Your average scores are increasing–good job! If you are still struggling with the quizzes, please do reach out to your tutors to see how you can improve. Click through to see… (Question 8 now updated.)

• Question 1

Option A. Most of you (85%) got this–good!

Remember that the question is asking which of the statements is false?

Josh is basically putting forward the Rationality Objection against the Utilitarian Argument (see W04 Slide #15). Cain is claiming that the objection proves too little (it fails to capture cases we intuitively agree should be counted, e.g., if rationality is really the deciding factor, then it shouldn’t be permissible for us to eat those Brussian spy-chickens), not that it proves too much (e.g., by giving the result that it’s permissible to eat a human being who has gone senile; see Slide #17). So only the first part of Option A is true, the second part is false–making the statement false as a whole.

The Rationality Objection basically targets Premise 2 of the Utilitarian Argument. But it need not be anti-Consequentialist. For instance, the Objection is compatible with a Consequentialism which does not measure the goodness of outcomes in terms of overall happiness of the world (i.e., Utilitarianism). Finally, just because Cain disagrees with the Rationality Objection it doesn’t mean that he is Vegetarian–there are plenty of possibilities. For instance, (a) Cain only eats non-factory farmed meat, (b) Cain eats factory farmed meat because he thinks the Ethics of Care Objection is successful against the utilitarian argument, (c) Cain is hypocritical, or just too weak-willed to do what he himself believes is the right thing to do, etc.

• Question 2

Option D. Almost all of you (96%) got this–very good!

Josh is basically putting forward the “Ethics of Care Objection”, which is anticipated by Norcross (pp. 235-236). So Option A is false. The objection targets Premise 2 of the Utilitarian Argument, not Premise 1 (see W04 Slide #15). So Option B is also false.

• Question 3

Option D. Most of you (79%) got it–very good!

Option A is incorrect because Nocross’s Argument doesn’t rely on one’s acceptance of any moral theory, just one’s intuitions on the wrongness of torturing puppies. Same goes for Option B. Option C is incorrect because Ziwei’s argument is missing Premise 2 of the Puppy Argument. Only Option D is correct.

• Question 4

We will accept both Options A, B, C, D (27% selected this) and Options A, C, D (34% selected this). Several of you wrote in to point out that Josh isn’t targeting the consumption of factory-farmed meat, but the very industry itself. This is correct. But it doesn’t mean that the things he says don’t have implication for the Utilitarian Argument against the consumption of factory-farmed meat. In fact, part of what he says is a rather direct attack on a premise of that argument. Don’t forget that Josh said this:

And what’s more, the overall happiness derived from there being plentiful meat because of factory-farming is far greater than the overall unhappiness caused, e.g., among activists against the existence of these farms or because of environmental degradation, and so on. Worse still, shutting down the farms will result in a massive loss of overall happiness!

Premise 1 of the Utilitarian Argument against the consumption of factory-farmed meat says “If one consumes factory-farmed meat, one supports the creation of more misery than happiness.” But if what Josh says is true, then, it’s not true that factory farming creates more misery than happiness. In which case, it’s no longer true that when one consumes factory-farmed meat, one is doing something that supports the creation of more misery than happiness. Hence, Option A is correct–Josh is attacking one of the premises of the Utilitarian Argument against consuming factory-farmed meat, specifically, Premise 1.

For parallel reasons, Option C is also correct. A Utilitarian that agrees with Josh would have to concede that Premise 1 of the Utilitarian Argument against the consumption of factory-farmed meat is false, and so have to abandon that argument.

Option D is correct since Josh’s statements lead to an even stronger claim that factory-farmed animals experience more happiness than unhappiness. If we didn’t farm these animals to be eaten, they wouldn’t exist, which leads to an overall net decrease in happiness. The utilitarian thus has to say that shutting down factory farms is wrong.

This leaves Option B. In the end, we decided that Option B was not sufficiently un-ambiguous. Premise 1 of the Puppy Argument says “If it’s wrong to torture puppies for gustatory pleasure, it’s wrong to support factory farming.” Now technically, the truth of this statement doesn’t have to turn on Utilitarian reasoning. That is, one can both agree with Josh but still insist on accepting Premise 1 of the Puppy Argument. But all that is also compatible with taking Josh to be–rather inaptly, but nonetheless sincerely–”attacking” the Premise by arguing that since the factory-farmed animals’ lives are still (on average) more happy than unhappy, their fate is thus very different from the fate of Fred’s puppies–making the (sincere but unwarranted) assumption that the difference in net happiness is the sort of morally relevant difference that will rule out Premise 1 of the Puppy Argument being true. Since this is more “messy” that we really prefer, I would rather that we err on the side of caution and give both students who chose Option B and those who didn’t get the point.

Currently, the quiz is coded to accept Options A, B, C, D as the correct answer. Those who selected Options A, C, D will also get their point–but I will need to update Gradebook for that. Please be patient.

• Question 5

Option A (i.e., only Statement II). 42% got this.

You should read the two pages from Norcross (pp. 243-244). See also my summary points on Slide #17:

Moral agents—it morally matters how they act.

Moral patients—it morally matters how they are treated.

Put another way, if you are a moral agent, then, it’s at least rationally possible for you to be morally praised or blamed for your behavior. In contrast, if you are a moral patient, then, it is at least rationally possible for something else to be morally praised or blamed for treating you a certain way. Note that putting the two together, you can deduce that the “something else” in the previous sentence would have to refer to a moral agent.

In the reading, Norcross basically states that the capacity to engage in moral reasoning is at least a necessary condition for moral agency. In contrast, the capacity to suffer–i.e., to feel pain–is his go to basis for being a moral patient. And importantly, Norcross argues that the two statuses are distinct from each other–you aren’t a moral patient just because you are a moral agent, for instance, even though some beings can be both agents and patients.

With the above in mind, Statement I is false since the passage provides no evidence that Gardenia has the capacity to feel pain. We didn’t as much as hear an “ouch” from Gardenia (and even if we did, there might still be a problem–we can wait for W10 to get to that). A big group of you–40%–were mislead by this one.

Statement II is true because the information provided suggests that Gardenia is capable of moral reasoning, which is at least evidence that he (she? it?) is a moral agent. But this is really moot since all the options include this statement 😀

Statement III is false because whether Luna is rationally liable to be morally praised or blamed for killing Gardenia depends not only on whether Gardenia is a moral patient, but also on whether Luna is a moral agent. If Luna is not a moral agent, then the behavior can’t be morally blameworthy. But we can’t really tell if Luna is a moral agent–we don’t even know if Luma is capable of moral reasoning. You might think that Gardenia is trying to reason with Luna–maybe. But the outcome is entirely compatible with the whole exercise being akin to you trying to persuade your laptop to not run the system update now using moral arguments. Similarly, Statement IV is false for related reasons. After all, Luna could either be a moral agent or a non-moral agent which has “no reason to kill Gardenia”.

• Question 6

Option D. Most of you (82%) got this–good!

Tess claims that the meat-eaters will derive as much pleasure from eating non-animal products as they do eating meat, but her inference does not follow since Lomasky could argue that the promotion of fake meat reduces overall animal happiness by creating less animal lives. So Tess’ claims about the Inconceivable Burger, even if true, can go together with Lomaskt’s Utilitarian Argument being sound. Abe is wrong for similar reasons. Granted the “additional costs to health and the environment induced by factory-farming” and that “switching to meat substitutes will help reduce those costs”, it doesn’t follow that factory-farming produces more misery than happiness.

• Question 7

Option B. Most of you (84%) got this–good!

(For the Doctrine of Double Effect, see Norcross, 234; if you need a bit more help, feel free to see https://blog.nus.edu.sg/fortytwo/2020/09/04/doctrine-of-double-effect/ as well.)

Statement I is an incorrect application of the DDE. For example, for the case to be a proper application of the DDE, the good effect must not be produced by means of the bad effect. But presumably, the suffering of the hostages is exactly the means to achieve the intended outcomes! And so on. There’s also a “short cut” (or “short circuit”) reasoning that will rule out Statement I–the DDE as Norcross discusses it is not compatible with the strict interpretation of Deontology we introduced since it takes the goodness of the outcomes into consideration in evaluating the morality of actions. Statement II, on the other hand, is correct–pretty much definitionally.

Based on a true story, by the way .

• Question 8

We will accept both Options B and D.

Almost all can see that Option A is false–because as far as Norcross is concerned, his argument can still work even if factory-farmed animals are less (or more) morally significant than human beings–so long as the harm risked is enormous enough (and the animals are moral patients). The problem is with Option B. In the end, we thought that it’s more arguable than we prefer.

Reasoning for accepting Option BNorcross’ relies on our intuition that it’s morally wrong to take a small risk (which may materialize into an enormous harm)–and to him, the harms of factory-farming are already enormous enough. The relevant passage is:

A one in ten thousand chance of saving 250,000 chickens per year from excruciating lives is morally and mathematically equivalent to the certainty of saving 25 chickens per year. We commonly accept that even small risks of great harms are unacceptable. That is why we disapprove of parents who fail to secure their children in car seats or with seat belts, who leave their small children unattended at home, or who drink or smoke heavily during pregnancy. Or consider commercial aircraft safety measures. The chances that the oxygen masks, the lifejackets, or the emergency exits on any given plane will be called on to save any lives in a given week, are far smaller than one in ten thousand. And yet we would be outraged to discover that an airline had knowingly allowed a plane to fly for a week with nonfunctioning emergency exits, oxygen masks, and lifejackets. So, even if it is true that your giving up factory raised chicken has only a tiny chance of preventing suffering, given that the amount of suffering that would be prevented is in inverse proportion to your chance of preventing it, your continued consumption is not thereby excused.

But this just means that if there is some other course of action risks at least as much harm, he would also agree that it’s morally wrong for us to do that as well. After all, what applies in one case applies in the other as well.

Reasoning against accepting Option B–it depends on the way we read Norcross’ overall intentions. There are two ways to think about it. The first is the one above, where Norcross’ reply citing risk of harm is meant to stand by itself as giving a reason for the moral wrongness of the action. His language is certainly suggestive. But there’s also a second possibility. That is, Norcross’ reply citing risk of harm isn’t meant to stand by itself, but only as replying to the causal impotence objection, while keeping fix independent reasons for why consuming factory-farmed meat is wrong. If this is so, then, then those of you who thought that we don’t have enough information to conclude is being reasonable.

Since the vast majority selected Option D, I will make that the ‘correct answer’ and give the mark to the minority who selected Option B in the backend. This will take some work so please be patient.