KIM WOODS

There is only one discussion this week. Your instructor will be choosing the discussion question and posting it as the first post in the discussion forum. The requirements for the discussion this week are a minimum of four posts on four separate days. The total combined word count for all of your posts, counted together, should be over 600 words. Be sure to answer all the questions in the prompt and to read any resources that are required to complete the discussion properly. In order to satisfy the posting requirements for the week, please complete your initial post by Day 3 (Thursday) and your other posts by Day 7 (Monday).  We recommend that you get into the discussion early and spread out your posts over the course of the week.  Be sure to reply to your classmates and instructor.  Try to attempt to take the conversation further by examining their claims or arguments in more depth or responding to the posts that they make to you.  Keep the discussion on target and try to analyze things in as much detail as you can.

·         PHI 208 Week 1 Discussion Prompts

Instructions: There will be one discussion in week 1.   Please select one of the prompts from the set below and post it as an initial post in the discussion this week.  Students will respond to that post as if it were the prompt for the week.

1.What are some relativistic beliefs that you have or that you find in society? What are those ethical beliefs and how do people justify those beliefs? Using the articles from Mary Midgley (see also Rachels’ and Goodman’s articles from the recommended readings), present a critique of those relativistic beliefs.  What reasons do you have for thinking that these beliefs are not consistent?

2.What do you believe is the strongest argument against relativism that was presented the readings for the week? Outline the argument presenting the reasons the author gives for thinking that relativism is inadequate. Finally, discuss relativism with your classmates in general.  What are some relativistic beliefs you have held?  Do you believe that they can be justified or do you plan on reevaluating those beliefs now that you have learned more about relativism?

3.In the excerpt from the Republic the example of the ring of Gyges is used to claim that humans only act morally because of fear that they will be caught. Present an example of someone being morally good out of fear and then present an example of someone being morally good out of an inherent desire to act in a specific way.  Discuss with others the idea that morality is inherent and based on universal principles or virtues versus the idea that ethics is socially created and varies based on human social and political context.  Which do you find to be more convincing?  Which philosophical reasons would you present for thinking that your position is the best position?

4.Glaucon (Ring of Gyges) says that we obey the laws only from fear of punishment. Provide four reasons for obeying the law or ethical principles that do not involve punishment or reward. Is there a difference between people who obey the law out of fear and those who obey the law out of a sense of duty or character? What are those differences?  When is it acceptable not to obey the laws?  What types of laws ought we obey and which ought we disregard?  Be sure to back up your answers with information you have learned from the readings in the week.

Slavery has been practiced world-wide since the earliest days of humanity, and is still practiced in parts of the world even today. Even parts of the Bible (http://www.openbible.info/topics/slavery (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.) condone slavery, or at least they say nothing against it. Yet today in America most people think that slavery is absolutely morally wrong. This week, we have read about the view that all moral values are relative to a particular culture. We have also read about the view that moral values are conventions meant to keep the powerful from taking advantage of the weak, and that if people can take advantage of others without getting punished, they will (in the “Ring of Gyges” passage from Plato’s Republic). Both of these views would seem to present a challenge to our assumptions that slavery is absolutely wrong.   Present an argument for the view that slavery is wrong, and discuss the following questions: Does your argument show that slavery is absolutely wrong, even if there are people that disagree? If yes, explain why your argument shows that (a) other cultures that permit slavery are (or were) wrong to do so even though they have different beliefs, and that (b) it would be wrong to enslave people even if one could do so without being punished. Be sure to refer to the readings on cultural relativism for part (a) and the reading from Plato’s Republic for part (b).  If you do not think that your argument shows (a) or (b), explain why, and again, be sure to refer to the readings on cultural relativism for part (a) and the reading from Plato’s Republic for part (b).

7. Many of the world’s major and powerful cultures have not only permitted suicide but actually condoned acts of self sacrifice—Ancient Egypt, Classic Rome, China for almost three thousand years, Japan from pre-history into the 20th century, and Moghul India are but a few examples. Several major religions, including Islam and Hinduism, approve of suicide under certain conditions. On what basis have we the right, then, to say that suicide is wrong? Using the articles and media from the week, examine instances in which you believe that it is acceptable to kill oneself or to sacrifice oneself and then explain instances in which you think that it is not ethically permissible to do so. Be sure to include reasons that support your claims.

8.Consider the moral and ethical issues, dilemmas, controversies, and questions raised in this week’s materials. Let us suppose that you were to find a magic ring like the Ring of Gyges. This ring gives you the power to change the morality and ethics of everybody for all time. You can make one thing absolutely acceptable or absolutely forbidden, so that everybody, everywhere, from this day forward and forevermore, would have no choice but to act in this one particular way. You could, for example, declare thievery wrong and nobody would ever steal anything ever again—not even that cheap, red, plastic stapler from the office supply closet—they would be unable even to think of the idea of stealing. You could, for example, declare that from this forward and forevermore, no one could have, own, possess, or hold any more than anyone else and thus eliminate wealth and poverty worldwide forever. You could with a few words strike forever from the hearts and minds of humanity even the bare idea of lying, stealing, cheating, gambling, adultery, alcoholism, addiction of any kind, gluttony, sloth, or any other behavior you think should be absolutely and forever wrong or right. What would you do with the power of that ring? Why? Give at least five reasons to support the change that you would make. After you present your analysis, discuss with your classmates why it is that we are unable to make these changes in our current social and worldwide conditions.

9.After reading the “Ring of Gyges” story from Plato’s Republic, think about what you would do if, like the shepherd who found the ring, you were able to do whatever you felt like doing without anyone knowing. What is one thing that you are unable to do now, but would do if you had that ring? (The more honest everyone is, the more interesting this discussion will be. No judging, just thinking and discussing!)

10.Would most people in our society consider what you do to be ethical or unethical (or are there too many different views to really be able to say)? Why do you think this is, exactly?

11.What is the reason you would do that? Would the answer to the previous question matter to you if you had that ring? Why or why not? 

12.Thinking back to the text, what does Glaucon’s view imply about human nature? In other words, what ultimately motivates us as human beings? From Glaucon’s perspective, read the posts of your peers and suggest how Glaucon might respond to their answers to parts (A) and (B). Use this as a springboard to discuss whether you think Glaucon is right about human nature and why we have the standards of morality and justice that we do (for instance, if a peer suggests how Glaucon would respond to your answers, reply back to that with your own perspective).

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