Honors Colloquium: Ethics of Life and DeathAutumn 1997


Assignment 1: Due Wednesday 9/3/97
Do either (a) or (b)

Assignment 2: Due Monday, 9/8/97
Fischer and Ravizza suggest that rule utilitarianism seems to have the resources to give a more acceptable (to our intuitions) answer of what is to be done in the case they call "Transplant" (see p.2 and summarized on p.26) than act utilitarianism. p.35. Explain this "Transplant" case, what an act utilitarian would say about it, and how what a rule utilitarian would say about it would differ. Critically discuss.

Assignment 3: Due Monday, 9/15/97
David Hume argues that "suicide is no transgression of our duty to God." Carefully explain his argument(s) in support of this claim. Offer some critique of his argumentation to this point. How might Hume reply to your critique? Would that reply be adequate? Why or why not?

Assignment 4: Due Monday, 9/22/97
Richard Brandt ("On the Morality and Rationality of Suicide") explores the question of whether it is ever (and if so, under what conditions) it is rational to commit suicide. His answer is that it clearly is. Explore what he means by rationality. Explore the issues that he thinks are involved in considering the rationality of such an act. Critically discuss.

Assignment 5: Due Monday, 9/29/97
Jonathan Bennett in "Whatever the Consequences" draws a distinction between killing and letting die. Explain his way of drawing the distinction. Bennett thinks that this distinction has no moral significance. Explain Bennett's reason for this. Critically discuss.

Assignment 6: Due Monday, 10/6/97
American Medical Association policy distinguishes between "ordinary" and "extraordinary" means of prolonging a life, and sometimes allows cessation of "extraordinary" means of preserving a life but not of "ordinary" means. Explain this distinction between "extraordinary" and "ordinary" means. Is this distinction morally relevant to decisions? Why or why not? (See the Sullivan article, among others.)

Assignment 7: Due Monday, 10/13/97
Explain three different moral views. (These should be taken from : views or moral principles espoused by authors we have read in this course, views or principles taken seriously (but not endorsed) by authors we have read in this course, or your own view. For example, the Doctrine of Double effect could count as a view, so could Quinn's revision of DDE, so could J.J. Thomson's position in "Killing, Letting Die, and the Trolley Problem,") Describe three cases or pairs of cases discussed by the authors we've read. (For example, "Transplant," any of the "Trolley" cases, Rachels' Smith-Jones cases.) Explain what each view would say about each case (i.e. would it be morally wrong, or morally permissible, and why). Which view seems closest to being correct? Why? [Note that this is intended as an overview, digestion, and organization of stuff we've already covered (i.e. read or discussed), not breaking new ground with a new article.]

Assignment 8: Due Monday 10/20/97
John Noonan argues that conception is the dividing point between when it is right or not right to kill a human being (or rather "the decisive moment of humanization"). Explicate his argument for this. Critique that argument. Critically discuss.

Assignment 9: Due Monday, 10/27/97
In "A Defense of Abortion" Judith Jarvis Thomson uses several examples. These include: the violinist, the tiny house, Smith's coat, Henry Fonda's touch, some example involving chocolates, the burglar, and people seeds. Choose one of these examples other than the violinist. Explain the example. Explain the general point Thomson is trying to make by using the example. (Not just: she's making an analogy with abortion.) Explain how the argument is supposed to work. Critique and evaluate the argument. (Don't just explain that "Abortion is different."; indeed for most of these you'll probably do a better job if you put abortion out of your mind when you write the paper.)

Assignment 10: Due Monday, 11/3/97
Do either (a) or (b):

Assignment 11: Due Monday, 11/10/97
Under what circumstances, if any, is abortion morally permissible? Defend your answer, taking into account points made in class discussion (as well as those in the readings).

Assignment 12: Due Monday, 11/17/95
Jan Narveson argues that "the pacifist position is self-contradictory." Carefully explain his argument. Critically discuss.

Assignment 13: Due Monday, 11/24/97
Do either (a) or (b) [and be sure to indicate which]:
Assignment 14: Due Monday, 12/1/97
In "Famine, Affluence, and Morality" Peter Singer argues that people in affluent countries ought to give up relative luxuries (color televisions, fancy cars, video games, perhaps) and give the money saved to aid starving people in other countries. Explain his argument. Critically discuss.

Assignment 15: Due Monday, 12/8/97
Do either (a) or (b) [and be sure to indicate which]:

Richard Lee, rlee@comp.uark.edu, last modified: 29 July 1998