Philosophy 160, Critical Thinking
Below, there are two different passages that contain arguments. One of them is an argument for the claim that we should legalize drugs; this is the called the PRO-LEGALIZATION ARGUMENT. The second is an argument for the claim that we should not legalize drugs; this is called the ANTI-LEGALIZATION ARGUMENT. Your assignment is to pick one of these arguments and write a paper explaining what you think is wrong with the argument. You should pick the argument that you disagree with. For example, if you think that drugs should be legalized, then you should pick the ANTI-LEGALIZATION ARGUMENT, and write a paper saying what’s wrong with that argument. And if you think that drugs should not be legalized, then you should pick the PRO-LEGALIZATION ARGUMENT, and write a paper saying what’s wrong with that argument.
Your paper should be two-to-three page long, double-spaced. In particular, whichever of the arguments you choose, you should (a) discuss which of the premises you think are false or questionable (especially those which are unsupported by other premises) and say why; and/or (b) discuss whether the various premises provide adequate support for their conclusions. You do not need to discuss every problem that you discover. You can discuss just one problem if you’d like; or if you’d rather, you can a discuss a few problems. The paper must be typed and written in complete sentences. Also, students are to work alone on this project; no collaboration is permitted.
You can start working on the writing assignment whenever you want to. However, it is strongly recommended that you not attempt the writing assignment until you make your way through chapters 1-14 in the Course Reader. Thus, the only chapter in the Course Reader that’s not very relevant to the writing assignment is chapter 15. Thus, it is recommended that you wait until fairly late in the term before doing the writing assignment.
The most important Homework Set to do, in order to prepare for the writing assignment, is Homework Set XIX (at the end of Chapter 14). If you read the Solutions to Homework Set XIX, that will prepare you for writing the paper. In particular, for each argument in Homework Set XIX, there is a little discussion in the Solutions about the problems with the given argument. When you’re writing your paper, this is the sort of thing you want to do–you want to discuss the problems with the argument that you’re discussing.
How to Submit Your Paper: First of all, you should either write the paper in Microsoft Word or, if you use some other program to write your paper, you should save your file as an rtf file, i.e., a “rich text format” file. Thus, all papers should either be MS Word files or rtf files. Second, once you’ve written your paper, you should submit it as follows: (i) Go to the “Writing Assignment” section of the course, and click “Writing Assignment File Submission”; (ii) click “Upload File”; (iii) click “Add”; (iv) click “Upload a File”; (v) click “Browse”, and then choose the file from your computer that contains your paper; (vi) click “Open”; (vii) click “Upload this file”; and finally, (viii) click “Save Changes”.
It is clearly time for us to legalize drugs in this country. There are two sorts of considerations here–namely, the moral and the practical–and both of them favor the legalization of drugs. In other words, it is morally unacceptable for the government to tell the citizens of this country that they cannot use drugs, and the legalization of drugs would generate pragmatic gains for us.
As far as morality is concerned, the decision to use or not use drugs is a personal one that does not directly impinge upon the rights of others, and the government should never forbid activities that do not impinge upon the rights of others. Now, one might wonder why I say that drug use doesn’t impinge upon the rights of others; after all, one might (correctly) point out that the loved ones of a drug addict can be put through a great deal of unnecessary suffering, and society as a whole may have to foot the bill for the person’s rehabilitation. But I think this is irrelevant, because it seems to me that considerations of this sort are true of all sorts of behavior; in fact, this is true of anything that is dangerous. Driving on the freeways in L.A. is very dangerous and leads to a good many deaths and injuries; thus, it creates suffering in loved ones, and society as a whole is often called upon to pay for the medical expenses of those injured in accidents. The point is this: if you’re going to forbid drugs for the above reason, then you ought to forbid anything which is in the least bit dangerous.
Let’s move on to consider the pragmatic side of this issue. If drugs were legalized, it would help the economy in at least two ways. First of all, the government would no longer have to waste so much money on law enforcement, fighting drug-related crimes. And second, a whole new legal market would emerge, and therefore, jobs would be created, the Gross National Product would go up, and tax revenues would increase.
In the last few years, there has been a disturbing movement in this country toward the legalization of drugs. This is a terrible idea. There are two different reasons for thinking that we should not legalize drugs in this country. One of them is moral–it has to do with the role that government is supposed to play in our lives. And the second reason has to do with the consequences that legalization would have on our culture.
Let’s begin with the moral argument, and let’s ask ourselves this question: What is our government supposed to do? The answer seems obvious. It’s supposed to help us. After all, it’s our government. We set it up to make our lives easier. But if our government is supposed to help us, then shouldn’t it be protecting us from the evils of drug addiction? Drugs are capable of literally ruining people’s lives. The government should protect its citizens from this, and the obvious way to do that is to forbid drug use. In short, the government cannot sit by and watch people ruin their lives with drugs.
The second argument against the legalization of drugs has to do with the consequences that legalization would have on our country. The first point that needs to be made here is that there would be much more drug use and drug abuse and drug addition, if drugs were legalized. Look how much drug abuse there is right now when it’s illegal. If it were suddenly legalized–if you could go into a grocery store and buy drugs in the same way that you can buy beer–then there would be ten times more drug use and drug addiction than there is right now. And that would lead to a general degradation of our culture–in short, more people would be addicts. Another point worth making here is that if drugs were legalized, it would increase crime. This would happen in at least three different ways: (i) people would commit more robberies in order to raise the money they needed to feed their addictions; (ii) people would commit more crimes because of their altered state of consciousness (in other words, more people would be getting high on drugs, and once they were high, they would commit more crimes); and (iii) more people would be driving while under the influence of drugs.
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