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Argumentative philosophy paper

Craft a thesis which answers all of the following questions:

Do beliefs affect whether it is morally wrong/permissible/obligatory for a judge to adhere or deviate in a particular case?
– If so, whose beliefs? (The judge’s? The voters’? The legislature’s? Someone else’s?)
– If so, which beliefs of those believers? (Any? Just the reasonable ones? Just the ones that are produced through social deliberations? Just the true ones? Etc.)
– If so, how? (Do they fully determine what is wrong or permissible? Do they just provide some reasons, and if so, how weighty of reasons?)
– If not, why not?



The audience for the paper is a reasonable person who has taken this class, understood everything we have covered, and starts off disagreeing with your thesis. Keep this audience in mind as you write your paper.

Part 1
Part 1 will be read and graded independently from part 2 and 3. Ideas and arguments in part 2 or 3 will not contribute to your grade for part 1.

Part 1 gets an A if it could convince the audience that your thesis is true. This means that Part 1 must do all of the following:

Part 1 must explain what your thesis means. Any unclear or ambiguous terms should be explained. Given this explanation, a person should be able to think of example situations and determine what your thesis would say about them. If they cannot, then no one can tell whether or not Part 1 could convince your audience, since we don’t know what it is trying to convince the audience.

Part 1 must contain an argument for your thesis. The argument must give evidence that your thesis is true, evidence which could convince the audience. Remember, your audience starts off disagreeing with you; don’t give arguments that would only convince someone who already shares your view. The argument should address every aspect of your thesis: if your thesis has multiple conditions, or answers multiple questions, you must argue for all of these.

Part 1 must address all obvious objections. Your thesis, and/or your arguments, will seemingly disagree with arguments we covered in class, or ideas in the readings. Or, there may be problems with your arguments, or counterexamples to your thesis, that your audience would very easily think of. These are “obvious” objections – objections that your audience will know of, which must be addressed in order to convince your audience.

So, your paper must state all the obvious objections. For each, it must explain why this objection would seem relevant to your thesis or arguments.

Your paper must respond to each objection (showing that your thesis is still true) in a way that could satisfy your audience. This will require giving evidence that your audience would find compelling.

Part 2
In Part 2, you must give a reasonable counterexample to your thesis.

This must be a specific example, which is significantly different from any we have covered in class, or anything that was in the reading. You must clearly explain the specific situation that is your counterexample. And you must clearly explain why someone would think that this is a strong counterexample to your thesis.

To get an A, you must both give a counterexample to your thesis that could convince a reasonable person that your thesis is false, and also clearly explain why a reasonable person could be convinced by it, in a way that shows that you understand (some of) those who disagree with you.

Part 3
In Part 3, you must respond to the counterexample given in Part 2. You may not change your thesis, nor change any part of the objection from Part 2.

Your response should be able to convince a person who was originally compelled by the example in Part 2.

If your response shows that there is a better counterexample to your thesis than the one in Part 2 (e.g. it focuses on a detail of Part 2 that could easily be changed to make Part 2 a better counterexample), that is bad for your grade.

If Part 2 is a weak or bad counterexample to your thesis, then you cannot get a good grade for Part 3; this is because Part 3 does not demonstrate your ability to really engage with people who disagree with you.



Standpoints: Be able to explain what the legal and prudential standpoint are. Be able to give examples that illustrate the difference between the different standpoints of evaluation (legal, prudential, moral) – e.g. give an example of something that is legally wrong but morally permissible, legally wrong but prudentially permissible, morally wrong but legally permissible, morally wrong but prudentially permissible, prudentially wrong but legally or morally permissible. If given claims about what is wrong or permissible, be able to say which standpoint these are most plausible from and why. 

Wrongness: Be able to give plausible examples of permissible, wrong, and obligatory actions (from each of three standpoints – moral, legal, prudential). Be able to give examples of acts that are morally wrong but also wrong to prevent, acts that are morally permissible but morally permissible to prevent, and acts that are morally obligatory but morally permissible to prevent. Be able to rewrite sentences using “wrong,” “permissible,” “duty,” or “obligation” into sentences using the other terms, which mean the same things.

Reasons and prima facie duties: Key terms: “reason for,” “reason against,” “prima facie duty,” “overriding,” “conflict.” Be able to explain what each of these mean, and give plausible examples of each. Be able to give examples in which there are moral reasons for doing x and moral reasons against doing x (for the same x, at the same time); be able to explain what is morally wrong or permissible for a person to do in that situation and why. Be able to give examples in which two prima facie moral duties conflict, and one duty overrides the other; be able to explain what is wrong and permissible for the person to do in that situation. If I give you examples of situations, be able to identify the moral reasons for and against the available options.

Free riding / complicity: Key terms: “free ride,” “free riding,” “complicit,” “complicity.” Be able to explain each term in your own words. Be able to give examples of each. If I give you examples of situations, be able to identify if they are examples of free riding or complicity (or neither) and explain why. Be able to give examples where acts seem morally wrong because they are free riding, or morally wrong because they are complicity, and examples where free riding seems morally permissible or complicity seems morally permissible. Note: it is easy to give examples where doing x is wrong and doing x makes a person complicit, but the complicity is not clearly what makes x wrong (the same for free riding). For example, a person who runs someone over with a very polluting car is complicit in climate change. Is this wrong because of the complicity? It’s most clearly wrong because it is a murder, not because of the complicity. When you give examples of acts that are wrong because they free riding/complicity, don’t give examples like that.

Adherence/deviation: Key terms: “adhere,” “deviate.” Be able to explain what each means, and give your own examples of each. If I give you examples of acts, be able to identify if they are acts of adherence or deviation or neither, and to explain why. Be sure that you understand that adhering or deviating involves applying or misapplying legal rules; it’s not the same as what we normally call “breaking the law” (i.e. it is not doing something criminal).

Demandingness: Key term “demanding.” Be able to give an example in which there is usually aprima facie moral duty to do x, but some specific person does not have that duty because it would be too demanding for them. Be able to give an example where a moral duty to do x is somewhat demanding for a person, but that person still has a moral duty to do x. If I give you examples, be able to correctly identify if they are examples involving demandingness. Be able to distinguish between cases where there is no duty to do x because that would be overly demanding, and cases where there is no duty to do x because x is impossible to do.

Authority: Key terms: “authority,” “content independent reason.” Be able to explain what each means. Be able to give plausible examples of authorities outside the context of the law (you don’t have to agree that these are authorities, you just need to have some examples that others will find plausible). If I give examples, be able to explain whether or not these terms apply to them.

First and second order reasons: Key terms: “first order reason,” “second order reason,” “exclusionary reason” (this last one is a concept from Raz and is explained in the Hurd reading). Be able to explain what each of these are. Be able to give plausible examples of each (you may not believe that, e.g., exclusionary reasons exist, but you should be able to give an example that would be plausible to someone who does believe in these types of reasons). Be able to give examples in which a particular fact is (or gives) both first and second order reasons. If I give you examples, be able to explain whether they are first or second order reasons (or both or neither).

Causal, explanatory, and justificatory reasons: Key terms: “causal reason,” “explanatory reason,” “justificatory reason.” Be able to give an example of causal reasons and explanatory reasons that are not moral justificatory reasons. Be able to give examples of moral justificatory reasons that do not cause any event or explain any event. Be able to give examples of moral reasons that also do cause or explain events.

Moral vs. descriptive beliefs: Be able to give examples of beliefs that are clearly moral and beliefs that are clearly descriptive. Be able to give examples of disagreements about moral questions that are fundamentally driven by disagreements in descriptive beliefs, and disagreements that are based in moral beliefs (for example: when people disagree about how we should fight climate change, this is often based on different beliefs about what would actually work, which are are descriptive beliefs; people who disagree about what is right to do in trolley cases share all the same descriptive beliefs about the cases, but have different moral views). If I give you examples of beliefs, or of disagreements, be able to identify whether they are moral beliefs or descriptive, or whether they involve disagreements in moral or descriptive beliefs, and be able to explain why.

Sample Essay( This is my friend’s essay. If you plagiarize, I will withdrawn for plagiarism )

Nothing can be the same. Every word must be unique on your own.

Part 1:

It is morally permissible for judges to deviate from the law in particular cases based solely on their moral beliefs, but it is morally wrong for judges to deviate from the law in cases based solely off their descriptive beliefs. This is because judges uphold the law and lay foundation for society’s future laws. Moral beliefs can play a role in deviating from the law, but only in cases where a gap is present where misinterpretation, or lack of education could lead a person to breaking the law; in addition to cases where the judge can act as a moral agent. When the judge is presented with a case like a sub-optimal case where the law sides with one party, but morally the judge sides with a different party is also permissible for a judge to deviate based off their moral beliefs. One example could be, a woman is being charged with domestic abuse, but after the case unfolds its discovered the woman was a victim of domestic abuse for a decade.

The judge legally should convict the woman based off usual domestic abuse charges, but because of her history the judge wants to give her a lesser sentence due to her history. Judges are seen as an authority in the court. Judges are seen as authorities due to their extension education, giving them a higher magnitude of experience and expertise than the average person when upholding the law. A judge is also an authority because they’re ruling gives people reasons to act. If a judge convicts a person of 12 months’ community service, if broken they will receive 3 months of prison time, the person has reason to act as the judge says, or the punishment will be more severe.

However, it is morally wrong to deviate from the law based off the judge’s descriptive beliefs. Descriptive beliefs are beliefs with no relevance to why a person should act. For example, a descriptive belief would be a person believes alcohol consumption is bad due to the taste. This belief does not reflect the morally wrong perspective on alcohol, like how it cognitively alters people’s perspective, the possibility of receiving or being affected by a DUI, and or alcohol is an addictive substance. If a judge had the descriptive belief alcohol was bad due to the potent taste, it would be morally wrong for the judge to deviate from the law and give someone a worse sentence for a DUI compared to a different judge.

The alternative would be, if judge endorses alcohol, and likes the taste, it would be morally wrong for the judge to deviate from the law and give a person a lesser sentence for alcohol consumption. An additional example would be, a woman experienced sexual assault, and the assaulter said the woman was wearing provocative clothing, therefore they assumed the woman was giving consent. The clothes the woman was wearing was not giving the assaulter a reason to act, instead his moral beliefs made him believe his actions were permissible, when in reality they were extremely morally wrong.

A person could believe it is morally wrong for judges to make legal decisions based off their morality. Judges uphold the law, and it is inappropriate for judges to make decisions for someone else based on their own morality. The reasons to deviate or adhere should be based off the case and the evidence presented. A judge’s role is to maintain the validity and

smoothness of society; therefore, the law is presented as structure. As ____ (need to double check who said this) said, laws are made because people are imperfect people who make mistakes. Which raises the question, why is a judge seen as an authority if they too are imperfect. If people inevitably make mistakes, and judges are people, then judges inevitability make mistakes too. If a person was convicted of breaking and entering, and claimed it was miscommunication, his friend lived in the house however they were in a fight. The person claimed he was over to communicate and squash the fight but their friend pressed charges when irrational. Say the judge morally understood fights occur and get complicated, and deviated from normal punishment to lesser punishments. But 5 months later, the same person was charged again for breaking and entering, the judge initially made a mistake based off his moral judgement, allowing more people in society to be affected by the person actions.

Another counter example to this claim, would be it is nor morally wrong or morally permissible for a judge to deviate based off their descriptive claims, because after court, the judge makes a ruling based off all the evidence. It would not be morally wrong or permissible to make a decisions based on reasons to act, because the judge should not be mainly concerned with why the person committed the crime, but instead more on the degree to which the crime was convicted, the affect the committed crime had, and the potential the person would recommit the crime. For example, if a person committed vehicular manslaughter, it is implied it was an accident, therefore the reason behind the accident, for example the person was driving home from work late and tired, is not as important to the case. Instead the judge should focus on the degree to the manslaughter, to determine if it was an accident or not based off the autopsy, how many people were physically hurt, and if the person will again drive home in mindsets not fit for operating a vehicle. Therefore, it is not morally wrong to base the decision on descriptive beliefs, it just is not relevant to cases.

Part 2:

One could believe judges are given power when seen as a moral agent, power is seen as a way to reward and punish people (____). It could be seen that judges can abuse their power, by rewarding or punishing those whose actions do not fit in their moral beliefs or descriptive beliefs. Considering power and abuse of power, a judge should not be able to use their beliefs to reward or punish civilians. This is because a view that judges should not interpret the law, but instead uphold and obey the law. For example, a judge is deciding whether to sentence a 22 year old boy who was texting a driving and hit another driver and badly hurt them. The judge sees the young boy similar to his son and gives him a lesser sentence to avoid traumatizing the 22 year old boy. His deviation from the law was affected by his moral reasons, and could be seen as unfair the vicitum who was innocently driving. In this case, the judge used his power to give special treatment to the boy who badly hurt someone else due to his decision to text and drive.

Part 3:

In the case of the 22-year old texter and driver, one could argue to side with the judge. In this specific case, the judge used his power to help benefit a young person of society who made a mistake. As said before, every person is human and makes mistakes. The judge should have the power to empathize with the boy, but while being compassionate and understanding to the victim. The judge sees we are all human and we make mistakes, and instead of punishing the boy too harshly, instead he decided to rule on the side of deviate to teach the boy permissible from wrong actions.


Last Updated on April 30, 2019

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