Monday, October 29, 2007

Test 2 Study Guide

Into to Ethics, Test 2, Spring 2007:
November 12, 2007

Morality & Religion, Abortion, Ethical Egoism, & Famine Aid

All material since the previous test is testable!

EMP, Ch. 4 Does Morality Depend on Religion? (see also RTD, “Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy”)

1. What is the Divine Command Theory of ethics (see both RTD and EMP)? 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.

2. Socrates asked, "[A] Does God command doing certain actions because they are right actions, or [B] are actions right because God commands them?" Explain this question, responses [A] and [B] and what’s entailed by them, and which response is a better response and why.

3. Can a theist reject the Divine Command Theory of ethics? If so, how? Why might a theist do this?

4. 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. Warren provides this explanation.

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. Since you should be able to explain all the arguments, be able to give a logically valid argument against from fetuses’ potential to be persons. Be able to explain whether any premises in that argument are false.

6. 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?

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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, i.e., why this argument is invalid:

a. If fetuses were persons, then killing them would be wrong.

b. But fetuses are not persons.

c. Therefore, killing them is not wrong.

10. What’s Marquis’s argument for the immorality of abortion? What’s his overall strategy? Present an objection to each premise of the argument.

11. What is Warren’s argument for the moral permissibility of abortion?

12. 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 / poverty 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.

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 in logically valid form. 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, the final 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.

You might find this Powerpoint interesting:
And there’s a video here:

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

Friday, October 26, 2007


For Monday, read Don Marquis's "Why Abortion is Immoral," in RTD.

Which Single Intervention Would Do the Most to Improve the Health of Those Living on Less Than $1 Per Day?

Gavin Yamey*, on Behalf of the Interviewees

Background to the debate: PLoS Medicine is participating in the Council of Science Editors' global theme issue on poverty and human development on October 22, 2007 ( Over 200 scientific and medical journals are taking part. For our theme issue, we asked a wide variety of commentators worldwide—including clinicians, medical researchers, health reporters, policy makers, health activists, and development experts—to name the single intervention that they think would improve the health of those living in poverty. We also asked four individuals living in poor, rural agricultural communities in the Santillana district, province of Huanta, Ayacucho, Peru to give us their response to the question, “What do you think would do the most to improve your health and the health of your family?” (The four community members were Severino Rojas Poma, Mercedes Vargas Soto, Julián De La Cruz Chahua, and Martín Rojas Poma). Our October 2007 Editorial discusses this debate further.

Funding: GY is a full-time employee of PLoS.

Competing Interests: GY declares that he has no competing interests with respect to this article. His general competing interests are listed at

Citation: Yamey G, on Behalf of the Interviewees (2007) Which Single Intervention Would Do the Most to Improve the Health of Those Living on Less Than $1 Per Day? PLoS Med 4(10): e303 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040303

Published: October 23, 2007

Copyright: © 2007 Gavin Yamey. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:

Zulfiqar Bhutta, Husein Lalji Dewraj Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan

It is difficult to imagine that people living below the poverty line would be able to “buy” health interventions without assistance, and so the greatest impact may come from giving cash transfers to the poor, conditional on seeking health interventions such as vaccines and nutritional supplements.

Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the United Nations Millennium Project and Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals, Earth Institute, New York, New York, United States of America

In tropical Africa, a mass distribution of free long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets to fight malaria accompanied by free access to artemisinin-based combination anti-malaria medicines. In other parts of the world, the situation will be different. I should add that I've spent years objecting to posing the question this way, since at low cost we could achieve major health advances through more comprehensive approaches.

Paul Farmer, Founding Director, Partners in Health and Presley Professor of Medical Anthropology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA

Hire community health workers to serve them. In my experience in the rural reaches of Africa and Haiti, and among the urban poor too, the problem with so many funded health programs is that they never go the extra mile: resources (money, people, plans, services) get hung up in cities and towns. If we train village health workers, and make sure they're compensated, then the resources intended for the world's poorest—from vaccines, to bednets, to prenatal care, and to care for chronic diseases like AIDS and tuberculosis—would reach the intended beneficiaries. Training and paying village health workers also creates jobs among the very poorest.

Armida Fernandez, Retired Professor of Neonatology and Founder Trustee of the Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action, Mumbai, India

Taking into consideration the immediate, short term and long term benefits of exclusive breastfeeding and the unbelievable cost effectiveness, proven by evidence based data, I feel that exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months is the most important intervention that would save lives in populations living on less than one dollar a day.

Severino Rojas Poma, 42 Years Old, Buena Vista Community, Ayacucho, Peru

Government help/support with food and medicines, especially tonics and vitamins.

Davidson Gwatkin, Consultant on Health and Poverty, Washington, D. C., United States of America

The health of the world's poor would be best served by a series of revolutions that bring into power national leaderships that are centrally concerned about the well-being of disadvantaged groups within their borders.

Mushtaque Chowdhury, Director of the Research and Evaluation Division of Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Ensure two square meals a day; I believe for the poorest food is the most effective first intervention for health improvement.

Paul Hunt, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health, Human Rights Centre, University of Essex, Essex, United Kingdom

An intervention that, firstly, ensures their active and informed participation in health policy-making impacting upon their lives and, secondly, provides them with effective, transparent and accessible mechanisms of accountability enabling them to scrutinize whether or not those in authority have fulfilled their health responsibilities and promises.

Mercedes Vargas Soto, 32 Years Old, Ccanobamba Community, Ayacucho, Peru

Improve the house, which is small and untidy.

Rosebell Kagumire, Reporter (Focus on Health and Human Rights), NTV Uganda, Kampala, Uganda

There's a saying that when you educate a woman you have educated a whole village. This is true: once women are in positions of power they can plan better for their communities—they can better manage their health and that of their children. Health in many poor nations is closely linked with personal income and levels of education. An educated woman will know what her child needs to eat for nutritional purposes and her income level is mostly higher than that of illiterate mothers.

Jaime Miranda, Civil Association for Health and Human Rights Education, EDHUCASalud, Lima, Peru

In the long run, quality education for children and water and sanitation for everyone.

In the medium term, vaccination.

Geeta Rao Gupta, President of the International Center for Research on Women, Washington, D. C., United States of America

Invest in empowering women. How? Expand savings and credit for women so they have immediate access to emergency funds to pay for treatment—including the purchase of medicines—of catastrophic illness.

Hector Garcia, Department of Microbiology, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Cysticercosis Unit, Instituto de Ciencias Neurologicas, Lima, Peru

The greatest improvement in health will come from general education (i.e., not specifically health education); there will be an initial lag period (which is why politicians do not like it), but after that it should improve income, living conditions and use of health facilities—and money for its implementation can be made available if all sectors force decision makers to stop purchasing weapons.

Nicholas J. White, Professor of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand

A highly respected, politically independent, empowered, courageous, motivated, transparent, technologically competent, and properly supported World Health Organization.

Murugi Murekio, Reporter and Editor (Focus on Health, Poverty Reduction, Sustainable Development, Women and Children), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

We need to ensure food security. Those living in extreme poverty barely eat and due to this they are more prone to succumb to opportunistic infections that greatly weaken their bodies. For example in Ethiopia, antiretrovirals are free, but mostly women can barely afford a meal a day and so this diminishes their capacity to live healthily with HIV because they have no food.

Julián De La Cruz Chahua, 34 Years Old, San Luis Community, Ayacucho, Peru

Medicines available in the community and an active community health promoter, because we are far away from the health post.

Richard Smith, Executive Director, Ovations, UnitedHealth Europe, London, United Kingdom, and Member of the Board of Directors, Public Library of Science

The health of the super poor would be most improved by a successful campaign that led rich countries to accept a substantial and continuing transfer of resources to poor countries in the way that the wealthy accept a substantial transfer of resources within countries through taxation.

Robert Hecht, Senior Vice President for Public Policy, The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, New York, New York, United States of America

A vaccine to prevent AIDS. The majority of those infected with HIV are poor, and AIDS undermines their efforts to escape from poverty. An AIDS vaccine would be doubly powerful. Not only would it end the worst pandemic of our time and give a huge boost to the economically disadvantaged—it would also revolutionize the way in which the world goes about paying for and distributing new health technologies to solve some of our toughest global challenges.

Sanjeev Krishna, Professor of Molecular Parasitology and Medicine, St George's Hospital Medical School, London, United Kingdom

The provision of safe water for drinking, cooking and washing may revolutionise the health of millions who have very little at the moment but are denied this unarguable human right.

Jose Acuin, Consultant, De La Salle University, Cavite, The Philippines

I think that providing basic education and the enabling conditions under which the poorest can have access to this promises to be the single most effective intervention to help them help themselves sustainably and permanently.

Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America

Building rural road networks and other supportive infrastructure such as clean water supply would do more for health in developing countries in the short-run than much of the investment in developing new vaccines. Building effective rural transportation networks, for example, would extend the use of existing vaccines and would also make it easier to centralize many of the rural clinics into better health facilities. Co-locating educational and health facilities would make it easier to improve health care and health education in rural areas.

R. Srinivasa Murthy, Office of the World Health Organization Representative in Sudan, Mental Health, Khartoum, Sudan

Education of women has been consistently shown to have a major impact on a number of health conditions. In addition, it can be the basis for self-care and individual empowerment for health, in a world of information technology.

Salla Munro, Medical Research Council of South Africa, Health Systems Research Unit, Cape Town, South Africa

The intervention I believe will most improve the health of those living on less than $1 per day is—short of job creation—a nutritional intervention, ensuring people in poorer communities get adequate nutrition to improve their immunity and keep diseases, such as tuberculosis, at bay.

S. V. Subramanian, Associate Professor, Department of Society, Human Development and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America

Providing and ensuring adequate and equitable access to clean water and sanitation is likely to yield the greatest health dividend for the world's poor, with the positive social and environmental externalities associated with this intervention additionally providing health benefits for the non-poor.

Kelley Lee, Centre on Global Change and Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom

A genuine commitment by industrialised countries to fair trade and, in particular, to end the destructive impact of agricultural subsidies on the livelihoods of the poor, would greatly enhance household incomes, food security and thus widespread improvements in the health of the poor.

Thomas Novotny, Director of International Programs, UCSF School of Medicine, and Education Coordinator for UCSF Global Health Sciences, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States of America

I believe that focused aid from developed countries to specific designated partner countries for public health infrastructure under a global governance system of administration, amounting to 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on the part of donors would help.

Martín Rojas Poma, 42 Years Old, Punkumarccari Community, Ayacucho, Peru

Communication and comprehension with my wife and family, and better coordination with neighbors.

Kumariah Balasubramaniam, Health Action International Asia Pacific, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Implementation of viable land reforms whereby every family owns adequate arable land, legal protection of domestic agriculture, a sustainable nanocredit system, single payer universal health financing system to provide free basic healthcare to all and compulsory, free primary and secondary education. Individually each of these components will have little impact but in combination they will act synergistically to eradicate poverty.

Helene Gayle, President and CEO, Care USA, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America

I don't think there is one medical intervention that is the answer, rather improving basic socioeconomic conditions that will facilitate better housing, education, access to clean water, adequate nutrition, etc. will make the biggest improvements in health. I recently went to a village in a rural Bangladeshi community where improvement in the community economic status allowed the community to install pit latrines, leading to changes in under five mortality because of rapid decline in diarrheal disease. Children were then able to go to school where among other things they learned about hygiene and so the family learned as well and illnesses in the family also went down.

Solomon Benatar, Professor of Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

Only when (and if) the “haves” develop genuine empathy for the “have-nots,” and come to acknowledge their own long-term interdependence with all other humans, will the global economy be improved to any significant advantage for the desperately poor.


GY would like to thank Dr. Jaime Miranda for conducting the interviews with community members in the Santillana district, Huanta province, Ayacucho, Peru.

Monday, October 22, 2007


FALL 2007



Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, MPH, Ph.D.

Research Director on Social Determinants of Health and Equity

Emerging Investigations and Analytic Methods Branch

Division of Adult and Community Health

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Coordinating Center for Health Promotion

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Atlanta, GA


"Social Determinants of Health and Equity:

The Impacts of Racism on Health"

Tuesday, October 23, 2007, 11:00am

Nabrit/Mapp/McBay Hall, Lecture Room II

Friday, October 12, 2007

Eros, Dikaiosune & Eudaimonia:

Passion, Justice and the Human Good
On the Morality of Homosexuality and the Rewards of Same-Sex Marrage

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Taking a unique philosophical approach, the author rejects both arguments made from strictly both consequentialist and nonconsequentialist perspectives on ethical, and argues for a third way of viewing ethics that really encompasses justice. He does this while providing a conclusion that we must accept gay rights on the account that gays and lesbians are persons.

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Language: English
Country: United States


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

For Friday,
EMP 4.1. & 4.2

4.3 & 4.4

Wed. Warren, "On the Moral & Legal Status of Abortion" Also available here.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Argumentative Paper 3 – Homosexuality

Due Monday, October 22 in class and through the turnitin system
4-5 pages, double-spaced, typed, 12 pt. font, stapled, with your name, email, class time.

In this paper I you should discuss the issue of homosexuality and argue for one of these conclusions:
homosexuality is morally wrong (i.e., morally impermissible),
homosexuality is not wrong (i.e., morally permissible).

Do not consider the question of whether homosexuality is “right,” because that sounds like you are asking if homosexuality is morally obligatory, which isn’t the relevant question. Also, do not discuss homosexual marriage as that too is not the issue.

You need to give reasons in favor of your conclusion, consider objections to these reasons and respond to these objections.

You should explain what you mean when you morally evaluate homosexuality: are you speaking of actions, or feelings, lifestyles, relationships, or all of these things (or just some of the them)? This needs to be carefully explained so we understand the arguments’ conclusions.

Your paper should have a short introductory paragraph, culminating in a thesis which should either be this (or something close to it):

"I will argue that homosexuality is wrong, i.e., morally impermissible."

"I will argue that homosexuality is not wrong, i.e., morally permissible."

You might then structure your paper in either of these ways:

1. You could present at least five of what you think are of the most important or strongest arguments from the books to think that homosexuality is wrong, and then critique all of these arguments, i.e., argue that some or all of them are not sound because they have some premises that you will argue are false.

2. You could present at least five of what you think are the most important or common or influential arguments from the books to think that homosexuality is not wrong, and then critique all of these arguments, i.e., argue that some or all of them are not sound because they have some premises that you will argue are false.

At least one of the arguments you discuss must be arguments from the Bible and/or God’s commands (see EMP Ch. 4 on the divine command theory).

If you’d like, you can do some independent research to find additional arguments for the wrongness of homosexuality beyond the 40+ from the handout. But, you must apply the logical skills we have developed to these arguments. And you must defend your view from the best objection(s) you can think of. To do this, you must think of the objections and respond to its. DO NOT IGNORE DISCUSSION FROM THE BOOK; IF THE BOOK DISCUSSES AN OBJECTION OR RESPONSE AND YOU IGNORE THIS, THEN THAT’S A PROBLEM FOR YOUR PAPER.

Your paper must have a short concluding paragraph also.

While you might want to refer to something discussed in the readings; you can do this, and you don't need to use some kind of fancy citation system. Just put the author and page number after the quote: e.g., (Rachels, p. 58), (Leiser, p. 34).

All previous advice on writing and rules on doing your own thinking and writing apply. See previous assignments and syllabus for reminders.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


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).

Some notes on appealing to the Bible

(1) If everything the Bible says to be wrong (or right) is actually wrong, then:
· Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death (Ex. 21:17);
· If a wife breaks up a fight between her husband and another man and she “reaches out and seizes him by his private parts” then her hand should be cut off; (Deu 25:11-12)
· If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your [car], let him have your [house] as well (Mat 5:38-40)
(2) But these things are not true: it’s not true you should (always) do these things [what reasons can be given? What reasons can be given to think you should do these things?]
(3) So, it’s not true that everything the Bible says to be wrong (or right) is actually wrong.
(valid, MT 1,2)

[Note: This does not imply that there are not true things about morality to be found in the Bible! One can think that this argument is sound and find the Bible to often be a rich source of moral guidance!]

Important lessons:
· Need to interpret the Bible in light of reason. If the Bible says something is wrong, what reasons can be given to think it’s wrong? What is it about that action that makes it wrong?
o If no good reasons can be found, then, perhaps, we should think that some moral advice in the Bible no longer applies.
§ This was Thomas Aquinas’s view, and lots of Christian theologians accept it.
· If someone appeals to the Bible in arguing that something is wrong (or right), we need to ask, “What reason is there to think that the Bible is right about this issue? Why not think that what the Bible says about this issue is like what it says about cursing one’s parents, or how one’s hair should be worn?”
o If there are reasons, are they good reasons? (It seems that sometimes we can tell if reasons given are good ones). This person might be just picking versus he likes (i.e., the ones he thinks are true), and ignoring ones he dislikes (or thinks are false). The question is what reasons can be given to think that this verse is true, if one does not think that they are all true? Why accept this verse, but reject ones that you dislike (or do not support your point of view)?


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 . . .
Notes on “Simple Subjectivism”

Common, but what are the arguments against it?

If someone says

“X is morally right”
“X is morally permissible”
“X is good”

then that person has said “I (the speaker) approve of X,” or “I (the speaker) like X.”

If someone says

“X is morally wrong”
“X is morally impermissible”
“X is bad”

then that person has said

“I (the speaker) disapprove of X,” or
“I (the speaker) dislike X.”

Can we ever be in error in our moral views? Can we ever be mistaken, i.e., think something is wrong (or right) when it is not? If SS is true, then we easily cannot.

1. If SS is true, then if we accurately report on what we personally approve of then, necessarily, we tell the truth about what’s morally right or wrong.
2. But it’s not true that if we accurately report on what we personally approve of then, necessarily, we tell the truth about what’s morally right or wrong.
3. So SS is not true.

Do we ever disagree about what’s right and wrong? If SS is true, then often we do not.

Person A says “All abortions are wrong.”
Person B says “All abortions are not wrong.”

It appears they disagree. For any topic, if people disagree, then they both cannot be telling the truth: at least one of them must have a false belief.

1. If SS is true then: if person A accurately reports that she disapproves of all abortions, then she says something that’s true and if person B accurately reports that she approves of all abortions, then she says something that’s true.
2. If A says something that’s true and B says something that’s true, then they do not disagree.
3. So, if SS is true, then person A & B do not disagree. (hypothetical syl.)
4. But they do disagree.
5. So SS if not true. (3, 4, MT)


· To judge that something is right is to express (not state) one’s approval of something.
· To judge that something is wrong is to express (not state) one’s disapproval of that something.

If emotivism is true, then we cannot reason about ethics.
But we can reason about ethics.
Therefore emotivism is false.