What's Good on TV?Understanding Ethics Through Television
What's Good on TV? Understanding Ethics Through Television presents an introduction to the basic theories and concepts of moral philosophy using concrete examples from classic and contemporary television shows. Utilizes clear examples from popular contemporary and classic television shows, such as The Office, Law and Order, Star Trek and Family Guy, to illustrate complex philosophical concepts Designed to be used as a stand-alone or supplementary introductory ethics text Features case studies, study questions, and suggested readings Episodes mentioned are from a wide variety of television shows, and are easily accessible Offers a balanced treatment of a number of controversial ethical issues including environmental ethics, animal welfare, abortion, homosexuality, capital punishment, assisted suicide, censorship and the erosion of values Includes a companion website at http://whatsgoodontv.webs.com
Preface xi The Pilot Episode: Ethics and Popular Culture 1 What is Ethics? 1 How Do We Make Progress in Ethics ? 9 What Does Pop Culture Have to Do with Ethics? 29 Series I. Is Anything "Good" on Television? The Nature of Moral Value Episode 1: Truth and Nihilism in Ethics 33 Introduction 33 The case for nihilism 39 J. L. Mackie, “The Argument from Queerness,” from Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong 39 The case for realism 41 C. S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity 41 Case study: The Office (UK), “Work Experience,” series 1 43 Study questions 45 Alternative case studies 46 Episode 2: Normativity – Social, Legal, and Moral 47 Introduction 47 You promised to play by the rules! 50 John Rawls, “Legal Obligation and the Duty of Fair Play” 50 What does my neighbor have to do with my goodness? 55 John Stuart Mill, “Of the Limits to the Authority of Society over the Individual” from On Liberty 55 Case study: The Sopranos, “College,” season 1 57 Study questions 60 Alternative case studies 60 Episode 3: God and Ethics 61 Introduction 61 What has Athens to do with Jerusalem? 65 Plato, Euthyphro 65 Does God make the law or does he just let us in on it? 69 C. S. Lewis, from The Problem of Pain 69 Case study: Law & Order, “God Bless the Child,” season 2 73 Study questions 75 Alternative case studies 76 Series II. What's Right and Wrong? Ethical Theory Episode 4: Moral Relativism 79 Introduction 79 Are we merely products of our culture? 83 Ruth Benedict, “A Defense of Ethical Relativism” 83 Relativism is unjustified 86 James Rachels, “The Challenge of Cultural Relativism” 86 Case study 1: Deadwood, “Childish Things,” season 2 91 Case study 2: South Park, “Death Camp of Tolerance,” season 6 93 Study questions 95 Alternative case studies 95 Episode 5: Deontology 97 Introduction 97 Kant’s theory of moral duty 98 Immanuel Kant, from Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals 98 Case study 1: Arrested Development, “Not without My Daughter,” season 1 105 Contemporary Deontology 109 Case study 2: Friends, “The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS,” season 5 109 Study questions 112 Alternative case studies 113 Episode 6: Consequentialism 114 Introduction 114 Mill’s theory of utility 115 John Stuart Mill, from Utilitarianism 115 Case study 1: Battlestar Galactica, “You Can’t Go Home Again,” season 1 127 Case study 2: The Twilight Zone (Newer), “Cradle of Darkness,” season 1 129 Study questions 131 Alternative case studies 132 Episode 7: Virtue Ethics 133 Introduction 133 Aristotle’s theory of virtue 134 Aristotle, from Nicomachean Ethics 134 Case study 1: Foyle’s War, “Enemy Fire,” set 3 143 Case study 2: Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Hide and Q,” season 1 147 Study questions 151 Alternative case studies 152 Series III. But What's Right When . . . ? Practical Ethics Episode 8: Environmental Ethics 155 Introduction 155 Two Approaches to Environmental Ethics 157 Silly environmentalists, nature is for people 160 William Baxter, “People or Penguins” 160 Case study 1: Northern Exposure, “Zarya,” season 6 162 Case study 2: Family Guy, “It Takes a Village Idiot, and I Married One,” season 5 165 Study questions 168 Alternative case studies 169 Episode 9: Animal Welfare 170 Introduction 170 Two Dead Ends 171 Three Approaches to Animal Welfare 173 Animals are morally valuable, but not as valuable as adult humans 179 Mary Anne Warren, “Difficulties with the Strong Rights Position” 179 Case study 1: Bones, “Finger in the Nest,” season 4 182 Case study 2: House, M.D., “Babies and Bathwater,” season 1 184 Study questions 187 Alternative case studies 188 Episode 10: Abortion 189 Introduction 189 One Common Assumption 190 Six Fallacies to Avoid 191 Judith Jarvis Thomson and the Violinist Argument 197 Mary Anne Warren and the Space Explorer 200 Abortion is wrong for the same reason that killing adults is wrong 202 Don Marquis, “Why Abortion is Immoral” 202 Case study 1: Law & Order, “Dignity,” season 20 203 Case study 2: Maude, “Maude’s Dilemma – Parts 1 and 2,” season 1 206 Study questions 208 Alternative case studies 209 Episode 11: Homosexuality 210 Introduction 210 Arguments Against the Permissibility of Homosexuality 213 Arguments for the Permissibility of Homosexuality 216 Additional Concerns 220 New natural law theory and the morality of homosexuality 220 Stephen Macedo, “Homosexuality and the Conservative Mind”; Robert George and Bradley Gerard, “Marriage and the Liberal Imagination” 220 Case study 1: Law & Order, “Manhood,” season 3 225 Case study 2: Family Guy, “You May Now Kiss the . . . Uh . . . Guy Who Receives,” season 4 227 Study questions 230 Alternative case studies 231 Episode 12: Punishment and Capital Punishment 232 Introduction 232 Theories of Punishment 234 Arguments For and Against Capital Punishment 241 Capital punishment is unjustified 244 Jeffrey Reiman, “The Justice of the Death Penalty in an Unjust World” 244 Case study 1: Star Trek: The Next Generation, “The Hunted,” season 3 246 Case study 2: Oz, “Capital P,” season 1 249 Study questions 252 Alternative case studies 253 Episode 13: Assisted Suicide 254 Introduction 254 A Few Terms 255 Three Moral Arguments Against the Permissibility of Assisted Suicide 256 Moral and Practical Arguments for the Permissibility of Assisted Suicide 260 The good of society depends on assisted suicide 261 Daniel Callahan, “Aging and the Ends of Medicine” 261 Case study 1: Picket Fences, “Abominable Snowman,” season 2 262 Case study 2: Scrubs, “My Jiggly Ball,” season 5 266 Study questions 268 Alternative case studies 269 The Epilogue: Does TV Erode Our Values? 270 The Moral Influence of Television 270 The Debate Over Censorship 271 A Kantian Reason not to Censor 272 Case study 1: Family Guy, “PTV,” season 4 273 Utilitarian Reasons not to Censor 274 Moral Reasons to Censor 275 Exploitation, Objectification, and TV 277 Case study 2: Toddlers & Tiaras (any episode) 279 Reality TV and Psychological Harm 283 That’s All Folks! 286 Study questions 286 References 288 Index 295
“In short, this is an excellent book: pleasant and easy to read while imparting essential philosophical Knowledge.” (Times Higher Education Supplement, 24 May 2012)
Jamie Carlin Watson is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Young Harris College, Young Harris, Georgia. He has published in the fields of philosophy of science and popular culture and philosophy. His current research is in the epistemology of a priori justification. Robert Arp taught aspects of philosophy at several colleges and universities, including Southwest Minnesota State University, Florida State University, and Saint Louis University. He has published works in many philosophical areas, including philosophy of biology, philosophy of mind, and popular culture and philosophy.
Are the actions of TV's Jack Bauer morally justified? What can a mob hit sanctioned by Tony Soprano possibly teach us about ethical behavior? And what makes Captain Jean-Luc Picard such an ideal moral figure, anyway? It should come as no surprise that some of the most abstract philosophical ideas are often easier absorbed with examples drawn from popular culture. What's Good on TV? Understanding Ethics Through Television presents an introduction to the basic theories and concepts of moral philosophy using concrete examples from classic and contemporary television shows. Topics from metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics are addressed - alongside explanations of classic and contemporary arguments - and considered through the eyes of characters as varied as Phoebe Buffay, Dr Gregory House, and cast members of Family Guy. Enlightening and informative, yet far more enjoyable than standard texts, What's Good on TV? is an introduction to some of the more imponderable philosophical ideas inherent in modern ethics.
Clear, concise, yet comprehensive ethics textbook - informative and entertaining, with references to a wide variety of television comedies and dramas - a first-rate instrument for enlivening the philosophical classroom! Jason T. Eberl, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Philosophers often seek ways to "meet students where they live", to find familiar examples from daily experience that will give traditional theories new relevance. Jamie Carlin Watson and Robert Arp do this in a way that clearly communicates ethical theory and moral reasoning, in a book that is both rigorous and genuinely enjoyable to read. Christine James, Valdosta State University This thoughtful, entertaining introduction to ethical philosophy rescues philosophy from the arid realm of academia and smartly incorporates it into the accessible land of television and everyday life. Dan Dinello, Columba College Chicago Linking classic and contemporary ethical theories to the likes of Star Trek and South Park, this unique book gets the pedagogical use of pop culture just right. What a fun and exciting way to teach and learn ethics! William Irwin, King's College Pennsylvania
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