Great Questions of Philosophy Assignments, Spring 2009


For 4/16. Read Peter Singer, "Down on the Factory Farm," and Kant on indirect duties to animals (both on eReserve), plus Alasdair Norcross, "Puppies, Pigs, and People: Eating Meat and Marginal Cases."
4/14. No new reading.
For 4/9. Finish Utilitarianism.
4/7. Read first 3 chapters of Utilitarianism.
For 3/31. Jeremy Bentham, Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. Please read chapters I-IV (pages 14-34).
3/26. Kant, Grounding, Third section


3/24. Reading: Kant, Grounding, Second Section.


For 3/19. 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 3/17. 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 3/12. 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 3/10. Read Paley's version of Divine Command Theory, (also available on eReserve), plus the Euthyphro objection to the divine command theory and the following summary of some of the issues with the Euthyphro.


For 2/26.

Read "A critique of ethical relativism" from eReserve.


For 2/24. Read
For 2/17. Read:
For 2/15. 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 2/10. Read Hume, Of liberty and necessity.
For 2/5. Read Chisholm, "Human Freedom and the Self," from eReserve.
For 2/3. Read Baron d'Holbach, "I am determined," from eReserve
For 1/29. Is death bad? 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," on eReserve.


For 1/27. Is death annihilation?

Readings: two articles on eREserve: Clarke for an afterlife, and Hume against it. (Both are under 'Clarke,' and a link to eReserve plus the password are on ULearn.) 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.


1/22. No new reading. Concentrate mainly on the material from the dialogue on foreknowledge and freedom, and otherwise wrap up the problem of Evil.
For 1/20

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


For 1/15. Read Perry's Dialogue on Good, Evil, and the Existence of God, the First Morning (pp. 1-17).
For 1/13. We'll do the 1/8 assignment.
For 1/8.

Please read James Pryor's descriptions of what an argument is, of vocabulary describing arguments, and of some good and bad arguments.

In the 'vocabulary' section, please do the exercises and bring them to class.


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