Monday, April 16, 2007

Paper 4

Two options:

Options 1:

Should you donate 25 cents a day to help people living in absolute poverty?

Paper 4:

A Second Option (for the first option, see the previous assignment handout &/or the blog!)

4-5 pages, typed, double spaced, 12 pt. font, Name, email, class time

Due: Friday April 27, 2006: in class and through the Turnitin system.

In this paper, you should present and critically discuss Singer’s arguments regarding world poverty (Engel and Rachels prove some useful information and arguments also). You should make the discussion personal – i.e., think about what you personally should do – but start small and consider whether you should donate a quarter a day to help people living in absolute poverty. I know of no better place to start – in terms of efficiently making a direct, concrete difference in people’s lives – than The $10 Club ( In this paper, you should discuss whether you should join (perhaps with others?) The $10 Club. If you join (or start supporting some other worthy cause) and prove it, then not only will you have helped better the lives of people living in absolute poverty, you will get a free poster from Professor Nobis! J

Please meet to discuss this assignment with your peers. Follow all good directions on how to write papers.

Your papers should have these sections:
Title: ________.
1. Introduction
An introduction, culminating in a thesis, e.g., “I will argue that ______.” Your introduction should introduce the issue or topic to the reader. Assume your reader does not know anything about the topic or the article. You need to explain things so they will understand: see things from their point of view and write accordingly!
2. Singer’s Argument
A section where you carefully and fully explain Singer’s argument, i.e., his conclusion [what exactly is his conclusion? What conclusion have we been considering, for purposes of discussion?] and the reasoning he gives for his conclusion. He gives the examples of Dora and Bob: explain what role these examples play in his argument.
3. Objections
Carefully explain at least three of what you think are the best objections to Singer’s argument.
4. Evaluation of these objections and Singer’s argument
Explain whether any of the objections are sound arguments against his argument. Explain whether Singer’s argument is sound, and why, and whether it is not sound. That is, is Singer right, or are the objectors? Should you do something (if yes, what?) to help people living in absolute poverty? Why or why not? DEFEND YOUR VIEW WITH REASONS. Defend your view from objections: e.g., does your response imply that it would not be wrong for you to let a child drown in a pond, even if you could easily save the child?!

5. Conclusion
Explain things in your own words: do not take exact words from the book or any handouts.NO PLAGIARISM. Think for yourself! What you think and what you do reflect who you are: be excellent!
Dear Yahoo!: How many people in the world live in extreme poverty?
According to NetAid, over a billion people, or roughly one in six, live in extreme poverty. Extreme poverty is defined as living on less than US$1 a day.
The World Bank goes on to define moderate poverty as basic subsistence living, on $1 to $2 a day. All told, nearly half the world's population lives in poverty -- that's 2.8 billion people living on less than two dollars a day. Some other facts to keep in mind:
• Each year over 8 million people die because they are simply too poor to stay alive.
• More than 800 million people go hungry every day.
• The gross domestic product of the poorest 48 nations is less than the wealth of the world's three richest people.
• Thirty-thousand children die every day due to hunger and treatable illnesses.
• 6 million children die every year before their fifth birthday, as a result of malnutrition.

Option 2:

Can You Morally Justify Your Choice of Career and Lifestyle?

Paper 4: Philosophy 302: 3-5 pages; due __________________

Important philosophy isn’t just abstract theorizing: it relates to the concrete realities of everyday life. The most important philosophical thinking asks personally challenging questions about our own lives and what we ourselves do: it asks us to justify our own beliefs, feelings, attitudes, goals and actions.

For this paper, I want you to start thinking more about your “personal” and “professional” life from a moral or ethical standpoint.[1] I want you to give reasons and arguments about yourself.

I want you to think about your career plans and discuss whether what you hope and plan on doing career-wise is morally justified. That is, can you give reasons to think that what you hope to do in your career is morally permissible? Can you defend your plans from possible arguments that, morally, you should be doing something else?

To develop arguments that might challenge your career plans, I want you to develop Peter Singer’s or Rachels’ arguments about poverty assistance. Singer’s and Rachels’ main theme is that we all should be doing far more to help people who are far less fortunate than ourselves: indeed, we are morally obligated to do this. They gives reasons for why should do this: they give reasons why ethical egoism should be rejected and why we should even go beyond “common sense” morality [EMP p. 69] to improve the world.

These arguments about famine aid can be transformed into arguments for the view that we are morally obligated to bring about the most good – or at least, more good – that we can in and through our lives. It’s this standard (which you need to develop and explain in greater detail – and there are various subtleties that you don’t want to ignore) that I want you to compare your career plans to, to see if they meet this moral standard. If they don’t, then you might want to argue that your plans are morally impermissible. You might then want to think about other career options that would, in your view, yield more goods. On the other hand, you might want to argue that Singer’s and Rachels’ views about how much good we are morally obligated to produce is mistaken and so, perhaps, almost all career choices are morally permissible.

So your paper will need all this.

  • Your career plans.
  • Discussion of what kinds of goods will come from your career plans (some questions that might be worth addressing: will these be goods just for you, or just your family? Is your career more reflective of ethical egoism? Or will your career produce goods for others? If so, who? You might wish to discuss what “common sense” morality [EMP p. 69] or even utilitarianism or Kantianism might imply about your plans).
  • A discussion of other career plans you could have and whether these alternative careers would yield greater goods or not.
  • An argument that if there are other career plans you could follow that would yield greater goods, then you should pursue those plans.
  • A response to this argument.

Your paper should have an introduction and a thesis statement. You should follow all the guidance given about writing: re-read all those articles!

You are encouraging to meet in small groups to discuss the assignment, develop organizational outlines, develop the arguments that you’ll need to respond to, etc. You need to write your own paper though, of course! might give you some ideas for how to augment your career and lifestyle choices.

[1] Your next, and near final, paper will be even more personal. It will be about the moral choices involved in what you eat!

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