Philosophy Discussion

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Guess Who is Coming to Dinner

These
discussion boards have been designed to explore controversial
philosophical topics. Some of the questions are designed to solicit very
personal responses and opinions, and these debates have the potential
to become heated. In the act of creating ideas, heat can be a good
thing, but not at the expense of hurt feelings or frustration. Remember
that the practical aspect pf philosophy asks us to examine and perhaps
even change something about ourselves. Hopefully, we will be challenged
by others with a different opinion, but we need to remember that a
challenge to our beliefs is not a threat. To the contrary, it should be
regarded as an opportunity to re-evaluate and understand why we hold
these beliefs.

Some important rules to follow:

  1. There will be no Ad hominems
    (attacks against the person); not following this rule may result in
    failure of the assignment. You can disagree with a person’s opinions,
    but you may not attack other people. You may, however, disagree with the
    ideas of others, but do so in a constructive manner. For example, you
    can say, “I don’t agree with your post. I think instead that . . . ”
    But, you cannot say, “You’re an idiot” or even “That’s just plain
    stupid.” Academia requires a diversity of opinions but presented
    politely; after all, ethics is part of Philosophy.
  2. Avoid making
    statements meant to be absolute (such as, “There is no other way to
    think about this”). Instead of asking closed-ended questions looking for
    a “yes” or “no” or the “right” answer, ask open-ended questions (such
    as, “Have you thought about . . . ?”)
  3. Try to connect the
    current discussion to topics from other lessons. Remember that all of
    the Philosophers wrote about more than a single topic and the way they
    think about one area of Philosophy probably affects other areas as well.
    For example, it might be extremely useful to mention John Stuart Mill’s
    ethical theories from an earlier lesson during a later discussion of
    his support for women’s rights and equality.
  4. Rather than simply
    reacting to the readings and the responses of your classmates, think
    about the arguments being made. Really consider the effectiveness of
    these arguments. “I agree” responses are not useful to the discussion
    and will not receive credit.

Give some serious
consideration to the topic or scenario before answering; and, then,
using the questions below as a guide, write a 75-100 word initial
response about the issue being discussed. Next, please take the time to
respond to at least two of your classmates.

The scenario:

Immanuel
Kant said that lying was, without exception, always wrong and that we
have a moral duty to tell the truth. When posed with a dilemma in which
we might be tempted to lie, he said we are still obligated to do the
right thing, even if we think doing the wrong thing would produce better
results.

The traditional example is of a serial murderer showing
up at your front door and demanding to know the location of your family
so he can kill them. You know full well that you just sent them out the
back door, and most people could probably convince themselves that
because they do not know the technically “exact” location, saying “I
don’t know” would not be telling a lie.

Additionally, you reason
that because he is a murderer, you have no real obligation to help him
kill your family by telling the truth; so, you lie to him and say, “I
don’t know.”

Unable to complete his plans, he leaves and is
headed back to the sidewalk—just as your family is coming around the
house. And, he kills them all. Had you told the murderer that the family
went out the back door, that would have bought them the time they
needed to escape as he ran through the house.

According to Kant,
you are now responsible for their deaths because you did the wrong
thing. Had you done the right thing, even if your family died, it would
not have been your fault. Your lie made you morally responsible for
their deaths.

Respond

Unless being honest would land you in jail, please truthfully discuss the following questions:

  1. Describe
    under what circumstances, if any, is it permissible to lie. Under what
    circumstances, if any, do you think it might be preferable to lie? What
    do your answers indicate about the justification of the nearly universal
    principle that one ought not to lie?
  2. A hungry cannibal
    chieftain looks you over and declares that you will indeed make a fine
    dinner. Using some of the ideas from our readings, what can you say to
    the cannibal chieftain to convince him that cooking you would be morally
    wrong? (Convincing him that you won’t taste good is not enough to keep
    you out of the cooking pot.)

Please read entire discussion. Initial post must be 75 to 150 words, but may go longer depending on the topic. Please cite any outside sources.

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