Online Resources for Utilitarianism

June 19, 2008

* Consequentialism at the SEP

* Mill’s Moral and Political Philosophy at the SEP

* Rule Consequentialism at the SEP

* Consequentialism at the IEP

* John Stuart Mill at the IEP

And the two interviews we heard in class can be found at “philosophy bites”:

* Roger Crisp on Mill’s Utilitarianism

* Brad Hooker on Consequentialism

Crisis Analysis

June 15, 2008

Apologies for the delay in posting this.

Due: Monday, June 16

Assignment: Using the model of crisis management found in the article by Mitroff, Shrivastava, and Udwadia, discuss some of the things you have in place to manage ethical crises in your own life. Be sure to say something about each stage of the model:

I. Detection: What steps do you take to prevent ethical crises? How do you prepare for them?
II. Crises: How do you keep a level head during a crisis? Do you have people, institutions, practices, that help you do this? How do you contain the crisis, keep it from spreading?
III. Repair: If an ethical crisis occurs, how do you recover?
IV. Assessment: What do you do to learn from an ethical crisis?

Evaluation: Papers may receive an E, an S, or a U. Students receiving a U will be allowed to redo their work for an S.

Maritain on the World Declaration of Rights

June 9, 2008

Those of you who were interested in the brief discussion of Maritain’s approach to building a declaration of rights at the end of class today will likely be interested in Maritain’s own discussion of the problem, which is lucid, readable, and thought-provoking. His discussion can be found at the UNESCO website (PDF).

Resources on Kant’s Moral Philosophy

June 9, 2008

* Kant’s Moral Philosophy at the SEP

* Kant and Hume on Morality at the SEP

* Respect at the SEP

* Categorical Imperative at the Catholic Encyclopedia

Maxims and Rules

June 6, 2008

Due: Monday, June 9

Assignment: Identify and discuss some of the ethically significant rules you set for yourself. Regardless of whether Kant would consider them categorical or hypothetical, do you yourself treat these rules as hypothetical or categorical? Explain your answer. Also, discuss how these rules work in everyday life — how do you remember them, apply them, give them priority, etc.? (You may use either real life examples or hypothetical scenarios to answer this last question.)

Obviously it would be impossible to include every rule you set for yourself. Select a few that you can discuss in 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 pages.

Evaluation: Papers will be given an S for satisfactory or a U for unsatisfactory; students receiving a U will be allowed to redo their work for an S.

Resources on Natural Law Theory

June 4, 2008

Some additional resources on natural law theory:

Natural Law at the IEP

Natural Law at the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia

Natural Law Theories at the SEP

The Natural Law Tradition in Ethics at the SEP

Ethical Calendar

May 29, 2008

Due: Monday, June 2

Assignment: Construct a calendar of your ethical life for the months of June, July, and August. To do this you will need to think through some things:

(1) What roles do you have? (e.g., father, mother, brother, sister, friend, student, employee, etc.)
(2) What practices do you engage in? (e.g., sports, arts, sciences, religious activities, etc.)
(3) What institutions do you participate in? (e.g., ACC, business, library, city of Austin, etc.)

And, most importantly: what obligations, responsibilities, and ethical pressures do these exert on your life?

In addition to the calendar itself (which may be in any format), you should include a set of notes to explain various features of the calendar. For instance, as a member of the ACC faculty, I have certain obligations, like teaching classes. These classes would obviously go on the calendar, and I’d note them on the note page, noting that they are obligations due to work. At the same time there are things that I like to do, not because I’m obligated to do them, but because they are ways in which I can improve myself as a teacher. I’d note these on the calendar, with a note on the notes page indicating how they are different from obligations. And so forth.

You are not required to be thoroughly detailed (I don’t need to know every minute of your day for the whole summer), so focus on the most important matters. Make sure, however, that your calendars show that you have been reflecting on a wide variety of ethical aspects of your life: obligations, responsibilities that are not obligations but are high-priority, responsibilities that are not obligations nor high-priority but are still important as means or stepping stones to things that are, things that are not responsibilities at all but that you engage in because they are the responsibility of someone important to you, etc.

Tip: To simplify your notes page you might want to come up with a color code or symbol code for your calendar.

Don’t forget any holidays that you (or people important to you) celebrate as important.

Evaluation: There are three possible marks: Excellent, Satisfactory, and Unsatisfactory. Except in cases where what is turned in clearly does not match the assignment, ‘Unsatisfactory’ marks will be reserved for calendars that just didn’t provide enough information for me to say that you had taken much trouble to reflect on the roles, practices, and institutions of your life and their ethical role in your life. Any student receiving an ‘Unsatisfactory’ mark will be allowed to redo their assignment in order to get a ‘Satisfactory’ mark.

Practices and Institutions

May 28, 2008

If you read the syllabus you’ll note that it says that this course will have a special focus “on matters relating to ethical practices and institutions.” That, of course, suggests a question: What are practices and institutions? Alasdair MacIntyre, in his book After Virtue suggests a useful definition of practices:

By a ‘practice’ I am going to mean any coherent and complex form of socially established co-operative human activity through which goods internal to that form of activity are realised in the course of trying to achieve those standards of excellence which are appropriate to, and partially definitive of, that form of activity, with the result that human powers to achieve excellence, and human conceptions of the ends and goods involved, are systematically extended.

That’s a mouthful, and we’ll discuss it more, but the key phrases here are: (1) “socially established co-operative human activity”; (2) “goods internal to that form of activity”; and (3) “standards of excellence”. We’ll discuss these more fully in class, but MacIntyre’s examples of practices are things like arts, sports, games, sciences, fishing, farming, etc.

(1) These activities are cooperative in part because you learn these standards of excellence from those who have developed the necessary skills and abilities to do well, and also because they have histories, traditions, customs, and the like. That is, they involve communities of people, both at a time and through time, cooperating to improve the activity.

(2) They are activities that have ‘internal goods’. An external good would be something like money or fame. An internal good, however, is the excellence involved in the activity itself: people work hard to become good at (say) bass fishing not because of money or fame, but because being a good bass fisher is itself a kind of human excellence that they think is worth achieving. This is true of many different kinds of practices, those that are very serious (firefighting, soldiering, medicine), those that are disciplined forms of play (soccer, chess) and everything in between.

(3) Because they involve community-building around internal excellence, these activities over time begin to develop standards of excellence, and part of what it means to become involved in these activities is to try to live up to those standards of excellence, even to improve them. These standards of excellence are learned, and they are in great measure learned by doing. Most of becoming a good soccer player, for instance, is playing soccer or else practicing at particular skills used when you play soccer.

Institutions differ from practices in that institutions are more concerned with external goods; they are means of collecting, managing, and applying external goods (like money or celebrity), and in many cases they do this in order to support practices. For instance, we build hospitals to support the practice of healing, schools to support the practice of teaching, laboratories and observatories to support the practices of science. These are all examples of institutions. Whenever you are thinking about practices it’s important to keep an eye on institutions: institutions support practices, but corruption, failure, or mismanagement of the institutions can impede or even destroy the practices they support.

Allegory of the Cave on You Tube

May 28, 2008

The following is the animated adaptation of the Allegory of the Cave that we looked at in class.

Those of you interested in more You Tube goodness might also like this claymation adaptation or The Basement, which is more comic.

Welcome to PHIL 2306

May 18, 2008

Check the links to the side for further information on the course.