Paper Topics—PHI 292

Answer one and only one of the following numbered questions.  Please ensure that you answer each part of the numbered question you select to answer.  Your essay needs to be typewritten, in black ink, double-spaced, with one-inch margins on all sides.  You must either use MLA or CMS style.  I prefer Times New Roman font, size twelve.  Lastly, your essay needs to be at least four FULL pages in length, but the essay should not exceed six pages.  If you should have any questions, please let me know.

 

  1. Rising above feelings.  Kant holds the very interesting view that one of the characteristic features of human beings is that human beings can always rise above their feelings in order to do what is right.  Thus, on Kant’s view there is no excuse for crimes of passion (where you walk in on your spouse in bed with another person, say Bruno).  But is Kant’s view too strong?  Are there circumstances when we rightly excuse a person for failing to do what is right, owing to the feelings that the individual has as a result of the predicament that the person is in owing to no fault of her or his own.  If you had to choose one such instance of this sort, what would it be?  Why would you excuse the person?  Why would you criticize those who refused to excuse the individual?  What distinguishes this case from cases in which you would not excuse the person?

 

  1. Ronald Dworkin argues that no one has a right to be admitted to college.  Assume he is absolutely right about that.  Still, it can be argued that a candidate can be treated unfairly in being denied admissions notwithstanding the fact that she or he had no right to be admitted.  Do you think there are appropriate limits to affirmative action policies?  Do you think affirmative action policies should best be understood as a means to achieve a more multicultural world?  Do you think affirmative action policies ought to be best understood as a means to provide compensation to victims of past injustices?  Why or why not?

 

  1. Judith Jarvis Thomson observes that a fetus is no more a person than is an acorn an oak tree.  Assume that she is absolutely right about that.  Now, consider to what extent, if any, abortion remains a controversial issue even if this assumption is granted.  In other words, just as Thomson grants (for the sake of argument) a right to life to the fetus and then argues for abortion, grant Thomson her analogy, and then consider whether or not there are any complications that remain.  If there are any, identify them.  If there are none, be sure to explain why.  This question requires that you look seriously at the implications of Thomson’s analogy.

 

  1. Evidence suggests that date rape is far more common than most of us would like to admit.  Virtually everyone agrees that rape is bad, even if, and perhaps especially if, the perpetrator and the victim know each other.  However, people disagree vehemently about how, in particular cases, to distinguish consensual sex from date rape.  We can all agree about paradigm cases of consensual sex—when it is clear to everyone that both parties are eager participants.  We can also agree about paradigm cases of rape—when a woman is taken forcibly from her home, physically assaulted, and raped.  However, there are problems in deciding if date rape has occurred.  Drawing upon Pineau’s essay, what are some of the most significant problems in determining whether date rape has occurred?  Discuss why Pineau believes that an appeal to communicative sexuality can help us decide when date rape has occurred.  What is your assessment of her argument?

 

  1. For most of us, our families are very important.  Although they can cause discomfort, anguish, and pain, they often infuse our lives with meaning, bring us great joy, and heighten our contentment.  When relationships with family are flourishing, it is difficult to envision life without them.  At those times we don’t really think about what we owe them or what they owe us.  According to Jane English, this is as it should be; for she holds that strong family relationships are based on love.  Explain further why English claims that grown children do not owe anything to their parents.  Discuss in detail the arguments she uses to establish this thesis.  What is your assessment of her argument?  Is moral obligation at odds with close personal relationships?
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