English Language
Ethical Arguments in Essays

Ethical Arguments in Essays

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The Significance of Ethical Arguments in Argumentative Essays

Argumentative essays are often used to discuss controversial topics like systemic racism, abortion, and physician-assisted suicide. These essays typically present arguments that take a stance on whether a particular idea or proposal is morally right or wrong, making them examples of ethical arguments.

Understanding Ethical Arguments

Ethical arguments are a type of argument that evaluates the morality of an idea or proposal. They are concerned with ethics, which are the principles that guide a person's behavior and beliefs.Ethics: principles that guide behavior and beliefsWriters use ethical arguments to convince their readers of the moral validity of their stance on a topic. This type of argument can be especially effective if the audience shares the writer's ethical beliefs.To see how an author constructs an ethical argument, let's examine a passage from Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic speech, "I Have a Dream." King argues that the United States has failed to live up to its founding ideals of equality for people of color. Instead of using statistics or anecdotes, he appeals to the country's moral principles outlined in its founding documents, making an ethical argument.

Types of Ethical Arguments in Essays

There are two ways to develop an ethical argument in an essay: from principles and consequences.

Ethical Arguments from Principles

One way to incorporate ethical arguments in an essay is by using principles. These are the fundamental ideas that underlie ethical theories and concepts. Some common sources of ethical principles include religious beliefs, political ideologies, and philosophical theories.To form a claim or thesis for an ethical argument essay based on principles, you can use the following template:An act is right/wrong because it follows/violates principles A, B, and C.

Ethical Arguments from Consequences

Another approach to writing an ethical argument in an essay is by considering consequences. This involves assessing the positive and negative effects of an idea or proposal and arguing whether it is ethical based on these evaluations. If the positive effects outweigh the negative ones, the idea is deemed ethical, and vice versa.To form a thesis for an ethical argument essay based on consequences, you can use the following template:An act is right/wrong because it will lead to consequences A, B, and C, which are good/bad.

Examples of Ethical Arguments

To demonstrate how different ethical arguments can be formulated, let's consider the topic of the death penalty and how a writer might approach it.Religious beliefs play a significant role in shaping one's morality. In an ethical argument against the death penalty, a writer might draw on their Christian teachings, which emphasize forgiveness and mercy towards sinners. Their claim might look like this:The death penalty is wrong because it violates Jesus' teachings about forgiveness and mercy.Similarly, a writer's political ideology can also inform their ethical arguments. For instance, someone with a strong belief in human rights might argue against the death penalty based on the principle of the sanctity of life.In conclusion, ethical arguments in argumentative essays evaluate the morality of an idea or proposal and can be constructed using principles or consequences. By appealing to their audience's ethics, writers can make persuasive arguments for or against controversial topics.

When making ethical arguments, it is crucial to consider both the principles and consequences of an idea or policy. By carefully weighing the positive and negative effects, one can determine its moral standing. For example, the potential to deter crime and punish severe offenders can be used as justification for the death penalty.

To create a strong ethical argument, it is vital to understand different perspectives. For instance, individuals with religious beliefs may view the death penalty as a form of divine retribution. Similarly, certain political ideologies may support it while others may oppose it. This highlights the importance of writers practicing the art of forming arguments from various points of view. By doing so, they can strengthen their own arguments and better analyze the main claims and appeals in others' arguments.

Utilizing Ethical Arguments: Principles or Consequences?

The target audience should always be kept in mind when using ethical arguments. An audience with similar ethics is likely to find an argument based on principles convincing, as they share similar values. However, when addressing a diverse audience, relying solely on ethical arguments based on principles may not be as effective. This could alienate those who do not share the same moral beliefs. In such cases, presenting ethical arguments based on consequences can be more persuasive. By showcasing the potential outcomes of an idea or proposal, writers can make a case for their moral stance without dividing their audience based on ethics or values.

These tips for using ethical arguments are crucial in writing in general and also apply to essay writing. In an argumentative essay, the ability to clearly state a thesis and explain how evidence supports it is critical. While ethical arguments based on principles can be used as supporting evidence, it is essential to explain how these principles tie into the overall thesis.

Choosing an Ethical Argument Topic

When selecting a topic for an essay where an ethical argument will be presented, it is essential to frame the argument in terms of whether the idea or proposal is morally right or wrong. The writer should be able to argue both for and against the topic by utilizing ethical principles or evaluating their consequences. Topics that do not address the moral standing of an idea or proposal, but instead rely on logical reasoning or data to support their arguments, do not lend themselves to ethical arguments. For example, arguing for the installation of solar panels as an effective solution to climate change based on their cost-effectiveness would require logical reasoning and data rather than an ethical argument.

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The government plays a significant role in addressing hunger in disadvantaged communities as it directly affects the productivity of the workforce. One effective way to stimulate economic growth is by increasing funding for college tuition.

Ideas for Ethical Argument Topics

An essay can include ethical arguments for or against a topic, focusing on principles or consequences. Some potential topics for ethical arguments in an essay are listed below:

  • Should the government be responsible for providing healthcare to its citizens?
  • Is it ethical for universities to use racial quotas for admissions?
  • Should offensive speech be protected under the First Amendment?
  • Is it ethical for doctors to refuse care for a patient's gender transition based on religious beliefs?
  • Does the government have a responsibility to provide reparations for descendants of enslaved individuals?
  • What is an individual's role in addressing climate change?
  • Should the government regulate factory farming to reduce animal suffering?
  • Is hunting considered a form of animal cruelty?

Using Rhetorical Appeals in Ethical Arguments


Ethos is rooted in appealing to morals and values, as well as the author's credibility. It is important for the writer to establish trust with the audience, both in terms of ethics and knowledge on the topic. This can be achieved by presenting a well-informed and balanced perspective.

The Role of Ethical Principles in Strengthening Arguments

In writing, using ethical principles can effectively enhance an argument's credibility and persuade the audience. Ethos, logos, and pathos are three types of ethical appeals that can be utilized to make a compelling argument. These appeals help establish credibility, appeal to logic and emotions, and ultimately make a convincing ethical claim.

Establishing Credibility through Ethical Principles

Ethical principles provide a foundation for making ethical arguments and addressing controversial issues. Incorporating these principles into writing not only builds credibility but also presents a well-rounded and trustworthy argument. Writers must consider these principles when presenting arguments to make them more effective and persuasive.

Ethical Guidelines for Creating Trustworthy Content

In any profession, including writing, ethical principles are essential for maintaining trust and integrity. These principles act as guidelines for decision-making and ensure ethical presentation of content. When writing, following ethical principles is crucial to appear credible and trustworthy to the audience. Here are some practical tips to help you achieve this:

  • Acquire knowledge on the topic at hand.
  • Support your argument with relevant research and expert opinions.
  • Incorporate your understanding of the topic into your argument to establish expertise and credibility.

Having a thorough understanding of the subject matter not only strengthens your argument but also builds trust with the audience. When they see that you are knowledgeable about the topic, they are more likely to believe and support your standpoint.

  • Show fairness towards your audience.
  • Do not attack opposing views but instead appeal to universal values or ideals to connect with the audience.
  • Avoid alienating the audience by showing respect and fairness towards different opinions.

By demonstrating fairness and respect towards the audience, trust can be maintained, and any potential bias can be avoided.

  • Maintain professionalism.
  • Proofread your work and adopt a formal writing style to eliminate any errors in your writing.
  • Following the conventions of writing can enhance the credibility and trustworthiness of your argument.

Writing with mistakes can significantly impact the credibility of an argument, so it is crucial to maintain a professional and error-free writing style.

Key Points to Remember for Ethical Arguments in Writing

An ethical argument evaluates whether an idea or proposal is morally right or wrong, based on ethical principles that inform beliefs and behavior. There are two types of ethical arguments: those based on principles and those based on consequences, with the effectiveness depending on the audience and their values. To strengthen an ethical argument, writers can use emotional or logical appeals. As a writer, it is essential to maintain credibility by having knowledge on the subject, being fair to the audience, and writing professionally.


  • Martin Luther King Jr., "I Have a Dream," 1963.
  • John Ramage, John Bean, and June Johnson, Writing Arguments: A Rhetoric with Readings, 2016.
  • John Ramage, John Bean, and June Johnson, Writing Arguments: A Rhetoric with Readings, 2016.

Examples of Ethical Arguments

Ethical arguments can be constructed by examining either principles or consequences. For instance, one can argue against the death penalty by stating, "Executing criminals violates their right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment." This argument is based on both ethical principles and consequences, making it a powerful and persuasive ethical claim.

On one side of the debate, proponents argue that the death penalty serves as a deterrent for crime, while also being a form of punishment for the most heinous criminals. On the other hand, opponents believe that it is a violation of human rights and an ineffective means of addressing crime.

Writing an Effective Argumentative Essay

When composing an ethical argument essay, it is important to consider the moral implications of the idea or proposal being presented. This can be done through evaluating the principles or consequences associated with it. Additionally, incorporating emotional and logical appeals can further enhance the persuasiveness of your argument.

Key Elements of an Ethical Argument

An ethical argument is one that weighs the moral implications of an idea or proposal. It is based on ethical principles, which shape a person's values and beliefs.

Defining Ethical Arguments

Ethical arguments center around evaluating the morality of an idea or proposal. They are grounded in ethical principles, which guide an individual's actions and convictions.

Integrating Ethics into an Argumentative Essay

To effectively incorporate ethics into an argumentative essay, it is crucial to select a topic that can be evaluated from an ethical standpoint. This allows for arguments to be made based on moral principles either for or against the idea or proposal.

Choosing a Perspective: Ethics or Consequences

When approaching an argument, one can choose to base their stance on ethical principles or the potential consequences. Ethical principles may stem from religious beliefs, political ideologies, or philosophical theories.

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