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!

Some notes on Marquis

Some notes on Marquis:

He thinks whether abortions are wrong or not does not depend on whether any fetuses are

He thinks to understand whether it’s wrong to kill fetuses, we should think about why it’s wrong to kill us. He thinks the best explanation of why it’s wrong to kill us is this: (a) we have valuable futures and (b) killing us deprives us from experiencing these valuable futures.

If (1) fetuses have valuable futures like our valuable futures, and if (2) it is wrong to deprive something from experiencing its valuable future, then abortion is wrong, he arguments (because abortion prevents something that has a valuable future from experiencing its valuable future).

We can prevent the argument like this:

1. Fetuses have valuable futures like our valuable futures.

2. It’s wrong to prevent something from experiencing its valuable future, or deprave them from that valuable future.

Therefore, C.

Some questions about the premises.

Regarding (1) we should think about what our futures are like and why they are valuable. We should think about how fetuses futures’ are similar and different from our futures.

Although both fetuses and us have futures – in the sense that there is (hopefully) good stuff that we will experience – there is a difference between our futures in that we are currently, consciously aware of our futures and are looking forward to them. We have plans and hopes for the future; fetuses do not. Maybe that makes a difference. Maybe that means that fetuses do not have valuable futures that are quite like our’s, and maybe they are not (so) valuable because of that.

Regarding (2), we might wonder what implications this principle has for contraception and even abstinence. One might reply that birth control and abstinence do not prevent something from experiencing its valuable future, or deprave them from that valuable future, because what birth control does is prevent there from being that something or someone. One might reply that there are things like this: interesting metaphysical “objects” that consist of an-egg-and-the-sperm-that-would-fertilize-it and that these objects have valuable futures which contraception prevents from being experienced. If so, then (2) implies that contraception and abstinence are wrong. You might think this is a false implication of (2) and so the argument is unsound.