For our term paper, your goal is to write a paper of roughly 1,500 words in which you take a stance on a philosophical debate.
You should select one of the following debates:
1. What are our moral obligations in times of a societal crisis?
Evaluate the following case (adopted from
here (Links to an external site.)
) using utilitarianism and deontology: “The need for ruthless social distancing to curtail the virus’s spread is at odds with the need to rescue the economy, with its diffuse benefits in health and well-being. Should the young and fit, who can better survive the virus, be encouraged to go back into the world and resume normal activities, even though that would prolong the virus’s circulation, with fatal consequences for the less hardy?” (In discussing deontology, make sure to discuss the idea of autonomy.)
2. Is lying ever morally permissible?
Consider the following case (adopted from Judith A. Boss’s Ethics for Life), and evaluate it using at least two different ethical theories we have studies (utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics): “A 1989 study at a major hospital revealed that the majority of doctors were willing to use deception in certain circumstances. For example, three-quarters of them said that they would not report a case of gonorrhea to the health department, even though they were required to do so by law, if the infected husband was worried that his wife would leave him when she learned he had been unfaithful. About two-thirds stated that, if questioned by the wife, they would back up the husband’s story that he was taking the antibiotics for another problem. Are these lies morally justified?”
3. Is torture ever morally permissible?
Consider the following case (adapted from Judith A. Boss’s Ethics for Life), and evaluate it from utilitarian and deontological perspectives: In 2003, Pakistani forces and the CIA captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a suspected terrorist whom they thought to have information that would endanger the American public. In order to retrieve information, US personnel used “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Mohammed, including sleep deprivation, rectal rehydration, and waterboarding. Later, in 2006, President George W. Bush proposed legislation that would “
decriminalize the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by civilian interrogators (Links to an external site.)
”, thereby permitting the use of torture on suspected terrorists. Is the use of enhanced interrogation techniques morally justified? (In discussing deontology, make sure to discuss the idea of autonomy.)
4. How strong of a moral obligation do we have to give to those in need (e.g., famine relief)?
Peter Singer argues that we are obliged to give up to the point at which giving more would make us worse off than those we are trying to help. In contrast, a Kantian can argue that we shouldn’t give so much such that we sacrifice our autonomy.
5. Is it ever morally justified to commit an act of civil disobedience?
In the Crito, Socrates offers several arguments against civil disobedience, whereas in the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” MLK defends some instances of civil disobdience.
6. Is there a self?
Whereas Buddhists argue against the existence of a self that is substantial, enduring, and self-determining, Nyaya philosophers give several arguments that various features of our experience can be explained only in terms of such a self.
7. Are mind and body really distinct?
Descartes argues that body/matter cannot think because thinking is essentially unextended. In contrast, Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia argues that it is conceivable for body/matter to think.
8. Do we have innate knowledge?
Leibniz (along with Plato and Descartes) argues that we have innate ideas and innate knowledge, whereas John Locke argues that all ideas and knowledge must instead ultimately derive from experience.
9. What is the metaphysical nature of gender/race?
Select either the concept of gender or the concept of race, and explain the different views of its metaphysical status. Which view do you think is right, and why?
To write a successful paper on your chosen topic, you need to carry out the following tasks.
Task 1: Give an overview of the two competing views, and explain each side’s argument(s).
Task 2: Present your position on the debate, and offer reasoning of your own in support of your position. You should both present reasoning in support of your position and raise objections to the opposing side’s view/arguments.
Task 3: Present one objection to your own argument/view, and defend yourself in response.
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