Utilitarianism by J.S. Mill
For this first writing assignment the students will write one 1000-1200 word analytical précis on
the Utilitarian ethics of Mill. This précis will allow the students to demonstrate their mastery of the
theory presented by Mill, and their writing skills. 20% overage is assumed possible.
The students are to limit themselves to the textbook provided The Classical Utilitarians: Bentham
and Mill from Chapter 1 to Chapter 4. No other sources are to be incorporated. Therefore,
parenthetical citations can be used in which only a page number is provided. For example: (25)
and not (Mill, 25)
The goal of this first essay is to serve as a critical précis, that is, it is to accurately summarize the
main points of the text we have read and focus in on one point of the text for personal analysis and evaluation.
Two thirds of the précis should be composed of a summary. It is absolutely crucial in this portion
that the treatment of the text be accurate. Obviously it is impossible to summarize the entire text,
so judicious reduction is necessary.
The second portion of the essay, composing the remaining one third, shall be a critical analysis
of one aspect of the text summarized previously. In this portion the student will focus on one or
two points from the text (if they are intricately related) and state what they like or dislike about
that (those) point(s). Obviously the judicious reduction is directly related to the topic of focus.
The rubric for grading shall be:
• 25 points for an essay of 1000-1200 words. (Must fall within the window, typos impact here) •
10 points for the judicious selection and reduction of the summary
• 20 points for the accuracy of the summary
• 5 points for the efficiency of the summary
• 10 points for the degree to which the summary relates to the critical third
• 5 points for the selection of a focus item
• 10 points for the quality of the critical treatment
• 5 points for the conclusion
• 10 points for superior performance
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