Philosophy 101, Spring 2020
2nd Paper Assignment
This time you have fout options; please carefully read these options and pick one and do as you are asked:
1) Many people in our society believe in divine command theory — that morality is entirely based upon God’s divine commands. After you explain this account of morality, please carefully explain one of the two main objections covered in the readings and lectures – that it makes moral norms seem arbitrary, or that it substantially diminishes the significance of God’s own moral goodness. Then either present a rebuttal to that objection (that is, offer an argument in defense of divine command theory against this objection), or entertain a possible rebuttal, and then show why the rebuttal does not work.
2) In our section on utilitarianism, we discussed the question of whether or not the morality of an act is ultimately dependent upon happiness, or if something other than happiness (like human dignity) is the thing that at least sometimes determines the morality of an act. In the movie, The Matrix, should Neo and his friends free people from their massive delusion in the matrix, and thereby cause an overall drop in happiness while enhancing peoples’ dignity or proper understanding of the world? Or should they leave people in their condition, keeping them happy but systematically deceived and exploited? For this paper, first briefly explain John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism (what it claims, what the key notions are, etc.). After spelling out utilitarianism, explain how the above considerations pose a challenge for Mill’s doctrine. Do not simply explain the movie – explain only the challenge it poses to utilitarianism by suggesting the morally right thing to do is not maximize happiness. Then, do one of two things. Either defend Mill’s doctrine from this “Matrix-style” objection (perhaps by building on Mill’s own strategy of introducing a quality dimension to happiness) or instead show in detail how these considerations seriously undermine Mill’s claim that the right thing always involves maximizing happiness.
3) Peter Singer argues that our current conception of moral obligation requires a drastic revision. After explaining Singer’s position and his argument for that position, critically evaluate his viewpoint. If you disagree with Singer, explain what is wrong with his argument and/or position (you may also defend one of the objections he himself raises and rejects). If you agree with Singer, then respond to the following objection to his viewpoint: Nobody should have to do more than their fair share in terms of preventing bad things. If everyone gave to save children dying of chronic malnourishment, then no one person would need to give more than about $170 per year; consequently, that amount is currently all anyone is morally required to give – that is their fair share of giving. Singer is therefore wrong to claim that I, as an individual, have a moral responsibility to sacrifice any more after I’ve given $170 for a year. If you choose to defend Singer, then show what is wrong with this objection.
4) In the First Meditation, Descartes claims that we can’t 100% trust our observational beliefs (beliefs that come from, say, what we are currently sensing – like what we currently see or hear) because we cannot be absolutely certain that we are not dreaming. Some have replied that if you focus on the nature of your experience, you can indeed tell if you are dreaming. Indeed, it seems that few people take seriously the possibility that they are currently dreaming. After explaining Descartes’ basic skeptical project as it is presented in the First Meditation, including a description of what he is really searching for (foundational beliefs), evaluate Descartes’ claim that observational beliefs are disqualified from serving as foundational beliefs because we might be currently dreaming. If you agree with Descartes, then provide a response to those who might challenge this claim. If you do not agree with Descartes, then explain why the dreaming argument is not a legitimate reason for thinking observational beliefs cannot serve as the foundation of knowledge.
This time your paper is going to be around 4 pages — and you will be both explaining other views and providing your own critical commentary and arguments. Of course, we do not expect you to solve these issues once and for all, or present a complete theory in 4 pages. Instead, we want to see that you understand the central issue and have something to add to the discussion; that you can provide some original support or criticism for a given position. Often, a good way to make your point is to illustrate it with specific examples or analogies. Re-read the course material on Canvas or in the front of the book about how to write philosophy papers.
Once again, this paper is again going to be submitted electronically to Canvas. Here is how to submit the paper:
1. Go to the Canvas page for this course
2. Click “Assignments”
3. Click “Second Paper Submission”
4. Click the blue “Submit” button
5. Enter your name and choose a title
6. Under “Browse for the file to upload”, click “Choose File”
7. Click “Upload”
8: Click “Submit” again
YOU MUST CLICK “SUBMIT”. Also your papers should be in .doc, .docx., .rtf., or .pdf formats. Any other format, convert them to one of these before submission. After submitting your paper to Turnitin, you’ll see a screen confirming the file’s successful submission. If you do not receive any confirmation notification, please check your submission on Turnitin and try to resubmit. If you continue to have a problem, please contact Professor. Remember, it is your responsibility to submit your paper successfully. THE DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION IS DUE WEDNESDAY NOV. 25, 5:00 PM
You may discuss the as
signment among yourselves, but you are not to share outlines, drafts, or in any way write the paper in a collaborative manner with another student. Note that we have electronic versions of ALL past papers written for this class and your paper will be checked for overlap with prior submissions. ANY PLAGIARISM WILL BE HANDLED IN THE HARSHEST POSSIBLE MANNER, INCLUDING EXPULSION!!!! IF YOU ARE DESPARATE AND STUCK, COMMUNICATE WITH ONE OF US!!! You are NOT to use the internet in any way to assist work on this assignment (except for using Canvas). AND BE SURE TO PROVIDE A THESIS AND A STATEMENT OF PROCEDURE IN YOUR INTRODUCTORY PARGRAPH.
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