Great Questions of Philosophy Assignments, Spring 2005


Read Peter Singer, "Down on the Factory Farm," and Kant on indirect duties to animals (both in the course packet), plus Alasdair Norcriss, "Puppies, Pigs, and People: Eating Meat and Marginal Cases."
For 4/18. John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, chapter five.
For 4/13. John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, chapters three and four.
For 4/11. John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, chapters one and two.
3/30. Reading: Kant, Grounding, Second Section.


For 3/28

Reading: Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, First Section.

Questions to think about:

  1. Assume that a merchant has a duty not to cheat his customers. Imagine a merchant who does his duty, and doesn't cheat his customers, but only because he believes that not cheating will help his business prosper. Kant would say that the merchant's actions (in this case) have "no moral worth." Now imagine that the merchant refrains from cheating, but does so because he really likes his customers a lot, doesn't want to hurt them, finds inner pleasure from spreading joy, and rejoices in the happiness of other people. Kant would say that the his actions still have "no moral worth." Why does Kant think that, in both cases, the merchant's actions have no moral worth? Explain Kant's arguments. Do you agree with Kant? Why or why not?

  2. Why would Kant argue that the actions of an Epicurean, or of William Paley, have no moral worth? Would you agree? Why, or why not?


For 3/23. Read Paley's version of Divine Command Theory, plus the Euthyphro objection to the divine command theory and the following summary of some of the issues with the Euthyphro.


For 3/21. Read Louis Pojman's article, "A Critique of Ethical Relativism," in the course packet.
For 3/16. Read text 5, #31-40, and texts 151 through 156

Also, the on-line article on Epicurus; read about the virtues and justice.

Question to think about:

What is justice, according to Epicurus? What reason does the wise person have to be just? What about the foolish person?


For 3/14. From The Epicurus Reader, read Also, the on-line article on Epicurus; read the section on his ethics up through "Types of desires."

Questions to think about:

(1) Why does Epicurus think that only one's own pleasure has value?

(2) Why does Epicurus think that mental pleasures are greater than bodily pleasures?

(3) Why does Epicurus advocate the simple life?

(4) What is Epicurus' three-fold division of desires? Do you find this division convincing? Why, or why not?


For 3/2. Read "What's so bad about living in the Matrix?"
For 2/28. Read:
For 2/23. Read Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, First Meditation. (NB: this is a very free 'translation' (really, a fairly close paraphrase of Descartes) written for the purposes of making him a bit easier to understand than he would be in a more literal translation.
For 2/16. Read "Of Liberty and Necessity" by David Hume (section VIII of his Enquiry concerning human understanding, read up though section IX "Of the reason of animals").
For 2/14. Read Chisholm, "Human Freedom and the Self," from the course packet.
For 2/9. Read Baron d'Holbach, "I am determined," from the course packet.
For 2/7. From The Epicurus Reader. Read text 4, sections 124-127 (starting on the first full paragraph on section 124), text 5, # 2; text 6 #14; #60. Also read the on-line article on Epicurus, on death.

Also read a selection from the Epicurean poet Lucretius on the folly of the fear of death, which is here, after the short selection from the Letter to Meneoceus, and the article by Nagel, "Death," in the course packet.



For 2/2.Is death annihilation?

Readings: the first two articles from the course packet: Clarke for an afterlife, and Hume against it. Also, on-line article on Epicurus; just read about his philosophy of mind.

Also, from The Epicurus Reader: text 2 (sections 63-67); text 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 104, 109.

For Epicurus' philosophy, you may also wish to look at Lucretius' poem "On The Nature of Things." Lucretius gives much more detailed arguments on the nature of the mind and its mortality. Click on this link and scroll down and read the sections on "Nature and Composition of the Mind" and "The Soul is Mortal." Unfortunately, the on-line translation is a little outdated, but it's still readable.


For 1/31. Read the remainder of Perry's Dialogue on Good, Evil, and the Existence of God plus my summary of the free will defense.
For 1/26.

Read Perry's Dialogue on Good, Evil, and the Existence of God, the First Afternoon and the Second Morning.


For 1/24.

Read Perry's Dialogue on Good, Evil, and the Existence of God, the First Morning (pp. 1-17).


For 1/19. No new reading. Please find a letter to the editor, an editorial, or something else that contains an argument, and do the following: (i) identify the premises and conclusion, (ii) say whether and why the premises are acceptable, (iii) say whether and why the premises, if true, give good grounds for accepting the conclusion. Please staple the original letter (or whatever) to your analysis of the argument.
For 1/12.


Return to the Great Questions of Philosophy course web site.
Return to the main page.