Sunday, December 14, 2008

Spring 2009

I am offering an advanced ethics class next semester. Here's the book I plan to use; the course will have a philosophical research project as its main focus:

A Companion to Applied Ethics

Edited by: R.G. Frey and Christopher Heath Wellman (Washington University in St. Louis)

Series: Blackwell Companions to Philosophy


Now Available Online - visit Blackwell Reference Online at for more details.


"The Companion to Applied Ethics offers accessible essays by many of the leading writers in the field. It is a superb introduction to applied ethics for students and the interested reader alike." <...


Applied or practical ethics is perhaps the largest growth area in philosophy today, and many issues in moral, social, and political life have come under philosophical scrutiny in recent years. Taken together, the essays in this volume - including two overview essays on theories of ethics and the nature of applied ethics - provide a state-of-the-art account of the most pressing moral questions facing us today.

  • Provides a comprehensive guide to many of the most significant problems of practical ethics.
  • Offers state-of-the-art accounts of issues in medical, environmental, legal, social, and business ethics.
  • Written by major philosophers presently engaged with these complex and profound ethical issues.

TopTable of Contents

Notes on Contributors.
1. The Nature of Applied Ethics: Tom L. Beauchamp
2. Theories of Ethics Stephen: L. Darwall
3. Property Rights and Welfare Redistribution: Jeremy Waldron
4. Civil Disobedience and the Duty to Obey the Law: A. John Simmons
5. Capitalism and Marxism: Richard W. Miller
6. State Punishment and the Death Penalty: David Dolinko
7. Racism: Michele Moody-Adams
8. Sexism: Ann E. Cudd and Leslie E. Jones
9. Affirmative Action: Bernard Boxill and Jan Boxill
10. The Legal Enforcement of Morality: Larry Alexander
11. Hate Crimes, Literature, and Speech: L. W. Sumner
12. Pornography and Censorship: Lori Gruen
13. Dirty Hands: Gerald F. Gaus
14. Sexual Ethics: Alan H. Goldman
15. Gun Control: Lance Stell
16. Citizenship: Wayne Norman and Will Kymlicka
17. Immigration: Michael Blake
18. World Hunger: Hugh LaFollette
19. War and Terrorism: C. A. J. Coady
20. Nationalism and Secession: Christopher Heath Wellman
21. Intergenerational Justice: Clark Wolf
22. Bioethics: Margaret P. Battin
23. Abortion: Margaret Olivia Little
24. Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Michael Tooley
25. Reproductive Technology: John D. Arras
26. Genetic Engineering: Dan W. Brock
27. Surrogate Motherhood: Rosemarie Tong
28. Cloning: John Harris
29. Allocation of Medical Resources: H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr. and Ana Smith Iltis
30. Experimentation on Human Subjects: Patrick Boleyn-Fitzgerald
31. Disability: Leslie Pickering Francis
32. Moral Status: Mary Anne Warren
33. Killing and Letting Die: Alastair Norcross
34. The Doctrine of Double Effect: R. G. Frey
35. Bad Samaritans, Acts and Omissions: Patricia Smith
36. Moral Dilemmas: N. Ann Davis
37. Education: Amy Gutmann
38. Personal Relationships: Lawrence A. Blum
39. Animals: Jeff McMahan
40. Business Ethics: Patricia H. Werhane and R. Edward Freeman
41. Corporate Responsibility: R. Edward Freeman and Patricia H. Werhane
42. Whistle-blowing: Terrance McConnell
43. Professional Ethics: David Luban
44. Media Ethics: Judith Lichtenberg
45. Computer Ethics: Deborah G. Johnson
46. Engineering Ethics: Michael S. Pritchard
47. Environmental Ethics: Andrew Light
48. Values in Nature: Dale Jamieson
49. The Tragedy of the Commons: David Schmidtz and Elizabeth Willott
50. Global Warming: Robert Hood

A Companion to Applied Ethics

Thursday, December 04, 2008

For the 12 PM class the final exam time is Wednesday, December 10 from 1 PM to 3 PM.

For the 1 PM class the official exam time is Monday, December 8 from 8 AM to 10 AM. However, that is really early, so you could come from 9 AM to 11 AM instead, since the test should not take more than an hour if you know the know the material.

Another option for the 1 PM class is to come to the final time for the 12 PM one, which is Wednesday, December 10 from 1 PM to 3 PM.

Again, final papers must be submitted by Turnitin and in hardcopy. If you forget to turn it in via Turnitin, the assignment will not be graded.

And nothing will be accepted after Wednesday, December 10 at 3 PM, so plan ahead.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Study guide for final

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

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?

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 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 are Thompsonn's arguments for the moral permissibility of abortion? What is her main point about what's involved in having a right to life?

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:

Questions on the arguments from Singer's "All Animals Are Equal" and Simmons' "Reasonable Humans and Animals"

Singer on racism, sexism, "intelligence"-ism and speciesism,

· According to Singer, racists and sexists violate “the fundamental principle of equality.” Explain what this principle is and how they violate this principle. Explain what interests are. Fully explain how Singer argues this principle applies to animals.

· Why, according to Singer, would we not want to tie our opposition to racism and sexism to “factual equality?” This addresses a response to racism and sexism that Singer thinks we wouldn’t want to accept.

· Singer discusses a number of other hypotheses to explain why racism and sexism are wrong. What are these other hypotheses? Why are they not good explanations for why racism is wrong, according to Singer?

· Why, according to Singer’s reasoning, is it wrong that animals are raised and killed to be eaten, worn and experimented on? (His reasoning is not that they have “rights”). Is his reasoning sound? Why or why not?

· What is “speciesism” according to Singer? Why is it wrong, according to Singer? Is he right?

· Singer gives a principle for when an experiment on an animal would be morally acceptable. What is his suggestion? Is he right? Why or why not?


· Be able to present and explain – in valid, premise-conclusion form -- John Simmons’ argument from the article “Reasonable Humans and Animals.”

· Be able to present ten objections to Simmons’ argument in logically valid form, where all the premises are clearly stated, and evaluate these objections with reasons. At least 50 objections are here:

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Extra Credit Paper 5

Optional, extra credit 5th paper worth up to 10 points (depending on the quality of your suggestions). It is due at the time of the final. You must turn it yourself in person and through the turnitin system: both are necessary for it to be graded.

Make a "Top 10 List" of helpful things to do and/or not do when thinking about moral issues." For each of your suggestion of what to do (or not do), illustrate it with an example (or examples): explain why your suggestion is a good one. The goal of this assignment is for you to critically reflect on what we have done over the semester and develop a list of helpful ideas that you can use in the future (and help others use) when thinking about moral issues. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU THINK FOR YOURSELF AND COME UP WITH YOUR OWN IDEAS. DO NOT MERELY TAKE IDEAS FROM OTHERS’ (E.G., HANDOUTS IN CLASS) AND TAKE THEIR WORDS. DO NOT DO YOUR OWN THINKING! 4 pages.

Reminder: plagiarism on any assignment, including extra credit assignments, will result in a failing grade for the course.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Paper 4 Extra Credit




in class and through the Turnitin system


Are you morally obligated to donate 25 cents a day to help people living in absolute poverty?


First, examine the webpages of these organizations:

·        The $10 Club (

·        AfricaCare:

·        The Children’s Defense Fund:


In this paper, you should present and critically discuss Peter Singer’s arguments regarding world poverty (Mylan Engel and James Rachels prove some useful information and arguments also). You should make the discussion personal – i.e., think about what you personally should do. Start small and consider whether Peter Singer gives a sound argument for the conclusion that you (perhaps with some of your friends or family) are morally obligated donate a quarter a day (= $10 a month) to help people living in absolute poverty. So your thesis should either be this:

  • “I will argue that I am morally obligated to donate $.25 a day to help the world’s poor,” or
  • “I will argue that I am not morally obligated to donate $.25 to help the world’s poor.”

Your thesis must be carefully and rigorously defended.


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

Your papers should have these sections:

Title: ________.

1. Introduction
An introduction, culminating in a thesis, e.g., “I will argue that ______.” Your introduction should introduce the issue or topic to the reader. Assume your reader does not know anything about the topic or the article. You need to explain things so they will understand: see things from their point of view and write accordingly!

2. Singer’s Argument
A section where you carefully and fully explain Singer’s argument, i.e., his conclusion [what exactly is his conclusion? What conclusion have we been considering, for purposes of discussion?] and the reasoning he gives for his conclusion. Singer uses the examples ofthe Pond, Dora and Bob Explain what role these kinds of examples play in his argument.

3. Objections
Carefully explain at least three of what you think are the best objections to Singer’s argument. Present these objections as valid arguments.


4. Evaluation of these objections and Singer’s argument
Explain whether any of the objections are sound arguments against his argument. Explain whether Singer’s argument is sound, and why, and whether it is not sound. That is, is Singer right, or are the objectors? Should you do something (if yes, what?) to help people living in absolute poverty? Why or why not?


DEFEND YOUR VIEW WITH REASONS. Defend your view from objections: e.g., does your response imply that it would not be wrong for you to let a child drown in a pond, even if you could easily save the child?!


5. Conclusion
Explain things in your own words: do not take exact words from the book or any handouts. NO PLAGIARISM. Think for yourself!


If start supporting some worthy cause (e.g., the $10 Club), then not only will you have helped better the lives of people living in absolute poverty, you will get a free poster that says, “I took Philosophical Ethics and all I did was save a child’s life!


I know of no better place to start – in terms of efficiently making a direct, concrete difference in people’s lives – than The $10 Club (


Other excellent suggestions for organizations that you could support are found in this book at:


Also, see Might you be morally obligated to visit each day to click so that more food is purchased to feed people in absolute poverty?

Dr. Franklin’s Convocation speech also has some relevant discussion of these issues, “Facing the Rising Sun: A New Day Begun”

Here were some of the notes and worksheets we used:

A powerpoint :

Video clip:


How many people in the world live in extreme poverty?
According to NetAid, over a billion people, or roughly one in six, live in extreme poverty. Extreme poverty is defined as living on less than US$1 a day.
The World Bank goes on to define moderate poverty as basic subsistence living, on $1 to $2 a day. All told, nearly half the world's population lives in poverty -- that's 2.8 billion people living on less than two dollars a day. Some other facts to keep in mind:
• Each year over 8 million people die because they are simply too poor to stay alive.
• More than 800 million people go hungry every day.
• The gross domestic product of the poorest 48 nations is less than the wealth of the world's three richestpeople.
• Thirty-thousand children die every day due to hunger and treatable illnesses.
• 6 million children die every year before their fifth birthday, as a result of malnutrition.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Remaining Schedule

Friday: no class because Dr. Nobis has to go to the Mississippi Philosophical Association meeting.

You have a paper assignment due Monday so complete that. ABSOLUTELY NO LATE PAPERS WILL BE ACCEPTED.

Turn in papers. Video on Singer.

No class due to Thanksgiving.

Monday and Wednesday:
1. A booklet by Vegan Outreach for you to read
2. Singer, "All Animals Are Equal" in RTD -- OPS due Monday
3. John Simmons, "Reasonable Humans and Animals" - OPS due Monday

Monday, November 17, 2008

For Wednesday

For Wednesday: Richard Cameron on Singer's arguments:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Greetings Morehouse Family:

The Andrew Young Center for International Affairs cordially invites you to the third installment of its Living Legends (live taping) Series featuring Julius E. Coles ’64, President of Africare, Inc. and former Executive Director of the Andrew Young Center at Morehouse College - Monday, November 17, 2008 at 6:30 PM in the Bank of America Auditorium, Leadership Center. The conversation will focus on African Development, US-Africa Relations, the future of African American leadership and Morehouse College’s

role in the production of leaders who will change the world.

Africare works in partnership with African communities to promote health and productivity. Africare places communities at the center of development — in the belief that only through strong communities can Africa feed itself, develop and manage its natural resources, provide adequate education and vocational training, address people's needs for health care and disease prevention, achieve economic well-being and live in peace.

Africare’s role is to help Africa. A leader among private, charitable U.S. organizations assisting Africa, Africare is also the oldest and largest African-American led organization in the field — and Africa is Africare's specialty. Africare programs are in the following broad areas: health and HIV/AIDS, food security and agriculture, water resource development, environmental management, literacy and vocational training, microenterprise development, civil society development, governance and emergency response.

Please mark your calendars and plan to attend.

Judith A. Richmond

Administrative Assistant

Andrew Young Center for International Affairs

Morehouse College

Leadership Center, 3rd Floor

830 Westview Drive, SW

Atlanta, GA 30314-3773

(404) 614-6040 voice

(404) 216-2690 fax e-mail

This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands”.
Barack Obama

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Paper 3: Abortion

Due Monday, November 24, in class and online via the Turnitin system.


This paper’s topic is abortion. You must argue for a view about when, if ever, abortion is morally permissible and when, if ever, it is morally wrong. The most important aspect of this paper is that you defend your views with reasons and respond to objections to your reasons. That is, you must explain why we should accept what you think about abortions and show us why you have good reasons for your views, better reasons than those who might disagree with you. You must be sure to not assume that your view about the morality of abortion is correct: you must argue for it!

Your paper must have an introductory paragraph. It must have a thesis. Each paragraph should focus on one, and only one, main idea or topic. It must be free of grammatical and spelling errors. You must have a proper bibliography or works cited page and references (see Vaughn).

You must discuss at least five arguments, and you must discuss arguments – the main arguments – from Rachels, Marquis or Thompson, and arguments from the concept of personhood that were developed in class.

You must have at least one peer review. It should be stapled to your paper, which should be stapled as well.

This complete worksheet:

And this PowerPoint might be interesting:

You should re-read your first paper on how to write a philosophy paper and make sure you follow all the advice there and in their sources you summarized.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Fetal Minds and Abortion

Here is some information about the development of minds in fetuses and when abortions occur; it's taken from an article by your instructor on abortion.

Concerning fetal minds, Jeff McMahan reports that, “Most neurologists accept that the earliest point at which consciousness is possible is around the twentieth week of pregnancy. . . . The onset of the fundamental core of brain function . . . can be identified within the limits of about 20 to 28 weeks” (2002, p. 257). Beyond consciousness, neurologist Michael Benatar and philosopher David Benatar claim that the data tend to support the view that “fetuses of around 28 to 30 weeks of gestation are capable of feeling pain” (2001, pp. 57, 63, 75). David DeGrazia claims that, “Neurological evidence suggests that a fetus becomes sentient at some time between five and seven months gestation” (2005, p. 279). More conservatively, Peter Singer argues that, “[W]e should disregard the uncertain evidence about wakefulness [‘The fetus begins to “wake up” at a gestational age of around 30 weeks’] and take as a more definitive line the time at which the brain is physically capable of receiving signals necessary for awareness . . at 18 weeks of gestation” (1993, pp. 164-5).

Concerning when abortions occur, McMahan reports that, “Approximately 99 percent of all abortions in the United States are performed prior to twenty weeks” (2002, p. 268). And DeGrazia reports that, “[T]he vast majority of abortions – about 99 percent in the United States – occur before five months,” with “only 1 percentage of abortions . . performed after the twenty-first week or later in . . 1998” (2005, p. 279, in text and footnote 64). Beckwith agrees with these statistics (pp. 90-91).

These facts suggest that most abortions in the United States kill beings – call them early fetuses – that are yet to have minds
The reading and OPS assignments of late include EMP Ch. 4 and Don Marquis and Judith Thompson on abortion from RTD.

Brief Notes on Judith Thompson’s “A Defense of Abortion”

Brief Notes on Judith Thompson’s “A Defense of Abortion”


Thinks early fetuses are not persons, but will assume they are for the sake of argument. How does it follow that abortion is (typically) wrong?

Standard “personhood” argument against abortion:

Persons have a right to life. Yes, women have the right to decide what will happen in and to their bodies. But fetuses are persons, and their right to life is stronger than women’s rights to their bodies. So fetuses may not be killed, so abortion is wrong. (p. 98)

Violinist case:

Persons have a right to life. Yes, people have the right to decide what will happen in and to their bodies. But the violinist is a person, and his right to life is stronger than people’s rights to their bodies. So the violinist may not be unplugged and killed. He must stay plugged into you. (p. 98)

Main Argument:

  1. If the standard personhood argument against abortion is sound, then the argument in the violinist case is sound too (and so it would be wrong for you to unplug).
  2. But the argument in the violinist case is not sound (since it would be permissible for you to unplug.
  3. So the standard personhood argument against abortion is not sound also.

Rape? Rape is irrelevant to what rights you have. (99)

Part 1. On the “extreme view” that abortion is impermissible even to save the pregnant woman’s life.

If the both have a right to life, why not flip a coin? Or mother’s right to life + her bodily rights outweigh fetus’s rights?

Theses 1-4 (p. 100), that direct killing is always wrong / murder / a stringent duty, etc.

If 1-4 were true, unplugging from violinist would (always) be wrong. But it’s not, so 1-4 are false.

1-4 are also false because they imply self-defense is wrong. TINY HOUSE CASE (p. 101)

Thus, the extreme view is false.

Part 2.

“The mother owns the house”. A third party, not just the mother, can intervene. (This is in response to some claims in part 2 that 3rd parties couldn’t defend the mother, but the mother surely can defend herself in the TINY HOUSE).

Part 3.

What is entailed by a “right to life” anyway?

Does a right to life entail everything that’s needed for a life to continue? (103)

HENRY FONDA CASE: If I needed a visit by a famous actor to keep on living, would I have a right to that actor’s visit? Would my friends have a right to kidnap him so he visits? [no]

VIOLINIST CASE: Does he have a right to the use of my kidneys? [no]

Does a right to life entail a right to not be killed by anyone?


Thompson: “a right to life does not guarantee having either a right to be given the use of or a right to be allowed continued use of another person’s body – even if one needs it for life itself. So the right to life will not serve the opponents of abortion in the very simple and clear way in which they seem to have thought it would.” (p. 104)

Part 4.

BOYS BOTH GIVEN CHOCOLATE CASE: both boys are given chocolates to share. (p. 104). If one brother takes them all, he treats the other unjustly.

Unplugging the violinist would not be unjust, because you did not give him the right to use your kidneys.

A right to life is the right to not be killed unjustly. (p. 104).

(p. 105): raped woman does not give fetus the right to her body for food and shelter.

But she is (partially) responsible: she knew what a possible consequence of sex would be.

BURGLAR BARS example (p. 106)

PEOPLE SEEDS EXAMPLE – No right to the use of your house (even) if you took reasonable steps to keep them out.

There’s still a chance of pregnancy! (Remove risk by getting a hysterectomy or never leaving home w/o an army!)

Part 5. “Ought to do X” does not imply someone has a right to X

CHOCOLATE CASE 2: Only one boy is given the chocolates. He ought to share, but the other boy does not have a right to the chocolate.

Even if something is easy (e.g., saving a life), one does not have a right to that save. (HENRY FONDA CASE) (p. 108)

Part 6. Good Samaritan versus the Minimally Decent Samaritan

No laws compel Good Samaritanism, except in the case of abortion. (p. 110)

Part 7.

Part 8.

Some abortions might be indecent.

The details of the case matter.

Of course, early fetuses aren’t persons anyway!