Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Directions on Revising & re-writing papers

It's in students' best interests to become better writers and a better communicators in general. That's why I encourage students to revise and rewrite their papers. But students' writing skills will improve, however, only if they reflect on how to improve their papers: they need to be revised mindfully. A quick "spot check" on the few areas I point out won't result in any deep improvement in students' writing skills.

So, if you wish to revise your paper, you need to do these things:
1. Turn in the previous, earlier copy of the paper;
2. Turn in the new, revised paper; and, most importantly:
3. Write a short summary or report on how you improved your paper: that is, explain what you did to make your paper better and why it is now better. Turn that in with the new and old paper.
This last requirement makes you reflect on what you are doing.

I also encourage you to visit the Writing Lab. Here's some information on that:

Since 2001, the Writing Lab has served the general Morehouse student population by providing services that foster the most important skills of functioning within our modern global society: the ability to communicate clearly and effectively in writing. The Writing Lab provides tutoring services to Morehouse students regardless of classification or major. All tutors are hired based upon their strong skills in English and their ability to communicate effectively with their peers. Tutors are available Monday through Friday during the day [usually 9-5] in Brawley 200 and weekends and Monday through Thursday evenings in Douglass Hall.

The writing tutors work one-on-one with student writers in order to help them improve their writing. We approach writing holistically, explaining and encouraging student understanding of grammar and mechanics as well as content and rhetorical approach. We do not edit or write the papers for the students; rather we approach tutoring as an opportunity for students to expand their skills. Our goal is to help student writers become more independent and more confident in their writing ability.

Check with the lab for current hours!

English Tutor Schedule – Spring 2007

Monday 9:00 – 5:00

9:00 – 12:00 Jumoke Johnson

9:00 – 11:00 Robert Graham

11:00 – 12:00 Anthony Dean

12:00 – 1:00 Raybourn

1:00 – 3:00 James Cammon

2:00 – 5:00 Paul Scisney

3:00 – 4:00 Anthony Dean

Tuesday 9:30--5:00, 6:00 – 8:00

9:30 – 11:00 Wendell Marsh

10:00 – 1:00 James Cammon

12:00 – 3:30 Paul Scisney

12:00 – 4:00 Anthony Dean

3:00 – 5:00 Wendell Marsh

4:00 – 5:00 Robert Graham

6:00 – 8:00 Robert Graham (Douglass)

Wednesday 9:00 – 5:00

9:00 – 12:00 Jumoke Johnson

9:00 – 11:00 Robert Graham

10:00 – 11:00 James Cammon

11:00 – 12:00 Anthony Dean

12:00 – 1:00 Raybourn

1:00 – 2:00 James Cammon

2:00 – 5:00 Paul Scisney

3:00 – 4:00 Anthony Dean

Thursday 9:30 – 5:00, 6:00 – 8:00

9:30 – 11:00 Wendell Marsh

10:00 – 2:00 James Cammon

12:00 – 3:30 Paul Scisney

1:00 – 4:00 Anthony Dean

4:00 – 5:00 Robert Graham

6:00 – 8:00 Robert Graham (Douglass)

Friday 9:00 – 2:00, 3:00 – 4:00

9:00 – 12:00 Jumoke Johnson

9:00 – 11:00 Robert Graham

11:00 – 12:00 Wendell Marsh

12:00 – 1:00 Raybourn

1:00 – 2:00 Wendell Marsh

3:00 – 4:00 Anthony Dean

Since 2001, the Writing Lab has served the general Morehouse student population by providing services that foster the most important skills of functioning within our modern global society: the ability to communicate clearly and effectively in writing. The Writing Lab provides tutoring services to Morehouse students regardless of classification or major. All tutors are hired based upon their strong skills in English and their ability to communicate effectively with their peers. Tutors are available Monday through Friday during the day [usually 9-5] in Brawley 200 and weekends and Monday through Thursday evenings in Douglass Hall.

The writing tutors work one-on-one with student writers in order to help them improve their writing. We approach writing holistically, explaining and encouraging student understanding of grammar and mechanics as well as content and rhetorical approach. We do not edit or write the papers for the students; rather we approach tutoring as an opportunity for students to expand their skills. Our goal is to help student writers become more independent and more confident in their writing ability.

Check with the lab for current hours!

English Tutor Schedule – Spring 2007

Monday 9:00 – 5:00

9:00 – 12:00 Jumoke Johnson

9:00 – 11:00 Robert Graham

11:00 – 12:00 Anthony Dean

12:00 – 1:00 Raybourn

1:00 – 3:00 James Cammon

2:00 – 5:00 Paul Scisney

3:00 – 4:00 Anthony Dean

Tuesday 9:30--5:00, 6:00 – 8:00

9:30 – 11:00 Wendell Marsh

10:00 – 1:00 James Cammon

12:00 – 3:30 Paul Scisney

12:00 – 4:00 Anthony Dean

3:00 – 5:00 Wendell Marsh

4:00 – 5:00 Robert Graham

6:00 – 8:00 Robert Graham (Douglass)

Wednesday 9:00 – 5:00

9:00 – 12:00 Jumoke Johnson

9:00 – 11:00 Robert Graham

10:00 – 11:00 James Cammon

11:00 – 12:00 Anthony Dean

12:00 – 1:00 Raybourn

1:00 – 2:00 James Cammon

2:00 – 5:00 Paul Scisney

3:00 – 4:00 Anthony Dean

Thursday 9:30 – 5:00, 6:00 – 8:00

9:30 – 11:00 Wendell Marsh

10:00 – 2:00 James Cammon

12:00 – 3:30 Paul Scisney

1:00 – 4:00 Anthony Dean

4:00 – 5:00 Robert Graham

6:00 – 8:00 Robert Graham (Douglass)

Friday 9:00 – 2:00, 3:00 – 4:00

9:00 – 12:00 Jumoke Johnson

9:00 – 11:00 Robert Graham

11:00 – 12:00 Wendell Marsh

12:00 – 1:00 Raybourn

1:00 – 2:00 Wendell Marsh

3:00 – 4:00 Anthony Dean

Sunday 6:00– 9:00

Jumoke Johnson (Douglass)

Wendell Marsh (Douglass)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Agnes Scott Extra Credit

Agnes Scott College's Ethics Program continues its 2006-07 speaker series, " Is Nature Ours? Ethics, Economics, and the Environment, " contintues with the following exciting events.

Monday, March 5, 2007
Margo Bagley
"Issues in Patenting Life "
7:30 p.m.
Evans Hall, terrace level, rooms ABC

Margo A. Bagley is Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law. Ms. Bagley ' s research focuses on intellectual property issues and patent law. Before studying law, she earned a B.S. in chemical engineering and worked on research and development for Procter & Gamble. Her publications include "Patent First, Ask Questions Later: Morality and Biotechnology in U.S. Patent Law," in the William and Mary Law Review.

Ethics & Engineering Extra Credit

February 27, 2007
Ethics and Engineering Education
4:00 p.m.
Georgia Tech
Student Success Center
President's Suite B

Go, write up a summary and reaction for extra credit. If you go, be on time.

Reading for Wednesday

Reading for Wednesday: ONLINE, TO BE DOWNLOADED AND BROUGHT TO CLASS
Tom Regan’s “Patterns of Resistance.” You might also want to read the logical commentary below.
READING QUIZ on arguments in defense of slavery, against women...

Argumentative Paper 3 – Homosexuality

Argumentative Paper 3 – Homosexuality

Due Friday March 16 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 want you to consider the issue of homosexuality and argue for one of these conclusions: homosexuality is wrong (i.e., impermissible), or 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 issue. 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 your 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 (or some of the above)? 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."
or
"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 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 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.

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, February 21, 2007

Friday: EMP Ch. 4, pp. 52-62 on the Divine Command Theory of Ethics. Expect a reading quiz.

This will overlap with our continued discussion of EMP Ch. 3 on homosexuality and the RTD Leiser article. I encourage people to re-read those sections and articles so that they might better engage the discussion.

There is a test this Monday. There is a study guide below. If you miss the test but not for a legitimate reason, you will not be allowed to make it up. If you expect to have to miss it, you should talk to me prior to Monday, not after.
FYI, in case you missed this:
This course provides students with the opportunity to improve their skills at reasoning critically about moral issues. We will practice identifying precise and unambiguous moral conclusions (i.e., exact perspectives taken on moral issues) and the reasons given for and against these conclusions. We will then practice evaluating these reasons to see if they provide strong rational support for these moral conclusions or not.
We will think about what helps people think more carefully and critically about moral issues and what factors and influences discourage and prevent this. We will discuss influential ethical theories and moral principles – answers to the questions ‘What’s the basic difference between a right and wrong action?’ and ‘What makes right actions right and wrong actions wrong?’ – and apply methods critical thinking skills to moral problems such as female genital mutilation, homosexuality, famine and absolute poverty, racism, sexism, euthanasia and assisted suicide, the treatment of animals, abortion, capital punishment, vegetarianism, environmentalism, and civil disobedience, among others.

Extra Credit Opportunity Thursday

The staff of the Andrew Young Center for International Affairs at Morehouse College would like to invite you to a lecture on “DIPLOMACY: A CHANGING REQUIREMENT” by Ambassador Edward J. Perkins, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, in the Bank of America Auditorium, Leadership Center - Thursday, February 22, 2007 from 2:25 – 3:40. Immediately following the lecture Ambassador Perkins will be signing copies of his book entitled MR. AMBASSADOR: WARRIOR FOR PEACE with Connie Cronley, foreword by George P. Shultz, preface by David L. Boren at the Morehouse College bookstore on the College campus.

“Mr. Ambassador conveys what sophisticated and effective diplomacy is all about. A remark­able journey that should inspire, inform and influence everyone it touches!” writes GEORGIE ANNE GEYER Syndicated Columnist, Universal Press Syndicate.

“Apartheid South Africa was on fire around me.” So begins the memoir of Career Foreign Service Officer Edward J. Perkins, the first black United States ambassador to South Africa. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan gave him the unparalleled assignment: dismantle apartheid without violence. As he fulfilled that assignment, Perkins was scourged by the American press, despised by the Afrikaner government, hissed at by white South African citizens, and initially boy­cotted by black South African revolutionaries, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu. His advice to President-elect George H. W. Bush helped modify American policy and hasten the release of Nelson Mandela and others from prison.

Perkins’s up-by-your-bootstraps life took him from a cotton farm in segregated Louisiana to the white elite Foreign Service, where he became the first black officer to ascend to the top position of director general. Mr. Ambassador is the story of how one man turned the page of history.

Edward J. Perkins, now retired as a U.S. Ambassador, is William J. Crowe Professor of Geopolitics and Executive Director of the International Programs Center at the University of Oklahoma. Connie Cronley is a writer with a new book of essays forthcoming from OU Press. George P. Shultz is former Secretary of State of the United States. David L. Boren, former U.S. Senator, is President of the University of Oklahoma.

Logic and Historical Moral Issues

Below summarizes the discussion we had on the first day of class. (This was written to be a section of an article on animal experimentation).


IV. Evaluating Arguments: “What do you mean?” & “Why think that?”

Synopsis: A basic theory of argument analysis is developed that focuses on identifying clear and precise conclusions and premises and adding assumed, but unstated, premises when needed.

To develop some general skills in moral reasoning, which can help overcome emotional and disengaged responses, it can be useful to consider some arguments about historical moral issues. Typically, we are emotionally, religiously and financially distanced from these issues. Common beliefs, feelings, attitudes and behavior are generally better than they used to be: some moral progress has occurred. Many of our predecessors saw these as “controversial issues” but, fortunately, we can now see the faults with these arguments; it is partially for this reason that these issues are no longer controversial.

Here are three (extremely simplified) arguments that were made and much debated throughout history (and, in some parts of the world, still are):

About slavery: “Slavery is morally right because slave owners benefit from slave labor.”

About women: “It’s morally wrong to allow women to get a higher education because women are such emotional beings that reasoning and abstract thought are quite difficult for them.”

About animals: Since animals are not rational, it’s morally permissible to raise them to be eaten.”

We would think poorly of anyone who makes claims about slavery and women like these above, but one “respectable” thing about them is that they are arguing for their views. They are not just asserting their conclusions: they are attempting to give reasons and, from an intellectual point of view, this is preferable to giving no reasons at all.

But their arguments for these conclusions are unsound because at least one premise is false (and we have good reason to believe this) or the premises do not logically lead to the conclusion. Three core “logical skills” help us see exactly why this is so about these arguments, and they will help us see what we should think about arguments in defense of animal experimentation also.[1] Skills like these may seem obvious to many academic philosophers (who teach them), but – as the discussion below shows – they are not obvious to everyone. This fact and their potential for contributing to moral progress justify presenting them here.

Two logical skills are readily seen with the argument about women. The stated conclusion of the argument is this:

(C1) “It’s morally wrong to allow women to get a higher education.”

(Premises and conclusions will often be numbered to more efficiently discuss them). We should notice that this conclusion is imprecise: the number of women mentioned is unclear and so we do not exactly know what the argument’s advocate means when he says what he says. He is claiming either:

(C2) “It’s morally wrong to allow some women to get a higher education,”

or:

(C3) “It’s morally wrong to allow any (i.e., all) women to get a higher education.”

If (C2) is what’s being said, we might rightly ask, “Which women?” since perhaps there are (for whatever reason) some women (and some men?) who should not be allowed an education and so (C2) is true. Historically, however, the advocate of this argument has conclusion (C3) in mind, that “no women should be able to get an education.”

Thus, a first logical skill for identifying and evaluating moral arguments is the following:

Make premises and conclusions precise in quantity: is something said to be true (or false) of all things (or people, or animals, etc.), or just some of them (and if so, which ones?)?

The stated reason, or premise, in favor of this made-precise conclusion (C3) is that:

(P1) “Women are such emotional beings that reasoning and abstract thought are quite difficult for them.”

This claim again is imprecise, between an “all” and “some” understanding of the claim. If the claim is this:

(P2) All women are such emotional beings that reasoning and abstract thought are quite difficult for them.”

This can be shown false by finding at least one (“unemotional”) woman who is capable of reasoning and thinking abstractly. The premise then must be this:

(P3) Some women are such emotional beings that reasoning and abstract thought are quite difficult for them.”

We could grant that (P3) is true: some women are like this (as are some men!). But how would this truth give any rational support for the argument’s intended conclusion (C3) that “it’s morally wrong to allow any (i.e., all) women to get a higher education”? How would some women’s “emotionality” justify restricting educational opportunities for all women? And even if all women are so “emotional” and have such difficulty with “abstract thought,” why would that justify denying any women the opportunity to better themselves through education?

There must be some unstated premise linking the made-precise premise (P3) to the made-precise conclusion (C3) that answers these questions. Premises that offer these logical connections need to be general, universal claims so we can see the basis for the assumption that the stated premise(s) leads to and supports the conclusion. This leads us to a second logical skill:

State (any) assumed premises so that the complete pattern of reasoning in an argument is displayed and it is clear how the stated premise(s) logically leads to the conclusion.

Here this premise seems to be something like this:

(P4) If doing some activity is quite difficult for some people, then nobody should have a chance to do that activity.

(P4) and (P3) logically lead to (C3). But there is no good reason to think that (P4) is true. Sojourner Truth’s response to objections to women’s and African-American’s rights is relevant here:

. . they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or Negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?[2]

Thus, to summarize this argument’s faults: first, we do not know what exactly is being said when this argument is given because the stated premise and conclusion are imprecise. Once we make these claims precise, however, we see that one way of making the premise precise (the “all women” version) results in a false premise, which is enough for the argument to be unsound. The other way of making the premise precise (the “some women” version) is true but we can reasonably suspect that the unstated premise linking this to the conclusion is false, making the argument unsound again.

The slavery example further illustrates the need for revealing assumed, unstated premises linking premises to conclusions. The made-precise conclusion, uttered by the slave-owner, “slavery is always morally right” follows from the (true) premise “slave owners benefit greatly from slave labor” only when an assumed, unstated general premise is added, something like:

(P5) If one group benefits from the labor of another group, then it is right for the benefiting group to get those benefits.

This premise asserts that the mere fact that some group gets some benefits automatically makes that practice or action right.

But this premise is not true: successful bank robbers “benefit” from robbing banks; child-molesters and rapists might “benefit” from their actions too (they apparently enjoy doing this, which is a benefit to them). But these actions are not right and so the benefits people get do not automatically make them right. So this argument is not sound, as it too has a false premise, namely (P5).

The non-historical argument in favor of eating animals illustrates a third logical skill. The stated conclusion is that:

(C4) “It’s morally permissible to raise animals to be eaten.”

And the stated premise is that:

(P6) “Animals are not rational.”

Both the premise and the conclusion are imprecise: is the person saying that all animals are not “rational,” or just some of them (if so, which ones?)? That it’s OK to eat any animals or just some of them (again, if so, which ones?).

This person probably means to be saying that all animals are not rational and that all animals are morally permissible to eat. But there clearly is an assumed, unstated general premise linking the premise to the conclusion, something like:

(P7) If a being is not ‘rational’, then it is morally permissible to raise and to eat him or her.

To evaluate this premise (as well as [P6] and other premises that might come from clarifying it), we need to use a third logical skill:

Clarify the intended meaning of unclear or ambiguous words.

The meaning of “rational” is not at all clear: we need to ask an advocate of this argument what he or she means by “rational.” (We could also ask what he means by “an animal” to better understand which animals he has in mind).

Suppose he responds, as some biologists have in trying to defend harmful animal use, with the observation that animals do not publish academic articles.[3] Suppose he claims that a being is “rational” only if it does that. This suggests this premise:

(P8) If a being is not ‘rational,’ i.e., she does not publish academic articles, then it is not morally wrong to raise her to be eaten.

If this premise were true, then it would be morally permissible to raise human babies to eat them since they do not publish articles. So this premise has logical implications that are false and morally unacceptable, and animal experimentation advocates agree. Many other understandings of what it is to be “rational” would yield (false) premises with similar moral implications for human beings who are not rational, e.g., the severely mentally challenged, very old humans and many others. Thus, this argument is unsound.

Through these case studies, three fundamental logical skills for identifying and evaluating arguments have been articulated. They amount to getting clear on what exactly people mean when they say things about moral issues and finding out why they think that, i.e., what their reasons are, including any unstated assumptions essential to their reasoning. “What do you mean?” and “Why think that?” are some of the most useful questions to ask, and patiently and carefully answer, in critical discussions of moral issues. They enable careful listening, understanding and effective communication.

Asking “What do you mean?” helps us identify often subtly unclear or ambiguous terms (e.g., for this topic, especially terms like, “animal,” “human,” “human being,” “being human,” “is human,” “is a human,” “person,” “human person,” “humanity,” and so on), find the speaker’s intended meaning, and then evaluate these new, clarified premises.

The question also helps us identify imprecision regarding quantity, whether some claim is made about all things of some kind (e.g., all humans, or all animals) or just some of them (and, if so, which ones?). This enables us to evaluate these new, made-precise premises. Many premises given or assumed in defense of animal use are false generalizations about humans and/or animals (e.g., that “humans are moral agents” or “animals eat each other,” both of which are false if claimed to be true about all humans or animals): the skill of precision helps us see this clearly and then evaluate arguments accordingly.

To ask, “Why think that?” is to ask for reasons to accept the conclusion (and, sometimes, for reasons to accept the given reasons!). These include stated premises and any assumed, unstated premises that link the given reason(s) to the conclusion: these premises need to be made explicit so they can be evaluated. If any premises of an argument are not true or if they do not logically lead to the conclusion, then the argument is unsound and should be rejected.

These three logical skills are just the application of basic (predicate) logic to ethics. The cases above confirm their value. I use them in my classes to identify and evaluate arguments about abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, poverty assistance and other topics. They are generally useful for identifying and evaluating reasoning.[4] Discussions of ethics and animals issues would greatly improve if these skills were widely practiced.



[1] Some respond to claims that that we can take some of what we learn from thinking about some moral issues (e.g., racism, sexism, etc.), including how to think about the issues (e.g., how to better analyze arguments) and apply them to animal issues with remarks like, “You are saying that the treatment of animals is ‘as bad as’ slavery!” “You are saying that these issues are ‘equal,’ ‘equivalent,’ ‘comparable,’ on the same ‘level,’” etc. These reactions are mistaken: that something can be learned from one issue and fruitfully applied to a different issue implies nothing about the comparative importance of the issues. Furthermore, this response just assumes – without reasons – that animal issues are rather unimportant.

[2] Ain't I A Woman?” (1851). Widely reprinted.

[3] McInerney, J.D., Morrison, A.R., and Schrock, J.R. “Reaction to ‘How we treat our relatives.’” The American Biology Teacher 66/4: 253-254, 2004. See my reply “In Defense of ‘How We Treat Our Relatives’,” American Biology Teacher, 66/9, 599-600, 2004, as well as my “Animal Dissection and Evidence-Based Life-Science & Health-Professions Education,” Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 2002, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 155-159. At NathanNobis.com.

[4] The best argument analysis text is Richard Feldman’s Reason and Argument, 2nd Ed. (Prentice Hall, 1999).

Monday, February 19, 2007

Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday: EMP Ch. 3, sections on homosexuality, and RTD Ch. 13, "Is homosexuality unnatural?"by Burton Leiser. Expect a reading quiz! :)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

EXTRA CREDIT OPPORTUNITY

An extra credit opportunity related to this event this Saturday:

http://www.morehouse.edu/events/2007/reflections.html

The 2007 Bennie and Candle honorees will be featured in Reflections of Excellence, a panel discussion with Q & A, moderated this year by Monica Pearson, Anchorwoman, WSB TV, on Saturday, February 17, 2007, at 11:00 A.M. in King Chapel. PLEASE BE ON TIME! At this time, Dr. Melvin Smith'61, Robert C. Davidson, Jr.'67, Senator Leroy Johnson '49, Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown Sr. '64, Alden McDonald, Dr. Joseph Lowery, Roscoe Lee Browne, and Sidney Poitier will discuss their "road to success" and will provide "prescriptions for overcoming obstacles to achieve success."

Students can attend this event for "extra credit" to them for writing on one of the topics below. Because of the tremendous benefits that students derive from attending this program, students will not want to miss this wonderful event.

2007 MOREHOUSE COLLEGE

REFLECTIONS OF EXCELLENCE

TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION AND WRITING

1. Sidney Poitier was ridiculed when he applied for his first acting job because of his thick Bahamian accent. Determined not to be a dishwasher all of his life, Poitier learned to speak English in a compelling manner by

listening to announcers on the radio. He achieved considerable success because of his determination to overcome obstacles.

What obstacles have you had to overcome to get this far in your career? What challenges do you still face that you are struggling to overcome? What is your “game plan” for overcoming obstacles and for achieving success?

2. Alden McDonald, president and CEO of Liberty Bank and Trust Company in New Orleans, often speaks about “doing well by doing good.” Robert Davidson ’67, prominent businessman, says that his lifelong effort has been “to help others, especially the underprivileged and children.”

Senator Leroy Johnson ‘49, the first African American to become a senator in Georgia since Reconstruction, was always available to help others. Julian Bond said of him: “Anybody can call him, day or night, for any kind of legal or political help.”

Dr. Joseph Lowery has spent his entire life fighting for human and civil right, and he was a prominent figure with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement.

What is the “bottom line” of obligation for those who have succeeded? Are there any mandates by which successful leaders are to provide service once they have succeeded? Are there any limits? If so, what are they and why?

3. When famed actor, director, and producer Sidney Poitier was a sickly baby and his father thought that he was going to die, his mother took the baby to a soothsayer who predicted that the baby would, indeed, live. She also predicted that one day Sidney would “travel the world over and walk among kings.” Poitier’s outstanding career in arts and entertainment has well fulfilled this prediction.

When Rev. Dr. Amos Brown, civil rights activist and pastor, was eight years old, his Sunday School teacher told him that, like the biblical prophet Amos, he would “bear the burdens of the people.” By the time Amos was 14 years old, he was working with Medgar Evers, amid the violence and racism in the Mississippi Delta, registering blacks to vote. Dr. Brown has continued all of his life to challenge the status quo when human rights have been violated.

In both cases, the predictions have been borne out and demonstrated throughout illustrious careers.

Do you think “greatness” is sometimes or always predestined? That is, are there certain people who are marked for servant-leadership from the time they are born. Do you know of similar predictions that have been fulfilled through the life and work of the individuals?

4. Dr. Melvin Smith’61, world-renowned pediatric surgeon, invented ( with the assistance of Dr. Robert Campbell) the Vertical Expandable Titanium Rib Prosthesis that has saved the lives of hundreds of children all over the world born with birth defects.

Do some reflection on your own aspirations, goals, and priorities. Then write an essay in which you outline the various career opportunities you would like to pursue beyond your major at Morehouse. What do you plan to “invent”or create that will make life better for those who use it?

5. Which of the honorees inspired you to “raise the bar of excellence” in the pursuit of your career and life goals?

Discuss.

Monday, February 12, 2007

TEST 1

Philosophy 302, Study guide for 1st Exam on Monday Feb. 26.

Everything through EMP Ch. 3.


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.
  • Know what the modus ponens and modus tollens 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 invalid logical fallacies:
    Affirming the consequent
    Denying the antecedent
Explain how the term ‘morally right’ is ambiguous between "morally permissible" and "morally obligatory." 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 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 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”, 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 discuss whether they are sound or not. Be able to state which, if any, premises are false.
See http://philosophy302.blogspot.com for some notes on what we have done.

Friday, February 09, 2007

For Monday

Monday:

Finish discussing FGM/FC and CR.
Discuss Simple Subjectivism, Emp. Ch. 3

Wed and beyond:
Homosexuality
EMP CH. 3
RTD Ch. 13, Is Homosexuality Unnatural? by Burton Lieser

The staff of the Andrew Young Center for International Affairs at Morehouse College would like to invite you to a lecture on “DIPLOMACY: A CHANGING REQUIREMENT” by Ambassador Edward J. Perkins, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, in the Bank of America Auditorium, Leadership Center - Thursday, February 22, 2007 from 2:25 – 3:40. Immediately following the lecture Ambassador Perkins will be signing copies of his book entitled MR. AMBASSADOR: WARRIOR FOR PEACE with Connie Cronley, foreword by George P. Shultz, preface by David L. Boren at the Morehouse College bookstore on the College campus.

“Mr. Ambassador conveys what sophisticated and effective diplomacy is all about. A remark­able journey that should inspire, inform and influence everyone it touches!” writes GEORGIE ANNE GEYER Syndicated Columnist, Universal Press Syndicate.

“Apartheid South Africa was on fire around me.” So begins the memoir of Career Foreign Service Officer Edward J. Perkins, the first black United States ambassador to South Africa. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan gave him the unparalleled assignment: dismantle apartheid without violence. As he fulfilled that assignment, Perkins was scourged by the American press, despised by the Afrikaner government, hissed at by white South African citizens, and initially boy­cotted by black South African revolutionaries, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu. His advice to President-elect George H. W. Bush helped modify American policy and hasten the release of Nelson Mandela and others from prison.

Perkins’s up-by-your-bootstraps life took him from a cotton farm in segregated Louisiana to the white elite Foreign Service, where he became the first black officer to ascend to the top position of director general. Mr. Ambassador is the story of how one man turned the page of history.

Edward J. Perkins, now retired as a U.S. Ambassador, is William J. Crowe Professor of Geopolitics and Executive Director of the International Programs Center at the University of Oklahoma. Connie Cronley is a writer with a new book of essays forthcoming from OU Press. George P. Shultz is former Secretary of State of the United States. David L. Boren, former U.S. Senator, is President of the University of Oklahoma.

Monday, February 05, 2007

For Wednesday

For this Wednesday:

EMP Ch. 2 (continued) and this article:

"What's Culture Got to Do with it? Excising the Harmful Tradition of Female Circumcision"
http://aphilosopher.googlepages.com/female_circumcision.pdf


Please print out the article, have read it and bring it to class.


PAPER 2

PHL 302 PAPER 2

CULTURAL RELATIVISM AND FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION

DUE MONDAY FEB 19 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.

For this assignment, I want you to argue for – that is, to give and defend reasons to think –one of these conclusions:

(a) that female genital mutilation is morally wrong, 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 some of the reasons that are given in its favor, including claims that cultural relativists might make in defense of female genital mutilation. (You must carefully explain what the moral theory of “cultural relativism” is).

You must state and explain whether these reasons are good reasons in favor of female circumcision or female genital mutilation. 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.





Cultural Relativism

Cultural Relativism:
A “Midas Touch” Morality

Today, we want to:

  1. Understand what Cultural Relativism is. If you accept CR, then what exactly do you believe?
  2. Identify and evaluate some reasons that people might give in favor of CR: why might they accept CR?
  3. Identify and evaluate some arguments against CR.

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). (EMP, p. 18-19). Whether it supports (5), the claim that we should be tolerant, is something that needs to be discussed.

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?

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.

Other arguments?

4. So what are the arguments for CR?

1. Cultures disagree on the morality of some 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; 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 (is it sound?):

1. We should be tolerant. (of what?)

2. Therefore, we should accept CR.

Some thoughts about (1): 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 thoose 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.


Important points that CR can help us see:

See Rachels' discussion.