1. "Some Basic Points about Arguments," James Rachels (RTD, #2)
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.
2. 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?
3. 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"?
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?
5. “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?
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
• 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 claimsthat "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, whattheory does she believe? Be able to explain which of the 5 claims really iscultural 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 to think that all cultures will share some moral values. What are some of these values that hethinks we all hold in common?
• 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?
• 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?