You are being asked to write a critical research paper in which you present, respond to, and apply an issue in Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. Thus this paper will have three distinct sections, roughly equal in length.

You will first present a challenging/problematic issue in his work. This can be something that he does not explain in sufficient detail, an assumption he is making, or something that seems wrong or questionable. The point here is NOT to pick a topic and thereby argue that Kant’s version of deontology or deontology more broadly is wrong. The point, rather, is to present a challenge or problem for Kant. Just because it’s challenging does not automatically mean he’s mistaken.

Next you will respond to that challenge/problem. Ideally you will do so from the perspective of Kant: that is, imagine that you are helping him further clarify and/or defend his theory. However, you may think that the challenge/problem is insurmountable. Perhaps a deontologist can answer the charge, but Kant’s version cannot. Or you may think the problem necessitates taking on a different normative framework (e.g. egoism, utilitarianism). If you take this route, you must show how Kant would attempt to answer the charge and how that response is insufficient.

Finally you will apply your conclusion to your own moral life: how do the challenge/problem you have identified and your response to it impact your moral decision making? You may speak about decision making in general or consider some specific case study (e.g. whether it’s okay to forego donating $10 to help respond to the Australian wildfires). Whichever route you choose, you should consider a realistic application: do not try to apply the problem to some general topic like euthanasia or cloning.

In addition to these three sections, you should include an intro and conclusion. The intro should include a thesis statement and overview. The conclusion should summarize and nicely wrap-up the paper.

Research Components

This is a research paper, meaning you need to perform research and reference secondary sources. You are required to cite a minimumof 4 sources:

1. The primary source

2. An encyclopedia of philosophy

3. Two secondary sources, with at least one being scholarly (a journal article or book chapter)

Note 1: Ideally you will reference one source that is critical and one that is complimentary of Kant.

Note 2: Beware of online study guides and popular encyclopedias! I’m talking about SparkNotes, CliffNotes, Wikipedia and the like. There are better sources (e.g. an encyclopedia of philosophy).


The paper must be 1800-2500 words (roughly 5-7 pages). You should use Times New Roman or Arial 12 point font with 1” margins and page numbers. On a title page, include the course, professor name, date, your name, paper title, and word count. On the last page, include a Works Cited followed by a Bibliography. You will submit both a hard-copy and an electronic copy.The paper should be double-spaced, double-sided, and stabled. For the electronic copy, you will submit it via Brightspace as a Word document.

Sources must be cited in accordance with MLA. And remember, it is imperative that you cite your sources properly: improper source citation can constitute plagiarism.


1. Problem: 15 points (Is a relevant problem accurately/forcefully presented?)

2. Response: 15 points (How clear and persuasive is the response to the problem?)

3. Application: 15 points (How clear, compelling, and insightful is the application?)

4. Sources: 15 points (Number, types, quality, use)

5. Mechanics: 10 points (Formatting, organization, grammar, spelling)

TOTAL: 70 points

Here are some guidelines for writing the sections:

1. Problem: You should clearly present the problem and persuasively show why it’s a problem. This should include the relevant passages from Kant and some additional insight (from your own thoughts and/or secondary sources).

2. Response: You should clearly explain whether you think the problem can be answered or not. You should then persuasively answer the problem or show why the answer cannot be solved – despite serious attempts from a Kantian deontologist. You should draw on Kant’s own words and on secondary sources.

3. Application: You should briefly (1-3 sentences) remind the reader of the problem and your response. You should then clearly show how your response applies to your own ethicaldecision making. You should demonstrate some insight in applying the material (from your own thoughts and/or secondary sources).

4. Sources: You should reference the relevant passages of Kant, include relevant and insightful references to the secondary sources, and integrate all your sources properly and effectively. Effective source usage is not limited to short, direct quotations: summaries, paraphrases, and integrated quotes are also effective.

5. Mechanics: You should strive for clarity first and concision second. You should ensure that your paper is free from errors. Every paragraph should have a lead sentence, while the structure and order of paragraphs should follow a logical pattern.



April 4, 2020 at the beginning of class (1:00PM). Papers received after the BEGINNINGof class will be subject to a late penalty. Make sure to give yourself enough time to print the paper ahead of time