8/17 & 18
James Rachels, “Egoism and Moral Skepticism”
From Welcome letter
(1) What’s the difference between the two kinds of egoism Rachels presents?
(2) Are either of these theories plausible? Why?
(3) How could we even answer Q2? What justification could we provide?
8/19 & 20
James Rachels, “The Challenge of Cultural Relativism”
(1) What’s, according to Rachels, is appealing about cultural relativism? Why might you accept the view? Why does Rachels think you should reject the view?
(2) Rachels’ challenge to cultural relativism depends crucially on appeals to intuition. For example, he notes that if cultural relativism were true, then we could not say that an anti-Semitic society is, insofar as anti-Semitic, defective. But, naturally, we do want to say such things. Anti-Semitism is a defect. So, the reasoning goes, we should think that cultural relativism is false. Is this form of argument convincing? What kind of evidence do our intuitions about morality provide?
8/26 & 27
Rawls, A Theory of Justice
Shafer-Landau, Social Contract Theory
Bonnefon, Social Dilemma of AVs
Does Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance enable us to arrive at the truth about justice? Does it exclude from our deliberations things that really ought not to figure in those deliberations? Or does it exclude some things that are morally relevant?
(1) What’s the social dilemma that Bonnefon is interested in? Self-driving cars seems like a really good idea. Why isn’t it obvious that we should begin using them?
(2) Social contract theorists tend to think that a person’s consent is extremely morally important. Of course, we all agree that consent matters. But should we agree with the social contract theorists that it is the foundation of morality? How tight is the connection between an interaction being consensual and that interaction being morally permissible?
Zwolinski, Sweatshops and Exploitation
Zwolinski highlights two ways in which choice can be morally important. What does he have in mind? Is one of these ways of understanding the significance of choice better than the other? Does choice have the significance that Zwolinski claims?
What are the Interaction Principle and the Non-Worseness Principle? Should we accept both? Only one? Which one? Why?
8/31 & 9/1
Satz, What do Markets Do?
Schmidtz, The Institution of Property
Markets are able to deliver incredible results. Because they are efficient we might expect them to produce good consequences. Because they increase your range of options we might expect them to promote choice. But where does fairness fit in to the picture? Do markets produce just results? If you are concerned about justice – fair outcomes – then what should you think about markets?
Suppose, miraculously, you have just now woken from a 10,000-year coma. You see that everything that was once unowned now belongs to someone. You think to yourself: “Too bad. If I had lived out my life 10,000 years ago I would have owned so much and now I’ve got nothing.” How would Schmidtz likely respond? How compelling is his argument?
9/2 & 9/3
Friedman, The Social Responsibility of the Business is to Increase its Profits
Freeman, Stakeholder Theory
Friedman argues that corporations are responsible only to increase profit. This stands in sharp contrast to the view of Freeman. Indeed, this view departs significantly from the view of corporate social responsibility common in the culture of the Unites States. What is Friedman’s strongest argument to support his position?
Freeman defends a more complex view of the corporation’s social responsibilities. What problem do you see with his proposal? What’s its greatest weakness?