Moral Theory and Controversy
Peter Singer “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”
Read the following passage and do the following:
Reconstruct the premises and conclusion of the following argument? Is the argument logically valid? Are the premises of the argument true, why or why not?
Describe what role this passage plays in Peter Singers larger argument about our obligations to those who are suffering worldwide.
“I do not think I need to say much in defense of the refusal to take proximity and distance into account. The fact that a person is physically near to us, so that we have personal contact with him, may make it more likely that we shall assist him, but this does not show that we ought to help him rather than another who happens to be further away. If we accept any principle of impartiality, universalizability, equality, or whatever, we cannot discriminate against someone merely because he is far away from us (or we are far away from him).” (5)
Watch the following clip (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24cQfQJ79Rs) and pretend you are a utilitarian:
Come up with reasons for preferring to save the ship with the civilians: Keep in mind that all these passengers have families, life goals, and intrinsic human worth.
Come up with reasons for preferring to save the ship with the prisoners: Keep in mind that all these passengers have families, life goals, and intrinsic human worth.
Assuming there are an equal number of people on each ship, try and determine if there are any MORALLY RELVANT reasons for choosing one ship over the other. If so what are they, if not say why each of the ships are of equal moral worth.
Watch the following clip (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_uUEaeqFog)
and do the following:
Why does Kant say that if an action is wrong, then it is wrong in all cases?
Describe his position and give an example of his “Test” for determining whether an action is morally permissible.
As the clip indicates, Kant believes that if you do the right thing and something bad happens you are not to blame.
Come up with an example of your own in which someone does everything they are supposed to do but a bad consequence occurs anyway. Is Kant right to say that this person is blameless? Why/ Why not?
As the clip indicates, Kant believes that if you do the wrong thing in order to bring about good consequences and something bad happens you are to blame.
Come up with an example of your own in which someone tries to bring about a good consequence by doing something wrong, but a bad consequence occurs anyway. Is Kant right to say that this person is now responsible for the bad thing? Why/ Why not?
As was pointed out in the reading, there is a difference between modern ethical thought and ancient ethical thought. I personally find this difference quite fascinating. For this question think about this distinction and do answer the following questions:
State the above-mentioned difference between the ancient and modern ethical theories.
Ancient ethical theories are sometimes criticized for being “selfish” in the sense that the reason that an individual is supposed to acquire virtues like honesty, bravery, and temperance is because it will lead to them having a good life. So it is accused that the virtue theory is not primarily concerned with the wellbeing of others but rather with the individual. The reason we are kind to other people is because it will make us better people not because the other people matter.
Do you believe this is a fair criticism or virtue theory? Why or why not?
Modern ethical theories are sometimes criticized for missing the point of morality. By obsessing over what individual actions are morally permissible, required, or forbidden, it is said that we lose sight of why morality is important. It is said the point of morality is to be a good person and it is wrong to obsess about being strictly obedient to particular moral rules.
By obsessively trying to determine whether each action you take is moral or not you miss the point of morality which is to be a good person not a rule follower.
Do you believe this a fair criticism against moral ethical theories? Why or why not?