Write a four-page essay (no less than 800 words, no more than 1200) in response to the following prompt:
In this essay, which you will revise later into your final essay assignment, I would like you to think about one of the most foundational questions in ethics—whether human beings are naturally selfish (i.e., psychological egoists), naturally altruistic (i.e., ethical creatures), or whether circumstance is primarily responsible for these tendencies in a culture. Be careful with this third option because you can get lost or tangled up in it!
Note: The first paragraph of any paper should tell your reader you’re your general topic is, what question you aim to answer, what your answer to that question will be along with the reason why you think so (this is your Thesis), and finally, you should tell your reader how you will go about answering the question in the rest of the essay (This is your Organizational Statement). A good organizational statement will read like a list of the topic sentences of the rest of your essay, so it’s a good idea to write it last. Hint: this prompt contains three tasks, so your organizational statement ought to list three tasks you will complete in the course of the paper.
introduce the topic. I would like you to give an account of the question using at least two of the articles given below. These articles approach the question largely from an experimental point of view. Make sure to give at least two opposing views in this part, but you do not have to decide who is right just yet.
Note: When you are discussing articles or other outside texts, you need to give your reader some context. So, for instance, if I were to use the first article below, I would introduce it by saying,
As Helen Fields writes in her ScienceMag article from 2012, “Psychologists have long tried to understand why people cooperate and in which situations” (Fields).
Or, if using the second:
In his article, “Are people Naturally Inclined to Cooperate or Be Selfish”, Matthew Robinson argues that “Culture, school and parenting are important determinants of cooperation” (Robinson).
You should introduce other articles similarly as you go. The goal is to help the reader know whose view you are presenting, and where the reader can find it at all times. This means citing every article you use in the works cited. If you follow the links to other studies through the studies given below, be sure to cite them as well.
, using the theories we have read from the beginning of chapter 7 in Palmer, talk about the question of egoism vs. altruism from a philosophical point of view. So far, we have a few different positions you can talk about: Plato’s three-part soul, Hobbes’ psychological egoism, Utilitarianism’s overarching interest in the greatest good/pleasure. These theories are not experimental, but conceptual. They begin from observation, but go on to talk about what humans should do. Discuss at least two of these views in regard to the same question introduced in the first part.
I have posted a pdf with several powerpoint slides on these theories; please use it. Be sure to explain how ethical reasoning is different from scientific experimentation at some point in your account. This might involve relating it to earlier issues such as epistemology, the belief in God, or one’s view on freedom. If you revisit any of these issues, be sure to cite where they appear in Palmer. And, be sure to be clear about the differences between these philosophical theories and the experimental ones; it is not clear that ethics is not something we can decide experimentally.
using the evidence from your presentation in part one, alongside the philosophical theories from part two, tell me what you think the best answer is to the question about human nature is, as well as why it is not either of the other two possibilities. If you choose the third option (the circumstantial option), you will need to be very clear about what kinds of cultural circumstances lead to egoism or altruism (education, entertainment, religious influence, etc.). Finish by telling me how the two sets of knowledge claims (the experimental and the conceptual) work together to produce your final answer (i.e. your thesis).
It is always best, in a philosophical essay to choose a definite answer over an “it depends…” type response. This is because your primary task as an author is to tell your reader what the question depends on, and give an answer in light of this. Every good essay begins with “It depends….”, but virtually no good essay concludes this way. Essays should make questions clearer through careful, organized thought. Also, never undercut your answer by saying things like “Everyone has their own opinion about this, etc.” This paper is not asking for an opinion, but for a bit of research, the presentation of different views through evidence, and choosing what you think (not feel or believe) is the best answer from among those you’ve researched. You will have the opportunity to revise this paper in a few weeks, but do you absolute best on this ‘draft’. It is worth as much as the final draft.
(be sure to cite with a full works cited, using MLA, as noted in “Essay Writing for this Course”). Please work from these articles and articles they link to. Other articles you find on the topic may not be of high enough quality to cite.
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