three components (“ three propositions ”) W r i t i n g
Read the readings that are attached below and answer the questions that go along with the reading
Chapter 7 of James Rachels The End of Life
1.What is the difference between active and passive euthanasia? What is the difference between voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia? What is the central claim that Rachels argues for in our reading for class?
2.What is the (descriptive) difference between killing and letting die (as types of action)? What is an intuitive justification for the claim that, all things being equal, killing IS morally worse than letting die? Why does Rachels even discuss the killing/letting distinction in our reading for class? That is, why does he even bring it up? And why do his opponents see it as fatal to his main argument?
3.What is the equivalence thesis? What does Rachels mean—in stating the equivalence thesis—by the claim that the bare action of killing is never morally better or worse than letting die? Does the equivalence thesis imply that killing is never morally worse than letting die? Can one accept the equivalence thesis but reject that passive euthanasia is never preferable to active euthanasia (or vice versa)?
4.What does Rachels mean by the cruelty lurking in the distinction between killing and letting die? What does he propose we do to end this alleged cruelty?
5.Describe the bare-difference argument (i.e.,the Smith-and-Jones- drowning-their-cousin-in-the-bathroom thought-experiment)? What claim does the bare-difference argument support (what is the conclusion that we are supposed to draw from it)?
Cultural Relativism (Chapter 2 of The Elements of Moral Philosophy)
1. In Chapter 2, Rachels discusses The Cultural Differences Argument. What is this argument and why does Rachels think that it is invalid? What are three undesirable consequences of cultural relativism?
Utilitarianism (Chapters 7 & 8 of The Elements of Moral Philosophy)
2.What are the three components (“three propositions”) of classical utilitarianism? Explain the meaning or significance of each component. What is a possible utilitarian argument for or against a) the death penalty, b) the legalization of heroin, c) increasing the minimum wage.
3.What is hedonism? What are the two objections to hedonism that Rachels gives? What is consequentialism? What are the two objections to consequentialism that Rachels gives? Why might promise-keeping and truth-telling be seen to be problematic for utilitarianism (this question is related to the last one)? What is the charge that utilitarianism is too demanding?…that it disrupts our personal relationships? What are the three defenses of utilitarianism that Rachels discusses?
Peter Singer (“Utilitarianism and Vegetarianism”)
4. Given that animal factory farming under current conditions is not “ideal” from a utilitarian point of view, what are the three objections that Singer considers to the claim that utilitarianism implies a moral obligation to be a vegetarian? How does Singer respond to each of these objections?
Then, pick one of the topics and write a 2-3 page paper
Topics for Shorter Paper I:
1. James Rachels on the alleged moral distinction between killing and letting die.
Include in the expository part of your paper a discussion of the Equivalence
Thesis and its justification, the Bare Difference Argument. Be sure to explain
precisely what the Equivalence Thesis says and doesn’t say. Now explain why
you don’t find the Bare Difference Argument to be compelling by offering a
novel thought-experiment of your own that pulls the reader in a different
direction, i.e., toward a denial of the Equivalence Thesis.
2. Peter Singer on the claim that utilitarianism implies a moral obligation to be a
vegetarian. Singer considers three reasons for why someone may object to the claim that utilitarianism implies vegetarianism. Pick just one of these reasons,
explain what it is, give Singer’s response, and then offer your objection.
3. The Trolley Problem. Explain why The Trolley Problem is seen by some critics
of Utilitarianism as an objection to Utilitarianism. Now—in the analytical part of
your paper—argue that Utilitarianism can overcome The Trolley Problem.
Your paper should follow the
following technical guidelines:
12 pt., 1″ margins, double spaced. Please include page
numbers, no title page is necessary.
No outside sources are allowed and please keep quotations to a minimum (I want to hear
it in your own words!). If you do provide a quotation, simply put the author’s name and
page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence, e.g., Thomson (pp. 49).
Your paper should be divided into two parts: an expository part, and an analytical part.
In the expository part, you are to give a succinct and accurate account or description of
one of the arguments that we have discussed at some point in the semester from the list of
topics below. The expository part of your paper should mention only those parts of the
article or chapter you are discussing that are directly relevant to the author’s argument
and to your analysis in the second part of your paper. Do not try to squeeze in every fact
and detail contained in the article or chapter. Instead, pick and choose those parts that are
directly relevant to the issue under discussion. In giving your account, make sure to
explain all technical vocabulary and ideas. Your aim should be that your paper could be
understood by a person unfamiliar with the reading material under discussion.
In the analytical part of your paper you are to object to, criticize, or raise doubt(s) about
some aspect of the author’s argument that you discussed in the expository part of your
paper. The goal should be to try to compel the reader to your way of seeing things. What
is the weakest part of the author’s argument? Why is the author’s conclusion(s) less
certain than he or she seems to think it is?