Sunday, October 22, 2006

No Class Monday :(

Sorry, but there will be no class Monday. I got really sick yesterday -- food poisoning, I think -- and can't make it in. But things will resume as planned Wed.

If you are interested in helping us move in Tuesday, please contact me via email asap. See below for more.

You might as well just hold on to your papers for Wednesday. And make sure you've read Singer! And consider taking a trip to Agnes Scott Tuesday PM! (see below).

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Moving helpers?

Yesterday I asked if anyone is skilled at moving heavy things and would be available Tuesday late afternoon (after 4, at the earliest) to help me/us move in to this address. If you are interested in helping and making some bucks, please let me know by email: . I need some confirmation from some folks asap! Thanks!

Friday, October 20, 2006

For Monday

Today, Friday, we read and discussed the selection from Mylan Engel, "9-11 and Starvation"

Monday we will begin discussing the "Singer Solution to World Poverty."

Here's a powerpoint of mine on that issue:

Here's another webpage / video to watch:

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Finish up talking about the ethical theory known as ethical egoism .

Move on to an issue that might force some of us to rethink ethcal egoism!

Ch. 14. 9/11 and Starvation Mylan Engel, Jr. 135

Ch. 15. The Singer Solution to World Poverty
Peter Singer 138

Ch. 16. Utilitarianism and Integrity Bernard Williams 145

Here's a picture of James Rachels:
An extra credit option:

Take a trip to Agnes Scott (another famous women's college, and it is Marta-accessible) and write up a summary and reaction to this event!

Is Environmentalism Dead?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 -- 7:30 p.m. -- Evans Hall, rooms ABC

Agnes Scott College, 141 E. College Ave., Decatur, GA 30030

Mark Sagoff is Acting Director and Senior Research Scholar at the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy in the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, College Park. He has published widely in journals of law, philosophy, and the environment. His books include The Economy of the Earth and Price, Principle, and the Environment.

In "Is Environmentalism Dead?" Professor Sagoff critically examines environmentalism’s transition from the 1970s, during which environmentalists drew on religious affections, populist resentments, and attachment to specific places, to the present, when environmentalists appear embarrassed by the theological, aesthetic, ethical, and cultural commitments that inspired their movement decades ago. Sagoff claims that environmentalists today couch their arguments in terms that are just as normative and, indeed, non-secular, but that sound scientific-terms such as biodiversity, invasive species, and sustainability. Arguments about the definitions of these theoretical constructs have transformed environmentalism from a political cause to a research program. Yet, according to Sagoff, environmentalists can regroup around spiritual, ethical, and aesthetic ideals that have always motivated them, as long as they advocate these values openly rather than hide behind the smokescreen of science.

The event is free and open to the public. No ticket is required. This talk is sponsored by the McNair Lecture Fund of the Agnes Scott College chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, Beta of Georgia. This talk is part of the Ethics Program Speaker Series, which has as its topic for 2006-2007, "Is Nature Ours? Ethics, Economics, and the Environment." For more information on the series, please contact Lara Denis, at 404-471-5364 (>). For directions, please call 404-471-5411 or go to

Spring Semester

Ethics Program Events:

February 5: Peter G. Brown, "Becoming Citizens Worthy of the Earth"

March 5: Margo Bagley, "Issues in Patenting Life"

March 26: Ronald Bailey, "The Consequences of Misdiagnosing Environmental Problems"

April 17: Hillel Norry and Mark Douglas, "Is Nature Ours? A Jewish-Christian Dialogue"

All events begin at 7:30 p.m. in Evans Hall, rooms ABC. All are free and open to the public and require no ticket.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

How to Write a Bad Paper

How to Write a Bad Paper
1. Don't prepare for class. When in class make sure you listen only to those things that will be relevant to your paper topic. Don't let extraneous information clutter your mind.

2. Sit in the back row; you will be called on less. If you are called on, mumble and cover your mouth with your hand. Teachers will learn not to call on you.

3. Be sure not to open your text. After all, doing so may reduce its resale value. Don't underline important phrases or make marginal notes. If you do, the thing will be worthless at the end of the semester when you need to get money for a trip to Europe.

4. Write your paper the night before it's due. The pressure will do wonders for your powers of concentration and selectivity. Definitely don't write a draft and revise it; that takes entirely too much time that would be better devoted to non-academic fun and games.

5. Be sure that you repeat what your professor has said in class. Verbatim transcripts work best in this regard. That way it's obvious you've been paying attention. After all, if you get your stuff straight from the horse's mouth, how can you go wrong?

6. If in doubt, be evasive and noncommittal. Use words like "seems," "appears," "maybe," "I think," and "in my opinion." If possible, end your paper with something like this: "But in the final analysis, who's to say?" This is known as a rhetorical question.

7. If you quote from the text, make sure you don't comment on the quote. You might get into trouble. It's always better to say something like: "The above quotation illustrates the author's point admirably." Don't say how, though. That's for the professor to figure out! And whatever you do, certainly don't attempt to evaluate anything. After all, you might get it wrong.

8. If you must have a thesis, make sure it's nice and vague and uncontroversial. Prove something that you're sure about and that only a moron would ever question. In addition, offer only broad generalizations to support the thesis; never get pinned down on details.

9. Whenever possible, use lots of jargon. In fact, the more the better. It will give your paper an air of authority. Also, it tends to confuse professors. After all, they can't give F's to what they don't understand! Besides, jargonized morphemes are the sort of things that look good in a paper. Your professor may even think you are a logophile.

10. Don't bother to proof-read. And whatever you do, don't get someone else to proof-read for you! Professors are paid good money to catch spelling errors and grammatical faults; make'em earn it. Don't ever use a computer spelling or grammar checker! Besides, when you're out of college a secretary will do that sort of stuff for you.

11. Finally, whenever possible turn your paper in late. Your professor will probably figure that you worked on it harder and longer than your classmates. After all, 'A' is for effort, isn't it?

(Adapted from A.D. Irvine, Dept of Philosophy, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada )

Thursday, October 12, 2006

UPDATE (posted Tuesday Oct. 17):

For Wednesday:

EMP chapter 5 on the ethical theory called "ethical egoism".
  • What is it?
  • What can be said in its favor?
  • What arguments are there against it, i.e., reasons to think it's not true?
  • What should you think about ethical egoism?
RTD Essays/writings on famine/disaster/absolute poverty aid. We will discuss these issues for quite a while:
Chs. 14. 9/11 and Starvation Mylan Engel, Jr. 135
15. The Singer Solution to World Poverty Peter Singer 138
16. Utilitarianism and Integrity Bernard Williams 145



Students wishing to earn extra credit can write a book report on John Robbins’ The Food Revolution. The book report should provide a purely descriptive content summary of Robbins’ book: your report should be purely descriptive in nature, devoid of any evaluative or editorial remarks. Simply report the content of the assigned book as fairly, precisely, and accurately as possible. Students who elect to do the book report can have up to 16 points (8%) added to their final average for the course. The exact number of points added will depend on the quality and comprehensiveness of the report. There is a section of Food Revolution that you may skip, chapters 16-19. That leaves 16 chapters (including chapter 20, the Conclusion) and the Forward. The book report is due at the time of the final, third exam.

Robbins' Food Revolution is a updated version of his earlier book Diet for a New America. Diet for a New America is older, but you could write a book report on that book instead of Food Revolution if you would prefer. The books are similar in many ways, but the Food Revolution has newer and more current information and examples in it. For Diet for a New America, you should do a report on the entire book: no chapter should be skipped.

Both these books are available in many public libraries, at local bookstores, and are available for sale online, often used and very inexpensive. Here is Amazon's page on The Food Revolution; see the links to find it cheapest there:

Here's the page from, which sells used books:

And here is the Amazon page for Diet for a New America, the updated version from 1998:

Here's the page from, which sells used books:

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Test Monday
Don't be late.
No (lame) excuses!

Monday, October 02, 2006

For Wed.
Finish arguments from religion, etc. about homosexuality.
EMP Ch. 4, on the divine command theory of ethics.

Test Monday.
Study guide below.

Some common arguments for the conclusion that homosexuality is wrong (this might mean that certain behaviors are wrong, or that certain attitudes and feelings are wrong to have, or certain relationships are wrong, and/or other more precise conclusions also). In all cases the premises clearly lead to the conclusion since the unstated premises are made explicit (in italics).

Are these arguments sound, or do they have at least one false premise?

1. Homosexuality is ‘different.’ [different from what?]
2. Anything “different” is morally wrong / If something is “different,” then it’s wrong.
3. Therefore, homosexuality is wrong.

4. Homosexuality’ is “weird.” [?]
5. Anything “weird” is morally wrong / If something is “weird,” then it’s wrong.
6. Therefore, homosexuality is wrong.

7. Society disapproves of homosexuality. [everyone? Someone? Which society?]
8. Anything society disapproves of is morally wrong / If society disapproves of something, then it’s wrong.
9. Therefore, homosexuality is wrong.

10. “Homosexuality is illegal.” [where?]
11. Anything that is illegal is wrong / If something is illegal, then it’s wrong.
12. Therefore, homosexuality is wrong.

13. My parents say homosexuality is wrong. [depends on your parents?]
14. Anything my parents say to be true is true / Anything my parents say is wrong is wrong / If my parents say something is wrong, then it’s wrong.
15. Therefore, homosexuality is wrong.

16. Homosexuality spreads AIDS and other STD’s. [it can (but this can be prevented, or one can try to prevent this?); heterosexuality activity can spread disease also, but people can try to prevent this).
17. Any behavior that spreads disease (or might spread disease) is wrong / If something spreads disease (or might spread disease), then it’s wrong.
18. Therefore, homosexuality is wrong.

19. Some people feel that homosexuality is disgusting and perverted; it makes them uncomfortable. [for some, true; for others, however, some, or all, heterosexual activities might make them feel that way.
20. Anything that makes someone uncomfortable or disgusted is wrong / If something makes someone uncomfortable or disgusted, then it’s wrong.
21. Therefore, homosexuality is wrong.

22. Homosexuality may cause “confusion” for children directly affected by a homosexual relationship.
23. Anything that causes “confusion” for children is wrong/ If something may cause confusion in children, then it’s wrong.
24. Therefore, homosexuality (or, homosexual relationships where children are involved) is wrong.

25. Homosexuality is a “non-traditional lifestyle.”
26. Any “non-traditional lifestyle” is wrong.
27. Therefore, homosexuality is wrong.

28. Homosexual sex has no potential for reproduction.
29. Any action that has no potential for reproduction is wrong / Any sexual action that has no potential for reproduction is wrong.
30. Therefore, homosexuality is wrong.

Not sure what the “argument” is here:

31. Homosexuality is a choice, and a wrong choice to make. (If it is not a “choice,” then it is not a wrong choice. If it is a choice, then we’ll want to hear why it’s wrong.)

32. Some people believe that homosexuality is a mental illness.

Arguments from the Bible:

33. “The Bible says homosexuality is wrong; religious views say it’s wrong.”
34. Anything the Bible says to be wrong is wrong. If the Bible says something is wrong, then it is wrong.
35. Therefore, homosexuality is wrong.

Arguments from what’s “natural”:

36. Homosexuality is “unnatural” or “not natural.”
37. If something[1] is “unnatural” or “not natural,” then it’s wrong.
38. Therefore, homosexuality is wrong.

39. Homosexuality is “unnatural” or “not natural.” meaning __________________.
40. If something is “unnatural or “not natural” meaning __________________, then it’s wrong.
41. Therefore, homosexuality is wrong.

Arguments from the function(s) of the human body:

42. Homosexuality “goes against” natural human anatomy; our body parts weren’t designed for those purposes or functions; homosexuality violates our anatomy’s function.
43. If something “goes against” natural human anatomy, or if a body part is used for a purpose it wasn’t designed for, or it something violates our anatomy’s function, then it’s wrong.
44. Therefore, homosexuality is wrong.

45. Homosexuality threatens “family values” or “the family.”
46. Anything that threatens “family values” or “the family” is wrong.
47. Therefore, homosexuality is wrong.

Other arguments?
[1] Mohr notes that not many other actions are called “unnatural” anymore. (p. 136).


A Dialogue on a more abstract arguments about homosexuality

C: I think homosexual activity is morally impermissible.

J: Why do you think that?

C: Because it does not lead to reproduction; it is using body parts for purposes they aren't supposed to be used for.

J: Hmm. First, I wonder how you can determine which purposes body parts should and should not be used for. But, setting that aside, lots of things heterosexual couples, even married ones, do does not lead to reproduction. Do you think those things are wrong?

C: Not necessarily. Since doing these things could lead to reproduction, or be part of a sequence of actions that could lead to reproduction, they can be OK, morally.

J: OK, so you think homosexuality is wrong not because it does not lead to reproduction, but because it could not?

C: Yes.

J: What would you think about these cases then? There are woman without uteruses who can't get pregnant, and there are other women who - because of age or disease or lots of other causes -- cannot get pregnant. Do you think it would be wrong for them to have sex, since they cannot get pregnant, it's physically impossible for them?

C: Hmm, that's a tough question: I see how what I said seems to imply that. Let me see if I can come up with a better statement of my idea. I don't want to say that it would always be wrong for women who cannot become pregnant to have sex. But I do want to say that homosexuality is wrong. So what can I say to try to explain why, even though they are both non-reprodutive, one is wrong but the other isn't? How about this idea?

A sexual act is morally permissible only if, were it done by people able to reproduce, it would or might lead to reproduction or be part of a sequence of events leading to reproduction.

J: This is an interesting principle. If it's true, then, I guess, homosexuality would be wrong, but it wouldn't be wrong for these women above to have sex.

It seems to me, however, that this principle is, well, a bit complex. I don't see why someone should think it's true. Are there reasons that can be given for such a principle? Also, it almost seems to me that this principle is "tailor made" just for this conclusion: if the question is, "Why is non-reproductive, homosexual sex wrong?" your answer seems to be, "Because it's a non-reproductive sexual act done by people who cannot reproduce." To me, that doesn't seem to be a very informative answer.

C: Let me try to explain why you should think a principle like this is true . . .

Philosophy 302, Study guide for 1st Exam, Monday, October 9.

You should be able to answer all these questions and explain the various concepts and arguments below. Anything in the readings or discussed in class is eligible test material.

Study groups are highly encouraged!!

Logic & Arguments

  • What is an argument?
  • What is a conclusion?
  • What are premises?
  • What is a logically valid argument? Define ‘validity’ or ‘a valid argument’.
  • Give an example of a valid argument.
  • Why is it important for an argument to be valid?
  • Can a valid argument have true premises and a false conclusion?
  • What is a sound argument? Define 'a sound argument'.
  • Can a sound argument be an invalid argument?
  • Can a sound argument have false premises?
  • Can a sound argument have a false conclusion?
  • How, in general, do you show that a conditional, an if-then statement (‘if p is true, then q is true’) is false?
  • Identify and give an example of these invalid logical fallacies:
    Affirming the consequent
    Denying the antecedent
  • What is a necessary condition, a sufficient condition, and a necessary and sufficient condition? Be able to define these concepts and illustrate them with an example.
  • Explain how the term ‘morally right’ is ambiguous and explain the two meanings of the term. Give an example of an action that is ‘right’ in one sense of the term, and another action that is ‘right’ in the other sense of the term.

    EMP Ch. 1:
  • Explain, in detail, Rachel’s “minimum conception of morality.”
  • Explain Rachels’ argument that Baby Theresa cannot be “used as a means.”
  • Explain why some people might think that Baby Theresa is already dead. Explain why some people might think that she is not dead yet. (This suggests an ambiguity in ‘being alive’).
  • Be familiar with the Jodie and Mary case and the hospital’s reasoning.
  • Explain what a “slippery slope” argument or response is; explain how some people gave this response about the case of Tracy Latimer.

    EMP Ch. 2: CR & FGM
  • State and fully explain the idea of cultural relativism. If someone accepts CR, what theory does she believe?
  • State a valid argument for cultural relativism from moral disagreements between cultures (“cultural differences”). (Note: Rachels gives a version of this argument that he says is invalid; we discussed, however, a valid version). State whether you think the argument is sound or not; if you think it is not sound, explain which premise(s) is false. If you think it is sound, explain why all the premises are true.
  • Be able to give at least 3 valid arguments against CR; be able to explain each premise – that is, explain why someone might think the premises are true (this will often involve explaining why something is a logical consequence of cultural relativism. Explain whether you think the arguments are sound or not and why.
  • If you think we should be “tolerant”, should you think that cultural relativism is true? That is, if cultural relativism is true, is it true that we should be tolerant? (You might want to think about these questions also: should we always be tolerant, of everything? If we should just sometimes be tolerant, when should we be tolerant?)
  • Rachels argues that, sometimes, there is less moral disagreement than we might think because some moral disagreements are superficial: we accept the same moral principles, but differ in our beliefs about the facts. Explain this idea with an example.
  • Some people say that different cultures “disagree about everything, morally.” Explain Rachels’ argument that this is not true, that is his reasons to think that all cultures will share some moral values. What are some of these values that he thinks we all hold in common?
  • Female circumcision / female genital mutilation: what do its “advocates” say in favor of the practice, i.e, for why it is not wrong to have it? What do the critics (e.g., the editors at the Harvard Law Review) say against these advocates, and what are their arguments that it’s wrong? Whose arguments are sound, in your view?
  • Rachels presents a culture neutral standard of right and wrong. What is it? Explain his idea.
  • Even if cultural relativism is false, its advocates might teach us something useful. What are these things, according to Rachels?

    EMP Ch. 3: Simple Subjectivism & Homosexuality
  • State and fully explain the idea of simple subjectivism. If someone accepts simple subjectivism, what does she believe?
  • Be able to give at least 2 valid arguments against simple subjectivism; be able to explain each premise – that is, explain why someone might think the premises are true (this will often involve explaining why something is a logical consequence of simple subjectivism. Explain whether you think the arguments are sound or not and why.
  • Explain what Rachels thinks the general nature of “moral truths” or “truths of ethics” are.
  • Rachels thinks he can “prove” that some ethical judgments are true. What are the examples of his proofs?
  • Be able to state many common arguments against homosexuality (including those discussed in the articles in the RTD book) in valid form, and discuss whether they are sound or not. Be able to state which, if any, premises are false.

    EMP, Ch. 4 Does Morality Depend on Religion?
  • What is the Divine Command Theory of ethics? What are the objections to it? Are these objections strong objections to it, i.e., give reason to think it’s false, or not? Explain.
  • Rachels discusses a number of challenges in appealing to religious texts, authorities and traditions for understanding and resolving moral issues. What are these challenges? (57-62; also, 46 [middle of page]-47). Is Rachels right in thinking that these are challenges, or not? Defend your view on whether appealing to Bible and religious traditions alone are adequate to answer moral questions.

There might be some questions about the “Patterns of Resistance” article also.

See for some notes on what we have done.