Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An extra credit assignment: CRP of this entire article: Regan, “Patterns of Resistance,” Due Monday Feb 15 online through the Turnitin system.

Paper 2

Philosophy 302: Argumentative Paper 2 – Homosexuality

Due Monday, March 15,through the turnitin system. NO LATE PAPERS.
4-5 pages, double-spaced, typed, 12 pt. font, with your name, email, class time.

First, read your paper on how to write a philosophy paper. Read the paper from a peer too.

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 notdiscuss 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."
or
"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 thinkthat homosexuality is wrong, and then critique these arguments, i.e., argue that some or all of them are not sound becausethey have some premises that you will argue are false. (You will also need to present an argument[s] for the view thathomosexuality 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 booksto think that homosexuality is not wrong, and then critique these arguments, i.e., argue that some or all of them are notsound because they have some premises that you will argue are false. (You will also need to present an argument[s] for the viewthat 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. Please write who you got a peer review from at the top of your paper. The review sheet is here:

http://aphilosopher.googlepages.com/peerreview.rtf

Summarize your reviewer's comments at the end of your paper: everything should be in one file.

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.

Midterm Exam, next Wednesday

MIDTERM QUIZ / TEST / EXAM.
Next Wednesday, March 3

You will easily be able to complete this exam "with flying colors" in 50 minutes if you have been keeping up on the reading and study. Format will be multiple choice, true / false and short answer. Study groups are encouraged!

The test can cover any material up to our discussion of homosexuality (thus, it will not cover abortion or the Divine Command Theory of Ethics, our topics for the rest of the week and next week). Thus, these readings:

1. "Some Basic Points about Arguments," James Rachels (RTD, #2)

Handout: http://sites.google.com/site/nobisphilosophy/arguments.pdf

http://sites.google.com/site/nobisphilosophy/validargumentforms.pdf

SAMPLE QUESTIONS: WHAT IS AN ARGUMENT? WHAT IS IT FOR AN ARGUMENT TO BE VALID? WHAT IS IT FOR AN ARGUMENT TO BE SOUND? UNDERSTAND THESE CONCEPTS AND THEIR RELATIONS.


  1. James Rachels, "A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy" (RTD, #1).
WHAT IS UTILITARIANISM? WHAT ARE KANTIAN ETHICS?

THE WORD 'RIGHT' IS AMBIGUOUS AND SO WE DON'T USE IT. WHAT ARE THE TWO BETTER UNAMBIGUOUS TERMS WE ARE USING?

  1. Ch. 1, "What is Morality?" (Elements)
BE FAMILIAR WITH THE THREE CASES AND THE ARGUMENTS DISCUSSED ABOUT THEM. WHAT IS RACHEL'S 'MINIMUM CONCEPTION OF MORALITY"?

  1. "The New Eugenics," Matt Ridley (RTD, #36) [This goes with the bioethics theme of ch. 1.]
WHAT WAS RIDLEY'S MAIN ARGUMENT?

  1. Ch. 2, "The Challenge of Cultural Relativism" (Elements)
WHAT IS THE MORAL THEORY CULTURAL RELATIVISM? WHAT ARE THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST IT? ARE ANY OF THEM SOUND? WHAT ARE THE ARGUMENTS FOR IT? ARE ANY OF THEM SOUND? IS CULTURAL RELATIVISM A TRUE MORAL THEORY?

  1. “What’s Culture Got to Do with it? Excising the Harmful Tradition of Female Circumcision,” Harvard Law Review,http://sites.google.com/site/nobisphilosophy/female_circumcision.pdf
WHAT IS FGM / FC? WHAT ARE THE ARGUMENTS FOR IT? ARE ANY OF THEM SOUND? WHAT ARE THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST IT? ARE ANY OF THEM SOUND? IS FEMALE CIRCUMCISION MORALLY PERMISSIBLE?

  1. "Monogamy: A Critique," John McMurtry (RTD, #28) [This goes with the brief discussion of polyamory on pp. 29-30 of Elements; the readings below also concern sexual ethics.]
  2. "Our Sexual Ethics," Bertrand Russell (RTD, #29)
  3. "Alcohol and Rape," Nicholas Dixon (RTD, #30)
WHAT ARE THE MAIN ARGUMENTS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLES?

  1. Ch. 3, "Subjectivism in Ethics" (Elements)
WHAT ARE SIMPLE SUBJECTIVISM AND EMOTIVISM? WHAT ARE THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST THEM? ARE THESE ARGUMENTS SOUND?

  1. Richard Feldman on “Simple Moral Arguments”: http://sites.google.com/site/nobisphilosophy/feldman-simple-moral-arguments.pdf
  2. "Is Homosexuality Unnatural?" Burton M. Leiser (RTD, #27) [This is an expanded version of the argument given on pp. 44-45 of Elements.]
Argument worksheet: http://sites.google.com/site/nobisphilosophy/homosexuality-arguments.pdf

BE ABLE TO PRESENT AND EVALUATE ANY AND ALL OF THE ARGUMENTS FOR THE WRONGNESS OF HOMOSEXUALITY, AS WELL AS STATE AN ARGUMENT FOR ITS PERMISSIBILITY. BE SURE TO BE ABLE TO STATE THE ARGUMENTS IN VALID FORM.

WHAT IS IT TO GIVE A COUNTER-EXAMPLE?

HERE IS A MORE DETAILED VERSION OF A STUDY GUIDE, FROM A PREVIOUS SEMESTER:

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 ponens, modus 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.

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 claimsreally 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 tothink 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 with everything and be able to showthat 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?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

CPR due Wed (earlier this was due Friday, the previous Friday):
PLEASE READ AND WRITE A CRP ON:
  1. "Is Homosexuality Unnatural?" Burton M. Leiser (RTD, #27) [This is an expanded version of the argument given on pp. 44-45 of Elements.]

Friday, February 05, 2010

Notes on Cultural Relativism


EMP Ch. 2 Cultural Relativism:
A “Midas Touch” Morality

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.
  4. On the basis of 1-3, decide whether there are better reasons to accept CR or reject it.

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), but the core idea is (2): (3) and (4) are implications or consequences of (2). (EMP, p. 18-19). Whether it supports (5), the claim that we should be tolerant, is something that needs to be discussed. And (1) – since everyone accepts it – is not part of CR. Indeed it seems to be a premise in an argument for CR.

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? (see also the discussion in RTD)

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. (What if the premise said all 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 (p. 21); 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 (it needs to be expanded to understand it, but are these expansions sound?):

1. We should be tolerant. (Of what? Everything, all actions? Some actions? Which things?)

2. Therefore, we should accept CR.

Some thoughts about (1): If (1) is true and so we should be tolerant of all actions, then there is a universally true moral principle. But if there is a universally true moral principle, then CR is false!

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 those 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.

So what should we “tolerate”? What kind of diversity should we be respectful towards?

Rachels’ proposal for a universal moral principle: Actions that promote the welfare of people affected by it are morally permissible; actions that hinder the welfare of those affected are morally wrong.

Important points that CR can help us see: many! See Rachels’ discussion!

Some cultural differences do not matter morally. Others do matter: we can morally evaluate them.

NEXT WEEK

FOR MONDAY, RE-READ:
  1. Ch. 2, "The Challenge of Cultural Relativism" (Elements)
  2. “What’s Culture Got to Do with it? Excising the Harmful Tradition of Female Circumcision,” Harvard Law Review, http://sites.google.com/site/nobisphilosophy/female_circumcision.pdf
READ:

  1. "Monogamy: A Critique," John McMurtry (RTD, #28) [This goes with the brief discussion of polyamory on pp. 29-30 of Elements; the readings below also concern sexual ethics.]
  2. "Our Sexual Ethics," Bertrand Russell (RTD, #29)
  3. "Alcohol and Rape," Nicholas Dixon (RTD, #30)

FOR WED, PLEASE READ:
  1. Ch. 3, "Subjectivism in Ethics" (Elements)
FOR FRIDAY: PLEASE READ AND WRITE A CRP ON:
  1. "Is Homosexuality Unnatural?" Burton M. Leiser (RTD, #27) [This is an expanded version of the argument given on pp. 44-45 of Elements.]
I WILL GIVE YOU THIS HANDOUT IN CLASS:
Richard Feldman on “Simple Moral Arguments”: http://sites.google.com/site/nobisphilosophy/feldman-simple-moral-arguments.pdf

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Plagiarism

Students,

Let me remind you of this in the syllabus:

Do not plagiarize or cheat in any way: if you do, you will fail the course immediately: do your own work and do not ever look at any other students’ work “as an example” of what to do.

To help avoid plagiarism, I also strongly suggest that you do not search the internet for anything related to any assignment unless I ask you to do so. Doing so might result in sentences and paragraphs from sources from the internet winding up in your writings. This will likely be plagiarism and thus will be penalized.

Thus, if you are looking for further explanation of something found in the texts, ask me and/or check with the resources that Rachels suggests in the book.

Sincerely,
NN

Monday, February 01, 2010