Contemporary Moral and Social IssuesAn Introduction through Original Fiction, Discussion, and Readings
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
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
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).
Contemporary Moral and Social Issues makes innovative use of short fiction—together with primary readings and editorial commentary—as a means of engaging students to think philosophically about ethical issues, better enabling instructors to initiate meaningful discussion. The text presents a combination of ethical theory and practical ethical problems brought to life by a range of pointed, pertinent stories. These stories are entertaining and readable in themselves, and provide a valuable springboard for philosophical discussion. Each chapter combines original fiction, editorial discussion, and in-depth readings, to explore a range of moral issues. Chapters delve into topics related to value theory, moral theory, and applied moral issues in politics, world poverty, abortion, animal welfare, the environment, and genetic engineering. The text uniquely combines the overall guidance of a single-author discussion with the breadth of a reader, while engaging students with entertaining original fiction stories to illustrate each issue.
“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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