The Moral Significance of Species

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Topic 1: The Moral Significance of Species

On the one hand, a number of the authors whose arguments we have considered this term have claimed that species-membership is irrelevant to moral status. Peter Singer, for example, goes so far as to characterize differential considerations on the basis of species-membership as a moral transgression on a par with racism and sexism; he calls it “speciesism.” On the other hand, many believe that there is something morally significant about being a human being, regardless of whether that human being meets John Locke’s or Mary Anne Warren’s criteria of personhood, or is a potential person, or has a future of value. On this view, human beings deserve special consideration and/or treatment simply in virtue of being human. In other words, many believe that species membership is itself morally significant.

Your objective in this paper is to defend one of the preceding two positions.

(a) EITHER … If you agree that species membership is morally insignificant, first present in detail what you regard as the strongest argument for that position. This argument should be taken from one of the readings we have discussed: Singer, Warren, or Marquis. Second, present and answer what you think is the strongest objection and/or counter-example to the view that species membership is morally insignificant. (No straw men please!) Be sure to illustrate your conclusions and arguments with examples (whether fictitious or actual).

(b) OR … If you think that species membership is morally significant, first present in detail what you regard as the strongest argument against that position. This argument should be taken from one of the readings we have discussed: Singer, Warren, or Marquis. Second, develop one or more objections to this argument. Your objection(s) should be fully defended in order to make clear why and how exactly the first argument you chose to introduce fails. Be sure to illustrate your conclusions and arguments with examples (whether fictitious or actual).1. The thesis is immediately apparent, is clearly stated by the end of the first paragraph, and is specific in nature. “I will argue that Marquis is right” is not a good thesis. Your thesis should contain a particular claim that you will defend. For example: “Marquis’ claim that abortion is generally wrong because it deprives the foetus of a future of value, is flawed because …”; or “Marquis’ claim that abortion is generally wrong because it deprives the foetus of a future of value, is correct because…”

2. The paper defends only one thesis and does so consistently throughout the paper.

3. The paper develops an argument containing premises, which are thoroughly defended, and which lead logically to the conclusion (i.e. the paper’s thesis). The argument supporting the thesis is well articulated and its premises are defended by detailed analysis and examples. Giving an argument is not the same as offering a mere list, or set, of reasons in favor of your thesis.

4. The weakness of your argument (i.e. the strongest objection you can think of) is fully, sympathetically, and honestly articulated. You should then respond to it in a manner sufficient to defend your overall the-sis.

5. The structure of the paper represents a continued flow of argumentation and each paragraph elaborates the topic sentence with which it begins.

6. The paper is written using straightforward language and is free of grammatical and spelling errors.

7. Evidence from the readings is used to support your argument, but quotations are never lengthy, nor is ex-position of the author’s ideas used as a substitute for independent thought. Putting the author’s ideas in your own words is usually preferable to quotation (be sure to cite the author, however!). As a very general heuristic, exposition of an author’s argument should occupy no more than one-third of the paper. The rest of the paper should be devoted to critical discussion.

8. Citation is important. Two guidelines:

a. You must cite all sources referenced in the paper. This includes any and all ideas, points, claims, or in-formation the source of which is not you (or that is not generally known). Examples are ideas or points that you get from a fellow student, from class, from the readings, the internet, or any other source of ideas that are not strictly your own (and do not count as general knowledge).

b. Give citations within the paper in parenthesis. List the author, abbreviated source and page number. For example, something along the lines of “(Marquis, ‘In Defense of Abortion’ in Bioethics, ed. Vaughn, 283)” would be just fine. If you use, or consult, resources other than the reading from class (including web sites) you must have a separate page of full citations for these works. Please note that the use of outside materials is not necessary and should be limited.

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