Applied Ethics ‘The moral status of the human foetus’

Topic: Applied Ethics ‘The moral status of the human foetus’

Order Description

Critically examine one of the most important arguments for or against that view in: Hursthouse, R. 1987, Extracts from ‘The moral status of the human foetus’ Chapter 2 of Beginning lives, Blackwell/Open University, pp. 31-82.

Further explanation of this task:

You can select any one of the four views. It may be the view you think most correct; it may be the view you think least correct; it may be something in between. You need to identify what you take to be one of the most important arguments either for or against that view. (It might, for instance, be an argument which is better than arguments for the other views. It might be an argument which shows why this view is unacceptable. It might be a plausible and commonly held argument, which is why it is important, but one that turns out to be a bad argument. And there are other possibilities.)

You should briefly say something to explain why you’re concentrating upon that argument.

Then – you should spell out the argument and then critically evaluate it as clearly as possible, using your own words as much as possible. In spelling out the argument you are showing exactly what the argument is; in critically evaluating it you are showing, in detail, whether it is good or bad.


The essay allows you to display your grasp of the philosophical discussion of the relevant topic. It requires you to show that you understand this discussion, and that you can critically assess it. (Note that this task is designed to assist you to demonstrate your grasp of those basic philosophical techniques of analysis and argument that you are learning, and to assist you to demonstrate that you can apply those skills to the clarification and resolution of the particular moral problems being considered.)

(1) You need to state the argument you select, setting it out as clearly as you can, showing how it is intended to work to support its conclusion.
(2) You need to critically evaluate the argument, employing the relevant techniques to show whether and exactly how the argument is good or bad.
(3) You need to present your essay in a well organised discussion written in good clear English.

Overall, you need to do your best to show that you have mastered the relevant discussion in the study materials, and that you are thinking about it critically yourself. This includes your showing that you understand the wider discussion so that you can properly distinguish what is relevant from what is irrelevant to the particular argument you select for discussion. (You will do this by not discussing what is irrelevant. Or, if you do need to mention some irrelevant material, you will point out that it is irrelevant and perhaps explain why it is.)

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