Paper Assignment, Philosophy 101, Fall 2012, Hettinger

The paper should be 5-7 pages (double space, typewritten) and explore a topic in any area of philosophy that we discuss in this course (e.g., ethics, aesthetics, philosophy of religion, social & political philosophy, epistemology, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, feminist philosophy or philosophy of animals). The paper counts for 34% of your course grade and so it should be a significant effort.

You choose the topic. Any topic that we have discussed in class or that is considered in the assigned reading is suitable. You may, if you want, write on a topic we haven't discussed in class and on which there is no assigned reading–though this will require more careful philosophy research work. All topics must in some way relate to the course content and refer to and use the course materials relevant to your subject. (It must be clear the writer of the paper was in this class.) If you write on a topic the course specifically addresses, your paper should show a thorough understanding of the readings and class discussions on the issue. Some suggestions for suitable topics are listed below.

A paper proposal is due on Friday, October 19th. Please send it by email to Ideally, the proposal should include a characterization of your topic, the major lines of argument you intend to pursue, tentative thesis, and a full bibliographic citation and a paragraph description of the content of one philosophical article you plan to use in your paper (and how you plan to use it). The paper is due on Friday, November 9th. Please turn in a hard copy of the paper (no email versions please). You can give it to me in class the day before or turn it into my departmental mailbox just inside the door of 14 Glebe street by 3pm that day. (Make sure you keep a copy for yourself.)

The paper should be a philosophy paper in which you focus on normative, evaluative, or conceptual issues. (Always ask: What should we do concerning this issue and why? What are the philosophical, ethical, and conceptual questions which must be answered if this issue is to be resolved?)

One outside (not read as part of the course) philosophical article must be used in your paper. Those of you who write on a topic not specifically covered on the schedule of assignments will have to rely more on your outside philosophical article. Although I require that you interact with the ideas from some philosophy article that we have not read in the class, the main point of the paper is to have you think philosophically for yourself; the outside reading is meant to help stimulate your own thinking and to make sure your paper is philosophical in nature.

One good way to find an article related to your topic is to use The Philosopher's Index. This is a database searchable on line via the library. You can find it here: It lists philosophical articles by title, author, and subject matter. Another way to find a philosophical article on your topic is to search specific journals in areas related to your topic. I may also give you suggestions for articles with my comments on your paper proposal. You might also try PhilPaper: On line research in philosophy at

Here is a list of some of the philosophy journals our library carries, many of which are available on line: Philosophy and Public Affairs, Between the Species, Bibliography of Bioethics, Bioethics, Biology and Philosophy, Business and Professional Ethics Journal, Environmental Ethics, Ethics, Feminist Review, Hastings Center Report, Hypatia (Feminism), International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Journal of Applied Philosophy, Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Journal of Medical Ethics, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, Journal of Religion, Journal of Value Inquiry, Law and Philosophy. Journal of the History of Philosophy, Journal of Philosophy, Metaphilosophy, Monist, Nous; A Quarterly Journal Of Philosophy, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophical Forum, Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophical Topics, Philosophy, Philosophy and Literature, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Philosophy East and West, Philosophy of Science-(East Lansing), Phronesis, Southern Journal of Philosophy, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Economy and Philosophy, American Philosophical Quarterly, Analysis-(Blackwell), Australasian Journal of Philosophy, History of Philosophy Quarterly, Inquiry, International Philosophical Quarterly.

Some possible topics (or topic areas) you might choose to make your own


1.      Some dimension of the cultural relativism issue. (Are morals relative to culture?)

2.      The ethics of “female circumcision.”

3.      Euthanasia; active versus passive euthanasia

4.      Is killing worse than letting die?

5.      Abortion

6.      Subjectivism in ethics; emotivism.

7.      Are there moral facts? Is there proof in ethics? Is morality objective?

8.      Sexual morality

9.      The morality of homosexuality; Naturalness and homosexuality

10.    The idea that some people find themselves “trapped in the wrong body” (a female in a male’s body)

11.    Date rape; consent and sexuality

12.    Arguments for and against God’s existence

13.    The cosmological argument for God’s existence; the Kalam cosmological argument

14.    The design argument for God’s existence

15.    The problem of evil (this must be more than a rehash of midterm essay!)

16.    Faith and reason; what is faith? Is it rational? Is it reasonable to “will to believe”

17.    The compatibility/incompatibility of science and religion (including evolution and religion)

18.    Religious exclusivism versus religious pluralism

19.    Religion and the environment

20.    Relationships between religion and morality; natural law theory

21.    Pascal’s wager

22.    Doctrine of double effect

23.    Evaluating psychological egoism

24.    For (or against) ethical egoism; Ann Rand’s egoism

         a.      Can selfishness be moral?

25.    Prisoner’s dilemma and morality

26.    World hunger and the duty to contribute to famine relief

27.    Critique or defense of utilitarianism

28.    Ethics and human treatment of animals; ethics and zoos; ethics and circuses; The ethics of the use of animals for fur or food; pets and morality; hunting

29.    Animal minds; what sorts of mental processes do animals have and does it matter?

30.    Are there absolute moral rules? Is torture ever morally permissible?

31.    Theories of punishment; desert and the death penalty; retribution versus rehabilitation

32.    Is morality founded on a social contract?

33.    Justifying civil (or uncivil) disobedience

34.    Morality and flag burning

35.    The ethics of patriotism

36.    Arguments for and against legalization of drugs

37.    Legal paternalism and dwarf tossing

38.    Legal moralism

39.    The offence principle: Should non-harmful offensive behaviors be outlawed?

40.    Defense of the harm principle as the only legitimate liberty limiting principle

41.    Obscenity: How to define it and should it be regulated?

42.    An assessment of feminist ethics

43.    An assessment of virtue ethics

44.    Feminism: A philosophical defense or critique

45.    Is discrimination against men a problem?

46.    Sexual equality and what it entails for our society

47.    Justifying or critiquing affirmative action

48.    Ethics of cloning; of genetic engineering; of human enhancement

49.    Ethics of War and Peace

50.    The meaning of life

51.    The mind/body problem

52.    In what does personal identity consist? Is it the mind or the body? Or something else?

53.    Physicalism (everything is physical and only physical–there are no nonphysical things): for and/or against

54.    Free will and determinism: We do (or do not) have free will (and what is it?)

55.    A defense of compatibilism (we are both free and determined)

56.    Animal liberation and environmental ethics

57.    Virtue ethics and the environment

58.    Is patriotism a virtue?

59.    Treating people as they deserve; distributive justice (rich/poor)

60.       Sexual politics of meat (Carol Adams)