argument Structure:

The  Rogerian Argument Structure  is used to find common ground between two sides in a complex issue so it is a good writing structure for analyzing and arguing ethical dilemmas. We will modify this structure somewhat to allow for the examination of an ethical dilemma. Your essay will be divided into four sections, with each section answering  particular questions  about the ethical dilemma and moral theories you have chosen to use. Remember, your essay will be 800-1200 words total so please allocate enough words for each section!

Suggested Title: The Ethics of [case or dilemma] in [subject] using [moral theory] by [your name]


“The Ethics of Vaccine Rationing in Medicine Using Utilitarianism by Susan Kitteridge”


“The Ethics of Taking A Knee in Sports Using Virtue Theory by John Meyerson”


“The Ethics of Manufacturing Defects in Business Using Kantian Ethics by Stephen Mousse”

Each section of your essay must address the following questions:

SECTION I: Explain the ethical dilemma presented in the case in your own words. What are the relevant facts that need to be understood in order to come to an ethical decision? What are the summary pros and cons of both sides? Why is there disagreement between opposing views?

SECTION II: Explain in detail an opposing or different ethical view. What do people who follow this view believe? Why? What are the facts that would lead them to believe this view? Why is this view reasonable for some people to hold? How does the moral theory or theories I chose to study help to explain this opposing view? (Beware the  Strawman Fallacy  in this section)

SECTION III: Explain my ethical view. What are the facts that lead me to believe in this view? How does the moral theory or theories I chose to study help to understand my ethical view? How does the moral theory help to understand why differing views are wrong?

SECTION IV: What agreement (common ground) exists between my ethical view and the view of people who oppose or differ from my view? How does this common ground help to understand the ethical dilemma? How can this common ground lead to a solution of the dilemma?

Additional explanation of the  Rogerian Argument Structure  can be found at the website of the Excelsior Online Writing Lab, including  a visual representation . (But remember, we have modified this basic structure above)

Study  the example Rogerian Argument Essay  (and its embedded comments) for how to structure your own essay.

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