Sunday, January 25, 2009

Blog Assignment #4

Last names beginning with A - G: Moral Relativism

1. Paragraph: Explain in your own words what Moral Relativism is—what do people who hold this view believe? Moral relativism is the view that there is no objective and impartial moral truth. In other words, there is no correct morality that applies to all people in all cultures. A moral relativist holds that a moral value is relative to the society it comes from and does not necessarily apply to another society. Therefore, extreme moral relativists can argue that there is no room to criticize anybody's value system because there is no universal morality, only a set of values that are acceptable to the individual.
2. Paragraph & Link: Find one online resources related to this topic—not Wikipedia. Explain in a brief paragraph what you learned about this topic through the resource you found; include the link at the end of your paragraph.
The argument for moral relativism dates back as far as classical Greek times. The twentieth century witnessed a large growth in studies conducted by anthropologists in order to try and resolve some of the large differences between Western and non-Western cultures. This produced branches in the school of thought known as moral relativism. In particular, these branches are called descriptive moral relativism (DMR) and metaethical moral relativism (MMR). Descriptive moral relativism deals in matter-of-fact arguments as it points out the fact that there are very large differences between cultures when it comes to morality. Metaethical moral relativism goes a step further by actually asserting that there is no absolute justification for any moral judgment but the justification is relative to the society in which it exists. source:
3. Argument: Compose a short argument, in “argument elements” form. I’ll provide the arguable issue; you provide the rest. Make sure each of your premises is a complete sentence, and that your argument doesn’t break any of the rules listed in the first chapter of the Rulebook for Arguments:

Arguable Issue: The arguable issue is whether or not Moral Relativism is a good view to hold.
Conclusion:Moral Relativism is not a good view to hold.
Premises: Moral Relativism is not a good view to hold because:
(1)It denies a universal and objective set of moral values.
(2)It empowers moral diversity.
(3)It provides a justification for people to behave any way they see fit.

The Role of the Majority View

1. Paragraph: Explain in your own words what a Majority View is. Cite your sources.
A majority view is when 51 percent or more of a group of people agree on a certain issue. A closer examination of any majority view will reveal a cross-section of differing individual views on the issue at hand. Some individuals will be very well informed on the issue, some will be completely uninformed on the issue and unaware of their ignorance, while most will be somewhere in between knowledge and ignorance. In this way it can be argued that a majority view isn't necessarily correct. Two examples given by the Ruggiero text are women's right to vote and slavery. At the time when women could not vote and slavery was used in America, it was the majority view that this was the way it should be. These are clear cut examples that just because the majority says it is okay does not necessarily make it correct.
2. Argument: Compose a short argument, in “argument elements” form. I’ll provide the arguable issue; you provide the rest. Make sure each of your premises is a complete sentence, and that your argument doesn’t break any of the rules listed in the first chapter of the Rulebook for Arguments:

Arguable Issue: The arguable issue is whether or not the Majority View is a reliable basis for ethical decision-making.
The Majority View is not a reliable basis for ethical decision-making.
The Majority View is not a reliable basis for ethical decision-making because:
It draws its basis of justification from the decisions of others instead of examining the issues.
The majority view has been wrong before. (e.g. slavery)
It promotes groupthink, which is defined by as the practice of approaching problems or issues as matters that are best dealt with by consensus of a group rather than by individuals acting independently;conformity.

The Role of Feelings

1. Paragraph: Explain in your own words what feelings are. Cite your sources.
Feelings are our inclination to respond a certain way towards things or ideas in our minds or environment. Our feelings can be very highly influenced by a slew of psychological factors including past experiences, our disposition, and our mental health. The Ruggiero text emphasizes Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Carl Rogers as early pioneers of using feelings to guide decision making. These men basically assert that what feels right must be right and what feels wrong must be wrong. The Ruggiero text notes that morality by feelings completely ignores other people's feelings which is a large flaw.
2. Argument: Compose a short argument, in “argument elements” form. I’ll provide the arguable issue; you provide the rest. Make sure each of your premises is a complete sentence, and that your argument doesn’t break any of the rules listed in the first chapter of the Rulebook for Arguments:

Arguable Issue: The arguable issue is whether or not our feelings are a reliable basis for ethical decision-making.
Our feelings are not a reliable basis for ethical decision-making.
Our feelings are not a reliable basis for ethical decision-making because:
"Morality by feelings completely ignores other people's feelings."
Each person has the potential to commit good or bad acts based on emotion.
There will be inevitable conflicts between the feelings of one person and those of another.

The ability to express yourself in your own words is essential in this class. Did you put everything in your own words this time?
I used my own words for many of my answers, however, I also used ideas found in chapters two and three of the Ruggiero text and the Stanford University web page on moral relativism. Also, I used for the definition of groupthink. I gave credit to the Ruggiero text where it was due.

What was easiest / hardest about this assignment?
The easy part was explaining the meanings of moral relativism, the majority view, and feelings in my own words. The hardest part was definitely constructing the short arguments. I say this because there are many rules that must be followed to construct a logically sound argument. Sometimes it was hard to come up with three clearly related premises to support my conclusions. I feel I am getting better at it though.

How will you apply what you learned through this assignment to your everyday life?
In the future I will definitely be more aware of moral relativism in practice when I see it. Also, it will be easier for me to discern when a majority of people is making an incorrect decision and this will allow me to make the right decision regardless of other people's opinions.

How well do you think you did on this assignment? Explain.
I feel as though I did good on this assignment because I read the assigned texts and fully explained out the meanings of the terms. Also, I did my best to construct logically sound arguments and I feel I am getting better at doing that.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Blog Assignment #3

1. Explain what “to give an argument” means in this book. "To give an argument," is specifically defined by the book as offering a set of reasons or evidence in support of a conclusion. The book instructs us to go beyond simply stating one's position on a matter but to actually present logically flowing evidence that supports that position. The book tells us to learn how to use argument giving for inquiry. This means that we should examine an issue and present several conclusions then examine those conclusions to determine which is the best. We do this by examining the premise(s) upon which the conclusions were founded. A premise is a logical reason in support of a conclusion. Therefore, giving an argument means to examine an issue, present a conclusion, and support it with a good set of premises.

2. What are the reasons Weston gives in support of his claim, “arguments are essential”? The first reason Weston gives in support of the claim, "arguments are essential" is that argument is a way of trying to find out which views are best. Unless we constantly question views by use of arguments, we have no way of knowing which views are better and more logical than others. Many issues in our society don't have clear cut answers and we have to use arguments to dig deeper into the basis of these issues and try to understand the chain of logic that makes people arrive at certain conclusions about those issues. The second reason Weston gives is that we must use arguments to defend our conclusions. Once we have examined an issue thoroughly and arrived at a specific conclusion about it, we must use argument to defend it. Weston emphasizes that an argument does not just restate conclusions, but rather gives reasons in support of those conclusions. Therefore, arguments are essential because we need them to examine which beliefs are best and defend those beliefs.

3. Explain why many students tend to “write an essay, but not an argument”. The book explains that our pre-college school system teaches us to "report" information rather than "argue" about the basis of its claims. In this way, once most students get to college and are assigned argumentative essays, they tend to state their position very elaborately but fail to give solid reasons for their conclusions. Many college classes, such as this one, challenge us to question our beliefs and determine which are best. When constructing an argument, students must remember that stating a position is not good enough; solid reasons and examples must be given in support of the conclusions, otherwise the paper is just an essay and not an actual argument.

4. Construct two short arguments (one "for" and one "against") as modeled in the Week 3 Assignment section in Blackboard. Put each one in "elements form".

Arguable issue
: Whether or not one should litter (throw waste material away in a non-designated area)
Conclusion: It is okay to litter
Premises: It is okay to litter because
(1) It is a law that is easy and funny to break
(2) The chance of getting caught is slim, and
(3) It is convenient to throw away trash on the ground

Arguable issue: Whether or not one should litter (throw waste material away in a non-designated area)
Conclusion: It is not okay to litter
Premises: It is not okay to litter because
(1) It generates pollution
(2) It can hurt animals if they ingest it, and
(3) It is unpleasant to look at

5. Review the seven rules in chapter one. Briefly discuss how your argument demonstrates that each rule was applied, in the construction of your arguments above. The first rule asks us to clearly distinguish premises and conclusions and my argument does this by clearly stating a conclusion and listing reasons in support of it. The second rule asks us to present our ideas in a natural order and my arguments do this by arranging reasons in a logical order in support of my conclusion. The third rule asks us to start from reliable premises and my arguments do this by giving the simplest and clearest reasons in support of my conclusions. The fourth rule asks us to be concrete and concise and my arguments do this by avoiding the use of unnecessarily large words or complex sentence structure. The fifth rule asks us to avoid "loaded" language that is biased and emotional. My arguments do this for the most part except the part where I argued that littering is funny. This would be an example of loaded language and I will avoid this next time. The sixth rule asks us to use consistent terms and my arguments do this by utilizing a logical flow of ideas. For instance, it is funny and easy to break littering laws. If one does decide to litter, the chances of getting caught are slim. Furthermore it is convenient to litter. Therefore, it is okay to litter. The seventh rule asks us to stick to one rule for each term and my arguments do this by clearly hinting that littering is the act of throwing garbage away in a non-designated area and not straying from that definition.

6. Review the three rules in the appendix named, “Definitions”. In your own words, discuss how you took these rules into consideration as you constructed your arguments. Rule one tells us that when terms are unclear we should get specific. My arguments were very clear about the definition of littering so that a reader will understand that littering is the act of throwing trash away in a non-designated area. The second rule tells us that when a term is contested, we should work from the clear cases. My definition of littering does this by including what littering could be considered as, excluding what it clearly is not, and drawing the line in-between. The third rule tells us that we should not expect definitions to do the work of arguments. My conclusions rely mainly on their premises for support and therefore avoid this problem.

7. Good posts demonstrate:

* Sincere reflection, effort, and analysis
* Answers that are substantial (at least one large paragraph each)
* Consistent mention, citation, and integration of the assigned readings (explained in YOUR own words, though)
* Correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation
* Correctly titled posts!

How many points do you honestly feel your post this week deserves? Justify your answer. I feel that my post deserves all 25 points because I followed the directions to the best of my ability and went into detail to explain why I felt that my methods of argument followed all the rules given in the textbook.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Blog Assignment #2

1. Were the questions on the Moral Sense Test difficult to answer (psychologically, emotionally, conceptually, technically, etc.)? Why or why not? Do you think your responses to the Moral Sense Test questions were consistent? Does this matter? The questions on the Moral Sense Test were hard to answer because it is sometimes difficult to discern exactly how ethical or unethical an act is and how severely it should be punished. I answered almost every question exactly the same because the test would ask questions in the same consistent format. I think it is highly likely that anyone who takes this test will answer it with the same consistent responses because most people have a set value system that will interpret a series of situations in a similar way, especially when asked the same questions about each situation. I think it does matter that an individual answers ethical questions consistently because if they did not then how could they be holding each issue up to the same ethical standard?

2. Should people always follow the law? Why or why not? When might one be justified in NOT following the law? Give examples. Ideally, one should always follow the law. To publicly condone anything else is to promote anarchy. However, it is next to impossible to go through life without breaking at least one law. This issue is addressed directly in The Crito, a dialogue written by Plato about the trial of Socrates. In The Crito, Socrates is being put on trial on charges of corrupting the youth of Athens. Crito tries to convince Socrates to escape from prison but Socrates explains that he has an obligation to follow the law because it raised and nurtured him just as his parents and to disobey it under any circumstances is dishonorable. In other words, the very idea of having the choice to obey or disobey a law takes its sovereign power away. Therefore the law should always be followed. However, there are a few extraordinary circumstances when it is justifiable to break the law. Our textbook gives an example of this when it points out how the prohibition law of the early twentieth century was repealed. It gives another example when it talks about the rape laws in New York State where a victim had to prove that they put up "earnest resistance" against their attacker. The state later repealed the unreasonable provision from the law. In these cases, the government proved that it can be wrong and unreasonable with its laws sometimes. Even so, the law should always be respected within the bounds of reason.

3. In your own words, explain what "social convention" means. Give examples. A social convention is literally a rule for how one should behave as a member of society. It doesn't necessarily involve morality although it sometimes can. For instance, it is a social convention that you should not utter a bunch of curse words in public. It isn't necessarily unethical to curse because it isn't actually hurting anybody but it is offensive to many because it breaks a social convention. A social convention could also be thought of as a social norm, or an unwritten rule of behavior that is created by a society.

4. Should people always follow the conventions of their society? Why or why not? Give examples. People in a free society should not have to always follow every convention of society. I hold this view particularly because the authority of social conventions is questionable. They are usually not written rules of law and the discriminatory laws that have their roots in American social conventions that have been on the books in the past have been repealed for the most part. For instance, in the United States, same sex relationships and marriage are many times frowned upon. Therefore it can be said that for a long period of time in the United States, heterosexual relationships were the social convention. Recently, a movement has come about to challenge the authority of this social convention. Should same sex couples receive the same benefits as other couples? A reasonable argument can be made in favor of this movement. Therefore I don't believe that people should always follow the social conventions of their society.

5. Should people always follow their own principles? Why or why not? Give examples. It is fine for everyone to follow their own principles as long as those principles agree with the law that governs this land. If everyone were allowed to follow their own principles as it pertained to everything then anarchy would ensue. Some people think murder, theft, and rape is okay and if they were left to their own devices they would commit these acts with no shame or penalty. Therefore, a person must align their principles with the the law which attempts to benefit society as a whole.

6. Explain in your own words the difference between socially acceptable, legally acceptable, and morally acceptable. An act that is socially acceptable garners its approval from the society or culture in which it is committed. The people living in this society approve of the action on a widespread basis and thus it is acceptable. An act that is legally acceptable garners its approval from the written rule of law. Therefore it derives its legitimacy from the government of the land in which the act is committed. Lawmakers said the act is acceptable so it is okay. An act that is morally acceptable garners its approval from an ethical analysis that has determined the act is, in fact, ethical. In other words, the act is just, sound, and logical. It does not harm anybody or anything.

7. Out of 25 points, how many points do you feel your work on this assignment deserves? Justify your answer. I feel this assignment deserves 25 points because I put forth maximum effort to answer the questions :).

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Blog Assignment #1

1. How would you have explained the meaning of the term "ethics", before taking this class? I would have probably defined ethics as the obligation one has to do right by their fellow person. In other words, ethics is a value system that allows one to determine which actions are correct and which are incorrect. Ethics are many times instilled in a person by the way in which they were raised and/or the culture they grew up in. Some ethical values are multicultural in that they are recognized by almost every society on earth as being right or wrong. For instance, almost without exception, most cultures condemn unjustified (or cold-blooded) murder. The wrongness of murder is self-evident. Thus, it is no surprise that it is highly disliked everywhere. Some ethical values are endemic to a particular culture and not found in many other places. In a broader sense, ethics deals with more than just person to person interaction. Ethics is also a person's obligation to do right by the environment and any other living thing within the bounds of reason.

2. What are some of your deepest held values?
I believe the basis of any value has to logically come from a self-evident truth. Therefore my deepest held value is a constant desire to know the truth. From this comes my sense of obligation to do the right thing in interacting with my fellow person, the environment, and any living thing. Another deeply held value of mine is honesty; without honesty it is hard to find any common ground to build a relationship of any kind with anybody. Furthermore, I deeply value respectfulness. Respect should always be given where respect is due and it usually offends me when someone has a lack of respect for important things.
3. What are some main principles you try to live your life by?
I try to live my life with an open mind. I don't like to condemn the value systems of others even if they conflict with my own. I try to be honest and fair. Of course, it is impossible to always be honest and fair but I still think of it as a good benchmark to strive for. I use the golden rule: treat others the way you would want to be treated. When it comes to certain ethical issues, sometimes the answer isn't as easy to discern as in obvious issues like murder or theft. When it comes to things like this I still try to respect and understand the value system of others but it does not change the fact that I will still hold my private opinions on the matter.
4. What moral qualities do you look for in others?
I look first and foremost for honesty. Without honesty, it is hard to believe that anything the person says or does is genuine. If a person is honest, they are usually law-abiding, hard working people and those are the people I tend to associate with. Of course, everyone breaks the law now and then on minor issues like speeding but I generally look to associate with people that have a respect for others and their government.
5. How were your values and principles developed?
My parents, culture, and religion instilled in me the values and principles I hold today. As a child I was brought up in a Christian home and this has had an effect on my views pertaining to morality and the way one should behave in society. My parents and culture basically reinforced the values given to me by the Christian faith. I don't agree with everything I've been told. As I said before, I try to hold beliefs whose value and truth are self-evident.
6. How have your values and principles changed throughout your life so far?
Thus far my values and principles have not changed very much and I don't feel that they will change that much in the future unless I come to a realization that I was previously oblivious to. I try to keep an open mind, of course, so something like that could possibly happen. I'm still really young too, and I'm sure there is much to be learned but thus far my values have pretty much been the same.
7. Out of 25 points, how many points do you feel your work on this assignment deserves? Justify your answer.
I believe my work on this assignment deserves maximum credit (or 25 points) because I put maximum effort into it. I answered the questions to the best of my ability and as thoughtfully as possible. :)