MAR 30

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21: MAR 30


  • Workshop for Position Paper #1: What We Owe Strangers
  • Today's class has no reading assignment.

PP1 Stage 1: "What We Owe Strangers" Position Paper: 1000 words

  • Stage 1: Please write an 1000 word maximum answer to the following question by April 6, 2021 11:59pm.
  • Topic: What do we owe strangers, as a matter of morality and justice? Consider both strangers in your own country and strangers outside your country. Draw on your previous thinking about personal "justified partiality" as well as your understanding of culturally evolved values to develop your view. Think also about the kinds of "goods" (economic, in-kind, human rights) we are or are not obligated to offer strangers, depending perhaps on whether they are in your community, nation, or world. Finally, try to use the theories of justice and other concepts and principles we have developed to formulate an answer to the question, "What do we owe strangers?" Your answer should provide a well-organized and clear rationales (Logic) reflecting your assessment of relevant course materials (Content) or other resources. It should show awareness and engage some of the diversity of viewpoint on this question.
  • Keep in mind:
  • You are answering this prompt in the "first person plural" - we. This is not just a statement of personally felt obligation, but your view about what we should all accept as our collective obligation.
  • Your readers (at least 5) will not necessarily share your view, so you should say why your position should be acceptable to someone with a different point of view.
  • Advice about collaboration: I encourage you to collaborate with other students, but only up to the point of sharing ideas, references to class notes, and your own notes. Collaboration is part of the academic process and the intellectual world that college courses are based on, so it is important to me that you have the possibility to collaborate. It's a great way to make sure that a high average level of learning and development occurs. The best way to avoid plagiarism is to NOT share text of draft answers or outlines of your answer. Keep it verbal. Generate your own examples.
  • Prepare your answer and submit it in the following way:
  1. Do not put your name in the file or filename. You may put your student id number in the file. Put a word count in the file.
  2. In Word, check "File" and "Inspect Documents" to make sure your name does not appear as author.
  3. Format your answer in double spaced text in a 12 point font, using normal margins.
  4. Save the file in the ".docx" file format using the file name "ObligationStrangers".
  5. Log in to Upload your file to the PP1: What We Owe Strangers dropbox.
  • Stage 2: Please evaluate four student answers and provide brief comments and a score. Review the Assignment Rubric for this exercise. We will be using the Flow, Content, and Insight areas of the rubric for this assignment. Complete your evaluations and scoring by TBD, 2020, 11:59pm.
  • Use this Google Form to evaluate four peer papers. The papers will be in our shared folder, but please do not edit or add comments to the papers directly. This will compromise your anonymity.
  • To determine the papers you need to peer review, I will send you a key with animal names in alphabetically order, along with saint names. You will find your animal name and review the next four (4) animals' work.
  • Some papers may arrive late. If you are in line to review a missing paper, allow a day or two for it to show up. If it does not show up, go ahead and review the next animal in the list until you have four reviews. This assures that you will get enough "back evaluations" of your work to get a good average for your peer review credit.
  • Stage 3: I will grade and briefly comment on your writing using the peer scores as an initial ranking. Up to 28 points.
  • Stage 4: Back-evaluation: After you receive your peer comments and my evaluation, take a few minutes to fill out this quick "back evaluation" rating form: [1]. Fill out the form for each reviewer, but not Alfino. Up to 10 points, in Q&W.
  • Back evaluations are due TBD, 2020, 11:59pm.

The "other side" of Justified Partiality: What We Owe Strangers

  • Unpacking the prompt:
  • The "goods" -- that typically occupy discussions of Justice or Beneficence.
  • Economic justice -- Are there economic outcomes in a society or in the world that would be fundamentally unfair or unjust? Should we think of Rawls "veil of ignorance" on a global level?
  • Aid -- Some argue that valuing human dignity obligates us to provide direct aid in some circumstances, such as disaster relief. Others go further, and argue that we are obligated to help the "bottom billion" to develop productive economies. Are these just good things to do and not obligatory or are they obligations?
  • Promotion of rights and anti-discrimination -- Typically, people who feel that "rights promotion" is an international obligation of justice advocate for their government to use foreign policy to promote rights. Others might argue that that could involve interfering with another culture or countries' sovereignty. Does your position obligate you to promote rights and and anti-discrimination in your society and/or globally?
  • "Strangers in your own community, nation, world" -- You may have different principles or degrees of obligation for different types of strangers. For example, you may not believe obligations to promote justice go beyond borders, but you might still believe that personal or collective beneficence is a good thing. Or, you may address all of these groups with the same theory of obligation.
  • "Draw on your previous thinking about justified personal paritiality" -- For some of you, this earlier work may set a "baseline" for thinking about obligations to strangers. Consider the positions we outlined during last class: Tribalism, Post-tribal Urbanism, Utilitarian Globalism, Extreme Altruism. You may want to use versions of these in your position.
  • "Use your understanding of culturally evolved values" -- We have been studying the origins and value of cooperation, as well as psychological adaptations of WEIRD culture, such as impersonal prosociality, impartiality in rules, and other traits that seem to orient our obligations away from kin and friends. There is some evidence that these psychological adaptations facilitate markets and some forms of justice. If you endorse these aspects of WEIRD culture, you may draw on them in thinking about your obligations to strangers. "Post-tribal Urbanism" is an example of this. We have also studied two theories (Haidt and Hibbing) that help us think about standing challenges we face as a social species. These are all resources you may select from and make use of depending upon your concerns.
  • Draw on "theories of justice and other concepts" --
  • Motivational resources: self-interest and altruism.
  • Theoretical resources:
  • Rawls' Theory of Justice -- which addresses both rights and economic justice.
  • Duty to an ideal. This could be a Kantian ideal of supporting reason and autonomy in others, or it could be a more traditional ideal about human dignity and the importance of supporting human life. You may certainly draw on values from your faith commitments and life experience, but try to explicate them in ways that might be attractive to those who do not share your particular faith.
  • Virtue Ethics -- Promoting human virtues may require specific sorts of aid or support.
  • Utilitarianism -- The principle of utility has several theoretical virtues. For meeting acute human needs, it gives us a way of prioritizing need and calculating benefits. Accepting the "equal happiness" principle allows you to compare goods globally (a latte vs. saving a life).
  • Libertarianism -- A good starting point if you feel very minimal "collective" obligations (such as through taxation), but don't forget that Liberatarians answer questions of personal charity and beneficence just like everyone else.