In this final exam-essay assignment, we will be bringing together a few concepts that we have been working on during the semester. You will be writing one essay here, with three different sections, and the sections should be ordered and arranged as follows (you must also include these section headings in your essay). The essay is due by no later than 11:30 pm on Sunday, 12/5.
The basis of your essay is the CNN article on COVID-19 and the ‘Open it Up’ movement. You’ll note that this CNN article is dated 4/23/20, so it is well over a year old. But it is still quite relevant – of course, over the last year or so, many areas around the US have seen spikes in COVID-19 cases and deaths at various times. Of course, we are all still feeling the effects of the pandemic, even with increased vaccinations.
The link for this CNN article is below.
The dangerous morality behind the ‘Open it Up’ movementSome Americans argue the benefits of reopening the US economy outweigh the human toll of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s an ethical dilemma, and the path we choose in this critical moment will say a lot about us.Analysis by Daniel Burke, CNN Religion EditorCNN
In your essay, you will be working with the moral concept known as utilitarianism. For the purposes of this essay, the basic, generic elements of utilitarianism as defined in the CNN article are adequate. If you would like to learn more about utilitarianism in a more theoretical sense (this is what you would get into in an ethics course, for example), then two standard resources are given in the links below. But as you write your essay for this assignment, do note that you are not being asked to show understanding of the more intricate details of the various versions of utilitarianism, so you do not have to worry about going into all of those technical details. Please let me know if you have questions.
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/utilitarianism-history/ (sections 1 and 2 particularly)
https://iep.utm.edu/util-a-r/ (this is from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Finally, here are some tips for writing this essay (sections 2 and 3 especially). As you examine the three required sections of the essay below, note that it might be a helpful writing tactic to consider the main question of section 2, write section 3 in response to it, and then carefully go over what you have written in section 3. When you are going over what you have written in section 3 (and if you have written that carefully!) then what should emerge is really the foundation of your position. You can take that foundation, and then turn it into the specific syllogism that is asked for in section 2. Sometimes approaching this kind of writing assignment in that fashion can make it easier to complete section 2. In any case, though, when you submit the final version, you should order the sections as shown below (first section 1, and then section 2, and then section 3).
Three sections of the essay:
(1) Summary of the article
Write a summary of the CNN article. It should be approximately 400 words. Be sure to note the most important points and ideas in the article. Note that this summary is not an argument that you are making as to whether the article is accurate or note, and it should not interpret the article. It’s a summary! But good summaries are important in critical thinking.
(2) Syllogism to be explained and defended
You must adopt a utilitarian point of view – that is the moral point of view you are assuming here. From that utilitarian perspective, the question you must treat is the following, and you must also accept the premises embedded in this question:
Imagine that you were reading this article in late April or early May of 2020, a bit after the article first came out (try to imagine that you had a kind of ‘time machine’ to go back a year!). Imagine also, at that time, that you considered the following question:
If it is highly probable that accelerating the re-opening of the economy amidst the pandemic would lead to an improved economy in the US in general, improved financial stability for the majority of individuals, and the benefits that come with a quicker journey toward ‘normal’ life for most people, then would these advantages outweigh the high risk of substantially increased COVID-19 deaths that likely would have been prevented by not accelerating the re-opening?
This is a long question, but in reading it and thinking about it, you can see that the expected answer would start with either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ (excluding ‘Maybe’!), followed by a defense of the answer.
In response to this question and in this section of your essay, create and write one categorical syllogism (in standard form, two premises and one conclusion) that states the most fundamental argument of your position on this question, which you will develop more in section 3.
To be sure, this syllogism will very likely be a simplification of what you want to explain and defend in section 3. But that is fine – section 3 gives you room to defend the two premises and conclusion in some detail. It can be helpful to think of what you are asked to do in section 2 in this way as well: if you were to take your defense in section 3 and reduce it to just one categorical syllogism, what would that syllogism be?
Section 2 is rather short – it is just the categorical syllogism, just two premises and one conclusion! But you will have to put some thinking into it. Make sure that the syllogism is sound, and a good idea would be to test the syllogism according to the rules that we have learned. Also, remember that as you complete your syllogism here in section 2, you are supposed to be thinking like you would have thought about this in spring 2020!
(3) Explain and defend your syllogism
(a) In this section, you are to give reasons and details that help to support your syllogism – in other words, it is your defense of what you would have thought in spring 2020 when the article came out. In completing this section of your essay, you will ultimately be defending the conclusion of your syllogism,, and as well, the premises of the syllogism. This part of section 3 should be about 350 words or so.
(b) Finally, add some commentary on what you have learned about Covid-19 and the risks of ‘opening-up’ since the article appeared in April 2020. In being able to reflect on things since April 2020, would you still say that your syllogism was sound and made sense? On the other hand, in looking back over the many months since April 2020, would you admit that it was unsound, and did not make sense? Or would you perhaps say that your syllogism was ‘in-between’ – that it made some sense, but still was flawed in some ways? This part of section 3 should be about 200-250 words or so. You can feel free to list some sources in order to help with your explanation, If you do so, please either use the APA or MLA format for citation and referencing. Please let me know if you have questions.
Submitting your essay here on D2L: To submit your essay, please write or cut/paste your essay directly into the space provided: this is in the section marked ‘Text Submission’, and you get to this space by first clicking on where it says ‘Final exam-essay’ above. Please type or copy/paste your essay into ‘Text Submission.’ Then click on ‘Submit to Dropbox’ in order to submit your essay. Please do not e-mail your essay to me.
If you have any questions about this essay assignment (including if you have some technical issues with submitting your essay), please let me know as soon as possible.