Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Please read this:

Richard Feldman on “Simple Moral Arguments”:
Detailed summary OR OUTLINE of this written essay below due Monday:

John Corvino's written essay available here: Why Shouldn't Tommy and Jimmy Have Sex?: A Defense of Homosexuality. Online.

I will be looking for a better online version and post that asap. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Friday, February 22, 2013

For Monday and next week

For Monday, Feb 25, a very detailed summary of outline of Vaugh Ch. 3 and 4 will be due, online and in class.

Also please read this from the Chronicle of Higher Education: Please also read "Polishing Your Prose: How to refine your writing, word by word, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence". This is about how to make your writing clear, straightforward, efficient and easy to read writing.

Also, please carefully read EMP Ch. 3 and be prepared to discuss it. If students seem unprepared to discuss -- they are unable to answer basic questions about the readings - a summary of that will be due Wednesday. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Updates & News

Hello all,
I wanted to send out a reminder that you have been asked - a long time ago - to read Vaughn, Ch 1 & 2. I am concerned that perhaps some students have not done that.

For Monday, Feb 25, a detailed summary of outline of Vaugh Ch. 3 and 4 will be due.

This Friday there will be a quiz over everything covered thus far in the course, such as:
  • RTD Ch 1 and 2
  • EMP Ch. 1 and 2
  • Vaughn Ch 1 & 2
  • all handouts and everything else presented in class

The quiz will give you the opportunity to demonstrate that know and understand the various theories, arguments and concepts discussed in those chapters and presented in class lecture and discussion. I encourage you to make a detailed study guide concerning all the material. Working in groups on this might be very useful. For each reading, you will want to know and understand:
- each theory presented
- each argument presented
- every concept presented and discussed in class.  
- every case or example (e.g., Baby Theresa) understood: i.e., all the relevant facts of case known.

I will have a lot of work to give you back on Monday which, if you have time, you can pick up early between 11 and 12.

I have some concerns about many students' recent writing assignment concerning EMP Ch. 2. The concern is that many students did not directly answer the questions on the assignment and/or they did not answer them in a very clear or easy to understand manner. So, if someone read your paper to try to understand what Cultural Relativism is and the arguments for and against it, that person would have a hard time learning from your paper. [Also, part of this chapter was discussed in Vaughn, Ch. 1 as an example]. Also, there were sometimes serious grammatical and/or spelling errors: if you have that problem, you must address that for future success: please see the writing center.

About EMP Ch. 1, here's how they were graded:
5/5 = detailed outline/summary and complete: the whole chapter was covered, with each argument.
less than 5/5 = not detailed and/or not complete or deficient in some other manner.

More later!


Friday, February 15, 2013

Why study philosophy?

13 February 2013
Last update: 14/02/13 14:51
Stephen Law
More from Stephen
Philosophy students In the Spring 2013 issue of Think, Editor Dr. Stephen Law explains why choosing to study philosophy is a wise career move.
Philosophy is fascinating, which is one of the best reasons to study anything. But there are other good reasons to study philosophy, particularly at university. Here are three.
1. Transferable skills that employers value.
Many degree programmes focus on teaching facts to be memorized (teaching that can soon go out of date). Philosophy, on the other hand, focuses much more developing skills – skills that you will find valuable whatever your chosen path in life. These skills include:
The ability to cut through waffle
The ability to spot errors in reasoning
The ability to make a point with clarity and precision
The ability to analyze complex issues and arguments
The ability to think independently and creatively (to ‘think out of the box’)
The ability to build a strong, rigorous case.
Philosophy develops an approach to thinking and problem solving that employers value – particularly when it comes to the most interesting and rewarding careers.
2. Philosophy degree programmes produce some of the most intelligent and able university graduates.
The skills philosophy programmes generate translate into higher performance on standardized tests for graduate education (GRE, LSAT, GMAT, etc.), as well as success in the professional world. In the GRE tests of 3rd year degree majors (major = main subject studied) in the U.S.:
  • Philosophy majors rank FIRST among all majors on the verbal section of the GRE.  They even outperform those who take a degree in English.
  • Philosophy majors rank FIRST among all majors on the analytical section of the GRE. That’s predictable, given philosophy’s emphasis on analytical and critical thinking.
  • Philosophy majors rank FIRST among humanities majors and ninth among all majors on the quantitative (mathematical) section of the GRE.  Only students following programmes with a large mathematical component (e.g. maths and physics) scored better.
  • Philosophy majors ranked FIRST among all majors on the U.S. Law School Admissions Test.
3. ‘What can you do with a philosophy degree?’ ‘Anything you want.’
Philosophy graduates succeed across a very wide variety of professions, including Journalism, Law, Banking and Management.
‘I credit my success to my ability to logically think through problems and my writing skills, both items I attribute to my philosophy classes.’
Kim Feazle, Philosophy Graduate and Financial Analyst, Hill & Knowlton
‘When I went to law school, I was told by all my professors that they were going to teach me how to “think like a lawyer”.  I soon found out that I already knew how to do that; I had learned to do so as a philosophy major.’
John S. Paul, Philosophy Major and Attorney (Bryan, Texas)
‘I have been pursuing a top job at one of the leading investment banks in the world. This position was “short listed” to 150 people as interviews went on concurrently in various countries around the globe. At the end of the process, I received the offer and am now working in New York as a Senior Strategist at one of Wall Street’s leading firms. After accepting the offer, I asked the Board, who ultimately made the final decision, why I was chosen above the others. Without blinking an eye, the Head of the Strategic Hiring Committee stated a list of reasons, the very first of which was “Out of all the people we considered, you were the only one who studied Philosophy, not to mention having a Masters Degree in it. That told us immediately that you can think outside the box.” I have come to realize the answer to the question perpetually posed, “Philosophy? What are you going to do with that?” The correct response is “Absolutely anything you want”.’
Jordan Kotick, Vice-President J.P. Morgan, Wall Street

Monday, February 11, 2013

Today (2/11): finish EMP Ch. 1
Wed (2/13): EMP Ch 2, on cultural relativism or moral relativism
Friday (2/15): 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. Founder's Day Symposium and Town Hall

Monday: (2/18)
EMP Ch 2, continued" topics: female genital mutilation and polyamory
- read "What's culture got to do with it? Excising the harmful tradition of female circumcision," Harvard Law Review:
- Google these topics to learn more about them and for answers to these questions:

- what reasons are there to think that genital mutilation and/or polyamory are wrong?
- What reasons are there to think genital mutilation and/or polyamory are not wrong?

Wed: open/review (2/20)

Friday (2/22): quiz 1, on everything up to this point. :)

EMP Ch. 1 Notes

EMP Ch. 1 Notes

Discussion of Rachels Elements of Moral Philosophy Ch. 1
What is it to ‘Think Morally’?
“Morality is …”

Someone is “thinking morally” or engaged in “moral thinking” when:
(1) one is guiding one’s thought by reasons – the best reasons – and
(2) one gives equal weight to each individual who is affected by one’s actions.

Re. (1): reasons include (scientific, empirical) facts and moral principles.
Facts + Moral Principles = What to Do

Case 1: Baby Theresa L
· What’s her situation?
· What did her parents want to do? What were their reasons?

The parents' argument:
(3) If we can (a) benefit someone without (b) harming anyone else by doing action X, then action X is morally permissible.
(4) By taking Theresa’s organs we can (a) benefit others and (b) not harm anyone else.
(5) So, taking Teresa’s organs is morally permissible.

Is this arguments sound or not?

· What did “the critics” say” (p. 2)

(6) “It’s too horrifying to use people as means to other people’s ends.”
(7) “It’s unethical to kill in order to save, unethical to kill person A to save person B.”
(8) “The parents are saying we should kill the baby to use the organs. That’s horrendous!

These remarks are the basis of arguments. Are these arguments sound or not? If any of them are, then argument (3)-(5) is not sound.

Re. Remark (6):
(A) If someone is used as a means to another’s end, then that is wrong.
(B) Taking Teresa’s organs would be to use her as a means.
(C) So, it would be wrong to take her organs.

Is the argument valid? Are the premises true? (Are they somehow ambiguous or imprecise?)

Re. Remark (7):
(D) If person A is killed to save person B, then that’s wrong.
(E) To kill Teresa would be to kill her to save others.
(F) Therefore, it’s wrong to kill Teresa.

Is the argument valid? Are the premises true? (Are they somehow ambiguous or imprecise?)

Re. Remark (8): ?

Case 2: Jodie and Mary

· What’s their situation? What did her parents want to do? What did the hospital want to do? What were their reasons?
“Whose to decide?!” Asking this kind of question is often a way to avoid thinking about which arguments are best. (Also, it’s often unwise to ask rhetorical questions, since there might be good answer to them).

An argument:
(G) If we have a choice between saving one infant and letting both die, we should save one.
(H) We have such a choice.
(I) So we should save one.

Is the argument valid? Are the premises true?

Some critics say:

(J) If someone is an ‘innocent human life’, then they should never be killed.
(K) Mary is an innocent human life.
(L) Therefore, Mary should not be killed.

Is the argument valid? Are the premises true?

3rd Case: Tracy Latimer
· What’s her situation? (We need to think about the details..)
· What did her parents want to do? What were their reasons?

· What did their critics say?

Take note of:
· Feelings
· Require reasons
· Getting one’s (non-moral) facts straight: checking up on the empirical / scientific evidence
· Impartiality: differences in treatment are justified only by relevant differences in the person/being and in light of general moral principles; otherwise these are unjustified prejudices.

Friday, February 08, 2013


Hi all,
There will be no philosophical ethics class, today, this Friday. I am not feeling well and have to go to a doctor's appointment which conflicts with class. 
There is has been an assignment for Monday on the blog. That's still due Monday but we'll finish up EMP Ch 1 Monday. 
Thank you,

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Wednesday and Friday

Today and Friday we'll finish talking about EMP Ch. 1. 
If we have time, Friday we'll look at this short article on slippery slope arguments: 
"Cut the Fat! Defending Trans Fats Bans" by Nathan Nobis, Molly Gardner; 2010. The American Journal of Bioethics. 10(3):39 [PDF]

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

This week; reading and writing for next Monday

This week we will discuss the Elements of Moral Philosophy chapter 1.

For next week, please read Elements of Moral Philosophy chapter 2.

The week following, we will have a quiz on all the material covered so far. More details on this soon.

For Monday, Feb. 11, your assignment is to read EMP Ch 2 and write an essay, in your own words, that provides answers to these questions:
1. What is the moral theory known as 'cultural relativism' or moral relativism, according to Rachels?
2. What arguments, according to Rachels, are given to think that this theory is true?
3. What arguments, according to Rachels, are given to think that this theory is false?
4. Explain whether you think the theory is true or false and why. 

This essay should be entirely in your own words and based on your careful reading and attempting to understand Rachels. DO NOT SEARCH THE INTERNET FOR ANYTHING ON THIS TOPIC.

Like everything else, this should be submitted online through Turnitin and in hardcopy in class.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Improving your writing

Check this out, Tuesday, Feb 5 at 4 PM:

Gun Control

Professor Nobis is seeking philosophical or ethical readings on gun control here.

Friday, February 01, 2013

For Monday, two assignments are due:
1. EMP Ch 1, detailed summary.
2. Survey assignment (on blog, below).
Make sure you have carefully read the syllabus and know all the relevant procedures, please.