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Essay 2

Exposition & Critique of an Ethical Theory

S. Dilley



  1. Describe the theory
  2. Illustrate the theory
  3. Describe a key argument for the theory
  4. Raise two objections to the theory



  1. Introduction
    1. Thesis statement (“This essay will explain and critique X ethical theory.”)
    2. Structure of the paper (“First, X will be defined. Second, a key argument for X will be described. Third, criticisms will be raised against X. Last, a final assessment of X will be given.”)
  2. Part 2
    1. Explain all six key categories of the theory you’ve chosen to write about: source, selection, definition of good, scope, objective or subjective, and principle of right action
    2. In particular, define ‘scope’ and ‘objective’ or ‘subjective’ clearly
  3. Part 3
    1. Give a good example to illustrate the theory. E.g., “Consider the claim, ‘Stealing is wrong.’ According to divine command theory, this claim is objective: on this view, God exists (independently of what humans believe) and commands that humans not steal, and so this moral claim is true regardless of whether human beings believe it or not. The prohibition against stealing is also universal in scope: it applies to everyone because, on this view, God has commanded that everyone refrain from stealing.”
  4. Part 4
    1. Begin with a topic sentence (“A key argument for X is called the…”)
    2. Explain the argument.
  5. Part 5
    1. Topic sentence (“Two objections against X can be raised as well.”)
    2. Make sure that these objections are NOT criticisms of an argument for the theory in question. These objections are aimed at the theory itself, not an argument for the theory.
    3. Describe the two best objections
  6. Conclusion
    1. Restate thesis statement and briefly restate the high points
    2. Give a thoughtful answer the question: “Is X correct?”
  1.                                                                i.      If you think X is correct, then provide a reply to the two objections. If you think X is incorrect, then provide a reply to the argument for X.



  1. Grammar, style, diction, etc
  2. Clarity
  3. Accuracy
  4. Thoroughness
  5. Fair mindedness


Remember: use 12 point Times New Roman and normal margins. 5 pages max, double-space.

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