In Chapter 8, Section E, you read about Aristotle’s virtue ethics. Provide your own evaluation/analysis of virtue ethics AS a moral theory by referencing 2 specific claims/points made by Aristotle in the excerpt included in our text. In your response, you may wish to address some of these questions: Do you find virtue ethics to be a practical moral theory? Do you think most people are capable of living as Aristotle suggests we should? What advantages do you find in the theory? What disadvantages?
In Section B of Chapter 8, you read about moral relativism (also called moral subjectivism). After watching the video below, explain any problems you see with regard to accepting moral relativism, and then discuss at least 2 specific points from the Gilbert Harman reading in our text that you either agree or disagree with; explain why. Finally, ARE you a moral relativist or a moral absolutist? Defend your position.
“What is Ethical Relativism?” YouTube, uploaded by Philo-notes, 11 Dec. 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzravIHX2aI. Accessed 3 June 2020.
Obligations toward Others
In Section C of Chapter 8, you read about egoism and altruism. Peter Singer, who appears in the video below, is a contemporary utilitarian (utilitarians favor an altruistic view) who argues that we should use our disposable income to help others, including the poor in countries other than our own. Tara Smith, whom you read in Chapter 8, discusses egoism, a view that opposes altruism. After watching the video below and reading the Smith text in Chapter 8, respond to the following questions: What is one point from the video that resonated with you and why? What is one point from the Smith reading that resonated with you and why? Explain your stance toward both egoism and altruism. Be specific; provide reasons and examples for your position(s).
Peter Singer – Effective Altruism, an Introduction. YouTube video file. [4:38]. Science, Technology & the Future. 2014, Aug 28. youtu.be/IZgItfi4eJ4
The Trolley Problem
Watch the below video version of the trolley problem, a well-known moral dilemma analyzed from a utilitarian perspective.
The first version of the problem is sometimes called the “switch dilemma.” This is based upon the idea of a runaway trolley which is moving down the tracks toward five people who will be killed if it the trolley continues on its present course. You are a bystander and can save these five people by pulling a switch and diverting the trolley onto a different set of tracks. The added problem is that this switch will place the trolley on a different track that has only one person on it; however, if you pull the switch that person will be killed. Is it morally permissible to divert the trolley and prevent five deaths at the cost of one? Most people say it is, regardless of culture, gender, ethnicity, religion, or nationality.
Next we have what is sometimes called the “footbridge dilemma.” In this case, the trolley is again headed for five people. However, you are now standing on a footbridge over the tracks. Leaning over the side of the bridge is a very fat man (fat enough to stop the trolley). You are standing next to him on the footbridge and realize that the only way to stop the trolley and save the five people is to push this man off the footbridge and onto the tracks. Is that morally permissible? Most people say it is not, regardless of culture, gender, ethnicity, religion, or nationality.
Answer the following: What is your own moral analysis of these two cases? Provide reasons to justify your position(s). If you agree with the majority of people regarding these two cases, then what makes it acceptable to sacrifice one person to save five others in the switch dilemma but not in the footbridge case? If you disagree with the majority of people regarding these cases, what explanation do you offer?
NB: In this thread, students often say what they would or wouldn’t do, could or couldn’t do, and then explain their feelings related to their choice (e.g. ‘I would pull the lever in the first scenario, but I could never push the man off the bridge because I would feel too guilty.’ Or ‘I would push the lever because I wouldn’t have to touch anybody, but I couldn’t push the man off the bridge because I wouldn’t want to directly murder someone.’) But a moral analysis is an analysis about why an action might be moral or immoral, with reasons. While we of course have emotional responses in considering what to do, such responses do not reason about the morality of an action. So, in your response, do not answer the question ‘how would you feel about each scenario?’ but rather ‘what would be the morally right action in each scenario?’
And just for fun, here’s a clip from The Good Place dealing with the trolley problem (and if you haven’t watched The Good Place, you should!):
“The Trolley Problem.” [2:14] YouTube, uploaded by Patrick Donovan, 7 Feb 2008, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fs0E69krO_Q. Accessed August 15 2019.
“The Trolley Problem. The Good Place.” [3:17] YouTube, uploaded by Comedy Bites, 28 Jan 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtRhrfhP5b4 Accessed March 28, 2020.
The Categorical Imperative
Watch this Crash Course Philosophy video on Kant’s categorical imperative.
Then, demonstrate your understanding of Kant’s categorical imperative by considering the following scenarios. In your post, do the following:
State the maxim that would be created in each situation
Explain how you believe a good Kantian would respond. Include reasons for your answers; in other words, instead of simply saying ‘a Kantian would respond thusly’ explain WHY you think a Kantian would respond that way.
Scenario 1: You want to cheat on an exam in one of your courses.
Scenario 2: You want to lie to a friend about your dislike for her romantic partner to avoid hurting her feelings.
“Kant & Categorical Imperatives: Crash Course Philosophy #35.” [10:26] YouTube, uploaded by CrashCourse, 14 Nov 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bIys6JoEDw. Accessed 15 August 2019.
Gender and Moral Thinking
Watch the below in which Carol Gilligan discusses differences in moral thinking between men and women. Then answer the following questions: What differences does she describe? How do they relate to what you have learned about the ethics and gender in Section J of Chapter 8? In your response, include specific references to points made in the reading in our text by Virginia Held.
“Carol Gilligan on Women and Moral Development.” [6:30]. YouTube, uploaded by Big Think, 23 April 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2W_9MozRoKE. Accessed August 15 2019.
At the beginning of the course, you read two pieces about the value of studying, or doing, philosophy (Bertrand Russell’s essay “The Value of Philosophy” and Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s article “Why Study Philosophy? To Challenge Your Own Point of View’”). Now that you are finishing a course in philosophy, read the article “Why We Should Require All Students to Take 2 Philosophy Courses” and answer the following: What reasons does Howard Gardner, the author of the article, offer for his argument that everyone should be required to take philosophy courses? Do you agree with his argument? Why or why not? And regardless of whether you agree that philosophy should be required, what have you gained/learned from taking a course in philosophy?
Gardner, Howard. “Why We Should Require All Students to Take 2 Philosophy Courses.” Chronicle Vitae. https://chroniclevitae.com/news/2078-why-we-should-require-all-students-to-take-2-philosophy-courses?cid=VTEVPMSED1. Accessed 23 August 2018.