1 Instructions

| December 27, 2015

1 Instructions
Select one of the following essay prompts and answer it in an essay of about 4-5 pages,
answering the subquestions in as much detail as you think is appropriate. These essays are
argumentative. You are delivering a verdict on the quality of an argument or a solution
to a moral dilemma. The point is to deploy the discussion, analysis, and argumentation
that we’ve looked at in order to develop and defend your assessment of the case being made
for the conclusion. In other words, respond to the case being made for the conclusions
with good arguments! This involves considering, fairly and logically, what would be said in
counterargument by someone that doesn’t have the obvious insight into the nature of truth
and morality that you have. 😉
2 Essay Prompts
1. Evaluate this argument:
(a) Anti-Vax
i. Vaccines cause autism.
ii. Autism is a harmful condition to the person who has it and to the people
around the person who has it.
iii. The parents, X and Y, of child Z, have, as a parental right, the absolute
authority to make decisions concerning risks of harm to Z (e.g., absolute
authority to make decisions about whether to expose Z to risk of harm).
iv. :. Therefore, any policy requiring that parents vaccinate their children violates
their parental rights. (From i,ii,iii?)
v. Parental rights are a subset of important or fundamental rights.
vi. Any policy that violates important or fundamental rights cannot be morally
justified (i.e., it is morally impermissible to uphold it).
vii. :. Therefore, no policy requiring parents to vaccinate their children can be
morally justified. (From v,vi?)
viii. :. Therefore, parents have the right to not have their children vaccinated.
(From iii? From vii?)
(b) In particular, consider the follow-up questions:
i. Is the first premise true? Do some research (using credible sources) on whether
the first premise is true. The scientific consensus is that it is false. However,
even if it were true, it would not be an exceptionless generalization, but a
statistical fact at best. A small percentage of children vaccinated end up
having any autism spectrum disorder. So, even if true in some limited sense,
the first premise is really about a very small probability of risk. Does this
impact the quality of the support for the conclusion?
ii. Is the second premise true? Are people with autism harmed by it? Are the
people around an autistic person harmed by that person’s condition?
iii. Replace “autism” in the first premise with some other severe harm (and keep
in mind the very small probability of risk). Does this change the quality of
the argument?
iv. Is the third premise true? Is the third premise even logically coherent? Might
it contradict itself? Rights always come with responsibilities (obligations or
duties). Is the principle in premise iii consistent with the following principle?
“It is forbidden (obligatory not to) impose risks of harm on someone else’s
children.” Does iii entail this principle? If iii and this principle are separate,
is there a moral dilemma, here, because they conflict? If iii is true, and there
is such a principle, how can it be resolved? More, there are duties to people
other than one’s children. Does the third premise conflict with those?
v. Are the fifth and sixth premises true? (Recall the distinction between acts
and practices – does it help?)
vi. Does the final conclusion follow from any of the premises or intermediate
2. Evaluate these arguments as a group:
(a) Anti-AFA-PPA I
i. The right to access healthcare is merely a negative right.
ii. If X does not have a positive right to healthcare, then it is permissible to not
provide (assistance in getting) access to healthcare.
iii. :. Therefore, it is permissible to not provide access to healthcare.
A. This applies both to collective agencies AND to individuals.
(b) Anti-AFA-PPA II
i. Individuals have, as a fundamental right, the absolute authority to dispose of
their property as they see fit (e.g., to decide to use it to assist someone or to
decide not to use it to assist someone).
ii. The AFA-PPA is a redistributive measure – it distributes healthcare costs
among taxpayers, which entails that some taxpayer property (their money)
is used, without the consent of those taxpayers, to assist people. That is,
it requires individuals to use some of their property to aid others (thereby
removing the option for making the decision to not do so by coercion).
iii. :. Thus, AFA-PPA violates the fundamental rights of individuals.
(c) Pro-AFA-PPA I
i. If moral agent X can prevent harm H without a comparable moral sacrifice
S, then X is morally obligated to prevent H.
ii. Creating and enforcing policies like AFA-PPA can prevent numerous severe
harms without comparable moral sacrifices.
A. Mortality rates among children and adults.
B. Denial of medically necessary treatment.
C. Actuarial decisions that cause death, suffering for profit.
iii. Legislators, collectively and/or the state (a) are moral agents and (b) can
create and enforce such policies.
iv. :. Thus, it is morally obligatory for legislators (collectively) and the state to
create and enforce policies like AFA-PPA.
(d) Pro-AFA-PPA II
i. If moral agent X can prevent harm H without a comparable moral sacrifice
S, then X is morally obligated to prevent H.
ii. Each individual moral agent can, by adhering to policies like AFA-PPA, prevent
numerous portions (or even individual cases) of severe harms without
comparable moral sacrifice.
A. Mortality rates among children and adults.
B. Denial of medically necessary treatment.
C. Actuarial decisions that cause death, suffering for profit.
iii. :. Thus, it is morally obligatory for individuals to adhere to policies like
A. In democracies, does this entail that we have individual obligations to
petition government to create and enforce policies like AFA-PPA?
(e) In particular, consider the follow-up questions:
i. Are the conclusions of these arguments logically consistent? If not, then if the
premises are true (in particular, if the premises that express moral principles
are true), then we have a serious moral dilemma. How can we resolve this
dilemma? Must some of the premises be false? Which ones?
ii. One question about the first premise of the first argument: is the right to
access healthcare actually a merely negative right? Or is there a positive right
to access to healthcare? If the premises of the third and fourth arguments are
true, then it would seem to be the case that there IS a positive right insofar
as healthcare prevents harms (or lack of healthcare IS a harm).
iii. One question about the first premise of the second argument is this: Suppose
that a mad trillionaire sees fit to buy up all of the resources used to produce
HIV/AIDS treatments in the world, so that he can destroy it all to prevent
all HIV/AIDS patients from receiving treatment. If he can come to possess
these resources, they become his property. So, if the first premise of the
second argument is true and describes a negative right, it’s impermissible to
interfere with this project of the mad trillionaire. If the first premise describes
a positive right, then some people have an obligation to help the trillionaire
destroy all of the HIV/AIDS medicine. Can it be the case that the first
premise is true?
iv. Is the first premise of the third/fourth argument true? Doesn’t it entail
absurd things like, if you can donate one eyeball to someone in order to
prevent their blindness, you have a moral obligation to? What would Judith
Jarvis Thomson say?
3. Evaluate one version or the other of the following argument (replace what’s in one set
of brackets with what’s in the other set of brackets):
(a) Anti-ARTS/Anti-PGD
i. If a practice involves “playing God”, then it is morally impermissible.
ii. Practices such as [surrogate motherhood, in vitro fertilization, GIFT or ZIFT,
or other Assisted Reproductive Technologies]/[PGD] involve playing God.
iii. :. Therefore, such practices are morally impermissible.
(b) Whether you think the argument is good or bad, I want you to consider these two
i. What does it mean to “play God”? Consider multiple possible definitions of
this concept. If you negatively evaluate the argument, at least one of these
definitions must be accurate, coherent, and make premise 1 true. If you
positively evaluate the argument, you must show how all of the definitions
you can think of (all the plausible or coherent definitions?) make the premise
false, are inaccurate or otherwise absurd, etc.
ii. Why is “playing God” morally impermissible? For each definition you come
up with, test that definition. Does the definition make the first premise true
or false? Does it make other practices permissible or impermissible? Are
these the correct verdicts? Does the definition entail absurdities?
iii. If this argument doesn’t work, are there arguments based on uses or abuses
of the practice/technology that do work to show that the practice/technology
is impermissible?

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