Capital Punishment


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1. For the Long projects, The goal of a paper of this sort is to give you a chance to think your way through a problem. In the end, you are being asked for your individual judgment. This, though, is not the same thing as your opinion. The difference is that opinions are cheap, while judgment requires both preparation and thought. So, you will begin by presenting clearly both your view and the reasons for which you hold it. You then will show that you are familiar with the basic literature, and you will develop your ideas by contrasting them with different views found there. Finally, you will show how your position emerges from the discussion above. the format is both precise and invariant. Each project is to be three paragraphs in length, with explicit thesis sentences beginning each paragraph. In the first paragraph, you will name a practice and state the view you are defending as regards it. In the second paragraph you will show that you are aware of arguments opposing your view. In the third paragraph, you will explain why you believe the reasons given in the first outweigh the reasons given in the second
2. In the first paragraph, first state clearly the practice you are discussing, then the position you are taking on it and finally the reasons for taking that position. Be both explicit and clear. Don’t discuss “euthanasia,” for example, since the term “euthanasia” covers many different practices with, perhaps, important differences in moral stature among them. Discuss rather, say, voluntary active euthanasia, or nonvoluntary cessation of heroic efforts. In other words, be precise. If you conclude that a practice is permissible conditionally, then state the conditions under which it is and is not. Presumably no one supports capital punishment for all crime. So the questions become “which ones?” and “why those?” State your reasons explicitly. Finally, be careful that what you are presenting as reasons are not just pre-made judgments built into your definitions. Don’t criticize abortion on the grounds that it is murder, for example, since “murder” just means “wrongful killing.” You owe an argument that it is wrong before you are entitled to call it murder.
3. In the second paragraph be fair when presenting opposing views. Since philosophical claims, in particular, get their substance in part from contrast, diminishing alternative claims really does diminish your own claims. For example, suppose you favor stronger criminal sanctions for white-collar criminals. You write: “I am aware that some people think that prisons are for rehabilitation and not for punishment, but I object to criminals being supported in luxury at taxpayer expense. Criminals have got to accept the consequences of their actions.” Two things have gone wrong. First, your sentence is unfair. No one ever has asserted that prisons ought to be luxurious, and no one has denied that crime should have consequences. The argument is over what those consequences ought to be. Second, you have weakened your own claim logically. By denying the claim that white-collar criminals ought to be supported in taxpayer luxury, you assert only that they ought not to be. But this is not nearly as strong a claim as the one you meant to make, which is that criminals ought to be treated worse than they are.
4. In the final paragraph, be sure that your claim really does match the logic under which you reject alternatives earlier. Suppose you are defending the claim that the production of pornography morally is permissible. In your second paragraph, you showed that you were aware of arguments to the contrary. Now, in the third paragraph, you argue that nevertheless, free speech is a constitutionally protected right and that limiting that right is worse than allowing pornography. The problem with this approach is that it changes the subject. Initially, you claimed that the production of pornography was permissible morally whereas now you are claiming only that it ought to be legal. These are very different claims.
So what you are to do is present your conclusion clearly, state the reasons for it explicitly, present opposing viewpoints fairly, and develop your arguments logically. These just are the principles behind college writing in general.



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