Your assignment is to do an ‘ethics audit’ of a recent article from a leading ethics journal. The article is entitled “Opt-out organ donation without presumptions” by Ben Saunders. It appeared in The Journal of Medical Ethics 38 (2012): 69-72. Note that this article deals with material that will eventually be covered in unit 8 of the course. You may want to have a look at some of that material when working on this paper.
Your job is to explain and assess the argument made in the article. Thus, the assignment has two parts (although you should present it as a single essay). The first part of the assignment is to provide a clear synopsis (about 2-3 pages) of the different elements of the argument contained in the article. What is the argument and how do its pieces fit together? This will require you to think carefully about the different points that are made in the article. Clearly, you cannot repeat literally everything that is said in the article, so you must decide which pieces are important enough to include and which can be left out. Having done this, you are to comment on the effectiveness of the argument. Should a reader of this article be convinced by this argument? What are its strengths and weaknesses? How might someone who is opposed to the view taken in the article respond? How would you improve it or challenge it (depending on which of these things you think is worth doing)? Here, what I want you to do is find some way in which you can add to what the author of the article has to say. This may take the form of a criticism that shows the argument doesn’t work or it may take the form of providing additional support for the authors’ view, but it should be something more substantial than just saying whether you agree or disagree with them. Either way, I will be looking to see if you understand the argument well enough to respond to it creatively and usefully.
The purpose of this assignment is for you to get some practice at analyzing and assessing an ethical argument. Don’t be afraid to disagree with the argument (or to agree with it). There’s no particular response that I’m looking for. Just be sure to support whatever position you take.
What will I be looking for in this assignment? The grading scheme has not been finalized yet, but the main criteria I will use in assessing your paper are the following:
1. How well written is the paper? That is, are words spelled correctly? Do the sentences in the paper make sense? This will be worth perhaps 10 points out of 100.
2. Is the paper well structured? That is, is the paper organized in a coherent well thought out matter? This will be worth perhaps 10 points out of 100.
3. How well is the argument explained? This will be worth perhaps 40 points out of 100.
4. How well did you criticize/defend the argument? How original is the criticism/defence? This will be worth perhaps 40 points out of 100.
Optional Background Reading
There is no specific requirement for background research or references for this assignment. Use as many (or as few) sources as you feel comfortable with.
Also, if you’re unclear about the idea of a philosophical argument in general, you may want to have a look at a few pages on the idea of an argument from a
general introductory philosophy course I taught a few years ago. You can find these documents at http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~alatus/Intro.html. Look for the following links:
Critical Thinking Section 1 – The Structure of Arguments,
Critical Thinking Section 2 – Analyzing Arguments,
Critical Thinking Section 3 – Criticizing an Argument, and
Critical Thinking Section 4 – Fallacies. (Don’t worry about the details of section 4).
Policy on Referencing
For our purposes, formal references to the course notes do not need to be made unless you are directly quoting them. However, all use of the course readings or any outside source should be formally acknowledged regardless of whether you are directly or indirectly quoting. The format you use does not particularly matter, so long as you use it consistently and the format allows me to check your references. If you have already learned a referencing format that you are comfortable with (e.g., APA, MLA, etc.), feel free to use it.
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