The essay assignment is being introduced earlier in the module so that you can work on it as you progress through the module rather than waiting until you finish everything else. Given the immediacy of the deadline of Essay 4, I highly recommend working on the essay as you progress through the steps.

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The essay assignment is being introduced earlier in the module so that you can work on it as you progress through the module rather than waiting until you finish everything else. Given the immediacy of the deadline of Essay 4, I highly recommend working on the essay as you progress through the steps.

Return to this page after completing the step for each ethical theory, including the page that applies the theory to the scene from An Enemy of the People. The application pages for each theory provide as example to use in applying the theories to the case below.

Some historical background

Until relatively recently in human history, plagues were a recurring feature of life. Of course, in the 1300s, the Black Death killed somewhere between 75 and 200 million people worldwide. It killed between 30% and 60% of Europe’s population. It took 200 years for the population in Europe to reach pre-plague levels. In 1665-1666, England experienced a plague epidemic, which ended up killing about 25% of London’s population. The plague spread to other parts of England as well.

Eventually it reached a small village named Eyam.

That village is the setting of a fictionalized account of what happened in the Eyam. So grab a cup of coffee or tea and read the excerpt from Brooks’s novel, then come back here.

Geraldine Brooks, excerpt from Year of Wonders

There’s a lot going on even just in this excerpt. For the essay assignment, you will apply the different ethical theories discussed in the course to this case.

Below are the instructions.

Explain the case

First paragraph: summary

Summarize the situation. Choose a focus for your essay. Focus either the decision of the narrator, Anna Frith, in the church after the minister, Michael Mompellion, delivers his sermon and proposes a way forward for the village. Or focus on the decision of Colonel Bradford, which we see in his confrontation with Mompellion in the final scene of the excerpt.

Make sure to provide a general background so that the reader can make sense of the significance of Anna’s or Colonel Bradford’s decision. Include a statements about what is threatening the village and the surrounding area as well as what the minister is proposing and why. Describe it in a way that someone unfamiliar with the situation would be able to understand it sufficiently to follow your thinking through the rest of your essay. Be sure to include anything that will be relevant to your application of the ethical theories later. (That means, you may want to revise this paragraph after writing drafts of the other paragraphs to make sure you’ve included the various details of the situation you’ll need for readers to make sense of what you say later.)

Apply the ethical theories

Second paragraph: Act Consequentialism

First, explain (a) what determines which action in any situation is morally required according to Act Consequentialism and (b) the purpose of secondary rules within Act Consequentialism .

Second, discuss the character’s options using Act Consequentialism.

  1. What are two or three of the most likely significant consequences of each choice?
  2. What intrinsically good or bad things are associated with these consequences (pain? pleasure? community? knowledge? virtue? health? achievement? freedom?)
  3. Which secondary rules would be relevant in this situation? Recall that since we almost always lack sufficient information and time to determine which choice maximizes intrinsic good, we are forced to rely on secondary rules to guide our decision making. Which ones are relevant here?

Note: You need not arrive at a definite conclusion about which would be the required choice according to Act Consequentialism nor about what the person ought to choose—rather, demonstrate your understanding by discussing which consideration in this situation would be relevant for arrive at a conclusion.

Third paragraph: Immanuel Kant (humanity formulation only)

Consider the character’s choices through the lens of Kant’s humanity formulation, which would emphasize treating persons always as ends and never merely as means.

First, explain how the morality of actions are assessed according to Kant’s Humanity Formulation of the Categorical Imperative.

Second, discuss the character’s choices using Kant’s Humanity Formulation of the categorical imperative. How does each decision accord with Kant’s suggestion that we ought always to treat other people as ends and never merely as means? For each choice, does doing it fail to treat anyone as an end? Does it treat anyone as a mere means? Is there a clearly right answer for Kant here? Explain.

The morally right action would, of course, be the one that avoids treating others as mere means while also treating them, as far as possible, as ends. In your response, you do not need to determine which choice would be the right action according Kant’s humanity formulation. Rather, you’re highlighting the factors would be relevant to determining which choice is right one, assessing the choices within Kant’s framework.

Fourth paragraph: Ross’s theory of prima facie ethics

Consider the character’s choices through the lens of W.D. Ross’s theory of prima facie ethics, which would emphasize consideration of several types of duties.

First, explain Ross’s theory of prima facie duties.

Second, discuss the character’s choices using Ross’s Theory of Prima Facie Ethics. Answer these questions in your discussion: What prima facie duties would the character have in this situation? List all of those that would provide a moral reason for each option. Be clear about which prima facie duties go with which decision. The morally right action would, of course, be the one that fulfills the character’s actual duty, that one of the character’s prima facie duties that is, as Ross says, the most stringent in that situation. In your response, you do not need to determine which choice would be the right action according W.D. Ross’s theory of prima facie ethics. Rather, you’re highlighting the factors would be relevant to determining which choice is right one, assessing the choices within Ross’s framework.

While Ross would say that we cannot know with absolute certainty which among our prima facie duties is the actual duty in that situation, which one do you think would be the character’s actual duty?

Note: Don’t just list Ross’s general categories of prima facie duties. Rather, list which prima facie duties the character would have and to whom. For example: Don’t just say that the character has prima facie duties of fidelity, gratitude, beneficence, etc. Say, rather, that the character has a duty to keep a promise to X to do Y, and a duty not to harm Z. Doing this will make more evident whether the character has multiple instances of the same kind of duty (say, a duty to keep promises to a number of different people).

Fifth paragraph: Virtue ethics

Consider the choices through the lens of virtue ethics, which would choosing the action that a fully virtuous person would characteristically choose in that type of situation.

Firstexplain virtue ethics as presented in the course and in the assigned readings.

Second, discuss the character’s choices using the virtue ethical theory of morality. The morally right action would, of course, be the one that involves acting a virtuousway. In your response, you do not need to determine with certainty which choice would be the right action according virtue ethics.

Rather, you’re highlighting the factors would be relevant to determining which choice is right one, assessing the choices within a virtue ethics framework. Which considerations would be relevant to the situation, according to the virtue ethical theory?

To do that, discuss two virtues that seem relevant to the situation. Give a detailed sketch of how the virtues you mention would play out. You can choose from among the virtues discussed by Hurka (compassion, beneficence, courage) and Hursthouse. You could also consider these virtues: loyalty, love, consideration, generosity, trustworthiness (use the definitions at https://virtuesproject.com/virtuesdef.html (Links to an external site.))

Then for each virtue write two or three sentences developing the virtue further using Hursthouse’s discussion of honesty as a model. That is, describe those virtues in more details regarding (a) which type of actions would characterize someone with that virtue, (b) how would they carry out those actions, (c) what emotions and attitudes would they have that would be informed by having that virtue.

Then explain how an overall virtuous person might respond in this situation (bringing together the two virtues you discussed).

Rubric

PHIL 230 Essay 3 rubric (Summer 2019)

PHIL 230 Essay 3 rubric (Summer 2019)

Criteria Ratings Pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeSummary of case: completion
3.0 ptsGood; Excellent 2.0 ptsCompetent 1.0 ptsNeeds improvement; Unsatisfactory 0.0 ptsMissing or not addressed
3.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeAct Consequentialism: accuracy and integration
3.0 ptsGood; Excellent 2.0 ptsCompetent 1.0 ptsNeeds improvement; Unsatisfactory 0.0 ptsMissing or not addressed
3.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeKant’s humanity: accuracy and integration
3.0 ptsGood; Excellent 2.0 ptsCompetent 1.0 ptsNeeds improvement; Unsatisfactory 0.0 ptsMissing or not addressed
3.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeRoss: accuracy and integration
3.0 ptsGood; Excellent 2.0 ptsCompetent 1.0 ptsNeeds improvement; Unsatisfactory 0.0 ptsMissing or not addressed
3.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeVirtue ethics: accuracy and integration
3.0 ptsGood; Excellent 2.0 ptsCompetent 1.0 ptsNeeds improvement; Unsatisfactory 0.0 ptsMissing or not addressed
3.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeOverall completion, clarity, and organization
3.0 ptsGood; Excellent 2.0 ptsCompetent 1.0 ptsNeeds improvement; unsatisfactory 0.0 ptsMissing or not addressed
3.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeOverall insightfulness
3.0 ptsGood; Excellent 2.0 ptsCompetent 1.0 ptsNeeds improvement; Unsatsifactory 0.0 ptsMissing or not addressed
3.0 pts
Total Points: 21.0

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