Published on

notes for 250 class

  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

  • Mar29

    1. 1. Life’s interests Student: A further thought on trees having interests: If we redefine interests to no longer mean suffering/pleasure, but as being a living thing thats aim is to live/survive, then we must re-evaluate Singer's position on the right to life, particularly in the case of abortion.
    2. 2. prima facie rights and duties Student: When discussing W.D. Ross’s ethical theory, you described it as postulating a system of prima facie rights or duties one has. Also, you touched on the fact that excusing conditions for failing to do what’s right can be either intrinsic or extrinsic.  So what you are really saying is that due to common sense, we fulfil moral acts not as obligations, but because it is something that all people feel compelled to do in a sense.   Please correct me if I am wrong. DrC: I’ve proposed an articulation of common-sense morality as a system of prima facie rights and duties that have weight, which the individual must take into account when choosing a course of action. DV theorizes this `taking into account’ as the individual’s utility profile, which reveals the weight that s/he attaches to SU and and how this fares against the claims of EU. This is an alternative to Singer’s view, which criticizes common- sense morality and proposes a revisionist interpretation (preference utilitarianism) strictly in terms of EU.... As for intrinsic and extrinsic excusing conditions, please see the Lexicon. I would argue that common-sense morality adjusts the demands of prima facie duties to the contours of a normal life, such that we are `intrinsically’ excused from doing all that Singer’s revisionist ethic would require. The contours include family and professional life, hobbies and personal projects, and so forth. I take Susan Wolf to be thinking about these contours in her essay....And to say something about your final point: I do think that doing the right thing has symbolic utility for people, so discharging one’s obligations is not unwelcome to the extent that SU has weight. This is not to deny that obligation can be onerous, nor is it to deny that we are often tempted to do the wrong thing because of anticipated personal benefits.
    3. 3. neo-Aristotelian ethics? Student: I thought the point brought up in a pmail in Monday's class about sentientism was interesting to say the least. Indeed, Singer's understanding of the term "interest" demands that we be sentientists, since while a tree may have an "interest" in surviving, it does not have an interest in the sense that it suffers or experiences pleasure. The notion of "interest" that the pmailer used seemed suggestive of the Aristotelian sense of purpose. Student: On another note, I am wondering if we may "swipe" sentences and remarks from our pmails without citing them in our essays. If I use other person's pmail, I will cite it as if I am citing class notes, but do I need to do that with my own submitted pmails?
    4. 4. evolution and our place in nature Student: How, from an evolutionary perspective, can we really consider man and nature to be in conflict with one another? We consider all the changes due to global warming to be a result of man, who is considered to be in opposition to nature; however, if humans have evolved the way we have, our dispositions, inclinations, and actions are a result of what nature has imposed on us through natural selection, just as each trait of every creature on Earth has been selected for. When a beaver dams up a stream and completely changes the ecosystem of its environment, we don't consider that to be a "beaver-made" catastrophe; rather, we call that nature at work. Why is it that when humans affect their environment, it is not considered nature at work? In any case, I suppose my question is how can we be so sure that what we're doing is in conflict with nature, when so many other animals, under the influence of their traits selected for over millions of years of evolution, can have very significant impacts on their environments without being considered in conflict with nature?
    5. 5. The holodeck revisited Student: I'm not sure if you intended the VR 'holodeck' technology as a facetious thought experiment, but I don't think it is, as you claim, a (major) problem for Singer and his comrades who advocate environmental preservation for its instrumental value. Indeed, Singer may still have grounds to advance the preservation of the environment with this futuristic, but not chimerical, technology by contending that the aesthetic value of a forest, for example, does not exhaust all of the value therein. Indeed, over and above its aesthetic value, plant life is useful for cleansing the atmosphere of CO2, and for supporting the food chain, to name but two examples. So until the machines are invented that can replace these sources of value of the natural environment, I think we need to think twice about razing forests (to erect vast VR holodeck exhibits, for example).
    6. 6. in defense of water-skiing I find it slightly upsetting that, according to Singer, race-car driving and water-skiing should be replaced with other forms of recreation that are less harmful to the environment, such as biking. Firstly, the manufacturing of bicycles contributes pollutants to the environment, although probably less than the manufacturing of boats and cars. But, from this view, the only completely accepted mode of transportation that poses no harm to the environment is walking or running. Canoes and bikes, although they emit no harmful pollutants when being used, must still be manufactured, and are made from metals, or the by-products of trees. It would be impossible in this day and age to completely eliminate the destruction and pollution of the environment. But we should still take measures to reduce it without completely altering our way of life and recreation. I don't think that going water-skiing on a lake is going to drastically harm the ecosystem, except maybe over a long period of time, but this could possibly be dealt with by having all boaters who use the lake pay an annual fee that goes towards cleaning/filtering of the water. However, clear-cutting the Amazon Rainforest would have drastic effects on the whole ecosystem, along with many, many, different animals, species, and beneficial effects that trees have in cleaning the air.
    7. 7. non-religious ethics? Student: I am curious why Singer starts off his environmental chapter with what Christians have said about the environment and what God says is right. It seems counterintuitive to mention these theological views since he is not considering religious beliefs in this ethical theory he seems to be building....Also, up until now Singer’s theories have all dealt with a barrage of expected utility and whose preferences outweigh whose. However a virgin forest has no preferences and thus if by demolishing the forest increased utility for the workers now hired to build something there, it seems as though by following Singer’s theory, the moral thing to do would be to cut down the forest. He seems to focus a lot on the fact that future generations Might enjoy the wilderness and such; however it seems odd to me that he doesn’t mention the fact that without any trees or greenery we have barely any oxygen to breath. The only oxygen production left would come from microbes or other trace sources.
    8. 8. desires and interests Student: I think Singer understands that there are stronger cases he could make for environmentalism, but is attempting to ground the movement in logic that can be sustained. It seems that Singer would like to agree with the deep ecologists view, as it might provide more compelling reason to preserve the environment, but it just seems difficult to defend the environment except on the basis that it sustains and makes for better quality of sentient life....I'm also wondering, because you differentiated between desire and interest, what the difference is exactly. Is it that desires have moral significance; that is, they are interests that, if unsatisfied, cause psychological or physical harm? So we can speak of a tree having interests, but not morally significant ones?
    9. 9. Rawls’s second principle Student: Rawls: A Theory of Justice.  Rawls explains the two principles of justice (Cahn 149).  I am not sure how to understand the second principle.  I am not sure if he means that wealth ought to be redistributed (as in a socialist or even a communist sense), or if he simply refers to the necessity of the availability of jobs for anyone who is qualified (I assume qualification is necessary since obviously none of us want an uneducated doctor looking after us).   Does he want equal distribution of wealth, or equal opportunity for employment?  How does this look when fleshed out (capitalist or communist)?  It seems a little bit idealist to me (in a capitalist society, there is simply not equal opportunity. In a communist/very socialist society, the rich seem to be taken advantage of and historically this is ideal but simply impossible).
    10. 10. potential people Student: I believe that Singer is simply aware of the fact that, unless the world (or the survival of our species) were to come to a sudden end, there will be future generations. And since this is fundamentally unavoidable, it is our responsibility to care for the wellbeing of those "potential" people, just as it is our responsibility to care for the wellbeing of persons in the third world, and the malnourished babies who are "potentially" to be born there....Furthermore, the reason why I used quotation marks on the word "potential" is because I think that there is actually a difference in the meanings of the word in the two cases. I think the main difference is that in the case of abortion, Singer claims that the fetus has potential because it will become a person UNLESS it is stopped in its development, or aborted. The future generations of our species, however, exist on a much larger scale. It would hardly seem possible to hinder all human reproduction to prevent new generations from coming into existence. Therefore, I'm not sure the word "potential" is the appropriate term. The existence of future generations, thus, seems much more definitive than potential. DrC: This is a helpful response to a pmail from last week that diagnosed Singer as confused about potential. I suppose that one relevant question is, Why *should* the existence of future generations be accepted as definite? Graveyard utilitarianism poses this question.
    11. 11. feminism and essentialism Student: So the argument in chapter 20 in Cahn about males and females having different perspectives and ways of problem solving when dealing with the world might have some problems. I do not think there is any sex distinct differences in how we solve our problems. How we view the world might be different based on child caring, birth, power and other factors. But saying that just because you are female you are going to solve problems differently sounds wrong to me. DrC: It’s important in this chapter to distinguish Grimshaw’s own view from the views of others whom she discusses. Do you take her to be defending an essentialist view?
    12. 12. preserving the environment Student: I think most people would have trouble arguing against preserving the environment. To me Singers use of preference utilitarianism was akin to bringing a knife to a gun fight (i think he knows it too), i thought it was inadequate in swaying me- unlike the other chapters where you may not agree but the logic is sound, this chapter compels you to agree regardless of the "shortcomings" in rational. DrC: Do we want to preserve the environment (1) because we value the experiences that it facilitates, or (2) because it is intrinsically valuable? The deep ecologists opt for (2), but Singer opts for (1). A problem with (1) is that it’s only a matter of time before we have VR technology to render a `holodeck’ that would give us the (qualitatively identical) experiences without the environment that nowadays produces them.
    13. 13. Rawls’s original position Student: I found Rawls' theory on justice to be quite rational in a purely philosophical and theoretical way, that being said, I think it is too Utopian to have any utility in the real world. I understand that his "original" position is a hypothetical situation, but I do not think this saves his theory. Even if, for arguments sake, you are able to have condition where in the rules can be created under a veil of ignorance, once in place this veil is lifted. Even if these rules are in place, this will not stop some from trying to manipulate matters to suit their own respective position an/or interest in society. Although a pleasing argument, I do not believe that holds any practicality in the real world. DrC: Rawls would argue that even if your point is true, the argument from the Original Position reveals what’s appropriate and inappropriate (in the OP, excluded from the OP) when reasoning about justice. That said, your point leads other moral theorists to be interested in a more `practical’ contract, like Gilbert Harman’s virtual contract or David Gauthier’s `morals by agreement’.
    14. 14. interests Student: I think it's interesting that Singer, who's so concerned about speciesism and ECOI, assumes that only sentient beings can have interests. It's true that trees (or forests, ecosystems) don't have preferences, but in a very real sense, it is in their interest to not be cut down (or destroyed).  Why should the value of forests depend on the value of sentient beings?  If speciesism is wrong, why (if we can assign interests to trees) should "sentientism" not also be wrong (or a form of unwarranted bias)? DrC: Biological sciences implicitly attribute interests to all living things, specifically an interest in survival that explains its functional properties, which permit it to survive. Exploring this thought would retain Singer’s individualism while expanding his conception of interests.
    15. 15. the private sphere Student: I especially support [Grimshaw’s] view in the last sentence of the essay that moral and social priorities would be very different if the activities and concerns regarded as primarily female were given equal value and status.  I think that Gramshaw is right that the 'private' sphere is not given the same consideration as the 'public' sphere, but I disagree in that I do not think in today's Western society, that the private sphere should be designated primarily to females anymore.  Many families have both parents working full-time, with family responsibilities in the 'private' sphere shared.  Furthermore, with the high rate of divorce, many households do not even have females residing in them.  I think that a shift should start recognizing the private sphere as being encompassed more equally by males and females in Western society, and for there to be less division between the sexes in the public and private spheres. DrC: This makes sense. It’s a good paper idea. But what about people in a multicultural society who belong to a culture that insists on a strict division of the sexes in the private sphere?
    16. 16. animate and inanimate Student: On pg 279 Singer parallels the actions of plants to that of a river or a guided missile.  I do not agree with this comparison that Singer tries to establish.  I do agree that plants don't try to consciously "seek out" water or sunlight, but I do believe that they should not be paralleled to completely inanimate objects such as flowing water molecules or fused pieces of metal.  I do not share this because plants are composed of cells that are living, they undergo metabolism, meiosis, transport and countless other intra- and extracellular processes that are characteristic of only living cells, the same processes as the very cells that we are composed of also, none of which are done so by water molecules or metal ions.  I do not think that because plants may not be concious that they should be paralleled with molecules or objects that posses no processes that are characteristic of life. DrC: You might want to read “Should trees have standing?”, an essay by Christopher Stone. It’s anthologized in *People, penguins, and plastic trees*, which should be in our library.
    17. 17. Singer, “Ends and Means” Singer: “Opposition to the use of violence can be on the basis of an absolute rule, or an assessment of its consequences. Pacifists have usually regarded the use of violence as absolutely wrong, irrespective of its consequences. This, like other `no matter what’ prohibitions, assumes the validity of the distinction between acts and omissions.” (307)
    18. 18. Judith Jarvis Thomson, “A defense of abortion” The violinist thought-experiment. The doctor says, “But never mind, it’s only for nine months.” Thomson asks, do you *have* to accede to this situation? “What if it were not nine months, but nine years?” (169) Later she supposes that the violinist needs only an hour. (177-8)
    19. 19. Mary Anne Warren, “On the moral and legal status of abortion” Warren: “Thus, to demonstrate that a fetus is not a person, all I need to claim is that an entity that has *none* of these six characteristics [sentience, emotionality, reason, the capacity to communicate, self- awareness, moral agency] is not a person.” (194)