Thursday, April 30, 2009

Study Guide for Final Exam : Study Groups Encouraged!!

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)? Is an against it, i.e., arguments to think it is false? Are these objections strong objections to it, i.e., give reason to think it’s false, or not? Explain.

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

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

4. Rachels discusses a number of challenges in appealing to religious texts, authorities and traditions for understanding and resolving moral issues. What are these challenges? (62-67; also, 50-51). Is Rachels right in thinking that these are challenges, or not? Defend your view on whether appealing to Bible and religious traditions alone are adequate to answer moral questions.


Be able to present all the arguments about abortion that we discussed in class in logically valid premise-conclusion form, explain them and evaluate them as sound or unsound, with reasons. A full handout, with all the premises stated, is here:

Be able to know which arguments are Marquis’s and which are Thompson'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. Although we discussed this in class, warren also provided this explanation in this extra credit reading:

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 theory developed in class, and the view that was developed in class. Explain why, on this theory, if God exists, God is a person. Explain why, on this theory, if “ET” existed, ET, Worf, Jabba The Hut and other fictional persons would exist as persons.

5. Since you should be able to explain all the arguments, be able to give a logically valid argument against abortion from fetuses’ potential to be persons. Be able to explain whether any premises in that argument are false. In particular, you need to explain whether , in general, potential things of a kind have all the characteristics (esp rights) of actual things of that kind.

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 Don Marquis’s argument for the immorality of abortion? What’s his overall strategy? Present an objection to each premise of the argument that is not the "objection" that not everyone has a valuable future.

11. What’s Judith Thompson's argument for the moral permissibility of abortion? What’s her overall strategy? What important points does she contribute to the discussion of the ethics of abortion?

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.
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, April 28, 2009

Paper 4: Topic: Racism, Sexism and Speciesism

Paper 5: Extra Credit: Top 10 List for How To Address Moral Issues

“There is perhaps no set of social issues on which otherwise sane people on either side of the question allow themselves to be so overwhelmingly irrational as in matters pertaining tthe treatment of animals, and our moral obligations tthem.”

– Philosopher Bernard Rollin

PAPER 4: Topics: Racism, Sexism and Speciesism: Is it Permissible to Harm Animals for Pleasure?


No late papers and no (late) papers accepted via email unless you have prior approval

Your paper should have a short introduction, a thesis (“I will argue that _____), and be well-organized, clear and readable to someone who is not familiar witthese issues. Your paper’s claims should be carefully and thoughtfully defended: objections mustbe responded to with well-thought out reasons.

This paper focuses on you providing well-thought out, carefully-defended answers tthese questions:

  • Is the fur industry engaged in morally permissible behavior, or are they doing things that are morally wrong?
  • Are the animal agribusiness industries engaged in morally permissible behavior, or are they doing things that are morally wrong?
  • What, if any, are there any relations between these two questions? Does your view about the morality of the fur industry have logical implications for your view about the morality of the, e.g., meat industry, and vice versa?
  • Should you personally support the fur industry? Should you personally support the meat (and related) industries?

To answer these questions, you must carefully present and explain the arguments by Peter Singer (the fundamental principle of equality, from “All Animals Are Equal,”) and John Simmons (from “Reasonable Humans and Animals” [online; handout]). Explaintheir arguments for the conclusion that – in our circumstances: i.e., modern America – it is wrong to raise and kill animals to wearthem and to eat them. You must explain and defend your view on whether either of their main arguments are sound or not. Sincethinking about moral problems involves applying moral principles to factual circumstances, you must briefly give some factual information about these industries and practices.

You must discuss at least five of what you think are the strongest and/or most common objections to arguments like Singer’s & Simmons. (Kant and Machan provide some of these arguments; others are from class and a handout). Fully explain how Singer and/or Simmons would respond tthese objections. Explain whether these objections show that their arguments are unsound.

Note: if you discuss anything about nutrition science, you must provide the source of your information (i.e., the study’s citation) from PubMed from the National Library of Medicine: or our books. Random, anecdotal reports from various webpages are not a reliable source for scientific information: you need a reputable source

Some industry groups:
-- Fur Commission USA ( ).
-- National Animal Interest Alliance:
-- Animal Agriculture Alliance:
Some animal advocacy groups:
-- Compassion Over Killing:
-- PETA TV: 
-- Vegan Outreach

Suggested restaurant field trip, to ask for advice on how to answer these questions:
Soul Veg Restaurant: 879-A Ralph Abernathy Blvd. SW – Atlanta, (404) 752-5194
Soul Veg Restaurant: 652 North Highland - Atlanta, GA 30306 (404) 874-0145

PAPER 5: EXTRA CREDIT: Top 10 List for How To Address Moral Issues


Make a "Top 10 List of helpful things to do and/or not do when thinking about moral issues and addressing moral problems." Explain what people can do to better think about and address moral issues: these might be things to look out for and avoid, as well as positive techniques or attitudes or skills to use. 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 and develop a list of helpful ideas that you can use in the future (and help others use) when thinking about moral issues.3-4 pages.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On Monday, April 27, 2009 at 5:00pm, the Philosophy and Religion Society will feature Lucius T. Outlaw (Professor of Philosophy and of African-American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University) in the second meeting of the Philosophy and Religion Lecture Series. Dr Outlaw will speak on the subject: “The Academy and Philosophy: Good for Black Folks?”

Dr. Outlaw’s research interests include African and African American philosophy, political theory and social thought. He has published works such as On Race and Philosophy, In Search of Critical Social Theory in the Interest of Black Folks, and “Philosophy, Hermeneutics, Social- Political Theory: Critical Thought in the Interest of African-Americans” (of the Philosophy Born of Struggle anthology)

The lecture will be followed by a reception in the Henderson Lounge of Merrill Hall. All are invited. We encourage you and your students to come (if interested).

Taurean J. Webb
President, Philosophy and Religion Society
Morehouse College

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Another book:

About The $10 Club
Poverty Alleviation Projects
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site en français Voir ce site en français Saving the world, ten dollars at a time.
Make a Difference
The $10 Club

THE $10 CLUB is a group of compassionate individuals who donate $10 (US) every month to be pooled together and used to fund a poverty alleviation project.

Individually, each of us may be unable to afford to make a dramatic impact on the quality of life for people across the globe. When we join forces, however, we can make a substantive, tangible, and remarkably positive difference. That is our commitment. That is our goal. To save the world, $10 at a time.

100% of each $10 membership contribution goes toward our field projects in developing countries - not a penny is withheld for overhead.
The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty

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The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty

Monday, April 13, 2009

For Wed., read and write a detailed OPS on "The Singer Solution to World Poverty" found in Rachels RTD.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Paper 3: Abortion

Due Monday, April 20, 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 might be helpful:

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 intheir sources you summarized.

Here’s a PowerPoint on abortion that you might find interesting:

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 tthe use of your house (even) if you took reasonable steps to keepthem 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 tthe chocolate.

Even if something is easy (e.g., saving a life), one does not have a right tthat 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!