Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Reading for Monday

Here are new readings for Monday:

Test 2 Study Guide

PHL 315 Test 2, Spring 2007:
Wednesday, April 11
Morality & Religion, Abortion, Ethical Egoism, & Famine Aid

All material since the previous test is testable!
EMP, Ch. 4 Does Morality Depend on Religion?
• What is the Divine Command Theory of ethics? What are three arguments against it, i.e., arguments to think it is false? Are these objections strong objections to it, i.e., give reason to think it’s false, or not? Explain.
• Can a theist reject the Divine Command Theory of ethics? If so, how? Why might a theist do this?
• Rachels discusses a number of challenges in appealing to religious texts, authorities and traditions for understanding and resolving moral issues. What are these challenges? (62-67; also, 50-51). 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.

Be able to present all the arguments about abortion that we discussed in class in logically valid premise-conclusion form, explain them and evaluate them as sound or unsound, with reasons. A full handout, with all the premises stated, is here:
Be able to know which arguments are Marquis’s and which are Warren’s. Here are some details that you’ll know if you are familiar with all the discussed arguments;

1. Some people think about “abortions” in general. Explain why we thought it’s better, when one develops a moral view about abortion, to make it clear whether one’s view pertains to all abortions or only some of them, and if just some of them, that one explains which abortions one is arguing to be right or wrong. The Feldman handout gave some insight into this:
2. Some people disagree about whether fetuses are “human” or “human beings”. To help resolve this dispute, be able to explain how the word “human” (as in the claim ‘Fetuses are human’) is ambiguous; be able to explain two distinct meanings, with examples.
3. Be able to explain one method of reasoning to try to figure out the meaning of the word “person” or what the concept of “person” or “being a person” is. This method is generally useful for trying to figure out the meanings of words or concepts when their meanings are not clear.
4. Be able to explain what it is to be a person, on Warren’s view, and the view that was developed in class. Explain why, on this theory, if God exists, God is a person. Explain why, on this theory, if “ET” existed, ET, Worf, Jabba The Hut and other fictional persons would exist as persons.
5. According to scientists and physicians, approximately when do human fetuses develop some kind of consciousness and ability to feel pain? (Present the range of scientific estimates). Do most actual abortions occur before or after this time period?
6. Explain why a bumper that said “Aren’t you glad your mother didn’t have an abortion?” doesn’t appear to suggest a sound argument against abortion because it suggests an analogous argument against birth control.
7. Some arguments against abortion suggest that birth control and even abstinence are wrong also. (However, since most people don’t believe that birth control and abstinence are wrong, they take this false implication to reveal a fault with the argument.) Explain how this is so and which exact premises have that implication.
8. Some people get upset when it is said, and even argued (i.e., reasons are given), that (early) fetuses are not “persons” and not conscious, feeling beings. Explain to them why they should not get upset, since these facts do not entail that abortions are right. Explain why that is so.
9. What’s Marquis’s argument for the immorality of abortion? Present an objection to each premise of the argument.
10. What is Warren’s argument for the moral permissibility of abortion?
11. Bonus: what are Judith Thompson’s arguments on abortion? What are her conclusions and what are her premises? How does she argued that abortion is typically morally permissible?

Here’s a PowerPoint on abortion that you might find interesting:

What is ethical egoism? (If someone is an ethical egoist, what exactly does he or she believe?)
• Present at least two logically valid arguments against ethical egoism, i.e., for the conclusion that ethical egoism is false.
• Are these arguments sound or not? Explain and defend your view.

Famine aid:
• What is Singer’s argument regarding famine aid issues? Be able to present his complete argument in a logically valid form. You will need to know the details.
o What role do the examples of the pond/pool, Dora and Bob play in his argument? (i.e., why does he discuss these examples?)
• Be able to present at least 5 objections to Singer’s argument. Since identifying the unstated assumptions behind these arguments was our focus, these objections should be made as logically valid arguments; you’ll need to explain why these arguments are sound or unsound (i.e., why at least one premise is false) and/or defend their premises. Simply asserting that Singer is wrong, or that we have no such obligations, or other responses – without giving reasons and defending them – will be inadequate.
• Explain our final conclusion, our main objection to Singer’s argument. This was that one would indeed be sacrificing something of genuinely comparable moral worth if one gave to famine aid, so one of Singer’s premises is false, and that’s one good reason why his argument is not sound.

There could be a question or two on the article “Patterns of Resistance” by Tom Regan.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Wed. we will discuss the moral theory called ethical egoism. See Rachels EMP.

We will then turn to moral questions about whether we might be morally obligated to help starving people.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Monday Extra Credit at Agnes Scott

Monday, March 26, 2007
Ronald Bailey
" The Consequences of Misdiagnosing Environmental Problems: Overpopulation, Resource Depletion, Chemical Contamination, Global Warming and Other Environmental Problems "
7:30 p.m.
Evans Hall, terrace level, rooms ABC

Ronald Bailey is an award-winning science correspondent for Reason magazine. He is the author of Liberation Biology: The Moral and Scientific Case for the Biotech Revolution. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. He is also an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Abortion Readings

Today, Monday; a quiz on Warren.

Wed.: Marquis on abortion from RTD.

Friday: Thompson on abortion from RTD.

A 'mad libs' abortion argument worksheet. See also my Powerpoint on abortion.

Some notes on Marquis:

He thinks whether abortions are wrong or not does not depend on whether any fetuses are

He thinks to understand whether it’s wrong to kill fetuses, we should think about why it’s wrong to kill us. He thinks the best explanation of why it’s wrong to kill us is this: (a) we have valuable futures and (b) killing us deprives us from experiencing these valuable futures.

If (1) fetuses have valuable futures like our valuable futures, and if (2) it is wrong to deprive something from experiencing its valuable future, then abortion is wrong, he arguments (because abortion prevents something that has a valuable future from experiencing its valuable future).

We can prevent the argument like this:

1. Fetuses have valuable futures like our valuable futures.

2. It’s wrong to prevent something from experiencing its valuable future, or deprave them from that valuable future.

Therefore, C.

Some questions about the premises.

Regarding (1) we should think about what our futures are like and why they are valuable. We should think about how fetuses futures’ are similar and different from our futures.

Although both fetuses and us have futures – in the sense that there is (hopefully) good stuff that we will experience – there is a difference between our futures in that we are currently, consciously aware of our futures and are looking forward to them. We have plans and hopes for the future; fetuses do not. Maybe that makes a difference. Maybe that means that fetuses do not have valuable futures that are quite like our’s, and maybe they are not (so) valuable because of that.

Regarding (2), we might wonder what implications this principle has for contraception and even abstinence. One might reply that birth control and abstinence do not prevent something from experiencing its valuable future, or deprave them from that valuable future, because what birth control does is prevent there from being that something or someone. One might reply that there are things like this: interesting metaphysical “objects” that consist of an-egg-and-the-sperm-that-would-fertilize-it and that these objects have valuable futures which contraception prevents from being experienced. If so, then (2) implies that contraception and abstinence are wrong. You might think this is a false implication of (2) and so the argument is unsound.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Biblical Interpretation and Moral Issues

Recently I said a few things about Biblical interpretation and moral issues. Most of this was from these recent talks by Dr. Matt Halteman , an excellent philosopher from Calvin College, a Christian College in Michigan, that he recently gave at Wheaton College, a Christian College in Illinois.

The link is also here:

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Warren on Abortion

When we get back we will read and discuss Mary Anne Warren's "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion." This is also available here.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Extra Credit Book Report Option

Students wishing to earn extra credit can write a book report on John Robbins’ The Food Revolution or his Diet for a New America. 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 18 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. To get the maximum number of points, the summary of each chapter will likely have to be at least a few pages, if not more.

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 used and cheapest there: also sells used books:

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