Philosophy Dialogue Paper

Dialogue Project

· You will engage a member of the community outside of the classroom in a dialogue about each of the ethical topics that are the focus of this class.

· You will write paper (1,000-1,500 words) in which you describe your dialogue, draw critical conclusions about the dialogue, and defend your own thesis about the ethical topics discussed.

Late papers will be marked down by one letter grade per day late.

1. You will engage a person in a dialogue about EACH OF the applied ethical topics that are the focus of this class:

· Abortion

· Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

· Sexual Morality and Gay Marriage

· Biotechnology

· Punishment and the Death Penalty

· Violence and War

· Environmental Ethics

· Animal Welfare

2. You will write a paper that includes a report of the dialogue, an evaluation of the dialogue, and your own thesis about each of the topics

· The Paper should be minimum of 1,000 words.

· Good writing style/formatting is required: double-space, reasonable (12-point) font, 1-1.5 inch margins, etc.

· General Note: You must connect your paper to authors/ideas we’ve discussed in the class. Demonstrating knowledge of course material is essential.

The Paper should include five parts:

1. An overall thesis about ethics, the importance of dialogue, and your own thesis about ethics and the applied topics.

2. A description of the dialogue: where, who, when, etc. Explain why this person was chosen—whether they have any relevant expertise or what you hoped to learn from them.

3. An analysis/evaluation of the opinions of your partner with regard to each of the topics:

a. Do you agree or disagree with what your partner said–why?

b. What arguments could have been better–how?

c. What basic moral frameworks did your partner use or agree with?

d. Which authors would your partner agree with? Disagree with?

4. A defense of your own conclusions about each ethical topic discussed. Remember that you must discuss EACH of the topics for the course.

a. What is your thesis/argument about each topic?

b. What is your basic ethical framework (utilitarian, deontological, natural law, etc.)?

c. Which authors and ideas do you agree or disagree with?

d. How do you reply to counter-arguments/objections?

e. How does your own opinion connect with those of your dialogue partner?

5. Conclude with a summary of your own argument and what you learned from the dialogue.

Preparing for the dialogue

· Imagine who you want to talk with and arrange a specific time in advance

· Plan on at least one hour

· Let them know that this is for a class assignment

· Indicate the topics to be discussed

· Let your partner know that they can remain anonymous, if they desire

· You should prepare a list of concrete questions in advance. For example…

· Is a war against North Korea justifiable? Have recent wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. produced more benefits or harms?

· Should the death penalty be abolished? Is the prison system useful? Does it deter crime or serve a retributive purpose?

· Is abortion permissible? In case of rape? In case of disabled fetus? Should Roe v. Wade be upheld or overturned?

· Is euthanasia permissible? Active? Passive? What about California’s new assisted suicide law?

· Is climate change an ethical problem? What should we do about it? What kind of value do trees, glaciers, and ecosystems have?

· Is vegetarianism morally permissible or required? Etc.

· You should plan to provide your partners with different examples, ideas, and arguments that have been discussed in class—and ask them what they think about these things. Case studies and concrete scenarios work best to stimulate discussion.

· You should plan to follow up with critical questions and discussion.

· Ask them why they think the way they do

· Ask them to imagine the implications of their ideas

· Ask them to relate their arguments to other topics and issues

· You may organize the dialogue in any fashion that works for you and your schedule.

· You may meet at all once or do it over a couple of meetings

· You may use phone, skype, or email to do the “dialogue.”

· Ideally, you should pick a partner who may have different ideas and points of view from your own; or you should pick a partner who has some important relevant expertise.

· A dialogue is more interesting when it involves a diversity of ideas.

· It is also useful to explore the thinking of family elders, clergy, authority figures…

· If there is too much agreement, you should play the “devil’s advocate”—and raise objections and arguments that disagree in order to explore ideas on the other side of things

· Be polite and courteous. You might offer to buy your partner a coffee; and you might offer to provide him/her with a copy of the paper when you are done!


Does the paper include a general thesis/introduction and an account of the dialogue including evidence of who you talked with, why they were chosen, when and where the dialogue took place?

Does the author provide an overview of the partner’s ideas as well as a critical evaluation of the partner’s arguments with regard to each of the topics?

Does the author defend his/her own conclusions regarding each of the topics and how this relates to the arguments of the dialogue partner?

Has the author demonstrated understanding of course material?

Has the author demonstrated basic skills of writing and critical thinking?

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