PHIL 2131 - Ethics Theory and Application
PHIL 2131 Ethics Theory and Application
Choose one of the following topics and write a single-spaced essay of at least 2000 words. Your introduction and conclusion, if any, should be no more than two sentences each. I discourage you from doing any research beyond extremely careful reading of the assigned texts. The goals of the exercise are 1) to demonstrate a precise understanding of the texts we have studied, and 2) to develop your ability to defend philosophical positions with arguments of your own. You should make extensive use of the texts by citing specific pages and, where appropriate, quoting. Give citations whenever you refer to someone else’s idea. Use any accepted citation format, but use it consistently. If you have any questions, please contact me via email or visit my virtual office hours.
BEWARE: YOU MUST RAISE AND RESPOND TO OBJECTIONS TO YOUR OWN POSITION OR YOUR GRADE WILL SUFFER SEVERELY. LATE PAPERS WILL BE PENALIZED
1. In what ways does Philippa Foot see evaluations of human good as similar to evaluations of plant and animal good? Are you persuaded by the parallel? Explain why or why not.
2. How does Aristotle distinguish between someone who performs virtuous actions and someone who is virtuous? Do you agree with him that we should strive to be virtuous (in his sense), not just to do the virtuous thing?
3. W. D. Ross believes that we have seven prima facie moral duties: fidelity, reparation, gratitude, justice, beneficence, self-improvement, and non-maleficence. Explain the difference between prima facie duties and all-things-considered (“actual”) duties. Do you accept the duties on Ross’s list or would you modify it? Ross also believes that our prima facie duties cannot be derived from any single moral principle. Do you agree? Why or why not? Justify your responses. If you disagree with Ross on a certain point, consider how he might respond and defend yourself against him. If you agree with him, consider how a critic might object and defend Ross against his critics.
4. I discourage outside research on all paper topics, especially this one. Begin by describing two cases from Judith Jarvis Thomson: Bystander at the Switch and (Bystander on the) Footbridge. Many people believe both 1) that flipping the switch is morally permissible; and 2) that pushing the big man off the footbridge is morally impermissible. Explain the philosophical problem (the Trolley Problem) that arises for anyone who holds this combination of beliefs. Then explain and evaluate Thomson’s solution (as of 1985; she’s changed her mind). In the course of doing so, you may wish to devise other scenarios to test solutions to the problem. You may also wish to state and defend your own position on the permissibility of various actions. For example, you might conclude that it is actually permissible, after all, to push the big man, or that it is actually impermissible, after all, to flip the switch. If you take either of these “unorthodox” positions, then you must still explain and evaluate Thomson’s solution, but you must also defend your own position and try to explain why relatively few people appear to agree with you.
Formatting: Compose in 12pt, Arial, single spaced and submit in DOCX, DOC, RTF, or PDF.
- (FE) The Fundamentals of Ethics
- Chs. 16-17
- (EL) The Ethical Life
- Ch. 11 Ross
- Ch. 12 Aristotle
Other Assigned Readings
- Philippa Foot, Natural Goodness
- Judith Jarvis Thomson - The Trolley Problem
Solution: PHIL 2131 - Ethics Theory and Application