Paper Topics—PHI 292
Deadline: Thursday, May 2
Optional Draft Deadline: Wednesday, April 17
Answer one and only one of the following numbered questions. Please ensure that you answer each part of the numbered question you select to answer. Your essay needs to be typewritten, in black ink, double-spaced, with one-inch margins on all sides. You must either use MLA or CMS style. I prefer Times New Roman font, size twelve. Lastly, your essay needs to be at least four FULL pages in length, but the essay should not exceed six pages. If you should have any questions, please let me know.
1. It has been suggested that, evolution being what it is, monogamy is not obviously something that human beings are suited for. Human beings are all but plagued by sexual desire. So this raises the interesting question of whether or not monogamy is a rational social practice. If it is, there ought to be some very good reasons for it notwithstanding the aches of sexual desire.
So make the case for monogamy. This requires speaking to the weaknesses and strengths of monogamy. And in making your case, be sure to take into account the extent to which the considerations you proffer are or are not at odds with evolution.
2. For several decades, bioethicists have debated whether killing differs from letting die. A leading physician in medical ethics once admitted, “I have had occasion to give a patient pain medication we both knew would shorten her life.” Obviously, we can ask: does this differ from killing her? Some have argued that just as rape and making love are different, so are killing and assisted suicide. Even so, James Rachels argues that this distinction has no inherent moral value and often leads to decisions about death based on irrelevant factors. What argument(s) does Rachels’ use to help to establish this thesis? Is intending death by removing a respirator equivalent to suffocating a patient with a pillow? Is it difficult to draw a line between active and passive? Why or why not?
3. An important diversity argument for affirmative action, at least in the hiring of academic staff, is that black and female students are disadvantaged without black and female role models. Hiring blacks and females into academic positons provides black and female students with the needed role models. Imagine a futuristic scenario in which whites can be given a drug to transform their racial phenotype. Would those who had taken the drug be a role model for black students who did know about this? If so, on what grounds? If not, why not? What constitutes a role model? How important is racial similarity to constituting a role model?
4. Hill’s essay raises questions common to both racism and sexism. Both blacks and women have, at times, been servile to whites and to men. Sometimes those decisions were prudent. Slaves knew that if they were “uppity” they might endanger themselves and their families. In such extreme oppressive environments, servility was arguably not a vice. However, in the current environment, blacks and women should shed any remnants of servility. They should see themselves as valuable people whom others should respect. People with a healthy self-respect will, among other things, claim their rights. Otherwise, by their silence, they imply that the dominant group’s behavior and attitudes toward them is justified. What arguments does Hill use to support these claims?
Imagine an excellent reader entirely bereft of a sense of intrinsic moral worth finds Hill’s essay extremely intuitive and quite persuasive. Thanks to reading Hill’s essay, he understands that he is being not just kind or considerate, but morally servile. Now, it is tempting to say that it is rather unlikely that someone so bereft of a sense of moral worth is going to change so radically in his thinking about such matters and will not come to value himself simply in virtue of reading a very good philosophical argument. Why may this be so?
5. For most of us, our families are very important. Although they can cause discomfort, anguish, and pain, they often infuse our lives with meaning, bring us great joy, and heighten our contentment. When relationships with family are flourishing, it is difficult to envision life without them. At those times we don’t really think about what we owe them or what they owe us. According to Jane English, this is as it should be; for she holds that strong family relationships are based on love. Explain further why English claims that grown children do not owe anything to their parents. Discuss in detail the arguments she uses to establish this thesis. What is your assessment of her argument? Is moral obligation at odds with close personal relationships?
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