What is the purpose of this paper?
You are going to compare and contrast two philosophical works on similar subjects and decide which of the two is more convincing and why. Your choice of works are:
Excerpt from Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas and “Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives” by Phillipa Foot, both in Doing Ethics
Excerpt from Nichomachean Ethics by Aristotle and “The Need for More than Justice” by Annette C. Baire, both in Doing Ethics
Excerpt from Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill and “Feminist Ethics” by Alison M. Jaggar
You must choose one and only one set. You may not mix and match the readings. This paper should be presented in MLA style and be between 1000 and 1250 words.
Where do I begin?
First, you need to create a thesis about what fundamental ideas the two texts share. For example, if I were to compare and contrast Hume’s “Ethical Judgements and Matters of Fact” and Rorty’s “Moral Relativism”, my thesis might focus on how both texts address the limits of reason as an underlying standard by which to judge what is and is not moral. Here would be my working thesis for the paper:
Although Hume’s 1739 A Treatise on Human Nature and Rorty’s 1999 Philosophy of Social Hope are separated by several hundred years in publication, they are unified in their pragmatic rejection of reason as a basis for moral judgment.
Your thesis will be different from mine but it will share these traits:
It will mention both texts within the thesis
It will give at least on contrast (“separated by several hundred years in publication”) and one comparison (“unified in their pragmatic rejection of reason as a basis for moral judgment”).
It will be clear on whether you find the contrast or the comparison more pronounced. Here my sentence structure puts the contrast in a dependent clause beginning with “although” and the comparison in the independent clause. This structure gives the comparison more weight than the contrast.
Second, you need to give a critical précis of each text. This will give your reader a good idea of the important ideas in each piece. Since the critical précis are only part of this paper instead of being the whole, as in the last paper, these need to be even more succinct than the ones in your last paper. Although these can be longer than a paragraph, you can see in this example from Bakersfield College how a critical précis can be compressed into a single paragraph with planning and a clear idea of the arguments in the original text.
Third, you will choose two quotes, one from each text, as examples of the author’s thought to compare and contrast in detail in a well-constructed paragraph. For my two example pieces, I might write:
Hume ends this portion of the text with a paragraph on how writers who want to establish moral codes at a key point in their arguments switch from saying “is, and is not” in favor of “ought, or ought not” (15). He considers this to be the moment that philosophers turn from the relationship of real objects to their own “perceptions in the mind” (15). Consequently, Hume finds “that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason” (15). Similarly, Rorty despairs of reason as a way of deciding which of the complex and intertwined set of social mores, what Waltzer refers to as “thick moralities” (65), could ever become universal:
The ideas of a universally shared source of truth called “reason” or “human nature” is, for us pragmatists, just the idea that such discussion ought to be capable of being made conclusive…It is misleading because it suggests that the aspiration to such a community is somehow built into every member of the biological species (65).
Both of these authors try to find a way to use a universal standard, referred to as reason, to find a basis for morality but eventually find there is no objective external standard but instead only subjective standards held by individuals which are not based on objective reason.
Finally, you need to conclude with a paragraph that chooses one of the texts over the other as being better reasoned. This is the case whether you found the texts more alike or more different. For my example, I find Rorty’s explanation more nuanced because he takes into account the depth of connection to moral values that individuals have while still acknowledging that there is no universal set of moral values to which all humans subscribe for the same underlying reasons. Hume is clear that incest is abhorrent to most of the people in his society and explains well how this aversion is more subjective than objective but this excerpt does not examine in any detail the meaning of this idea for how people within a society may interact with one another or with those from other cultures.
What should I avoid?
Try to avoid focusing on your own opinions until the final paragraph of the paper. The bulk of this paper should be about what the readings say and how they comment on common ideas. All but the last paragraph of this paper should be in third person (he, she, they) only. The last paragraph may use some first (I, me, us, we, our) person but there should be no second (you, your) person anywhere in this paper. Be sure that you cover both the comparison – how these texts are alike – and the contrasts – how these texts are different – in a meaningful way. Both should be in your thesis and both in your conclusion.
What is the grading criteria for this assignment?
An “A” paper will be:
in correct MLA format throughout, including a Works Cited page that has an entry for the piece from your text. (See the form for “Work in an Anthology, Reference, or Collection” at the Purdue OWL.)
of appropriate length, not significantly longer than 1250 words or shorter than 1000 words.
well-constructed with a clear introduction, two précis, an analysis paragraph, and a conclusion
thorough in its coverage of the argument, not missing or misinterpreting any major points.
relatively free of mechanical errors.
A “C” paper will be:
in a format other than MLA or no discernable format but with some attempt at organization and with a bibliographic reference page.
of reasonable length, not significantly longer than 1250 words or shorter than 1000 words.
an attempt at well-constructed with a clear introduction, two précis, an analysis paragraph, and a conclusion but may be missing one section or have one or two sections that are poorly developed
spotty in its coverage of the argument; missing, misinterpreting, or misrepresenting some major points.
readable, although there may be consistent and persistent mechanical errors the author makes sense.
A “F” paper will be:
in no discernable format without an attempt at organization or a bibliographic reference page.
of random length, significantly longer than 1250 words or shorter than 1000 words.
lacking a clear demarcation among sections or lacking two or more sections.
missing, misinterpreting, or misrepresenting the main argument and major points.
difficult to read due to consistent and persistent mechanical errors.
Additional resources for assignment
File attachment comparing_rubric_final.pdf ( 36 KB; Jun 7, 2020 8:21 am )
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