Ethics Paper

This paper (minimum 750 words) asks us to analyze our communities through the lens of ethics. For our purposes, this concept can resonate in a few ways: ethics suggests principles for acceptable and responsible action; it is connected etymologically to the notion of “ethos,” a Greek concept of individual character; while she doesn’t use the term, McIntosh helps us connect our concerns with ethics to broader structures of privilege, reminding us that ethos has a social dimension as well.

With these various understandings of ethics in mind, you have a few different options in terms of how you approach the paper. In terms of content, you can focus on the ethical nature of your community, a particular person who belongs to your community, yourself and your experience, or some combination of these. As with our previous assignments, your writing should focus more on providing analysis and insight than just information, but this paper might also be less formal and more reflective than our previous assignments.

To frame the paper another way, our previous work has helped us develop a richer sense for our communities’ orientations: what people within the community believe, what they value, what they assume, what positions they take. In this paper, we are working to situate our communities in relation to society more generally and/or to better understand how individual members of the community relate to it.

To work in this direction, your paper should address some combination of the following prompts (mix and match approaches or questions within the prompts as you see fit):

  • One approach to the paper (following McIntosh) would involve analyzing your community with reference to structures of privilege and power. What sort of privileges and social advantages do members of the community tend to enjoy (think of McIntosh’s list)? What structural disadvantages do members of the community tend to experience? What sorts of privileges or disadvantages are experienced within the community? Within the community, who tends to benefit from how the community is structured, from what the community prioritizes? Who doesn’t? What ethical dilemmas arise within the community related to structures of privilege and power? How does the community address these ethical dilemmas? What does the community do to make our society more ethical and just? Does the community or its members ever do things that are ethically questionable or harmful to others? How would the community need to change to better address issues of privilege and to become more ethical? What do we learn about the community overall through your analysis?
  • Another approach would involve considering your own relationship to the community and its ethical orientation. What is your relationship to the community? What aspects of your experience and thinking help connect you to the community? In what ways do you embody (or not embody) the ethics and orientation of the community? In what ways is your experience in the community marked by privilege or lack of privilege? How do your experiences help us take up questions of ethics? How is this experience and thinking significant – what does it show us about you, your ethics, your orientation, or your relationship to or investment in the community? What do we learn about the community overall by analyzing your experience and thinking? Your approach to this prompt could be more objective, analyzing your experience from a critical distance, or more subjective, offering more of a personal narrative and reflection.
  • Another approach (following Tufekci’s article on Mark Zuckerberg) would involve studying a particular member of the community in terms of their ethical code and conduct. Who is this person, and what is their relationship to the community? How would you describe their ethics? (Point to specific things this person has said or done to support your description.) In what ways does this person embody the ethics and orientation of the community? In what ways does this person not embody the ethics and orientation of the community (for better or for worse)? How is this person viewed within the community? How do you view this person? What do we learn about the community overall by analyzing this person?
  • Another approach would involve looking at a specific ethical situation or problem confronted by your community. What happened, and how did it involve your community? What was the ethical dilemma or question? How was it handled? Was it handled ethically or not? How so? What sort of effect did the situation or event have on the community? What do we learn about your community by analyzing this situation or event?