Tuesday, April 27, 2010



  1. Ch. 4, "Does Morality Depend on Religion?" (Elements)
  2. Fred Feldman on abortion: http://sites.google.com/site/nobisphilosophy/fred_feldman_on_abortion.pdf
  3. "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion / Postscript on Infanticide," Mary Anne Warren (RTD, #13)
  4. "Why Abortion Is Immoral," Don Marquis (RTD, #11) [One aspect of the abortion debate is discussed on pp. 57-61 of Elements.]
  5. "A Defense of Abortion," Judith Jarvis Thomson (RTD, #12)

Argument worksheet: http://sites.google.com/site/nobisphilosophy/abortion-worksheet.pdf

  1. Ch. 5, "Ethical Egoism" (Elements)
  2. "9/11 and Starvation," Mylan Engel, Jr. (RTD, #17) [Poverty is discussed on pp. 62-63 of Elements.]
  3. "The Singer Solution to World Poverty," Peter Singer (RTD, #18)

Argument worksheet: http://sites.google.com/site/nobisphilosophy/poverty-arguments.pdf

  1. Ch. 7, "The Utilitarian Approach" (Elements)
  2. Ch. 8, "The Debate over Utilitarianism" (Elements)
  3. “One Nurse’s Story,” http://sites.google.com/site/nobisphilosophy/one_nurses_story.pdf
  4. "The Morality of Euthanasia," James Rachels (RTD, #34) [Euthanasia is discussed on pp. 98-101 of Elements.]
  5. "Assisted Suicide: Pro-Choice or Anti-Life?" Richard Doerflinger (RTD, #35) [Assisted suicide is different from euthanasia, but the topics are similar.]
  1. "America's Unjust Drug War," Michael Huemer (RTD, #26) [Marijuana is discussed on pp. 101-104 of Elements.]
  1. "All Animals Are Equal," Peter Singer (RTD, #14) [The treatment of animals is discussed on pp. 104-108 of Elements.]
  2. "Torturing Puppies and Eating Meat: It's All in Good Taste," Alastair Norcross (RTD, #15)
  3. "Do Animals Have Rights?" Tibor R. Machan (RTD, #16)
  4. “Reasonable Humans and Animals,” John Simmons: http://sites.google.com/site/nobisphilosophy/veg.pdf

Argument worksheet: http://sites.google.com/site/nobisphilosophy/veg-responses.pdf

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:http://aphilosopher.googlepages.com/abortion-worksheet.pdf

Be able to know which arguments are Marquis’s, which are Warren’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:http://aphilosopher.googlepages.com/fred_feldman_on_abortion.pdf

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: http://aphilosopher.googlepages.com/warren-on-abortion.pdf

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 thistheory, 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, potentialthings 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 againstabortion 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 believethat 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: http://aphilosopher.googlepages.com/abortion-talk.ppt

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: http://aphilosopher.googlepages.com/famine.ppt
And there’s a video here: http://aphilosopher.googlepages.com/teaching

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.” http://aphilosopher.googlepages.com/veg.pdf

· 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: http://philosophy302.blogspot.com/2007/04/worksheet-some-responses-to-singers.html

Final exam times and final paper due date and time


You can take the final exam in intro to ethics with Professor Nobis at any of these days and times:

- Monday, May 3, 8AM-10AM (this is the official time for the 1 PM class)
- Monday, May 3, 1-3 PM (this is the official time for the 11 AM class)
- Wednesday, May 5, 1-3 PM (this is the official time for the 11 AM class)

Since senior grades are must be submitted to the registrar by Thursday, May 6 at noon, everything is due for seniors (who hope to graduate) by Thursday, May 6 at 9 AM. Thus, paper 4 is due for seniors by Thursday, May 6 at 9 AM and must be submitted online via the Turnitin system and in hardcopy.

The final paper is due for everyone else, i.e., non-hoping-to-graduate seniors -- and must be submitted online via the Turnitin system and in hardcopy -- by Monday, May 10 at 9 AM.


Write an argumentative philosophical essay where you:
(1) present and explain Singer's, Norcross's and/or Simmon's arguments concerning animals: you must discuss at least two of these author's arguments.
(2) explain whether these arguments are sound by raising and responding to at least five of what you think are the strongest and/or most important and/or common objections to their soundness.
[Note: as discussed in class, in light of the article from Machan, there is absolutely no need to discuss these issues in terms of "rights." You are, therefore, encouraged to not make use of the term, since neither Singer, Norcross and Simmons use the concept of "rights" in making their arguments.
Your paper should have a title, an introduction, a thesis ("I will argue that _____.") and be clear, well-organized, well-argued, raise and respond to objections, and have a conclusion.

Due dates are above, and the paper must be submitted via Turnitin and in hardcopy.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Here is the reading for Monday, CPR due then too:

Reasonable Humans and Animals
By John Simmons


Due Friday:
Singer and Norcross on animals

Extra credit due Friday: Rachels and Doerflinger on euthanasia

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lately we have been discussing Peter Singer's arguments from The Singer Solution to World Poverty. Here are a few links:

Monday, April 05, 2010

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.

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 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 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!

Paper 3: Abortion
4-5 pages.
Due Monday, April 19 through the Turnitin System and in hardcopy in class

Suppose a woman has gotten pregnant due to voluntary intercourse (i.e., she was not raped). She is early in pregnancy, in the first month. She has no reason to believe that her fetus is unhealthy, or will become unhealthy, or that if she has the baby that he or she will have a troubled life. Would it be morally permissible for her to have an abortion? Present and evaluate at least five arguments on this issues, including at least two out of three arguments presented by Warren, Marquis and/or Thompson. The arguments should be presented and evaluated in valid premise-conclusion format. Like all philosophy papers, you must raise objections to your views and arguments and respond to them.

Your paper should have a short introduction ending in a thesis statement and be well-organized throughout. There should be no grammatical or spelling errors. You need to find at least one peer reviewer and put his or her comments and suggestions at the end of the paper.You must use a proper citation method.

Note: a challenge for this paper is to NOT merely give a list of conditions or situations where you think abortion might be permissible or impermissible, e.g., "Abortion is wrong in these circumstance but not in these," or "Abortion is permissible except in these circumstances." The challenge is to explain why -- with reasons -- your claims about the moral status of abortion are correct or incorrect, and to defend your views from objections. You need to think carefully about what someone who disagreed with you might say, what your critics' strongest objections would be, and respond to those.