SHOULD RIGHTS BE DEFINED BY NATIONS OR GLOBALLY? (ARE RIGHTS PORTABLE?) (RIGHTS THEORY, CHAPTER 5)

an essay of about 5-8 pages. The topic is your choice, though it needs to address a compelling ethical problem, which in some way affects people on a global scale.

What is “a compelling ethical problem”?

A compelling ethical problem can take a number of forms, but above all, it needs to be arguable.

Take, for example, the topic of child slavery. There are few things in the world more awful. But an essay arguing against child slavery is not compelling. This is because the problem, by itself, does not pose an ethical problem. Only a handful of people would think child slavery is not wrong (and they may not even see some instances as slavery). To write an essay arguing it is wrong or that it shouldn’t occur is honestly a waste of your time. (Typically, any argument that begins or ends with the sentiment, “That’s just wrong,” is not the topic you are looking for.)

That said, finding the best way to eliminate child slavery is a compelling ethical problem. This is for a number of reasons, but one is that you are likely to find people with different views on it. Some will argue for better law enforcement. Some say that more law enforcement will make the problem worse, and what is needed is intervention by other members of society (educators, religious leaders, etc). Some will argue some other force needs to be addressed. This variety of opinion gives you something to research of course, but it also gives you a position (or positions) to argue against. And unless you discover a completely new ethical problem, you will end up having to argue against someone or some position. Finally, while not every ethical problem asks the question, “What should we do about the problem?”, many do. We can talk about the exceptions in class.

To put it in a sentence: A compelling ethical problem is hard. It does not give us easy solutions. Your job is to evaluate the practicality and underlying morality of these solutions and recommend a policy or stance to address the problem.

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