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PHIL 102 Lecture Notes - Modus Tollens

Course Code
PHIL 102
Dominic Mc Iver Lopes

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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
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?
!-add into the point the extent of our fair share
wouldn’t the psychological detriments that come along with giving to people of a
considerable distance from you cause serious moral harm to yourself and others?
!-eg. if you gave half what you are obligated to give to a child next door, and one
!across the globe, you’ll feel bad for not giving it all to the child
if we give until we’re at the status of a bengal refugee, our society would crumble, which
would have adverse effects on the rest of the world