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lecture notes for phil 250

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  1. 1. pmail: equality and motivation Student: Singer says we should give around 10% of our income to the absolute poor. It sounds like he is saying that we should try and give as much as we can. I wonder where Singer draws the line? What I mean, is he trying to suggest to Bill Gates that he should sell him mansion(s) and move into an apartment? This seems very anti-capitalist, and almost destroys the incentive for people to come and 'make a living' in a north american economy, if morally they are required to donate as much as they can to the poor. I wonder how much of an effect this would have on our ambitions if we were to give it all away as soon as we earned it? I don't believe there would be half as many stock brokers (who have highly stressful jobs that are crucial to the economy) if they weren't able to enjoy the lifestyle their work allows for them. Or even in that question, how many farmers would toil away, planting extra fields if they weren't able to buy that big screen TV they've had their eye on all year? This all seems to have pretty negative implications for the future of the north american economy if everyone was to follow Singer's suggestions.
  2. 2. pmail: Mill & Singer Student: Mill claims that "No reason can be given why the general happiness is desirable, expect that each person, so far as he believes it to be attainable, desires his own happiness."Singer brings sentience into this, but ultimately is not this Singer's reason for accepting preference satisfaction as fundamental to his theory? DrC: I don’t think so, because I think that Mill is a Non- Reductionist who believed that one’s life should be guided by a master desire for happiness, whereas I take Singer to be a Reductionist who dispenses with such a master desire in favour of straightforward desire satisfaction. For Mill, each moment of one’s life should be regarded as equally important, and the master desire for happiness guides you towards acting so as to lead one’s life in that way. Singer has no such commitment.
  3. 3. euthanasia and consent Student: Singer’s argument for the right to kill through doctor assisted suicide seems to make sense. I think everybody has a right to choose and judge when it is best for them to come and go. DrC: Don’t forget that Singer defends this right at the “intuitive” level. It has no place at the fundamental theoretical level of his preference utilitarianism.
  4. 4. pmail: infanticide Student: Singer makes me question what happens to all the babies not under the protection of an adult's love.  Do they carry no moral worth?  How can Singer condemn us for indulging in meat, when he believes it is ok to commit infanticide for the parent's convenience (pg. 154)?
  5. 5. pmail: disability Student: In chapter 7, on pg. 189, Singer states that being disabled is leading a worse life than being the default human because if we found out that a pill caused severe birth defects, we would discourage the mother to take it, thereby proving how we value normality.  This seems contrary to another chapter where he points out that we cannot judge that "we cannot move automatically from a preference from a pleasant life rather than an unpleasant one, to a preference for a pleasant life rather than no life at all" because we have no comparison to what having no life is like.  In a similar manner, we have never experienced disability and are only judging it from the outside.  How can we condemn all their experiences as being less valuable?
  6. 6. pmail: potential revisited Student: What bothered me about Singer's writing in this chapter is not his formulation of the ethical behaviour we ought to undertake towards other humans, in fact I presume that he is correct about our ("our" being affluent individuals) need to provide for the severely less fortunate, but, I find that he is inconsistent in his theories about 'potentiality' (in general).  In this chapter, despite his acknowledment that "success cannot be guaranteed," he holds that the potential for an increase in human pleasure by providing for the poor is a substantial reason to do so.  And yet, a couple chapters earlier, we saw that a potential human life, which may or may not yeild high amounts of pleasure, is not substantial enough to stop a woman from having an abortion because it is convenient to do so.  Perhaps affluent people may see it as an inconvenience to provide aid for "absolutely impoverished" people.   Is this an inconsistency I see as a result of my own misinterpretation or is Singer just inconsistent?
  7. 7. pmail: epistemology Student: In my eyes, a tension exists here. We can't know if animals are self-conscious, and neither can we with absolute certainty know whether infants are self-conscious. A doubt exists in each case (in my opinion). If this doubt exists, then it seems that either we cannot ethically replace infants, or else that the idea of 'doubt' itself (regarding self-consciousness) is an unsuitable principle to use when arguing against killing animals, or, I suppose, anything. In other words, it seems that Singer wants to have his cake and eat it too. Doubt must apply equally to the status of all beings that we can't experience, or else to none at all. Or else perhaps Singer is trying something else, and I have misinterpreted him.
  8. 8. Singer 9: Insiders and Outsiders Singer: “What are the possible solutions for refugees in the world today? The main options are: voluntary repatriation, local integration in the country they first flee to, and resettlement.” (251) DrC: What solution would it be rational for us to accept?
  9. 9. Wolf: Moral Saints Wolf: “The way in which morality, unlike other possible goals, is apt to dominate is particularly disturbing, for it seems to require either the lack or the denial of the existence of an identifiable, personal self.” (132)
  10. 10. Wolf “We may refer to the first model as the model of the Loving Saint: to the second, as the model of the Rational Saint.” (129)
  11. 11. Hobbes: Leviathan Hobbes: “So, that in the nature of man, we find three principal causes of quarrel. First, competition; secondly, diffidence; thirdly, glory....Hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a way, as is of every man, against every man.” (141)