Sample Political Science Paper on good and evil behavior in society


Welcome to Week 4.

As we have discussed in previous Content Sections, there is good and evil behavior in society, which is defined by intention.  But how is a society to ethically deal with unethical behavior?

Course Objective(s):

CO4: Evaluate the sacrifice of a few citizens for the well-being of the community

Topics of Discussion:

  • Morals and Legislation
  • Life, Death, and Ethics

Key Learning Concepts:

  • Levels of crime
  • Intention

Chapters 1 & 2

Introduction: Citizen Sacrifice

Morals and Legislation

As we have discussed in previous Content Sections, there is good and evil behavior in society, which is defined by intention. But how is a society to ethically deal with unethical behavior?

Let us consider, humans relate instinctively to pain and pleasure.1 We seek that which brings pleasure and typically, avoid that which brings pain.  It is with this understanding that societies construct law. A hierarchy of laws and punishments for violation have been a way of life for thousands of years.  However, over the years, the severity of many punishments have been relaxed and reserved for the most heinous of crimes; further, that “cruel and unusual punishment” is not authorized, at least in the United States.  Herein is the controversy: What constitutes cruel and unusual punishment?  The granddaddy of them all is Capital Punishment: Death. Ironically, most citizens do not object to a death penalty but do object to some of the means.

In medieval times, various gruesome procedures were inflicted to get a person to “confess” or “repent” to a crime. Horrifying and torturous means of execution were devised and lasted right up through the Salem Witch trials in the 1690s. Within the life of the United States, we have seen death primarily by hanging, firing squads, electrocution, and lethal injection.

Legislators, by default, are geared to provide pleasures for citizens: a secure environment, opportunity to prosper and realize dreams, and so on.  Likewise, they are responsible to help society avoid pain or discomfort: sanitation, clean water, roads and bridges, building codes, etc.  The one issue that proves most challenging for legislators is assigning punishment to crimes. In some way, perhaps this is easier than actually assigning a person a punishment, as judges do.

And so, we come back to intentions. Punishments are normally dealt with a measure of intent. For example, 1st degree, 2nd degree, or 3rd degree.  Capital murder or manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and so on. According to Bentham, the intended consequence of a person’s action depends on two things:

  1. The person’s will as it relates to the act; and
  2. The person’s understanding or “perspective faculties,” regarding the circumstances.

With respect to the “perspective faculties,” there are three states:

  1. Consciousness, which is when the person’s beliefs are true and are without omission;
  2. Unconsciousness, which is when there are circumstances that the person doesn’t have any belief about; and
  3. False Consciousness, which is when there are circumstances that the person believes exist.

Accordingly, when someone’s behavior is measured with respect to punishment, four things are considered:

  1. Type of crime
  2. Circumstances
  3. Intention
  4. Perspective Faculties

We see once again that “intention” is among the items considered in deciding the level of a crime. As this is not a criminology course, we won’t go much deeper into the types of intentions relevant to a crime, but suffice to say the intention is key.  Was the act deliberate?  What is premeditated?  Was passion involved?  What is the history of the defendant?  Someone who has been in trouble with the law for displays of temper may fair much worse than a jilted lover who has never been in trouble with the law.

“Thou Shalt Not Kill.”  A simple commandment.  No one wants to kill and most would agree that killing is wrong. Among crimes, a heinous murder is chief among them; however, it is not that simple. We face dilemmas in society every day relative to life or death. Whether it is doctors and donor organs2 or the death penalty, there are decisions that need to be made. Most controversial is the death penalty.This can be a passionate subject that people feel very strongly for or against.  It is, after all, a punishment that cannot be undone if administered to a person who was truly innocent.  But does it work?  Does it actually deter people from committing murder?  This is highly debatable.  It is as debatable as abortion.  Some people do not have an issue with abortion in the proper parameters and others are adamantly against it.

[1] Bentham, Jeremy. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation [1789], Blackwell, 2003, pp 1-152.

[2] Harris, John. “The Survival Lottery”, Philosophy, vol.50, (1975):  81-87.  Accessed May 1, 2016.

Life, Death, and Ethics

“Some people think that morality is now out of date. They regard morality as a system of nasty puritanical prohibitions, mainly designed to stop people having fun.”

Peter Singer

Ethics is not something that is doggedly married to religion, though this is the perception for most people.  This is because “good” actions are associated with something that a God approves.  But as Plato stated over two thousand years ago, if some action is good, it is good because it is good, and not because a God approves.3  Over the generations it has been handed down that God frowns on promiscuous activities:  sex, drugs, and rock and roll, etc.  All the things that are perceived as “fun.”  Though this is doubtful, we can see how over the generations, religious taboos have helped to keep society under control.  For this reason, many leaders of society have permitted religion in order to help maintain “control” of the population.

However, as alluded to in the previous section, death brings a different debate relative to ethics.  Euthanasia, the death penalty, life support termination, and abortion are all flashpoints for emotion.  Death is a serious topic because we consider life to be sacred.4 Though we can empathize or sympathize with euthanasia, life support termination, or even abortion, the death penalty is the most controversial.  Is this punishment for the victim or society?  Does any good come from it?  Doesn’t a person have a right to life?  These are but a few of the questions that we should explore.

[3] Singer, Peter. Practical Ethics, Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2nd ed., 1993. p 3.

[4] Ibid, p 83.

Additional Reading

Hirschman, Albert.  The Passions and the Interests.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, new ed., 1997.  Accessed July 19, 2019.

Mill, John S. Utilitarianism [1861], Blackwell, 2003, ch. 1, 2.  Accessed May 1, 2016.

SEN, Amartya, Williams, Bernard (eds.), Utilitarianism and Beyond. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.  Accessed May 1, 2016.

Singer, Peter. “Famine, Affluence, and Morality.” Philosophy and Public Affairs, vol.1, no. 3 (1972): 229-243.  Accessed May 1, 2016.



There is no time limit, but the mid-term can only be submitted one time.

These two essays should be around 500 words each.

  1. Ethics in politics is usually present where there are four factors present. What are they? Without these aforementioned characteristics, we cannot truly have an ethical or moral presence within that political structure. Why is this?

    2. When someone’s behavior is measured with respect to punishment, four things are considered. What are they? Which is most important and why?