While it is important that we understand what happens in the past, it is also important that we evaluate and criticize what happened in the past. We should do this both to learn lessons from the actions people have taken in the past, but also to learn what is of value and worth remembering about what happened in the past. In this essay you will be asked to reflect on the moral implications of one of the events we have been studying. First, you will be asked to morally analyze the actions of a person from the past from that actor's point of view. Second, you will be asked to evaluate that action based on moral principles. This essay should be around 3 pages long (about 750 words). It should be type written and conform to the principles of standard written English.
This sample should be taken only as one example of how the essay can be written.
a. Historical Analysis
For the first section of this essay, you will be asked to choose one of the events on the topics list and to write an ethical analysis of the action taken. This analysis will consist of three parts. In the first part you should briefly describe the circumstances surrounding the event so that the reader can understand the historical situation. In the second part you should describe the range of possible actions which could have been taken in this situation. You will need to use some historical imagination to figure out what choices were available. In the third part you should describe the action taken and describe what you believe to be the moral principles governing that choice of action. That is, what ethical principles are reflected in this choice of action?
You might wish to consider the following questions in making your ethical analysis:
- What are the ends or purposes this person is trying to bring about? Based on this action, what do you think this person values? What does this suggest to you about this person's ultimate values? Why do you think this person values these things?
- What are the rules or principles this person is following in taking this action? Why do you think this person has chosen to follow these rules or principles?
b. Contemporary Analysis
For the second section of this essay, you will be asked to evaluate the action taken based on your moral principles. You should state whether or not you believe the choice made was good and what alternative action might have been a better choice. You should also state the moral principles on which you base your decision.
You might wish to consider the following questions in arriving at your evaluation of this action:
- What are the ends or purposes you believe this person should have been trying to bring about? What do you think this person ought to have valued? What are your ultimate values? Why do you value these things?
- What are the rules or principles you believe this person should have followed? Why do you think this person should have followed those principles?
The essay will be evaluated based on the following criteria:
A. Preliminaries: Does it meet the requirements of the assignment regarding format, length and due date?
B. Essay Organization: Is the essay well organized? Is there a discernible thesis? Do each of the paragraphs have a topic sentence?
C. Writing: Is the essay's prose clear and conform to the expectations of Standard Written English?
D. Historical Understanding: Does this essay demonstrate that the author understands the historical situation and the relevant sources?
E. Ethical Understanding: Does the author present a convincing moral argument? That is, does it offer valid, persuasive reasons for accepting the position advocated?
Each of these criteria will be given equal weight. The essay as a whole will be worth 40 points.
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