Study Questions for Ethics Summer 2007b

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June 4

No Questions for today - Review for Midterm

June 5

No Questions for today - Midterm

June 6

What are the textual sources for Hindu ethics?

1. The Rig Veda, (the oldest of the 4 vedas)- 1500-900 bce- describes rituals for maintaining one's connection to moral order of the universe

2. The Bhagavad Gita, part of the Mahabharata, (the worlds longest poem)-details moral duties of one born of divine nature; written in 5th c.

3. The Upanishads-express dharma as universal

4. The Mahabharata- version of golden rule - "what is harmful to oneself, one should not do to others"

5. Guatama Buddha's Nyaya Sutra (200 b.c.e)-8 excellences of the soul

...jcook -Dani Long

Identify and understand the significance of key concepts, such as: Dharma, Rita, Artha, Kama, Moksha, the castes, and Karma.

Dharma: to support or nourish. Doing your moral duty supports the moral order of the universe and your society.

Rita: The moral order in the universe that says justice, truth, and righteousness will always win out in the face of immorality and apparent chaos

Artha: (Prosperity) Must be pursued as means, not ultimate end. Must be pursued with good intentions and good means.

Kama: (Pleasure) Also must be an extrinsic goal, moderate, acknowledgement of our embodiment. Excessive attachment to body should be avoided.

Moksha: (Freedom, liberation, self-realization)-realization that each of us, as the essence of atman, are identical then to Brahmad, the image of all beings, including God (implies we, as atman=Brahmad and image of God)

'The Castes': -Brahmanas: priests, intelligensia

-Kshatriyas: warriors

-Vaishyas: merchants, farmers, traders

-Shudras: laborers and servants

While not part of the offical margins of castes, there exists a fifth caste: -Panchama: the untouchables and outcasts of society- still discriminated against and treated poorly. millions exist and are oppressed in India

Karma: Deed or act that accumulates to determine one's next psychophysical form in the next life; is seen as the rule of cause and effect with respect to morality

~Paul G -Dani Long

What are the four goals of life for a Hindu?

1. Artha (prosperity)

2. Kama (pleasure):Has to be pursued moderately.

3. Moksha (freedom, liberation, self-realization) atman = Brahmad

4. Dharma (duty) (over arching goal)

The 4 goals of life are in pursuit of release from samsara.

~Paul G -Dani Long

What are some of the key virtues in Hindu ethics?

Enlightenment of the individual is at the core of their values. They have a tradition that beleives in reincarnation. Life is reborn, but each time some new form of enlightenment is obtained by the soul.

~Paul G

Rita, the belief that the universe is morally ordered. Dharma, carrying out your moral or caste duty. The golden rule. Fearlessness, purity of heart, steadfastness in knowledge in yoga, self-restraint, non-violence, truth, absence of anger, serenity, compassion, modesty, energy, and humility are all important virtues according to the Bhagavad Gita. In response to the previous post, I would not say that enlightenment in any form is always gained, only if one practices the above virtues. -jcook

Key virtues in Hindu ethics: Dharma (carrying out one's social duty within one's social class), Atman (realizing one's true self/soul), Sadharana dharma (carrying out one's universal duties besides those of one's social class such as charity, integrity, nonviolence, self-control, and compassion, fearlessness, study of scriptures, patience, absence of hatred and pride, etc.), and realizing our atman to get out of the wheel of birth, death, and rebirth. Geoff Fischback(Gfischba)

June 7

How does Swami Nikhilananda criticize Hindu ethics? Do his recommendations for greater emphasis on social justice find a parallel in contemporary Christian thought?

Nikhilananda criticizes Hindu ethics by saying it is weak on social ethics and that dharma has lost its hold on people. He claims that Hinduism is meant to promote social goodness and cooperation, but has become too personal in recent times. Nikhilananda notes the ideal intentions of Hindu ethics. The corruption of the system, however, lies in the difference between the historical and ideal ways in which Hindu ethics are lived out. The classes of Brahmans and Kshatriyas should have made a materialistic renunciation on a moral level, instead of using dharma as a justification for exploiting the lower castes. Because of this failure of social ethics, he calls for an emphasis on social justice. This emphasis parallels contemporary Christian thought in its call for acceptance of other religions and a renewed social welfare concern, something similar to that of Vatican II. -Lindsay Fiori -jcook

Hindu ethics stress living virtuously with characteristics of compassion and charity, but recently Hindus are more concerned with themselves and their own spiritual lives than caring for others(compassion and charity.) Another important criticism is that of the hereditary caste system and discrimination against the untouchables.Geoff Fischback

What are Kohlberg's six steps of moral development? How does he establish them?

Kohlberg's 6 stages are:

Preconventional Level

1-Punishment / Obedience - consequences influence obedience

2-Instrumental Relativist- Love is egocentric.

Conventional Level

3-Good Boy / Nice Girl- social values and sense of loyalty serve as incentive

4-Law and Order- laws and codes serve as reason to obey

Postconventional Level

5-Social Contract / Utilitarian- requires self-reflection on ethical systems

6-Universal Law- Principled Ethical Conscience

He established these stages and levels through cross-cultural studies in which he asked participants for their responses to different types of moral dilemmas. One example of such a question is whether or not Heinz should steal a drug he cannot afford to keep his wife alive. Kohlberg studied the same subjects for 30 years, using their changing answers to categorized them into stages. --Lindsay Fiori -Dani Long

How does Kohlberg use his theory of moral development to analyze the My Lai massacre?

Kohlberg used his moral development theory to look at how three principle characters involved in the massacre exhibited preconventional, conventional, and postconventional moral reasoning in their actions regarding the shootings. Paul Medlow- Private involved in shooting during the masscre. Exhibited preconventional behavior- obeyed orders to avoid getting into trouble by higher officers. William Calley- Lieutenant responsible for ordering the massacre. Exhibited conventional behavior- Deferred the responsibility to those higher up (and supposedly more knowledgeable). Calley just wanted to be a good officer and didn't look beyond norms of immediate situation. Michael Bernhardt- Private who refused to shoot during massacre. Exhibited postconventional behavior- Was willing to accept responsibility as a moral agent, even if his actions went against authority. Bernardt felt that universal principles have priority over law or given commands. -Sarah Ellsworth

June 11

What are the three signs of existence in Buddhism?

The three signs of existence in Buddhism include:

1) Dukkha- says that suffering is an intrinsic aspect of existence. To live in the world is to experience suffering.

2) Anicca- "change"- All life experiences change= impermanence.

3) Anatman- No self/ no soul- There is no stable, permanent idea of one's self. Gfischba

How do Hinduism & Buddhism differ in their views of the self?

Hindus feel that the goal if life is self realization. Atman is the genuine self which is also universal, living within all beings. The self is viewed as being eternal and pure. Most individuals never actually find their self, so they are stuck in the birth-death cycle.

A completely different view is held by Buddhists, who believe in anatman, or the idea that we do not have an individual self, but we are rather a continually changing pattern of physical and mental forces. When an individual realizes that there is no “I,” they have reached Nirvana, and are freed from the birth-death cycle. -Sarah Ellsworth

Identify and explain the significance of the concepts of dependent origin and Nirvana?

Dependent origin is the idea that everything is interrelated and connected, and that everything comes from everything else. This means that we have no identity on our own and are dependent on others. This concept is significant for the idea of anatman, or no-self. Nirvana is the goal of existence for a Buddhist. It is realizing anatman and moving away from having a false sense of 'I'. Nirvana is significant because it is the ultimate goal of a Buddhist and their way of life. --Lindsay Fiori

What are the four Noble Truths, the Eight Fold Path, and the Supreme Virtues?

The four noble truths:

1) Suffering is universal

2) Craving/desire is the cause of suffering

3) We can free ourselves from suffering through our actions

4) Follow the 8-fold path

The 8-Fold path= You must follow/accept/pursue the RIGHT: view, resolve, speech, conduct, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration.

View= The right perspective of the world; considers the 4 basic noble truths.

Resolve= The right attitude, attention, self-criticism. It is "right thinking/thought"

Speech= Ask yourself: "Is it causing harm?" Right speech= sharp language. Right speech= right words; avoid negativity, avoid harm, and avoid suffering

Conduct= The right deeds. Doing good to reduce suffering for self and others; be optimistic in actions

Livelihood= choosing careers that don't induce suffering

Effort= Realizing the capacity to control the mind through the will

Mindfulness= Becoming self-reflective, self-aware, becoming patient, and being aware of frustration

Concentration= Meditation; Awareness of the emptiness of the self. "Samadhi" (doctrine of emptiness of self)

Supreme Virtues: Compassion, loving-kindness, sympathetic joy, impartiality; embody the prescription of the Middle Way.

Compassion: Theraveda school- stresses individual salvation. Mahayama teaches to achieve nirvana with aid of Bodahistra.

Loving-kindness: Seeing all beings in terms of their well-being and progress through enlightenment; achieving personal salvation by helping others alleviate their suffering.

Sympathetic Joy: Experiencing deep inter-connectedness through others' well-being and their joy/happiness. Bask in their glory. Congradulate them. Be happy with them and their accomplishments.

Impartiality: See all others equally- not becoming indifferent. Realizing that everyone's happiness/suffering is equal.


-Dani Long

June 12

Could we pursue the Eight Fold path as a set of ideals for our moral psychology? How would you respond to someone who criticizes these ideals as a "sucker's strategy"?

It would be fairly easy to use the ideas of the Eight Fold Path as a guideline for our morals because many of these ideas are already a part of our lives, but we may have not catagorized them this way. We may choose to exclue parts of the Eight Rold Path (such as realizing there is no self) that do not go along with our own personal or religious beliefs, but can still use the majority of it for our benefit. Right view, right resolve and right speech would be very easy to use in our daily life because I think many people try to do this anyway, just think of it as 'good words, good thoughts and good deeds'. Right conduct and right livelyhood also seem like a natural process--trying to alleviate your own as well as others' pain, and choosing a career that tries to do this as well. Right effort would be easy to integrate into our daily lives, one just needs to realize the capacity of their own will and mind, and realize they can change their own mind. Right mindfulness is something I feel we use often; being patient, being aware of our own frustrations and agitations, and exercising the effort to get past these psycological faults and moving on. Right concentration is another area I feel we could use at least part of, and that is using practices of meditation to reinforce the other parts of the path, and becoming self aware. If one chooses to believe in the idea of no self, meditation would also help to increase ones notion of this idea. --Meredith

There are a variety of questions posed in class about this issue: -Should we adopt the ideas of loving everyone? Is it practical in our society? -Would it make sense to practice it if not everyone pursued the path, too? -Do we have the experience required to change a selfish reaction to a more understanding one? -Can we be mature enough to appreciate the strengths of others without getting jealous or envious? -Are some of the virtues we aspire to going to hurt us in the end? For example, will unconditional trust lead to being taken advantage of? -Is it practical to approach virtues in modern context/society? -Will it make you a better or more moral person if you do? Dani Long

While I personally agree with Meredith that we already do a lot to follow the path, (especially within our Gonzaga subculture), one could easily argue that it would limit your success in life (especially considering the 5th path of livelihood!), or that it is even a nice idea but too hard to pursue. In response to it being a "sucker's strategy", one could say that if the 8 fold path was followed moderately, as the majority of Buddhists do today, one would get along better in society and not be taken advantage of as much. This way of following the 8 fold path is called the the Middle Way, and is in the middle between extreme aestheticism and a lack of discipline altogether. -jcook

Another response to the suckers strategy idea would be that, if one follows the thereveda school of thought, they are looking out for themselves and would not be taken advantage of. Also, if you act morally and make it through life in one try while the person taking advantage of you and claiming you are a sucker takes 10 tries, they are the real sucker. --Lindsay Fiori

Does the pursuit of Buddhist moral ideals require complete selflessness?

I argue no. I believe that Buddhism teaches us that enlightenment comes in the form of recognizing there is no "I" in the universe; that is, there is no private entity of self. This idea of everyone being connected with one another holds each person accountable and duty bound to all sentient beings. When one takes action and makes a decision, they must consider what is good for all; thus, if they themselves are a part of this web they must consider, then in a way they are considering their own needs while weighing that of their neighbors, too. Dani Long

Buddhist moral ideals, arguably, do not require complete selflessness. If one devotes themselves totally to the eight-fold path, then they can be taken advantage of, in a way, by being used by other people. Ex// "right conduct"- others might rely on you to reduce their own suffering. This is why one must find a medium, or "middle way." Geoff Fischback

Even if we could pursue Buddhist moral ideals as a goal, should we?

Buddhist moral ideals are good goals for moral behavior. They are very similar to Christian values and promote peace, equality, and selflessness. If someone is going to pursue these these moral ideals, it is important to adapt them to modern society becuase you cannot aleviate all suffering in the modern world so it is moral to recognize that there is a system of property and family that should come first for the individual. -isabel

How does Aung San Suukyi relate traditional moral teaching on the duties of kings to the transition to democracy in Burma? Which of the duties of kings is particular important for this argument?

Aung San Suukyi relates it through the idea that Burma should embrace and develop a democracy. This would allow Burma to keep up with the modern world and continue to develop as a country. Critics argue that democracy goes against Buddhist teachings, but he says this is false. This is the same teaching applied in different ways and explores the issue that there can be a transition from traditional thinking to modern, from kings to democracy without changing the main ideas. The duty that is most important in the argument is the 10th one, which says kinds should have nonopposition to the will of the people. The idea behind the 10th duty is democracy and giving power to the people. -Andi V., Lindsay Fiori

June 13

Who was Joseph Paul Franklin?

Joseph Paul Franklin was a killer who shot, but didn't kill, Larry Flint, the publisher for Hustler. His mission was to rid America of blacks and Jews, and of whites who like blacks and Jews. He killed civil rights leader Vernon Jordan,killed two black men jogging with two white women in Tennessee, robbed several banks, bombed a synagogue in Tenn., shot a black man and white women coming out of a Pizza hut in Chattanooga,and opened fire on a group of worshipers coming out of a synagogue in Illinois. Gfischba

How do we traditionally assign responsibility based on a assumptions about the difference between mind and body? Why are researchers starting to question these assumptions?

Traditionally, humans have thought of the mind and body as seperate systems. This has led to the belief that everyone has an equal chance of achieving a strong moral character through will power. But this common belief is being called into question because we have realized that the mind is controlled by the brain and is therefore a function of the body. - Jonny

We have traditionally assigned complete responsibility of our actions to the individual. This assignment of responsibility stems from the belief that our body is totally controlled by the mind. The mind controls our actions and tells our body to do different things, which might include harm. Researchers are now questioning this theory because we now have a theory of the mind being seperate from the body, and the brain is what controls our actions. A person can have a good mind(soul), but their actions may not reflect it as some beleive that the mind and brain are seperate identities. Geoff Fischback

What are we learning about the brain that makes us suspect that some socially pathological conditions, such as repeat violent crime, may have an organic explanation? What are some of the limits of this kind of knowledge?

We are learning that most repeat violent crime offenders have frontal lobe damage from abuse or other injuries that have altered the development of the brain. These people don't have a clear distinction between right and wrong and dont understand the moral implications of what they're doing. They know that they have done the deed, "actus reas," but don't have a guilty/conscious mind, "mens rea." It is controversial as to how to punish these offenders because they don't understand what they're doing, but we need to protect society from harm. Gfischba

Some limitations rise from these ideas, though. If you believe that abuse of frontal lobes and other injuries, altering the development of the brain, is responsible for violent behaviors and an unclear distinction between what is right and wrong, then is every person who has sustained brain injuries or abuse bound to display violent tendancies? Are they destined to become serial killers then, too? Most would respond 'no,' for there are more factors that need to be present than just abuse or brain injuries, but with this idea, you can understand how the inference would form. From the other side, if you look at "success stories" of people who come from abusive or poor families and gain wealth and fame, you have to apply the same principles. That is, you can't imply that because success occurs for some, it will happen for everyone; rather, there are other determining factors present in the case. Dani Long

Additional limits of this knowledge could be that it is hard to know how damaged the person is, which would determine how responsible they are, which would in turn determine how best to punish/help them. Also, these people often dont have guilt or regret, which is an element that may be hard to see past despite their mental condition. Furhter, since some people grow up the same ways and are not damaged, this new knowledge may become a source of excuse for criminals. --Lindsay Fiori

Who was David Wilson?

David Wilson was a young black man who was found guilty of murdering a motorist that had stopped to help him when Wilson ran out of gas on the freeway. After denying the entire shooting (despite abundant evidence that pointed to him being guilty), researchers Lewis and Pincus saved Wilson from the death penalty by proving to the jury that he suffered from dissociation identity disorder, and actually could not retrieve memories regarding the incident due to years of abuse as a child that had caused damage to his brain. -Sarah Ellsworth

Should new knowledge about the brain and human development alter the way we think about criminal responsibility and punishment? If so, how? If not, why not?

New knowledge about the brain and human development should play a part in determining criminal responsibility and punishment. Because we now have the technology to analyze the physiological damage that has been done to the brain, the mental stability of the individual can be much more accurately determined, despite how they appear on the outside. This knowledge must be used with caution, however, as society cannot completely disregard heinous acts if the individual has some understanding of the moral consequences of their actions. The justice system must be able to distinguish between crimes of evil and crimes of illness. -Sarah Ellsworth

It can be argued that new knowledge about the brain and human development should and should not alter the judgement of criminal responsibility and punishment. One one hand, people with brain damage and unproperly developed brains are not as responsible because they dont fully develop a sense of right and wrong, and see things differently than normal people. Maybe they shouldn't be sentenced to as long of periods as fully conscious and intelligent people, or they should be sent to psychiatric centers of some sort. On the other hand, these people are dangerous to society and should not be let to harm others again. Geoff Fischback

June 14

What was social darwinism and how does Ruse think he is avoiding it?

Social Darwinism says we ought to understand our struggle for existence as survival of the fittest, and our moral beliefs should be formed accordingly (ie X is fit, therefore X ought to be preferred or X's values ought to be preferred). This is a FALSE start between evolution and ethics. Ruse believes he is avoiding 2 mistakes, both social Darwinism and the is/ought fallacy. He believes he does this by making a distinction between substative, or normative, ethics (actual values) and metaethics (justification for an ethical theory). He also makes a distinction between biological alturism (any beneficial relationship between two organisms) and moral alturism (acting on a value in which we INTEND to benefit another). He believes that nature fills our head with the ideas of moral alturism which get us to help others through biological alturism. --Meredith

Could this help? Evolution ethics where the meta-ethics is the theory of evolution. Does not want an “is” and “ought” relationship. Does not want social Darwinism. It tells us what morality helps move our genes to the next generation. Strategy is promoting altruism to get our genes into future generations. Evolution gives a causal account of ethical norms. It stops trying to ground the ethical norms. Moral values are not grounded in basic realities. They are part of a strategy. We can only find out when we are long gone. Is being generous a worthwhile thing? Who knows. We will only know until we have some historical evidence under our belt. ~Tristan

What is the relationship between biological altrusism and moral altruism, according to Ruse?

According to Ruse:

Biological Altruism= a symbiotic/beneficial relationship between organisms.

Moral altruism= acting on a value in which we intend a benefit for another person. Moral altruism creates cultural evolution, in which human beings create culture, transform it, and create new cultures within it; plays a role in our fitness strategy, and the ethical systems help us to survive.

Some would say that culture determines morality, in contrast to the above. In warrior cultures such as the samurai or spartan, for example, morals concerning death are very different. Defective infants were killed, and ritual suicide is a way to save your honor.

Relationship: Moral altruism is nature's way of tricking us into being biological altruists. Nature fills our head w/ ideas of moral altruism to get us to be biological altruists. -Gfischba -jcook -Dani Long

How does Ruse's evolutionary ethics change the project of justification in ethics? Critically evaluate this result.

The project of justification in ethics has traditionally been viewed in the sense that morality is objective, and can be derived from factual foundations, as emphasized by John Rawls. Rawls describes that a just society should be one that maximizes freedom and distributes resources so that everyone may benefit in some way. Ruse’s evolutionary ethics goes beyond this theory in an attempt to link principles of justice to biological past. Evolutionary ethics describes a causal account of value, rather than a justification for specific values, thus avoiding the isought fallacy. In conclusion, Ruse states that ethical norms are subjective and part of a strategic fitness, not grounded in reality at all.

This result works if one assumes that society is full of upstanding individuals who are always going to try to do the right thing. This is not the necessarily the case, however, and in the light of evolutionary ethics, individuals would be able to get away with doing immoral things because they are all “subjective.” Related to this, humans tend to be selfish beings that look out for their own interest first, and reciprocation of moral obligations will not necessarily occur. -Sarah Ellsworth

June 18

What is a "species specific mental adaptation"?

Species specific mental adaptation is the way we as a species have adapted to thinking about something.

i.e. Mating--> Somebody who thinks, "Be with me because I'm attractive" thinks that this will land them the girl/guy of their dreams. Or that their date is handsome and smart, rather than realizing that what they may really be feeling is that their date could raise and support a family. The physical differences used to attract a mate are called sexual dimorphisms

The majority of people in our culture tend to agree with this approach.

~Paul G -jcook

species specific mental adaptation refers to the change that different species can make. For example society use to see large woman as attractive because health is seen as attractive. back in the day being fat meant you had enough money to eat all the time. but we now find smaller woman attractive and now they are healthy too. not sure how it fits in but we also find symmenty in a persons body favorable -dan-

Species specific mental adaptation is most evident in the mating selection process. People are attracted to certain characteristics depending on their environment. For example, large males used to be the most attractive to the females because they were a better guarentee for providing food and protection than other males. But as society has evolved, so have the attractive characteristics of males. Now, financial stability, sociability, and intelligence might be considered equally important to physical prowess when a female is looking for a mate. - Jonny

What explanatory framework does evolutionary psychology propose to help understand urban violence?

Evolutionary psychology is not interested in genetic differences between individuals, but rather looks at the power of the environment and the human mind’s adaptation to social circumstances. Margo Wilson describes gang violence as being “a coalition of males who are mutually supporting each other to serve their interests against some other coalition.” This approach proposes that violence is essentially something that individuals, especially males, are programmed to do to survive; it promotes their status. By looking at these environmental influences, as well biological issues such as seratonin levels and related self esteem, evolutionary psychologists have been able to formulate a new understanding for the reasoning behind urban violence. -Sarah Ellsworth

Does a naturalistic explanation of urban violence change anything about the way to respond to this social and moral problem?

Traditional view: Traditional views like the ideas of good character found in Aristotle and the concepts of choice, will, and soul. Originally, urban violence was basically seen as a law-enforcement issue and more of a problem with the character of the urban youth and these kids need to be educated and maybe the police should keep a closer eye on them. They just see it as a problem of character and our involvement. In the mind\body separation, this view takes the side of the mind, responsibility is character based, and will is central to achieving moral responsibility. This is the way we teach our children.

New view of naturalism: Latest science points to it as a biological and environmental problem. They see violence as a problem with seratonin levels in the brain and that this imbalance needs to be corrected or cured like an illness. This makes it again like a public-health problem rather than a a character problem. The environmental problem is about where the kids are raised: Cultural values, living situations, family life, etc.). Naturalism brings us a new dimension to the table: how biology and the environment affect urban violence.

My take: We should incorporate naturalism ideas to address and correct this problem but it should not be the "be all, end all." Both require involvement from the rest of the community whether it is getting involved in educating the youth and start mentoring programs or help pay for medications for severe cases of seratonin levels or pay for nicer living conditions in these slums. It brings the social sciences together with the natural, urban, and psychological sciences. ~Tristan -jcook

Yes, it should change b\c it is developed by looking at responsibility. Psychical changes in the body occur because the environment. This focuses on the future. The change may not happen unless people get jobs with a sense of self-worth. There is a contrast present between traditional view of responsibility and naturalistic view. The naturalistic views urban violence as a consequence of social feedback; it looks at biology and the environment. -Andi V.

How does an evolutionary psychological explanation of urban violence alter the traditional contrast between thinkers like Goodwin and Breggin?

It really brings about the question is it a health or science based problem or is it still a character-based problem. Goodwin sees urban violence as a public health problem (violence is an illness). Another concern is it biological or environmental problem (I mean environment as in someone's neighborhood or place of upbringing or their environment where they live). Breggin's stance is an anti-psychiatry view. He thinks people who would use psychological theories to talk about social problems are really just trying to control people. He believes that urban violence is a response to poverty and oppression. It makes it sound like an excuse for violence or like saying, "What did you expect? Of course they are going to act violently!" This more science-based approach also offers a solution to the problem by lowering seratonin levels in order to hopefully deminish violence in urban youth. Another suggestion inspired by Breggin is alter the environment in hopes that it would deminish violence (it becomes more of a political, infastructure/planning issue for relocation or rebuilding the impovrished area). This scientific approach to the problem makes the character approach less of a necessity. Character-based ethics would be hard to implement (education reform, youth outreach, etc.) while giving the kids a pill and maybe change their habitat seems like a very quick fix to me. ~Tristan

Goodwin and Breggin have very differing views on how to address the issue of urban violence. However, they both agree that the problem is originating in the opressed environment that theyse people are being exposed to. This leads to a feeling of dispair and a lack of feeling of self worth. Becasue this leads to low levels of seratonin, Goodwin believes that antidepressents should be mass distributed in such areas. Breggin believes that we should take a more socialistic approach to the situation and actaully put time and effort into rebuilding these areas to give the locals a real feeling of self worth rather than just medicating them. I tend to agree with Breggin. Treat the problem when possible, not the symptoms. -Jonny

While I do not disagree with the use of antidepressants as a solution for specific cases of depression, I believe the problem of urban violence extends beyond simply changing the levels of seratonin. Even though there are studies that indicate that low seratonin levels can lead to behavioral issues, there is still not enough research to support that widely distributing antidepressants in urban areas will reduce the overall problem of violence. Yes it may seem like a “quick fix” but it is important to concentrate on other aspects of the environment that are causing people to have low seratonin levels, bad behavior, and aggression. If we ignore these other factors are we really solving the problem at all? (Lolly)

June 19

Familiarize yourself with the basic background information about Islam (origins, basic ideas, distinctive features of its traditions)

Islam stems from the Judeo-Christian tradition, and began in 610 AD when the Prophet Muhammad received a revelation from the angel Gabriel, advocating reform to spread the word of God (Allah) and Monotheism. In 622 AD Muhammad was driven out of Mecca, however, he gathered a large army in the city of Medina and eventually conquered Mecca.

There are over 1 billion Muslims in the world today, with 15% being Shiites, believing in hereditary leadership and that Ali (Muhammad’s cousin) was the true successor. The other 85% are Sunnis, who believe that there is still a hidden Imam yet to come. Though there are divisions, all Muslims share the same basic traditions and ideas regarding Islamic practice.

The sources of law in Islam stem from four main places: the Qur’an, which is the Islamic guide to life and governs religious and secular issues; tradition, or the Sunna and Hadith, which are records of Muhammad’s life and teachings; the use of critical reasoning to arrive at analogies; and social approval or consensus. -Sarah Ellsworth

Why is the wearing of the hejab controversial? Is it sexist? Should it be prohibited in public schools?

Wearing the hejab is controversial because it is seen by some as a sign of opression forced on by a male dominated society but also seen as a sign of relgious devotion by others. The hejab is a symbol because it is only a part of how woman are oppressed in these countries.

It shouldn't be prohibited in public schools because it is a sign of religous devotion. if a Christian wanted to wear a big cross around his neck he/she wouldn't be stopped neither would a Jewish kid wearing a yamaka. -dan-

Wearing the veil is controversial because it is also seen as a symbol of the subjugation of women in Islamic society. The Qur'an allows men to have more than one wife, but women can't have more than one husband. Husbands are allowed to inherit twice as much property and possessions as their wives. Women are also prohibited from any further education besides education of the Qur'an. Wearing the veil is seen as another oppression of women because it's just another rule, or so it seems. It is also controversial because men aren't required to cover all of their bodies, only women. I think it is controversial whether it should be prohibited in public schools because on one hand, it is deeply symbolic and a sign of complete devotion to the Qur'an if that is why a woman wears it, a reason for it not to be prohibited, but it can also be worn for reasons other than devotion like family pressure or force, a reason for it to be prohibited. Gfischba

June 20

What is the "open society" and how is the interaction of Islam and the West affected by the presuppositions of the open society?

An open society is a society that ensures political leaders can be overthrown without bloodshed, that people can make their own individual choices and face the outcomes of those choices (whether they are good or bad), is a secular society (no official religion), has a representative government, there is freedom of speech/ideas, etc. To the West, Islam looks like a traditional religious group which is "afraid" of open society and contemporary Western Culture because they do not harbor Islamic beliefs in the way that their own culture does. Islamic people seem to be much more "controlled" by their religious beliefs than Westerners. --Meredith Claeys

an open society is a place where people are accepting and tolerant of others differences. religion, language, dress, customs. (supposed to be) political freedoms and human rights are the foundation of an open society. Islam conflicts with a total open society because it sees other ways of life besides submission to the will of Allah as wrong. Islam is not tolerant of other religions or customs. -dan-

Is the prohibition against polygamy justified from non-Christian grounds? Should an open society allow it?

There are not too many solid arguments agaisnt polygamy once you take the Christian bias away from the discussion. Unless the Gov't can prove that polygamy causes child abuse or someother social problem then i don't see why they can outlaw it and accept same sex marriages. A true open society should allow its citizens to make their own choices and not restrict them from making personal choices like if they want two wives or 15 kids. i would say that if a country did accept polygamy they would also have to accept woman having several husbands. it would only be just. -dan-

The arguments against polygamy are logical because they take into account certain harms about the relationship such as: abuse, domestic violence, woman’s rights, financial problems, and emotional/psychological strain. However, these harms are also found in married couples. There are circumstances where polygamous relationships could be potentially dangerous, but just like any other partnership it has to do with the people IN the relationship, not the nature of the relationship itself. I think an open society should allow polygamous relationships to occur. That’s not to say that I would participate in one myself, nor would I like to see it become the social “norm” to be in one, but if we truly live in an open society than it should be there as an option. It will accommodate those who choose to have a polygamous relationship, and it is not affecting the people who still wish to have only one spouse. Just because it all of a sudden becomes legal does not mean that we have to change our whole ideas about marriage. I have heard reasoning that it is possible to have a respectful, loving, and healthy polygamous relationship and there is nothing wrong with allowing that, its just a different lifestyle. Allowing it would show the United States’ progression towards becoming more understanding and accepting of other cultures and religions. (Lolly)

The prohibition against polygamy from non-Christian grounds can only be justified if it is proven to cause harm to spouses or children, or isn't as effective at raising and developing children as monogomous relationships. An open society should be "open" to all beleifs and ideals, so I don't see how an open society could prohibit the practice. Geoff Fischback

What are the 5 Pillars of Islam? Briefly comment on the distinctive features of this credo?

Five Pillars:

1) Tawhid-- there is no god but god, and Muhammad is his prophet

2) Salat-- prayer five times a day (must face Mecca and have a particular stance)

3) Saum-- Ramadan fast; cannot eat between sunrise and sunset for whole month (9th month)

4) Zakat-- the giving of alms; annual tithing of money, time, and effort one is expected to make

5) Hajj-- pilgrimage to Mecca and the Ka'bah that one is asked to take once in lifetime, if/when they can afford to

The 5 Pillars are grounded in the Qur'an and are used to convey ethical and moral duties of Muslims, regardless of sect (Sunnis, Shiites, or Sufis). They assume and advocate complete obedience to the will of Allah, teach the dignity and worth of all human beings, and encourage good deeds to bring about a just and good society. --Meredith Claeys -Dani Long

June 21

Familiarize yourself with the main characters in the Duth immigration story, "The Dutch Model"

I. Theo Van Gogh (Killed Fall 2004): I would say his role is crucial in this story because he represents to this very day a symbol of freedom of speech. His assassination by a Morrocan-Spanish radical was due to insulting Allah through his work. His death really sparked riots on both sides (for freedom of speech and him insulting one of the most important religous figure in Islam) and questioning the Dutch Pillar system.

II. Pim Fortuyn: openly gay, member of the anti-immigration party and was also murdered by Van der Graf who thought he was a threat to society (did not say why).

III. Immigrants (especially Muslim originally from Morroco)

IV. Pillar Society A. Separation of cultures (secular, religious, or otherwise) 1. Worship in private sphere 2. Alienation towards the immigrated muslims a. Separation into communities (Pillar Society) b. They did do assimilation (like in the US) i. Criticized by multi-culturalist ~Tristan

What can we learn form the Dutch experience with immigration and multiculturalism?

Pillar Society: Separation rather than assimilation did not work very well for the Dutch when Muslims got their own pillar. Originally, it was Jews, Secular, and Christian pillars and they supposedly got along fine. However, when the Muslims entered the picture, this Dutch Model started to go wrong. The religious fundamentalism and the clash between eastern and western culture and freedom of speech became a problem.

We talked about the "Open Society" where people are cared for by the government. They make choices and they themselves experience the consequences. There is no official religion (secular society), but it allows for private societies.

A big question that Alfino asked: "How can I pursue my religion without cooperation from the society?" My own personal experience from fundamental groups (Christian or otherwise) is withdrawing from society (extremist example: Branch Davidians). Another form is evangelical Christians withdrawing from society and not participating in politics or communities. They put their kids in home school and not public schools. It can take many forms. My answer to the question is withdrawl from the public foreground and focus on the private areas of life. Does this allow for radical practices still? You might say that some Christian churches still discriminate in different ways (dominantly one ethnicity or social class in attendance or with leadership).

Multi-culturalism: Allowing more than one type of culture to live in a society and where each different culture is equal (they all have the same rights under law). The question for this ideology is tolerence and acceptance. How much of a culture can we accept but still keep everything equal between other cultures. What religious and cultural practices are tolerable and acceptable? Like in the States, I am guessing that they are free to practice their religious pracitce just as long as it agrees or follows US law. Again, the issue is still tolerance and acceptance. Another question is what cultures are allowed to live amongst us (US does not allow many Muslims into the country...). ~Tristan

June 25

What are the trolley problems and what do they attempt to show about the universality of moral sense? Do they succeed?

The trolley problems are a set of moral dilemmas formulated by philosopher Phillipa Foot, which look at the distinction between letting an individual die and killing. The problems are an attempt to assess what influences are involved in an individual’s moral decision making process. There are four different situations described by author Marc Haur: Bystander Denise- Is on the trolley and has the option to steer the train from a track that has five people on it, to a track that has one person on it. Bystander Frank- Is on a footbride over the trolley and has the option to push a large person off of the footbridge onto the track in order to stop the trolley from hitting the five people. Bystander Ned- Is on the side of the track and has the option to throw a switch to divert the trolly temporarily onto a track with a large person, thus killing the person, stopping the trolley, and saving the other five people. Bystander Oscar- Is on the side of the track and has the option to throw a switch to divert the trolley onto a side track with a heavy object that will slow the train so the five people can escape, however, there is a person in front of the heavy object who would be killed.

These situations attempt to show that there is a universal agreement in the principle of double effect, or the idea that a normally harmful action can be seen as permissible in a situation where the effects of the action will be more beneficial than if the action were not taken. The trolley problems succeed in showing that morality does operate at a certain level of intuition; however, most average people are unable to justify their reasons behind their answers. -Sarah Ellsworth

What does empirical study of the trolley problem show?

I. Trolley situations

  A. Denise
     1. Permissible (2nd)
        a. Double effect principle
           i. Harming someone is okay if the foreseen consequence of the action brings more good.
          ii. Intentionaly harming someone as a means to an end is not permissible  
        b. Unintentional compared to Frank
  B. Frank
     1. Impermissible (4th)
        a. A means to an end (violation of double effect principle)
        b. Intentional killing
  C. Ned
     1. Impermissible (3rd)
        a. A means to an end (double effect again)
  D. Oscar
     1. Permissible (1st)
        a. Foreseeable consequence
        b. Not intending to kill
  E. Ideas involved…
     1. Moral Sense
     2. Rational Principles
     3. Language-morality analogy
        a. All human beings have a universal cognitive device that allows us to acquire language  (but we all grow up speaking

different languages)

        b. We have species-specific adaptation but cultures will differ from permissible and impermissible killing


The responses of what is or is not permissable in trolley problems were similar between genders, age, and national affiliation. however the justifications given for their answers were more difficult to pinpoint. Since the respondents could not really give exact reasons for why they answered the way they did, it can be concluded that our knowledge of morality is intuitive. It is based on unconscious and inaccessible principles for guiding judgments of permissibility. (Lolly)

What are some of the cultural practices of "honor killings"? What do we know about the factors that determine a propensity to violence? How might this knowledge fit into an evolutionary perspective on morality?

One practice of honor killing exists in Arab cultures. If a woman has been found to have had intercourse before her wedding night, she will be ceremoniously killed. Another practice no longer exists in widespread fashion, but was once very common in Japanese Samurai cultures. The practice of Seppuku, or "belly cutting", was done to oneself by a warrior who had become shamed and wanted to die with honor. The warrior would slash his own abdomen with a sword, and, if he screamed in agony, would then be decapitated by a skilled swordsman.

It is hard for us to imagine practices like this existing today, or even recently in history, but these practices occur because of the warrior cultures that they exist in, where violence and death are part of everyday life, rather than avoided at all costs like they are in Western culture today.

This is an example of how morality evolves as culture changes. Even though there is still a large emphasis on dying with honor in Japan and in other Asian cultures, violence and death to obtain this honorable death is the exception rather than the rule. If the westernization of Arab and other Eastern cultures continues, it could end up that way for those cultures, as well. - Broc

June 26

What is the Prisoners Dilemma? What does it appear to show about selfish and altruistic behaviors?

Two suspects, A and B, are arrested by the police. The police have insufficient evidence for a conviction, and, having separated both prisoners, visit each of them to offer the same deal: if one testifies for the prosecution against the other and the other remains silent, the betrayer goes free and the silent accomplice receives the full 10-year sentence. If both stay silent, both prisoners are sentenced to only six months in jail for a minor charge. If each betrays the other, each receives a five-year sentence. Each prisoner must make the choice of whether to betray the other or to remain silent. However, neither prisoner knows for sure what choice the other prisoner will make. So this dilemma poses the question: How should the prisoners act?

The prisoners dilemma evaluates the various ways people go about making decisions for either their own personal self-interest, for altruistic purposes, or both. All in all it seems as the though selfish behavior sort of "trumps" altruistic behavior.

For instance, in the canonical version:

-IF B remains silent, I should betray.

-If B betrays me, I should betray.

And in the interated version:

-If B cooperates, I should defect.

-If B defects, I should defect.

However, too many choices of the defect card may prove to be unsuccesful in the long run. If you are to play the interated version of the game, you must integrate the 3 properties of good strategies in order to adopt a more balance approach that doesn't risk too much failure or over accomplishment.

1)Being nice



~Paul G