Thursday, March 12, 2009

Extra Credit:

3 page detailed summar and brief reaction to this article: Tom Regan, “Patterns of Resistance,”

Due the Monday after we return from break: not the Monday we return, but a week after.

Your paper 2 can be due that Friday instead of Wednesday.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Paper 2

Philosophy 302: Argumentative Paper 2 – Homosexuality

Due Wednesday, March 18 in class and through the turnitin system. NO LATE PAPERS.
4-5 pages, double-spaced, typed, 12 pt. font, stapled, with your name, email, class time. No cover pages.

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. And do not discuss homosexual marriage because that too is not the issue.

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

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

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. (You will also need to present an argument[s] for the view that homosexuality is morally permissible). These arguments should be explained and evaluate in prose, but they should also be presented in valid premise-conclusion format.
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. (You will also need to present an argument[s] for the view that homosexuality is not morally permissible). These arguments should be explained and evaluate in prose, but they should also be presented in valid premise-conclusion format.

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 BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT ENGAGING THE CRITICAL DISCUSSION: YOU ARE IGNORING IT.

Your paper must have a short concluding paragraph also.

Your must get a peer review (from a peer in this class) and revise and improve your paper in light of that review. The peer review of your paper should be stapled to your paper. The review sheet is here:

All previous advice on writing and rules on doing your own thinking and writing apply. See previous paper assignment on writing.

Your intended audience has not read the readings or discussed these issues so you must explain things so that they understand. Put yourself in their shoes and make everything clear and well-organized for them.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Study Guide, Exam 1

Philosophy 302 Study guide for Midterm Exam, this Friday

Topics and reading covered: everything from Day 1 through and including EMP Ch. 3. The test format is mostly shortanswer and short essay, which require you to genuinely understand the material.

This study guide is available at

It is better to download it from here so you can use the file ttype up all the answers.

If you miss the exam without an approved excuse, you will not be able to make it up.

If you must miss it, you must plan to take it early.

You should be able to answer all these questions and explain the various concepts and arguments below. Anything in the readings, handouts or class discussion is eligible test material; there might . Study groups are highly encouraged!! 

RTD, Ch.2. 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 ponensmodus tollens and universal generalization 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 logically invalid argument forms: 
Affirming the consequent 
Denying the antecedent

RTD Ch. 1: A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy

· What is moral relativism? What are the arguments against it?

· Be able to explain the basic ideas of moral theories based in impartiality, utilitarianism, and Kant’s ethics.

Explain how the term ‘morally right’ is ambiguous between "morally permissible" and "morally obligatory." To explain this distinction, 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.

RTD Ch. 2, the short introduction to logic chapter

What is moral skepticism? What are the arguments in favor of it and arguments against it?

EMP Ch. 1:

· Explain, in detail, Rachel’s “minimum conception of morality,” especially his claims that "moral judgments 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. What was the hospital’s argument?

· Explain what a “slippery slope” argument or response is; explain how some people gave this response about the case of Tracy Latimer. 

RTD, Ch. 12. Will Cloning Harm People?

· Be able to explain the arguments against cloning the Pence discusses and explain whether they are sound or not and why.

EMP Ch. 2: CR & FGM

· State and fully explain the idea of cultural relativism. If someone accepts CR, what theory does she believe? Be able to explain which of the 5 claims really is cultural relativism (not all of them are cultural relativism), which are logical consequences of it, and which are premises that might be given in arguments for it.

· 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” of everything, 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, thatis his reasons tthink 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 & Emotivism, 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.

· What is emotivism? Be able to present an argument against it.

· 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?

· There can be questions on any of the assigned readings and discussions, so you need to be deeply familiar witeverything and be able to show that you understand the material. Check the blog for any handouts you missed.

· Be able to state many common arguments against homosexuality (including those discussed in the articles in the RTD book) in valid form (and so add the premises needed to make the argument valid) and explain whether they are sound or not. Be able to state which, if any, premises are false.

· Rachels and Corvino also give arguments for the conclusion that homosexuality is morally permissible. What were those arguments?