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Interpreting questions 1

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Consider the following essay question about the ethical philosopher, Peter Singer.

Using the analysis of the Aquinas question as a guide, write your own analysis of this question in the table below. (A response to the first question is given as an example.)

Essay topic

Singer makes a strong prima facie case for a utilitarian approach to ethical decision making. But it is a case that is seriously flawed, for utilitarianism seems to be morally indefensible.

Do you agree? If so, where is the weakness in his argument? If not, how do you answer the intuitive objections to utilitarianism?

Analysis information quiz
probe questions analysis
  1. What do I need to make a judgment about?
  • Singer's case for a utilitarian approach to ethical decision making
  1. What type of judgment(s) do I need to make?
  1. What are some possible judgements?

Check your answers

Essay topic

What is the argument of Aquinas' "fifth way"? Is this argument valid? Is it sound? Is it persuasive?

Interpreting this essay topic is relatively straightforward (which is not to say it will necessarily be easy to write about). Notice how the topic can be analysed in terms of the three probing questions above.

Analysis information quiz
probing questions analysis
  1. What do I need to make a judgment about?
  • The argument of Aquinas' "fifth way"
  1. What type of judgment(s) do I need to make?
  • Whether the argument is valid
  • Whether it is sound
  • Whether it is persuasive
  1. What are some possible judgements?
  • The argument is/is not valid - why/why not?
  • The argument is/is not sound, etc.

Sample analysis only. Note that there may be other ways of interpreting this question.

Analysis information quiz
probing questions analysis
  1. What do I need to make a judgment about?
  • Singer's case for a utilitarian approach to ethical decision making
  1. What type of judgment(s) do I need to make?
  • Whether this case is morally defensible
  1. What are some possible judgements?
  • The case overall is/is not morally defensible - why/why not
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