Philosophy 1200 - Philosophy and Society

Readings and Reading Questions


Unless otherwise noted, page numbers are to Boonin and Oddie's What's Wrong?: Applied Ethicists and Their Critics.

Below each entry are the "reading questions" for that reading. Keep them in mind as you are doing the reading, and write down in your reading notes the answers to them. This will help you immensely on the quizzes.

  1. Marquis, "Why Abortion Is Immoral," pp. 68-76.

    1. According to Marquis, what do most philosophers affiliated with secular institutions of higher education believe about the anti-abortion position?
    2. The purpose of Marquis' essay is to develop a general argument for the claim that _____________________ .
    3. According to Marquis, in order to resolve the abortion controversy, what do we need an account of?
    4. According to Marquis, why would it be wrong for me to kill you?
    5. What does Marquis' theory of the wrongness of killing imply about killing children and infants, and why?
    6. What is the desire account of the wrongness of killing, what does it imply about the morality of abortion, and why?
    7. Why does Marquis think the desire account is mistaken?
    8. Does Marquis think that his position on abortion commits him to the claim that contraception is wrong?
    9. On what claim does Tooley base his rejection of the anti-abortion position?
    10. What do you think Marquis might mean by 'prima facie wrong'?

  2. Boonin and Oddie, section 4.3 from their Introduction, pp. 17-20.

    1. According to Boonin and Oddie, arguments from "inference to the best explanation" extract a general lesson from some uncontroversial cases and then apply that lesson to a controversial case. They describe Marquis' argument as one such argument. What, according to Boonin and Oddie, are three uncontroversial cases that Marquis begins with.
    2. What is the general lesson that Marquis extracts from these cases?
    3. How does that general lesson apply to abortion, according to Marquis?

  3. Paske, "Abortion and the Neo-Natal Right to Life," pp. 77-83.

    1. As Paske understands the notion of being a person, is every member of our species a person? Explain.
    2. As Paske understands the notion of being a person, could there be persons who are not members of our species? Explain.
    3. Name three things that only persons can do, according to Paske?
    4. What, according to Paske, is the main reason it is wrong to kill an adult?
    5. Briefly summarize Paske's argument against Marquis' Future-Like-Ours Theory based on the example of murdering the elderly.
    6. What does Marquis' Future-Like-Ours Theory imply about the case of the kitten that Paske thinks is mistaken?
    7. On Paske's view, is what makes it wrong to kill adults also what makes it wrong to kill newborns?
    8. Why, according to Paske, it is wrong to kill a newborn?

  4. Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion," pp. 95-105.

    1. According to Thomson, the most common argument for the claim that the fetus is a person is based on the fact that the development of a human being from conception through birth is continuous, and so to choose a point in this development to be the point at which the fetus becomes a person is to make an arbitrary choice. Explain briefly why she thinks this is a bad argument.
    2. In her defense of abortion, what is Thomson prepared to grant about the fetus?
    3. Thomson thinks that if anything in the world is true, it is that you do not do what is impermissible if you ________________ .
    4. Thomson thinks that the right to life consists in the right not to be killed ______ .
    5. Thomson discusses the possibility that, if a woman who voluntarily engages in intercourse is in part responsible for the presence of the unborn person inside her, then her aborting it would be more like what imaginary case and less like what other imaginary case?
    6. What do you think Thomson's "people-seeds" case is supposed to show?
    7. Does Thomson think it is ever wrong to detach a person from your body at the cost of his life? What (as Thomson discusses) does this suggest about abortion in cases of rape?
    8. In her discussion of the sort of Samaritan morality requires us to be, Thomson discusses what she describes as a gross injustice in the existing state of the law. What is it?
    9. Thomson discusses a potential disanalogy between unwanted pregnancy and the case of the violinist: namely, that the woman in the case of unwanted pregnancy has, and you in the case of the violinist lack, a special kind of responsibility. From what does this special responsibility issue?
    10. In response to this objection, Thomson claims that we do not have any such special responsibility unless what?

  5. Boonin and Oddie, section 4.1 from their Introduction, pp. 10-13.

    1. In one sentence, what does an argument by analogy attempt to do?
    2. What are the two main ways arguments by analogy can be criticized?
    If one wishes to object to an argument by analogy by identifying a disanalogy between the two cases involved, what two things must one establish?
    4. What is the name Boonin and Oddie give to the method we can use to decide of some difference between two cases is a morally relevant difference?

  6. Beckwith, "Arguments from Bodily Rights," pp. 108-114 (pay special attention to the first, third, and fourth objections).

    1. Which claim of Thomson's is Beckwith's example of the father who refuses to pay child support meant to undermine?
    2. What does Schwarz (whose views Beckwith discusses) think is the main difference between the violinist case and a case of pregnancy?
    3. What does Levin (whose views Beckwith discusses) think is the main difference between the violinist case and a case of pregnancy?

  7. Norcross, "Puppies, Pigs, and People: Eating Meat and Marginal Cases," Philosophical Perspectives 18 (2004): 229-245.

    Sections 1-3:

    1. What general type of argument would you say Norcross is making in the first section of his paper? (It's a type we've read about and given a name to.)
    2. What is the first potentially morally-relevant difference between Fred's behavior and the behavior of meat-eaters that Norcross discusses?
    3. Even if your refraining from eating meat didn't prevent any animal suffering (because the choices of one individual can't affect such a big industry), would Norcross still think it wrong not to so refrain?
    4. What is the name of the doctrine that distinguishes between results that are intended and those that are merely foreseen side-effects of an action? Why does Fred act impermissibly, according to this doctrine?
    5. What is the last potentially morally-relevant difference between Fred's behavior and the behavior of meat-eaters that Norcross discusses (in the second section of the paper)?
    6. One way to interpret Norcross' main argument is as follows:
         P1. What Fred does is morally wrong.
         P2. What Fred does is morally on a par with supporting factory farming.
         C. Therefore, supporting factory farming is morally wrong.
    In section 3 of his paper, which premise is Norcross imagining his opponent denying?

  8. Cohen, "The Case for the Use of Animals is Biomedical Research," New England Journal of Medicine 315 (1986): 865-870.

    1. According to Cohen, on what two grounds is using animals as research subjects in medical investigations widely condemned?
    2. According to Cohen, rights arise and can be intelligibly defended only among what sorts of being?
    3. Name three human attributes Cohen mentions from which some philosophers have maintained have rights arises?
    4. Cohen thinks animals have no right because ___________ .
    5. In conducting research on animal subjects, do we violate their rights, according to Cohen?
    6. Does Cohen think we are morally free to do anything we please to animals?
    7. Briefly, what is the first objection Cohen discusses to his claim that animals have no right because they cannot grasp and apply moral laws?
    8. True or False: Cohen thinks that the ability to communicate and to reason marks the critical divide between humans and animals.
    9. According to Jeremy Bentham, the question is not ________, nor ________, but ________?
    10. What is speciesism?
    11. To what does Peter Singer compare speciesism?
    12. Is Cohen a speciesist?
    13. From Cohen's reading, what do you think utilitarianism is?
    14. According to Cohen one cannot coherently object to the killing of animals in biomedical investigations while continuing to do what to them?

  9. Norcross, "Puppies, Pigs, and People: Eating Meat and Marginal Cases," Philosophical Perspectives 18 (2004): 229-245.

Sections 4-6:

7. What feature does a fetus have in common with an adult human that makes it, according to John Noonan, just as seriously wrong to kill a fetus as it is to kill an adult human?
8. What do defenders of the view that humans have a superior moral status to animals need to find in order to establish the view that humans have a superior moral status to animals?
9. Norcross quotes several philosophers who defend the view that it is rationality that separates humans from other animals. List three traits that are mentioned by one or more of these philosophers as being among those that are involved in being rational.
10. According to Norcross, the view that a creature's moral status depends upon whether it is rational implies that we may use what sorts of human beings in experiments and as food.
11. What is the second response that Norcross considers to his argument from marginal cases?
12. Explain the distinction between a moral agent and a moral patient, as your understand it.

  1. LaFollette, "Licensing Parents," pp. 340-347.

    1. What is LaFollette's thesis?
    2. According to LaFollette, what three features of driving a car have makes it appropriate for the state to require a licence to do it.
    3. According to LaFollette, to whom is parenting potentially very harmful?
    4. What is LaFollette's conditional way of formulating the right to have children?
    5. True or False: LaFollette concedes that denying a parenting license to someone who is not competent does violate their right to have children.
    6. Briefly, how does LaFollette reply to the objection involving the idea of prior restraint?
    7. In a sentence, what do all the "practical objections" to parent licensing claim?
    8. What is the difference between the third and fourth practical objections to parent licensing that LaFollette considers?
    9. To what common practice does LaFollette appeal to show that the idea of parent licensing isn't as radical as it seems?
    10. Why does LaFollette think most of us find the idea of parent licensing unpalatable?

  2. Frisch, "On Licentious Licensing," pp. 348-352.

    1. TRUE or FALSE: Frisch denies that the regulation of hazardous activities is important for a stable society.
    2. TRUE or FALSE: Frisch denies that parenting a potentially hazardous activity.
    3. According to Frisch, why do societies undertake licensing?
    4. TRUE or FALSE: Frisch denies that licensing parenting would do much to protect children from bad parenting.

  3. Lemieux, "Parent Licensing," pp. 352-354.

    1. Do you think Lemieux would be inclined to deny that the regulation of hazardous activities is important for a stable society?
    2. According to Lemieux, LaFollette completely neglects the effect his proposed system would have on what?
    3. According to Lemieux, the project of licensing parenting is symptomatic of the rise of what?
    4. Explain what Lemieux means by the phrase above (the one that is the answer to #3).

  4. Ericsson, "Charges Against Prostitution," pp. 258-268.

    1. What do you think Ericsson's thesis is?
    2. Ericsson considers the view that prostitution is "intrinsically wrong." What do you think Ericsson means by this?
    3. In discussing the first "sentimentalist charge" against prostitution, does Ericsson deny that mercenary sex is usually of lower quality than sentimental sex between lovers?
    4. In a sentence, what is the paternalistic objection to prostitution?
    5. In defending prostitution against the paternalistic objection, to what occupation does Ericsson compare prostitution?
    6. What, according to Ericsson, constitutes the greatest danger to the physical and mental health of a prostitute.
    7. Describe a feminist objection to prostitution.
    8. In discussing one of the feminist charges against prostitution, does Ericsson agree that when visiting a professional, we ought to be partly interested in him or her as a person?

  5. Shrage, "Should Feminists Oppose Prostitution?" pp. 272-274.

    1. According to Shrage, what do the prostitute's actions serve to perpetuate?
    2. What do you think this system of values includes?
    3. How, according to Shrage, does prostitution oppress women?
    4. What do you think she means by this?
    5. What, according to Shrage, does our society's tolerance for commercially available sex imply?
    6. Name one such principle.
    7. What, according to Shrage, do the actions of the prostitute and her client imply?

  6. Boonin, "Two Cheers for Affirmative Action." Read:
    - the introductory section (pp. 1-8, up to "over the course of this chapter");
    - "objection one: the unfair disadvantage argument" (pp. 10-18),
    - "objection three: the appeal to diversity" (pp. 22-26)
    - "objection five: the bias-elimination argument" (pp. 27-33)
    - "objection seven: the right to be judged on one's individual merits" (pp. 36-38)
    - "objection eight: the right to equal treatment (pp. 38-44)
    - "conclusions from the center" (pp. 56-57)

  7. Haslett, "Is Inheritance Justified," pp. 697-714.

    1. In thinking that the practice of inheritance should be abolished, does Haslett also think that it is wrong to take advantage of this practice in its current, unabolished state?
    2. What, in this context, is the difference between a bequest and a gift?
    3. If we really want to know how unevenly economic well-being is distributed in the US, Haslett thinks we should look at the distribution not of ______, but of ______ .
    4. What are the two key features of capitalism, according to Haslett?
    5. TRUE or FALSE. Haslett rejects inheritance because he rejects capitalism, which, he claims, allows it.
    6. According to Milton Friedman, what is the most effective way of enticing people to be productive?
    7. Why do capitalists prefer "equality of opportunity" to "equality of outcome"?
    8. What is the second ideal of capitalism discussed by Haslett, and what is one way that, according to Haslett, inheritance violates it?
    9. Why, according to Haslett, is the ideal of freedom in the narrow sense compatible with the abolishment of inheritance?
    10. According to Haslett, wealth has "diminishing marginal utility." What does this mean?
    11. What are the two main positive elements of Haslett's proposal for abolishing inheritance?
    12. Does Haslett think that the abolition of inheritance conflicts with property rights?
    13. What, according to Haslett, is the most common objection to abolishing inheritance?
    14. Describe a genuine disadvantage of abolishing inheritance, according to Haslett.
    What are the two "striking" virtues of capitalism Haslett mentions at the end of his article?

  8. Singer, "Famine, Affluence, and Morality," pp. 537-544.

    1.What country is Singer talking about at the beginning of his paper, and, in a sentence or two, what was happening there?
    2. On the first page of his paper, Singer states the main thesis of his paper. What is it?
    3. One of the main premises in Singer's main argument is a claim about something being bad. What is it that Singer claims to be bad?
    4. Another main premise in Singer's argument is a principle about what we ought, morally, to do. He actually gives two versions of his principle. State both of these versions.
    5. Next, Singer discusses and defends at some length two features or implications of this principle. What are they?
    6. Later in his paper, Singer discusses a passage by a medieval philosopher. Who is that philosopher? What is the gist of the passage?
    7. Next, Singer discusses three "practical" objections to his position. What are they?

  9. Arthur, "World Hunger and Moral Obligation," pp. 544-547.

    1. TRUE of FALSE. Arthur maintains that Singer "begs the question" by simply assuming that the existence of an evil such as suffering and death from lack of food, shelter and medical care in itself places an obligation on others.
    2. What, according to Arthur, is the principle of equality to which Singer appeals in order to help justify what Arthur calls Singer's "greater moral evil rule"? Explain how this principle is supposed to support the greater moral evil rule.
    3. Does Arthur discuss the weaker (or more moderate) version of Singer's principle?
    4. Present one of the two counterexamples Arthur gives to Singer's greater moral evil rule.
    5. Explain the distinction between positive and negative rights, and give an example of each.
    6. Does Arthur maintain that an act can be wrong only if it violates someone's rights? Explain.
    7. What, according to Arthur, would a reasonable moral code require people to do (concerning the topic of Singer's paper)?

  10. Slote, "Famine, Affluence, and Empathy," pp. 548-555.

    1. From what perspective does Slote say he will attempt to grapple with Singer's ideas in "Famine, Affluence, and Morality"?
    2. What, according to Slote, is the most promising form of sentimentalism? (State both the name of the theory and the theory itself.)
    3. The main goal of Slote's paper is to show how an ethics of caring can justify what idea?
    4. Slote states his basic theory of right and wrong on p. 550. What is it?
    5. Regarding Slote's "trapped miners" example: Why, according to Slote, would it be morally wrong to install safety devices to save miners in future disasters (as Fried suggests) rather than help the presently trapped miners?
    6 . Why, according to Slote, is failing to give money to famine relief NOT morally on a par with failing to save the child in Shallow Pond.
    7. What in general does it mean to say that an act is supererogatory? (Slote doesn't explain this, so you may need to do outside research.) When, according to Slote, is an act supererogatory?
    8. What do you think of Slote's sentimentalist theory of right and wrong?

  11. Chadwick, "The Market for Bodily Parts: Kant and Duties to Oneself," pp. 492-499.

    1. What is the second formulation of Kant's categorical imperative? Come up with an example of an act that you think this principle would forbid.
    2. FILL IN THE BLANK. In explaining why it is wrong to sell parts of your body, Kant invokes, according to Chadwick, a notion of what it intrinsically ___________ to human beings.
    3. FILL IN THE BLANK. At one point in her article, knowing that Kant wants to rule out the selling of a bodily part, Chadwick wonders whether Kant could approve of the ___________ of a bodily part.
    4. Chadwick's main objection to the selling of body parts seems to be that doing so would have some undesirable consequences. List three such consequences.
    5. Chadwick considers whether it ought to be legal to sell renewable parts of one's body, such as blood. What is her view on this?

  12. Tadd, "The Market for Bodily Parts," pp. 500-506.

    1. Does Tadd discuss the topic of replenishable body parts?
    2. According to Tadd, what is a likely relevant difference between selling an organ and being paid as a research subject in drug experimentation?
    3. What would you say is Tadd's main objection to selling body parts?

  13. Nelson, "The Morality of a Free Market for Transplant Organs," pp. 506-513.

    1. According to Nelson, what are the three main ways we might try to make up for the shortage of transplant organs?
    2. TRUE OR FALSE. Nelson denies that there is anything it is wrong to sell.
    3. What two main assumptions does Nelson make in considering whether it is wrong to buy and sell transplant organs?
    4. Nelson considers the argument that selling one's organs is wrong because it's wrong to sell what one doesn't own. What are his two objections to this argument?
    5. What is Nelson's view about prostitution, and why does he hold this view?
    6. What is it to degrade someone, according to Nelson?
    7. Nelson considers the principle that "Selling X is wrong if X should be apportioned only on the basis of desert." What does this mean? Give an example to illustrate.

  14. Dworkin, "Markets and Morals: The Case for Organ Sales," from Morality, Harm, and the Law (Westview, 1994).

    1. Explain the distinction between a "futures market" and a "current market" in organs. Which of these does Dworkin assume is the more controversial?
    2. According to Dworkin, what common practices imply that we believe in the right to dispose of one's organs and other bodily parts if one so chooses?
    3. What are the two main values that a market in organs would promote, according to Dworkin.
    4. Explain Dworkin's first reply to the idea that organs should not be sold because this will lead to an unfair distribution, one in which the rich get the organs and the poor do not.
    5. What is Dworkin's main objection to Fried's argument against organ selling?

  15. Kass, "Preventing a Brave New World," pp. 682-685.

    1. What "threat to reproductive freedom" posed by cloning has, according to Kass, received relatively little attention?
    2. Why does Kass think that cloning is unlikely to be very popular, at least for now?
    3. Kass holds that, sometimes, "repugnance is the emotional expression of deep wisdom, beyond reason's power completely to articulate it." He suggests that if we reject this we will be unable to account for the wrongness of what sorts of behavior?
    4. Does Kass provide a criteria for determining when repugnance is the expression of deep wisdom and when it is the expression of mere prejudice or cultural conditioning? If so, what is it?
    5. Kass claims that cloning is "a radical form of __________."
    6. What, in your own words, is Kass' first objection to human cloning in section III.
    7. What, in your own words, is Kass' second objection to human cloning in section III.
    8. What, in your own words, is Kass' third objection to human cloning in section III.
    9. What, in your own words, is Kass' fourth objection to human cloning in section III.

  16. Elliott, "Uniqueness, Individuality, and Human Cloning," pp. 686-687.

    1. To which of Kass' objections to cloning is Elliott's article mainly a response?
    2. Elliott considers the objection that, in cloning, "we treat [people] as objects to be designed rather than as potential subjects or agents capable of their own making." What principle by what famous historical philosopher would support the wrongness of doing this?
    3. What is Elliott's response to this objection?
    4. What is the analogy with the couple who knows in advance that all of their offspring will be female meant to illustrate?

  17. Hershenov, "An Argument for Limited Human Cloning," pp. 688-691.

    1. What does Hershenov believe a useful principle can be found for distinguishing?
    2. According to Hershenov, what is the most compelling scenario in which cloning is an appealing option?
    3. In discussing the idea of cloning a child who needs a bone marrow transplant, what does Hershenov assume?
    4. According to Hershenov, what do the cases of cloning he thinks are permissible have in common with each other that the cases of cloning he thinks are impermissible do not?
    5. What is Hershenov's principle for distinguishing permissible from impermissible cloning?