Topic question: Should we execute people convicted of first-degree murder? Overview

In the Week One Assignment, you formulated a concrete ethical question, took a position on that topic, and identified a reason supporting and a reason opposing that position. In the Week Three Assignment, you discussed either deontological or utilitarian theory, applied that theory to the question, and raised a relevant objection.

By engaging with the course material, you now have had a chance to refine your thinking and broaden your understanding of the problem by approaching it from the perspective of multiple ethical theories.

In this paper, you will demonstrate what you have learned by writing an essay in which you

  • Present a revised formulation of the ethical question and introduction to the topic.
  • Explain the kind of reasoning you think is the best way to approach this question, and how that reasoning supports the position you think is strongest.
  • Raise an objection, and be able to respond to it.


Write an essay that conforms to the requirements below. The paper must be 1500 to 2000 words in length (excluding the title and reference pages) and formatted according to APA style as outlined in the Ashford Writing Center.

The paragraphs of your essay should conform to the following guidelines:

    • Introduction

      Your first paragraph should begin with the topic question, suitably revised. It should be focused, concrete, and on a relevant moral problem. You should then introduce the topic in the way described by the Week One instructions, but reflecting the developed understanding and information you have gained about the topic and any necessary refinement of the scope.

      Follow this with a thesis statement that states your position, and a brief description of the primary reason(s) supporting your position. (See the handout on thesis statements provided). Finally, provide a brief preview of the overall aim and procedure of your paper.


    • Explanation and Demonstration of Moral Reasoning

      This section of the Final Paper will explain and demonstrate what you believe to be the best way of reasoning about the question you have chosen, and showing how that reasoning supports the position you have taken on the question. You might explain the principles, rules, values, virtues, conceptions of purposes and ends, and other general ideas that you find persuasive, and show how they support concrete judgments.

      In the course of doing so, you must make reference to at least two of the approaches that we have examined in the course (such as deontological, utilitarian, or virtue-based), and utilize at least one resource off the provided list for each of the two approaches. One of these theories may be the theory you discussed in your Week Three Assignment, but your discussion here should be more refined.

      For example, you might find the reasoning associated with Aristotelian virtue ethics to be the most compelling, and reference Aristotle in the process of showing how that reasoning supports a certain conclusion. In the course of this, you could contrast that with a utilitarian approach, referencing Mill for instance.


    • Objection and Response

      After explaining the ethical reasoning that supports your position, you should raise an objection and respond to it. An objection articulates a plausible reason why someone might find the argument weak or problematic. You should explain how it brings out this weakness, and do so in a way that would be acceptable to someone who disagrees with your own argument. Then, provide the best response you can to the objection, showing how it does not undermine your position. Your response should not simply restate your original position or argument, but should say something new in support of it.


  • Conclusion

    Provide a conclusion that sums up what you presented in the paper and offers some final reflections.

Resource Requirement

You must use at least four scholarly resources. Two of the resources must be drawn from thelist of acceptable primary resources on each of the two theories you discuss. For example, if you discuss deontology and virtue ethics, you would need at least one resource under the “Deontology” list and at least one resource under the “Virtue Ethics” list. The other two may be from either the Required or Recommended Resources, or scholarly resources found in the Ashford University Library.

  • The textbook may be cited, but it does not count toward the resource requirement. If you cite the textbook, you will still need to cite at least four more sources that fulfill the requirements stated above.
  • If you need help with finding additional resources, or are unsure about whether a particular resource will count toward the requirement, please contact your instructor.
  • For sources to count toward the resources requirement, they must be cited within the text of your paper and on the reference page. Sources that are listed on the references page, but not cited within the paper, do not count toward fulfilling the resources requirement.
  • For information regarding APA, including samples and tutorials, visit the Ashford Writing Center.