March 8, 2008

March 11 reading and paper assignment for March 13

Read pages 304 to 347 in Weston. Use the helps he gives at the end of the chapters to review the material and make sure you have it clearly in mind for the quiz.

Also, the discussion of an ethically important situation is due on Thursday. Here are the guidelines:

Length: 900-1200 words. Submit by email, pasting your account into the body of your email. Don't send attachments.

1. Begin with an straight factual account of the situation, "Under-age kids drink too much on weekends," "Established groups are sometimes cruel to newcomers," "Beef farmers are needlessly cruel to animals" or "different career choices can make very different contributions to the world, and it is hard to figure out which one is most responsible or best." . Try to get the situation in one sentence, and then go on to explain the facts of the matter: who is involved, how are they involved. Include everything you know that might help understand what is going on and who might be responsible for it or capable of making bad parts of the situation better. Make it clear what interests are in play and also what basic needs or legitimate expectations may be slighted or ignored, within the situation you are describing.

2. Read over the list of morally important questions, and choose some -- maybe just one, maybe several -- that seem to you to apply to the situation you are describing, and discuss how that question applies, how it might be answered. If you can think of more than one reasonable or plausible way of answering the question, say so, and think about the arguments for each answer and also think about how you ultimately, all things considered, would want to answer the question.

This assignment will be preliminary to some further work with the situation you have chosen.

If you would like to meet, I should have some time Monday morning and Wednesday. Please send an email so that we can work out a time.

March 7, 2008

Questions for Analysis

Here' s the list of questions we have generated so far: Download file

March 5, 2008

Values and Language - Thursday, March 6

Please review the question list and think about the issues raised by the Lauren Guzaskis video. Make notes and have opinions on which if any of the questions on the list apply to Lauren's situation. Write a sentence or short paragraph explaining your basic opinion about the moral dimensions of this situation. If you think it has no moral dimension, say why. If you think that someone has a responsibility to make this kind of situation better, explain who and why. We'll use that as the opening exercise.

There's an ethics colloquium on Wednesday night at 7 to which you are warmly invited. Cookies will be served. I will give extra credit for attending. Here are the details:

Announcing the Green Colloquium Series
“Move Electrons, Not Mammals�

On Wednesday, March 5, at 7 pm, in Old Main 06, a group will gather to watch a talk by cognitive psychologist Daniel Kahneman, who received the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics. The title of the talk: “Explorations of the Mind: Well Being.� Kahneman has demonstrated that there are important differences between people’s reports about the quality of an experience as it is happening and their reports looking back. (He also thinks about the unreliability of people’s views about what will be satisfying or unsatisfying.)

Ethics and political philosophy take human consequences seriously, asking “How will it affect people, if I do this action, if we change this rule, if we construct this new institution?� Kahneman shows that different plausible ways of measuring human happiness give radically different answers to such questions.

There will be cookies – and a doorprize.

(To preview the talk, search Google Video: well being, psychology.)

February 23, 2008

Reading for Tuesday, February 26

Read pages 223-261 in the Ethical Toolbox. Pay particular attention to pages 245-261, on judging like cases alike.

In Blink, read "Seven Seconds in the Bronx," 189-245.

We will discuss the writing assignment a bit on Tuesday. We may need to push the deadline back a bit on this one, to give time for adequate preparation.

Be ready for a quiz on the readings, as usual.

February 20, 2008

Clifford's Ethics of Belief - for Thursday

In the early chapters of Weston, he discusses various stances that are opposed to ethical thinking -- either attitudes that dismiss it or arguments that seek to show that ethical thinking unnecessary. One of the most basic questions about such stances is the matter of the ethics of belief -- what are the requirements for morally justified belief? The following article addresses this question: Download file

February 16, 2008

Reading for Tuesday, February 19

Please read through page 54 in the Ethical Toolbox and be able to summarize the main points and arguments. Pay particular attention to the material in the shaded boxes.

Weston gives in these pages a clear sense of what he finds valuable about moral thinking, and about thinking generally, by contrasting such thinking with dismissals of various kinds and with unreflective living. Try to understand his reasons for rejecting "doing what comes naturally" and also various intellectual moves -- like relativism and appeal to religious certainty -- that attempt to forestall or foreclose ethical thinking.

February 13, 2008


Welcome to the course. Here is the syllabus: Download file