Write 4-5 double-spaced, 12-pt. pages on one (1) of the following topics.
1. Plato and John Stuart Mill evidently think that morality is objective rather than subjective. How
can this be? What, according to each, is the objective moral reality? That is, what, according to
each thinker, are the things that make moral beliefs true? How, according to Plato and Mill, do we
learn or come to know about that reality or those things? According to each thinker, are there other
beliefs besides moral ones that we develop in the same way?
What do you think of Plato’s and Mill’s moral pictures? Pick your favorite and criticize the
other, or criticize both from your own standpoint. Make a convincing argument against one or
2. A very harsh criticism people sometimes make is to say of someone: “For him, the end justifies
the means.” What does this mean? Is it true of Mill? How would he respond to this criticism? Is
this a good response?
3. How will Mill deal with the parable of the utilitarian sheriff? He is defending a lone prisoner from
a lynch mob threatening to kill hundreds if they don’t get their hands on the prisoner. Is this like
the trolley problem? What do you think of Mill’s solution to these problems? What would you do
if you were either the sheriff or the trolley driver, and why?
4. Mill argues that the liberation of women will produce justice in society. But he also claims that it
will produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number. How are these ideas connected, in
Mill’s view? What do you think and why?
5. Explain Judith Jarvis Thompson’s argument involving the violinist. What is she trying to prove,
exactly? Criticize her argument. How might someone try to show that she has not really proven
the moral acceptability of any abortions? Can she respond to this challenge?
6. Rosalind Hursthouse thinks that guilt is sometimes appropriate for an abortion, even if the
abortion is the right thing to do! Why? What is her final conclusion about the wrongness or
rightness of abortion? What do you think of her arguments, especially her idea that “personhood”
is irrelevant to the rightness or wrongness of abortion?
7. In “The Wrong of Abortion,” Lee and George argue the following:
Our position is that we human beings have the special kind of value that makes us subjects of rights in
virtue of what we are, not in virtue of some attribute that we acquire some time after we have come to be.
Obviously, defenders of abortion cannot maintain that the accidental attribute required to have the special kind
of value we ascribe to “persons” (additional to being a human individual) is an actual behavior. They of course
do not wish to exclude from personhood people who are asleep or in reversible comas. So, the additional
attribute will have to be a capacity or potentiality of some sort. Thus, they will have to concede that sleeping or
reversibly comatose human beings will be persons because they have the potentiality or capacity for higher
But human embryos and fetuses also possess, albeit in radical form, a capacity or potentiality for such
mental functions; human beings possess this radical capacity in virtue of the kind of entity they are, and
possess it by corning into being as that kind of entity (viz., a being with a rational nature). Human embryos
and fetuses cannot of course immediately exercise these capacities. Still, they are related to these capacities
differently from, say, how a canine or feline embryo is. They are the kind of being-a natural kind, members of
a biological species-which, if not prevented by extrinsic causes, in due course develops by active selfdevelopment to the point at which capacities initially possessed in root form become immediately exercisable.
(Of course, the capacities in question become immediately exercisable only some months or years after the
child’s birth.) Each human being comes into existence possessing the internal resources and active disposition
to develop the immediately exercisable capacity for higher mental functions. Only the adverse effects on them
of other causes will prevent this development.
Translate this into more ordinary English and respond. Do you agree? If not, why not? If you do
agree, why might somebody disagree, and why would that person be wrong?
8. Singer argues that “speciesism” is like racism:
The racist violates the principle of equality by giving greater weight to the interests of members of his
own race when there is a clash between their interests and the interests of those of another race. The
sexist violates the principle of equality by favoring the interests of his own sex. Similarly the speciesist
allows the interests of his own species to override the greater interests of members of other species. The
pattern is identical in each case.
Translate this passage. What do you think of it? What’s wrong with it, if anything? Or, why might
someone disagree, and how can this claim be defended against a critic?
9. Come up with your own topic, and pass it by the instructor.