Philosophy writing paper-03

PHIL 120: First Essay Assignment

Please make sure to read all instructions carefully before writing your paper. In response to the prompt below, you are to write a 850-1000-word paper (3-4 double-spaced pages). Your paper should be typed in 12-point font, double-spaced, with 1” margins. You are required to submit your paper under the appropriate assignment on Canvas (there is no need to turn in a hard copy).


  • Failure to properly cite the text will result in a lower grade.
  • You are not required to submit a bibliography page, but you must include in-text citations. Every time that you make a reference to the text (e.g., when you [a] cite a passage, [b] paraphrase an idea, or [c] attribute a view to an author) you must include parentheses at the end of the sentence enclosing the page number from which the passage, idea or view is taken.

For example:

According to James Rachels, “morality demands that we be unselfish. How unselfish is a hard question…we are expected to be attentive to other people’s needs at least to some degree” (64)

James Rachels thinks that one requirement of morality is that humans act unselfishly (64).

  • You are not allowed to “cite” the slides for this class. If you want to cite an idea from the slides but are having trouble finding it in the text, just let me know and I will be more than happy to point you in the right direction.
  • You are not allowed to use secondary sources for this paper.

Writing expectations:

  • Your writing should be as clear and concise as possible, without sacrificing content.
  • You may quote passages from the text, but you should try to paraphrase when you can. I want to see that you can explain the material in your own words.
  • It is okay to use the first person, but remember you are not just “giving your opinion.” You should provide reasons for what you think.
  • You do not need to write a conclusion for this paper.


You are an ethics consultant who has been hired to prepare a report for Rachel Lander, the senior project manager of a major construction company called FastBuild.

Rachel Lander is currently overseeing the construction of a gigantic condominium complex in a developing country. This project is by far FastBuild’s biggest contract. If successful, not only will Rachel almost certainly be promoted, but everyone on her team will likely receive large bonuses.

Shortly before construction is scheduled to begin, Rachel is informed that soil tests from the site have indicated high levels of toxic radiation (likely due to nuclear weapons tests in that area in the 1980s). The radiation poses significant health risks for those working on the construction site. The country does not have strict environmental or labor regulations, and there are currently no laws against building on the contaminated site. However, in order to avoid future legal ramifications, Rachel decides that it is in the best interest of the company to undertake a cleanup operation to reduce the levels of radiation. She has two options:

Option one: employ local workers to clean up the site. Rachel knows that this part of the country has very few employment opportunities and that workers will be willing to do almost anything to support their families. Given the lack of labor regulations, the local workers will not have access to proper safety training or equipment and will likely be willing to work long hours in order to earn as much as possible (exposing them to higher levels of radiation). On the one hand, hiring the local workers will allow construction to begin on time, and is clearly the most profitable option. On the other hand, Rachel knows that high levels of radiation pose serious health risks for these workers (e.g., radiation poisoning, cancer, infertility, etc.).

Option two: hire a subcontractor called Nuklean which specializes in the safe cleanup of radioactive sites. Nuklean has an exceptional reputation for its commitment to safety. Its workers receive extensive safety-training, and they use state-of-the-art protective equipment to reduce the risk of exposure to radiation. Because of these precautions, Nuklean will take much longer to clean the site (causing costly delays to construction). Moreover, the upfront cost of hiring Nuklean will be substantially higher than that of hiring the local workers. In fact, hiring Nuklean could jeopardize the profitability of the entire project.

The senior executives of the construction company have told Rachel that they want the cleanup to be performed as quickly as possible. They do not seem to be concerned about the health or safety of the workers. Ultimately, as project manager, the choice between these two options is up to Rachel.

See next page for instructions.


Your job is to prepare a report in which you analyze the ethical decision outlined above and offer a recommendation about what to do. Your analysis must consider how the decision should be approached from the perspectives of both act utilitarianism and Kantianism.

Your report should be structured as follows:

Introduction: You do not need to write your own introduction to the report. You can simply begin by using the following template:

This report considers FastBuild’s decision from the perspectives of act utilitarianism and Kantianism. After briefly explaining these two ethical theories, I shall discuss which course of action each theory recommends. Finally, I argue that [insert ethical theory] offers the most compelling advice to Ms. Lander in this situation because [insert reason].

Part One: provide a concise explanation of both act utilitarianism and Kantianism.

  • You should explain the most important concepts and ideas involved in these two theories and give a general overview of how they recommend that people make ethical decisions.

Part Two: apply both act utilitarianism and Kantianism to the decision that Rachel must make (i.e., say which option each theory would recommend).

  • Make sure to be clear in explaining why these theories recommend that particular course of action (it may be the case that both theories recommend the same course of action, but for different reasons).
  • You do not need to summarize the situation described in the prompt (assume your reader is familiar with Rachel’s decision).
  • Make sure to explain what information about the situation would be most relevant from the perspective of each theory.

Part Three: explain which of the two theories you think does the best job of offering guidance in the case described in the prompt. Make sure to offer a reason in support of your claim.

Reading: Shafer-Landau, “The Kantian Perspective: Autonomy and Respect”

Friedman, “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits.”

Heal “Social, Environmental and Financial Performance”

Other readings see attached file

Grading Rubric:




Needs improvement

Explanation of the two ethical theories (act utilitarianism and Kantianism)

20 points

Provides plenty of relevant detail. Key concepts are clearly explained in a way that shows strong command of material. No errors or mistakes.

Covers key aspects of the two theories but leaves out some relevant details. Key concepts are explained, but with some unclarity (e.g., over-reliance on quotes, or failure to explain connections between ideas). May include minor errors.

Covers some key aspects of the two theories but leaves out many significant details. Effort is made to explain key concepts, but with significant errors or unclarity. Suggests minimal familiarity with the text.

Does not cover key aspects of the two theories and leaves out many significant details. Little to no effort is made to engage with material, and/or includes major errors or unclarity.

Application to the ethical decision

15 points

Clearly explains how each theory bears on the ethical decision. Demonstrates a strong grasp of the ethical theories. Clearly relates the theories to the relevant details in the case.

Provides a plausible explanation of how both theories apply to the ethical decision. May include minor errors, unclarity or omission of details in connecting the theory to the prompt.

Attempts to show how each theory relates to the decision, but with significant errors, unclarity, or omission of important details. Suggests minimal familiarity with the text.

Fails to say how each theory is supposed to apply to the case. Little to no effort is made to engage with material, and/or includes major errors or unclarity.

Evaluation of the theories

5 points

Clearly takes a position on which of the two theories offers the best guidance for the case. Gives a strong reason (including textual support) for this claim. Demonstrates reflection.

Takes a position in evaluating the two theories. May overlooks minor details or include considerations that are not clearly relevant.

Does not take a clear position on which theory offers the best guidance for the case, or does so in a way that is either unclear, or rests on a misunderstanding of the texts and/or is not clearly relevant.

Extremely limited or non-existent evaluation of the theories. Does not demonstrate adequate engagement with the material.


10 points

Writing is clear, concise and well-organized. There are no significant grammatical errors.

Writing is mostly clear, and well-organized. There may be a few places where clarity could be improved, or slight organizational problems (e.g., repetition, wordiness, etc.).

Writing lacks clarity and concision. Grammatical or organizational errors occasionally prevent ideas from being articulated.

Significant issues in clarity. Grammatical or organizational errors often prevent ideas from being articulated.

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