Life, the Universe, and Everything

A Course Blog for GET1029/GEK1067

Category: Morality (page 1 of 3)

Quiz 04 Debrief

The outcome is ok (median = 5), but many more of you were thrown off by Questions 6 and 7 than we originally anticipated. Click through to see…

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Argument by Moral Analogy

Some of you have noticed how Norcross’ Puppy Argument, Singer’s Drowning Child Argument, and what I called Huemer’s “Sam” Argument share the same overall argumentative strategy. This a post about that overall strategy.

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The Concorde Project, and other Stuff

Something mentioned in the Singer reading, and likely unfamiliar to the young ones…

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What Are The Most Important Moral Problems of Our Time?

Math with Infinity

Consider again the standard Trolley Problem where by switching the rails, you can save five people from certain death by allowing the trolley to crash into one. Supposedly, most people think that switching the rails in the scenario is at least permissible, if not obligatory. Utilitarians have a straightforward way to explain the judgment–the five lives are worth more than the one, five times as much, in fact (assuming that each of the lives involved is worth about the same).

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Quiz 03 Hints

  • Question 4

Added a clarifying note to Options A and B–basically, you only need to figure out if Josh was at least objecting to the mentioned premise, not whether he is successful, or non-question begging, in his attack, etc.) Someone asked for help re: Option C. Ok, here’s how you can break it down:

  • A Utilitarian (who previously believes that the Utilitarian Argument against the consumption of factory-farmed meat is sound),
  • but who now agrees with Josh,
  • will have to stop believing that the Utilitarian Argument against the consumption of factory-farmed meat is sound,
  • if she wants to have consistent beliefs.

Another student asks if it makes a difference that Josh’s argument is about whether one should support the existence of factory-farms, while the Utilitarian Argument against the consumption of factory-farmed meat. Yes, these aren’t exactly the same things. But that doesn’t mean the things that Josh said aren’t relevant. You can still think whether what he said constitutes an attack on one of the premises of the Utilitarian Argument against consuming factory-farmed meat, or whether it attacks a premise of the Puppy Argument, or whether a Utilitarian who agrees with Josh would have to abandon the Utilitarian Argument against the consumption of factory-farmed meat, or whether a Utilitarian who agrees with Josh would have to say that shutting down factory-farms is morally wrong, etc.

  • Question 5

Read Norcross carefully–and don’t conflate issues to do with whether a being can be a moral agent with issues to do with whether it can be a moral patient, even though some creatures can be both. (Someone can be both tall and studious; but the basis for the two qualities are quite different.) And if you want to up the stakes a bit to “which of the above statement(s) is/are definitely true?” just to help yourselves focus, that’s fine too. Update: Made a small edit to Statement I–please make sure to check it out. Also, just in case people think too much–you can read Norcross’ talk about “suffering” basically in terms of “experiencing pain” (this pretty much follows from the Hedonism…)

  • Question 8

Read Norcross carefully. Some of the relevant passages are on p. 233.

Quiz 02 Debrief

The overall results improved from the last quiz, from 3.71 to 4.15–good job! There’s still a lot of headroom to grow, of course. But I think many of you are beginning to acclimatize. Click through to see…


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W04 Q/A

The questions pertaining to Norcross and Lomasky will be in the next post. First, some questions concerning arguments:

must premises be before conclusion for the whole thing to be an argument

When we express arguments in words, there are ways to do so putting the conclusion statement in front, in the middle, and at the end–all this is possible as long as you know how to use the usual words we use to mark premises and conclusions, e.g., “because…”, “since” (marking what follows as a premise), “therefore”, “thus” (marking what follows as a conclusion). Nonetheless, by convention, when we formulate an argument explicitly in premise conclusion form, e.g.,

  • Premise 1: …
  • Premise 2: …
  • ——————–
  • Conclusion: …

Then you should put the premises on top, and the conclusion below. Some extra fussy people will also insist upon a line in between the premises and conclusion. Other extra fussy people may also demand that you mark out exactly how the statements relate to each other–which can be useful in more complex, multi-move arguments (the above is basically just one simple argument–“single move” from premises to the conclusion). We might see some of that later in the semester.

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Doctrine of Double Effect

Technically, this isn’t part of the syllabus and all you need to know about it is some very basic stuff–just like Virtue Ethics. The typical question in which DDE shows up will test you on whether you can at least see that someone is trying to invoke it–whether successful or not, whether the doctrine itself is even true–stuff that’s already in Norcross . But if you want a more fine grain break down, here is is. (Do keep in mind that most of the below is optional as far as the syllabus is concerned.)

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Quiz 02 Hints

  • Question 1

General advice that applies to all the questions–if you haven’t, read this.

  • Question 2

Note, Questions 2-3 continue the story from Question 1–but otherwise, everything you really need can be found inside the questions themselves. Hint: Did either of them present an argument against the other person’s moral theory?  Also, reminder that when you present an argument against something, you do have to present an argument the conclusion of which contradicts that something. If you are not sure what an argument is, check out “A Short Lesson on Arguments and Logic”. Also, no need to worry about the strength of their arguments–as long as they have an argument, against the correct target.

  • Question 3

A moral theorist (e.g., a Deontologist or Consequentialist) can believe in all sorts of interesting descriptive theories about the world–but presumably, those theories aren’t strictly speaking, part of her moral theory. To give an example. Hedonic Utilitarians count pleasure and pain as the determinants of the best consequences for the world. But the fact that one such Utilitarian believes that animals can feel pain and another one disagrees doesn’t make either of them not a Hedonic Utilitarian.

  • Question 4

Don’t overthink this–it’s easier than it looks.

  • Question 5

See my advice for Question 1. And get clear on definitions!

  • Question 6

The DDE isn’t part of this story. For Option C, keep in mind that you are basically comparing implementing the prototype vs not doing so, and the option is talking about the scenario where doing so will increase overall happiness compared to the alternative. (I’ll make that clear in an edit.)

  • Question 7

It’s ok to read “true moral rules” = “true moral norms”. For IV–Imagine a world in which the only true moral rules are X, Y and Z. And it also happens to the the case that when people comply with X, Y and Z, it generally leads to the best outcomes . Question now is this—in such a world, do consequences of actions matter to the moral evaluation of actions for the Deontologist?

  • Question 8

See my advice for Question 1. And get clear on definitions!

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