PHIL 102 Lecture Notes - Modus Tollens

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26 Feb 2013
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Writing assignment due on Friday is focusing on number 5
1. What’s the problem to be solved?
2. What’s its significance?
3. Whats the thesis?
4. What do we need to know to understand the thesis?
5. What’s the argument for the thesis?
6. What remains to be done?
Singer has a modus tollens argument. Mention his arguments against his thesis as well
-if p is true, then q is true
-q is not true
-then p is not true
-his conclusion: you should do everything in your power to address famine up to the
point that you’re not giving up anything of moral comparable value
!-eg. if you spend an extra 5$ on good beer, you’ll have a better taste for one
!night, but that can’t compare to the moral value of giving 5$ to someone starving
argument:
1. S is bad
2. if it’s in our power to prevent a bad thing from happening without a sacrifice of
anything of comparable moral value, we ought to do it
3. we ought to do what’s in our power to end S
-eg. if you see a child drowning and you can go in knee-deep to save them, you should
do it. It doesn’t matter if you’ll ruin a new suit (not comparable moral value)
-he generalizes from this
-he’s not saying that you have a moral obligation to do good, you just have an obligation
to not do bad
-thesis is that his argument generalizes to all situations, doesn’t define bad things
!-solving world hunger is an example
-he also makes an assumption of impartiality, which isn’t really possible
objections (not in his paper):
1. impartiality
2. no room for inequality
objections (in his paper):
1. distance (add into point 2: ...unless the distance is great)
!-eg. we feel that we have an obligation to save a child we se drowning, but not a
!starving child across the globe
!-his response is that distance is psychologically compelling but morally irrelevant
2. point 2 fails to take into consideration the distribution of shared responsibility
!-we should all do a little, so why should I make up for something that someone
!else isn’t doing?
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Document Summary

Mention his arguments against his thesis as well. If p is true, then q is true. His conclusion: you should do everything in your power to address famine up to the point that you"re not giving up anything of moral comparable value. Eg. if you see a child drowning and you can go in knee-deep to save them, you should do it. It doesn"t matter if you"ll ruin a new suit (not comparable moral value) He"s not saying that you have a moral obligation to do good, you just have an obligation to not do bad. Thesis is that his argument generalizes to all situations, doesn"t de ne bad things. Eg. we feel that we have an obligation to save a child we se drowning, but not a starving child across the globe. His response is that distance is psychologically compelling but morally irrelevant.

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