September 20, 2007
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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; so your final review will likely be 30 pages or 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:
AbeBooks.com also sells used books:
And here is the Amazon page for Diet for a New America, the updated version from 1998:
Philosophy 302, Study guide for 1st Exam on Friday October 5.
Everything from Day 1 through and including EMP Ch. 3.
This is available at http://philosophy302.blogspot.com
If you miss the exam without an approved excuse, you will not be able to make it up.
If you must miss it, you must plan to take it early.
You should be able to answer all these questions and explain the various concepts and arguments below. Anything in the readings, handouts or class discussion is eligible test material. Study groups are highly encouraged!!
RTD, Ch.2. 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.
· Know what the modus ponens, modus tollens and universal generalization valid argument forms are.
· 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 logically invalid argument forms:
Affirming the consequent
Denying the antecedent
· What is moral relativism? What are the arguments against it?
· Be able to explain the basic ideas of utilitarianism, moral theories based in impartiality, and Kant’s ethics.
Explain how the term ‘morally right’ is ambiguous between "morally permissible" and "morally obligatory." To explain this distinction, 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,” especially his claims that "moral judgements must be backed by good reasons" and "that morality requires the impartial consideration of each individual's interests." (p. 11)
· 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. What was the hospital’s argument?
· Explain what a “slippery slope” argument or response is; explain how some people gave this response about the case of Tracy Latimer.
· Be able to explain the arguments against cloning the Pence discusses and explain whether they are sound or not and why.
· EMP Ch. 2: CR & FGM
· State and fully explain the idea of cultural relativism. If someone accepts CR, what theory does she believe? Be able to explain which of the 5 claims really is cultural relativism, which are logical consequences of it, and which are premises that might be given in arguments for it.
· State a valid argument for cultural relativism from moral disagreements between cultures (“cultural differences”). (Note: Rachels gives a version of this argument that is not clearly valid because it is missing a premise; 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” of everything, 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, how does he or she "translate" moral judgments (i.e., what does someone say when he or she says that something is wrong, or says that something is not wrong?
· 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? (What does he mean by a "proof" anyway?) Is he correct? Why or why not?
· Be able to state many common arguments against homosexuality (including those discussed in the articles in the RTD book) in valid form (and so add the premises needed to make the argument valid) and explain whether they are sound or not. Be able to state which, if any, premises are false.
EMP Ch. 2 Cultural Relativism:
A “Midas Touch” Morality
We want to:
The take home message:
To respond to a moral issue, “That’s ‘their culture’, so you can’t criticize them!” seems to be based on poor reasoning. So, if anyone says this, we will say, “So what? Yes, that's what their (or our culture) accepts, but they might be mistaken. So what are their moral reasons in favor of this practice? Are these reasons part of sound arguments or not”
1. A general truth: “Believing something don’t make it so!”
In general, there’s a difference between:
· someone’s believing something to be the case, and
· something being the case.
There’s a difference between believing a claim to be true and that claim being true. (Examples?)
Also, there’s a difference between:
· the majority of people in a culture believing something to be the case (or some claim true), and
· that thing being the case (or that claim being true).
2. Cultural relativists deny this general principle:
They think that a cultural majority’s believing something to be morally permissible [MP] (or impermissible) makes it MP or not MP.
CR’s think this:
An action is morally permissible if, and only if, the majority of a culture approves of that act, i.e., believes it to be morally permissible.
· If the majority of a society approves of an action, then it’s MP (group approval is a sufficient condition for MP).
· An action is MP only if the majority approves of it (group approval is a necessary condition for MP).
This definition of CR clearly implies Rachels’ claims (2), (3), & (4), but the core idea is (2): (3) and (4) are implications or consequences of (2). (EMP, p. 18-19). Whether it supports (5), the claim that we should be tolerant, is something that needs to be discussed. And (1) – since everyone accepts it – is not part of CR. Indeed it seems to be a premise in an argument for CR.
3. In light of the logical implications of CR, why would someone accept CR? What might their argument(s) be?
1. An argument from disagreement
2. An argument from the idea that we should be “tolerant”
3. …. What else?
4. What are some arguments against CR? (see also the discussion in RTD)
The argument from error:
1. If CR is true, then if someone’s moral views are in the majority, then they cannot be mistaken.
2. But someone’s moral views can be mistaken, even if they are in the majority.
3. So CR is false.
The argument from moral progress:
1. If CR is true, then the majority’s moral views must always right (no matter what!).
2. If the majority’s moral views must always right, then “reformers” – who are in the minority – cannot be right.
3. If “reformers” cannot be right, then moral progress – widespread changes for the better, the majority coming to adopt the (formerly) minority view – is impossible.
4. But moral progress is possible.
5. So “reformers” can be right.
6. So the majority isn’t necessarily right.
7. So CR is false. (multiple modus tollens)
The argument from moral methodology:
1. If CR is true, then the way to find out what’s really MP (not just what people believe to be MP) is to do a survey.
2. But surveys will not reveal what’s really MP (they only show what people believe to be MP).
3. So CR is false. (MT)
The argument from the ability to evaluate cultures:
1. If CR is true, then we can never truthfully say that a majority-approved of practice in another culture is wrong.
2. But we can truthfully say that a practice in another culture is wrong, even if the majority approves of it.
3. Therefore, CR is not true.
4. So what are the arguments for CR?
1. Cultures disagree on the morality of some actions. (What if the premise said all actions)?
2. Therefore, an action is morally permissible if, and only if, the majority of a culture approves of that act, i.e., believes it to be morally permissible.
3. Therefore, Rachels’ claims (2), (3), & (4) are true (EMP, p. 18-19), including “there is no universal truth in ethics,” i.e., there are no true moral principles that everyone should follow, wherever they are.
Rachels calls this argument unsound (p. 21); we first can be nice and add the missing premise to make it logically valid:
1. Cultures disagree on the morality of some actions. (T? F?)
2. For any topic, if there is disagreement on it, then there are no universal truths about it. (T? F?)
3. Therefore, there are no universal truths in ethics.
Another argument (it needs to be expanded to understand it, but are these expansions sound?):
1. We should be tolerant. (Of what? Everything, all actions? Some actions? Which things?)
2. Therefore, we should accept CR.
Some thoughts about (1): If (1) is true and so we should be tolerant of all actions, then there is a universally true moral principle. But if there is a universally true moral principle, then CR is false!
If CR is true, we should be tolerant of a wide variety of actions (even those that harm others) if and only if the majority of people in our society are tolerant of a wide variety of actions (even those that harm others). But our society is not tolerant in this way, so if CR is true, then we should not be tolerant either. And if there are some things that should not be tolerated in any society, then CR is false.
So what should we “tolerate”? What kind of diversity should we be respectful towards?
Rachels’ proposal for a universal moral principle: Actions that promote the welfare of people affected by it are morally permissible; actions that hinder the welfare of those affected are morally wrong.
Important points that CR can help us see: many! See Rachels’ discussion!
Intro to Ethics: Paper 2
CULTURAL RELATIVISM AND FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION
DUE Monday October 1 IN CLASS and submitted through http://turnitin.thomson.com/
4 – 5 pages, 12 pt font, double spaced, pages numbered and stapled. Put your name, email and class time at the top of the 1st page, and give your paper a “real” title (not “paper 2”).
Your paper should be well organized, grammatically correct, and carefully written: you should follow all the advice you developed for yourself in Paper 1. You should write to an audience who has *not* read the readings or is familiar with these issues, so you need to explain things so that they will understand. And you should try to explain everything in your own words.
First, re-read your paper on how to write a philosophy paper. See the blog for others papers, and re-read Pryor and Horban.
For this assignment, you must argue for – that is, to give and defend reasons to believe –one of these conclusions:
(a) that female genital mutilation is morally wrong, i.e., morally impermissible, or
(b) that female genital mutilation not morally wrong, i.e., it is morally permissible.
To do this, you must explain the nature of this practice, i.e., briefly give the essential factual information about what’s involved in the practice. This should be no more than ½ a page. Your information should come from the Rachels’ text and/or the “What’s culture got to do with it?” article. You do not need any outside sources: this is not a research paper, it is an argumentative essay in moral philosophy.
You must present at least three reasons that are given in its favor, including an argument from moral relativism, i.e., what cultural relativists might say in defense of female genital mutilation. (You must carefully explain in your own words what the moral theory of “cultural relativism” is [note: it is not the list of 5 claims from Rachels, especially the claim that there are cultural differences: CR is not all those claims, it is only a few of them [which?]).
You must state and explain whether these reasons are good reasons in favor of female circumcision or female genital mutilation. So, to explain whether the argument defending FGM from cultural relativism is sound, so you must explain whether the moral theory of cultural relativism is true or not and why. You must give reasons and defend your reasons.
You must state and explain some of the best objections to circumcision / female genital mutilation, i.e., the reasons to think it’s wrong. You must explain whether these objections are good or not, i.e., whether they provide good reason to think that female genital mutilation is wrong or not.
In conclusion, you must explain whether you think the arguments for, or against, female genital mutilation are strongest and defend your views.
If you use quotations, you must use an official citation method. See, e.g., http://nutsandbolts.washcoll.edu/
You should make an outline to make sure you address everything needed and in an organization that makes sense.
Some writing tips from Professor Nobis:
P1. A is P.
P2. All things P are also Q. (Or, if something is P, then it is also Q).
C. Therefore, A is Q.
Argument Worksheet on “Will
Cloning Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer Harm People?”
By Gregory Pence
(1) What is SCNT? (p. 115)
(2) What are the possible benefits of SCNT?
Below are some arguments against SCNT; additional premises need to be added to make them valid; are these valid arguments sound arguments?
Parallels with In Vitro Fertilization: Repeating History
1. If a method of producing children is morally permissible then it yields only healthy children.
2. ___________________________________________________________________________________________Therefore, Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer is wrong, i.e., morally impermissible.
3. If a method of producing children is morally permissible then it the children consent to it.
4. ___________________________________________________________________________________________Therefore, Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer is wrong, i.e., morally impermissible.
5. If a method of producing children is morally permissible then it is risk-free.
6. ___________________________________________________________________________________________Therefore, Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer is wrong, i.e., morally impermissible.
7. If a method of producing children is morally permissible then it always results in “normal” children.
8. ___________________________________________________________________________________________Therefore, Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer is wrong, i.e., morally impermissible.
9. If a method of producing children is morally permissible then it results in no harms to children.
10. ___________________________________________________________________________________________Therefore, Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer is wrong, i.e., morally impermissible.
Psychological Harm to the Child
11. Parents who would use SCNT have bad motives in creating a child.
12. ___________________________________________________________________________________________Therefore, Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer is wrong, i.e., morally impermissible
13. Being produced by SCNT is harmful for a child produced by SCNT.
14. ___________________________________________________________________________________________Therefore, Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer is wrong, i.e., morally impermissible.
15. People will be prejudiced against SCNT children.
16. ___________________________________________________________________________________________Therefore, Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer is wrong, i.e., morally impermissible
17. “People would not want to be produced by SCNT.”
18. ___________________________________________________________________________________________Therefore, Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer is wrong, i.e., morally impermissible
19. SCNT is “repugnant” and “a horror.”
20. ___________________________________________________________________________________________Therefore, Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer is wrong, i.e., morally impermissible.
21. Children produced by SCNT will have “troubled psychic identities,” be confused about their lives.
22. ___________________________________________________________________________________________Therefore, Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer is wrong, i.e., morally impermissible
23. SCNT-produced children are like children produced by incest.
24. ___________________________________________________________________________________________Therefore, Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer is wrong, i.e., morally impermissible
Improving Humans: Genetics, Technology, and Ethics
Genetic technologies open exciting possibilities for improving human health and quality of life. These technologies also raise moral questions—for example, about how and how far we should attempt to genetically enhance future humans, and about the moral scope of parents’ freedom to make choices about future children’s mental and physical characteristics. Please join us as we engage these questions of ethics, public policy, and law. All talks are free and open to the public, and take place on the
1. McNair Ethics Lecture: Lee M. Silver
Title: “Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humankind”
Date: Monday, September 10, 2007
7:30 p.m., Evans Hall, ABC
This talk is co-sponsored by the
Description of talk:
What does the future hold for Homo sapiens -- our own species? In a thousand years, a million years, or 100 million years, will human descendants be mostly indistinguishable -- physically and mentally -- from people somewhere on the broad curves of humanity that exist today. Or will genetic change lead to the emergence of a post human species, as different from us as we are from Neanderthal man or Homo erectus, in ways that our minds are incapable of imagining. The evolution of pre-human animals into human beings was driven almost entirely by natural selection. But modern medicine and modern notions of human rights could very well call a halt to Darwinian treachery. So does this mean that we are at the end of our evolutionary line? Not likely. With tools of genetic engineering that have already been applied to other animals, and with increased knowledge of the human genome, parents will soon be able to provide their children-to-be with inheritable advantages that could be passed on and enhanced from one generation to the next. The critical question is whether humanity will self-evolve together or apart.Lee M. Silver is a professor at
Discussion of Rachels Elements of Moral Philosophy
What is it to ‘Think Morally’?
“Morality is …”
Someone is “thinking morally” or engaged in “moral thinking” when:
(1) one is guiding one’s thought by reasons – the best reasons – and
(2) one gives equal weight to each individual who is affected by one’s actions.
Re. (1): reasons include (scientific, empirical) facts and moral principles.
Case 1: Baby Theresa L
· What’s her situation?
· What did her parents want to do? What were their reasons?
The parents' argument:
(3) If we can (a) benefit someone without (b) harming anyone else, it’s right to do so.
(4) By taking Theresa’s organs we can (a) benefit others and (b) not harm anyone else.
(5) So, taking Teresa’s organs is right (i.e., not wrong).
Is this arguments sound or not?
· What did “the critics” say” (p. 2)
(6) “It’s too horrifying to use people as means to other people’s ends.”
(7) “It’s unethical to kill in order to save, unethical to kill person A to save person B.”
(8) “The parents are saying we should kill the baby to use the organs. That’s horrendous!
These remarks are the basis of arguments. Are these arguments sound or not? If any of them are, then argument (3)-(5) is not sound.
Re. Remark (6):
(A) If someone is used as a means to another’s end, then that is wrong.
(B) Taking Teresa’s organs would be to use her as a means.
(C) So, it would be wrong to take her organs.
Is the argument valid? Are the premises true? (Are they somehow ambiguous or imprecise?)
Re. Remark (7):
(D) If person A is killed to save person B, then that’s wrong.
(E) To kill Teresa would be to kill her to save others.
(F) Therefore, it’s wrong to kill Teresa.
Is the argument valid? Are the premises true? (Are they somehow ambiguous or imprecise?)
Re. Remark (8): ?
Case 2: Jodie and Mary
· What’s their situation? What did her parents want to do? What did the hospital want to do? What were their reasons?
“Whose to decide?!” Asking this kind of question is often a way to avoid thinking about which arguments are best. (Also, it’s often unwise to ask rhetorical questions, since there might be good answer to them).
(G) If we have a choice between saving one infant and letting both die, we should save one.
(H) We have such a choice.
(I) So we should save one.
Is the argument valid? Are the premises true?
Some critics say:
(J) If someone is an ‘innocent human life’, then they should never be killed.
(K) Mary is an innocent human life.
(L) Therefore, Mary should not be killed.
Is the argument valid? Are the premises true?
3rd Case: Tracy Latimer
· What’s her situation? (We need to think about the details..)
· What did her parents want to do? What were their reasons?
· What did their critics say?
Take note of:
· Require reasons
· Getting one’s (non-moral) facts straight: checking up on the empirical / scientific evidence
· Impartiality: differences in treatment are justified only by relevant differences in the person/being and in light of general moral principles; otherwise these are unjustified prejudices.