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Contemporary Moral and Social Issues: An Introduction through Original Fiction, Discussion, and Readings

Thomas D. Davis (Original Author)
ISBN: 978-1-118-62540-8
448 pages
March 2014, Wiley-Blackwell
Contemporary Moral and Social Issues: An Introduction through Original Fiction, Discussion, and Readings (1118625404) cover image

Description

Contemporary Moral and Social Issues is a uniquely entertaining introduction that brings ethical thought to life. It makes innovative use of engaging, topically oriented original short fiction, together with classic and influential readings and editorial discussion as a means of helping students think philosophically about ethical theory and practical ethical problems.

  • Introduces students to ethical theory and a range of practical moral issues through a combination of key primary texts, clear editorial commentary, and engaging, original fiction
  • Includes discussion of topics such as world poverty, abortion, animals, the environment, and genetic engineering, containing “Facts and Factual Issues” for each topic to give students an up-to-date understanding of related factual issues.
  • Uses immersive, original short works of fiction as a means to engage students to think philosophically about serious ethical issues
  • Sample Course Framework available
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Table of Contents

Preface xv

Acknowledgments xvii

Source Acknowledgments xviii

Part I Introduction: Values 1

1 Fiction: 3

“Too Much.” A young teacher and mother is thinking about her life as she sorts through the mailings from the opposing causes supported by her parents and in-laws 3

Questions 8

2 Discussion: 9

“Too Much” 9

Values 10

Personal Values 10

Some distinctions 10

Happiness as the ultimate personal value 12

Happiness research 14

Other personal values 15

Moral Values 16

Moral values/issues in the story 16

What are moral values 17

Biased moral reasoning 20

Notes and selected sources 21

Definitions 21

Questions 22

3 Readings: 23

Claudia Wallis writes about the “new science of happiness” 23

Robert Nozick discusses his case of the “experience machine” 28

Jonathan Glover discusses the dual values of happiness and flourishing 29

Patrick Grim asks what makes a life good, distinguishing between “lives to envy” and “lives to admire” 32

Louis P. Pojman, Richard Joyce and Shaun Nichols give their views on what morality is 35

Jonathan Haidt discusses biases in our moral reasoning 40

Part II Moral Theory 45

4 Fiction: 47

“Long Live the King.” A fable about townspeople wondering how they should live when messages from the King become confusing, even contradictory 47

Questions 50

5 Discussion: 51

“Long Live the King” 51

Religious ethics 52

God and the good 52

The God perspective 55

Utilitarianism and rights 56

Utilitarianism 56

A first look at rights 58

The idealized human perspective 59

Aristotle and virtue ethics 59

Kant and universalizability 61

Rawls and the ideal agent 63

The unidealized human perspective 65

Evolutionary ethics 65

Basic social contract theory 67

Moral libertarianism 69

Notes and selected sources 70

Definitions 71

Questions 73

Appendix: moral relativism 74

What’s supposed to be relative? 74

Cultural relativism 77

Individual relativism/moral subjectivism 78

Notes and selected sources 80

Definitions 81

Questions 81

6 Readings: 82

Jeremy Bentham presents a classic statement of the principle of utility 82

John Stuart Mill argues that there are higher and lower forms of happiness 84

Peter Singer discusses what ethics is and offers a justification for a utilitarian ethic 86

Immanuel Kant argues that ethics is based on “the categorical imperative” 89

John Rawls argues that from an original position of equality we would reject utilitarianism in favor of his two principles of justice 93

Robert Nozick discusses the moral principles behind his political libertarianism 96

Jeremy Waldron discusses the concept of human rights and gives an argument for “welfare rights” 100

Aristotle analyzes happiness as a life lived according to virtue 103

Jonathan Haidt discusses virtue ethics in the context of positive psychology 106

Jean Grimshaw discusses the idea of a female ethic, reviewing some contemporary writers on the subject 109

Simon Blackburn warns against confusions we should avoid if we read popular literature on ethics and evolution 112

George Lakoff describes two forms of Christianity that parallel two different models of the family 113

James Rachels discusses “the challenge of cultural relativism” 114

Part III Morality and Politics 119

7 Fiction: 121

“The Divided States of America.” In the middle of the tumultuous twenty-first century, the United States has split into four separate districts based on liberalism, conservativism, libertarianism and socialism 121

Questions 129

8 Discussion: 130

“The Divided States of America” 130

Preliminary issues 131

Morality and free markets 131

Democracy 132

Religion in the public square 133

Four political philosophies 134

Libertarianism 136

Conservatism 139

Liberalism 141

Socialism 143

Notes and selected sources 145

Definitions 146

Questions 148

9 Readings: 149

Jerry Z. Muller defines capitalism and talks about some of the tensions between capitalism and democracy 149

Fareed Zakaria analyzes the two strands of “liberal democracy”—democracy and constitutional liberalism 152

Noah Feldman discusses the origins of the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment 154

John Hospers discusses libertarianism 159

Patrick N. Allitt discusses conservativism 163

Paul Starr discusses liberalism 166

Peter Self discusses socialism 169

Part IV World Poverty 173

10 Fiction: 175

“The River.” A man, living alone in a jungle outpost, is confronted by an increasing number of refugees appearing on the opposite bank of a turbulent river, refugees who will starve unless he ferries them across 175

Questions 181

11 Discussion: 182

“The River” 182

Facts and factual issues 183

World poverty: basic facts 183

Financial aid and economic growth 185

Food aid and the “Green Revolution” 186

Trying to find out what works 187

What, if anything, can individuals do to help? 189

Peter Singer: we owe much to the world’s poor 190

Singer’s Shallow Pond argument 190

Sympathetic critiques and alternate proposals 193

Libertarians: we owe nothing to the world’s poor 196

Arguments of libertarians and social contract theorists 196

Pogge: obligations even on libertarian principles 197

Religion and aiding the poor 198

Notes and selected sources 201

Definitions 202

Questions 203

12 Readings: 204

Nicholas D. Kristof discusses the failures and successes of foreign aid 204

Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo discuss the debate on world poverty and the need for controlled trials to see what interventions work 206

Peter Singer argues that to live a morally decent life, the well-off would have to give most of what they have to the world’s poor 211

Kwame Anthony Appiah argues that we do not owe so much to strangers as Singer claims 214

Jan Narveson, a Libertarian, argues that feeding the hungry is not an obligation 216

Thomas Pogge argues that even on libertarian principles the West has some responsibility for alleviating world poverty 219

Jim Wallis talks about biblical injunctions to help the poor 223

Part V Abortion 227

13 Fiction: 229

“The Blessing of the Blastocysts.” A future disaster leads to the gestation of all human fetuses outside the womb 229

Questions 235

14 Discussion: 236

“The Blessing of the Blastocysts” 236

Facts and factual issues 237

Abortion: definition and statistics 237

Abortion methods 237

Development of the embryo/fetus 238

Legal status of abortion 239

Religious positions 240

Public opinion 241

The complexity of the abortion issue 241

A range of positions 241

The moral versus the legal 242

Practical means to reducing abortion 244

Two central moral issues 244

The moral status of the fetus 245

Fetal development and moral status 245

Pro-life arguments re fetal status 248

Pro-choice arguments re fetal status 249

Moderate-position arguments re fetal status 249

Conflicting claims of the mother versus the fetus 251

Summary 253

Notes and selected sources 254

Definitions 255

Questions 256

15 Readings: 257

Roger A. Paynter discusses different interpretations of what the Bible has to say about abortion 257

John T. Noonan, Jr. argues that abortion is morally wrong 259

Mary Ann Warren argues that fetuses don’t qualify as persons with a right to life 262

Gregg Easterbrook argues that third-trimester abortions—but those only—should be tightly restricted 266

Judith Jarvis Thomson argues that even if it were granted that the fetus is a person, many abortions can still be justified in terms of the rights of the mother 267

Joel Feinberg and Barbara Baum Levenbook consider the claim that even if the fetus is a person, the interests of the mother justify abortion in many cases 272

Jane English thinks a moderate position on abortion can be justified, whether or not the fetus is conceived as a person 275

Part VI Animals 279

16 Fiction: 281

“The Trainers.” An alien race has saved and nurtured a remnant of humanity that survived a nuclear holocaust. The humans are now thriving on a South Sea island. But, as the alien narrator says, “salvation always comes at a price” 281

Questions 285

17 Discussion: 286

“The Trainers” 286

Facts and factual issues 288

Research animals 288

Factory farming 290

Three moral views regarding our use of animals 292

Animal minds 293

Pro-Status Quo views 295

Animal Welfare views 297

Abolitionist views 298

The Speciesist Critique 298

Singer and utilitarianism 301

Regan and animal rights 302

Notes and selected sources 303

Definitions 304

Questions 305

18 Readings: 306

David DeGrazia presents the case for animals feeling pain 306

Robert Nozick asks what moral constraints there are, if any, on the behavior of humans toward animals 311

Peter Singer argues that all creatures who are capable of suffering are entitled to equal concern 313

Tom Regan argues the case for animal rights 318

Carl Cohen defends the use of animals in medical research 323

Matthew Scully pleads for animal welfare, speaking particularly to fellow conservatives and Christians 327

Part VII The Environment 329

19 Fiction: 331

“Museum for a Dying Planet.” The inhabitants of a planet dying from ecological disasters built a self-sustaining habitat/museum so that future visitors would be able to appreciate the beauty that once was their home 331

Questions 335

20 Discussion: 336

“Museum for a Dying Planet” 336

Facts and factual issues 337

Environmental problems 337

A history of environmental issues in the US 337

Global warming 339

Environmental decision-making 340

The assessment of risk 340

Present versus future people 341

Environmental justice 341

Cost–benefit analysis 342

What has inherent moral worth? 343

Humans? Animals? The natural world? 343

Humans (only) 344

Sentient creatures (only) 344

Living things (only) 345

Natural things (only) 347

Natural systems 347

Notes and selected sources 348

Definitions 350

Questions 351

21 Readings: 352

Edmund O. Wilson describes environmental problems and presents two opposing views as to how they should be approached 352

Gabrielle Walker and Sir David King present a mitigationist view re global warming 354

Bjorn Lomborg presents an adaptationist case re global warming 356

Timothy Taylor discusses the problem of how to discount the future, especially in the case of low-probability, high-risk events 358

William Baxter argues for an anthropocentric view of the environment 361

Richard Routley argues against an anthropocentric view of the environment 363

Paul Taylor argues that all living things can be said to have a “good of their own” and are worthy of respect and moral consideration 367

J. Baird Callicott discusses the land ethic of Aldo Leopold 371

Bill Devall and George Sessions discuss “deep ecology” 374

Part VIII Genetics 377

22 Fiction: 379

“People of the Underground.” After a failed rebellion against the “Clenes” (a genetically enhanced part of the human race), the “People” survive in the Caves, claiming to preserve “true humanity” 379

Questions 386

23 Discussion: 387

“People of the Underground” 387

Facts and factual issues 388

In vitro fertilization 388

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) 388

Human genetic engineering (HGE) 389

The case against human genetic engineering 390

1. HGE would be too dangerous 390

2. HGE/PGD would be “playing God” 391

3. HGE/PGD wouldn’t be limited to curing disease 391

4. HGE would lead to a “genetic arms race” 392

5. HGE could undermine religion and ethics 392

6. HGE could lead to totalitarianism 393

7. HGE could lead to Nazi-like eugenics 393

8. HGE could undermine human equality 393

9. HGE could undermine human freedom 394

The case for human genetic engineering 394

Reply to Objection 1 395

Reply to Objection 2 395

Reply to Objection 3 395

Reply to Objection 4 396

Reply to Objection 5 396

Reply to Objection 6 396

Reply to Objection 7 397

Reply to Objection 8 397

Reply to Objection 9 398

Concluding remarks 398

Notes and selected sources 399

Definitions 400

Questions 401

24 Readings: 402

Ronald M. Green discusses some of the fears of genetic enhancement displayed in literature and argues that these fears may simply reflect “status quo bias” 402

Gregory Stock discusses the possibility of “redesigning humans” and argues it will likely happen 405

Jonathan Glover discusses a “genetic supermarket,” positive versus negative genetic engineering and whether human nature should be sacrosanct 408

Francis Fukuyama warns against genetics leading us into a “post-human” future. He thinks genetic engineering should be limited to curing disease and outlines the regulatory changes the US would need to make to accomplish this 412

Bill McKibben argues that human genetic engineering will end up limiting human freedom and that it’s our responsibility—not that of geneticists, doctors and bioethicists—to decide its future course 416

The President’s Council on bioethics gives its analysis of some of the ethical issues regarding future use of PGD 420

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Author Information

Thomas D. Davis taught at the University of Michigan, Grinnell College, the University of Redlands, San Jose State University, and De Anza College. In addition to writing four editions of Philosophy: An Introduction Through Original Fiction, Discussion and Readings (fourth edition, 2004), he is the author of three published novels: Suffer Little Children (1991), Murdered Sleep (1994), and Consuming Fire (1996).

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Reviews

“Thomas Davis’s book is an absolute joy to read. His original fiction flows seamlessly into the philosophical discussions, masterfully guiding the study of ethics to where it really matters: life.”
 
—Mark D. White, Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, College of Staten Island/CUNY

“Davis has written a fantastic introduction to ethics text. His unique blend of original fiction, clear analysis, and engaging primary sources provides a sure-fire way to get students talking and thinking about some of today’s most pressing moral issues.”

—Matt Lawrence, Long Beach City College

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Sample Course Framework - Moral Theory 470.88 KB Click to Download
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