Robert Nozick “The Experience Machine”
The point of this paper assignment is for you to explore more fully one of the ethical issues that we’ve covered in class. In the paper you will pick one of the assigned readings listed below, and: (a) explain the case that the author makes in favor of a particular position on a particular ethical issue, (b) offer the best criticism you can find (or think up) of that author’s case, (c) offer the best response that you think the author can make to that criticism, and (d) give your final assessment of the debate.
Part (a): Explain the case made by the author in the paper
• Clearly specify the author’s precise position on the issue in question
o For example, you would not simply say “Jane Doe is anti-abortion”, but specify: “Jane Doe argues that abortion is prima facie morally prohibited, but this prohibition can be overridden in such-and-such situations.”
• Fully explain the case made by the author
o If the author makes a clear argument, spell it out step by step
o If the author uses a thought experiment, give an overview of it and fully explain how it is meant to support the author’s position
• Specify the moral premise or principle that the author is relying on to make his or her case
Part (b): Offer the best criticism that you can find (or think of)
• Explicitly specify which aspect(s) of the author’s case is being criticized
o Challenging the validity or the argument?
o Challenging the truth of a premise?
o Challenging the moral equivalence between the thought experiment and the real-life scenario?
• Outside sources are permitted, but you absolutely must cite them. If you offer a criticism that someone else has already offered, you must cite that author or else you will be subject to plagiarism charges.
Part (c): Offer the best response to that criticism
• Put yourself in the author’s shoes and think how you would respond to the criticism
• Outside sources are permitted, but you absolutely must cite them. If you offer a response that someone else has already offered, you must cite that author or else you will be subject to plagiarism charges.
Part (d): Assess
• Is the criticism in (b) fatal, or does the response in (c) succeed and save the author’s position?
• Where do you personally stand on this issue in the end? Has your position changed since before you started reading, thinking, and writing about the issue? Explain how and why.
Rough length estimates
Intro and “roadmap”: about half of a page
Part (a): about 2 pages
Part (b): about 1 page
Part (c): about 1 page
Part (d): about 1 page
• Include an accurate word count as part of your heading
• Begin your paper with an introductory paragraph featuring a “roadmap” outlining the rest of your paper.
• Cite all direct quotations: “This is a sample quotation from page 78 of Matt Miller’s imaginary best-selling book” (Miller 78).
• If you consult any materials outside of the required course readings, you must include them in a Works Cited section at the end of your paper. “Consult” doesn’t mean that you directly quoted the material in your paper, it just means that it informed or influenced your paper in some way. Even if you don’t quote it directly or discuss it in depth, you still must cite it.
• Format: Double-spaced, size 12 font, normal margins