Kant’s Categorical Imperative

will be the focus of tomorrow’s conversation in class.  Here’s a link to the document if you lost it between class and now.  In addition, you should complete the reading and think of an example of a situation that works to effectively demonstrate Kant’s Categorical Imperative.


In-class challenges for April 24th

Today in class, the following steps are vital –

  • in small groups, discuss, clarify, and solidify your understanding of Bentham’s hedonistic calculus from your reading [and discussion] of the primary source document from last night’s homework.
  • working in a group of two to four[but not more than that], consider a current moral dilemma and apply the utilitarian ‘Greatest Happiness Principle‘ to the choices inherent in the dilemma.  For example, one dilemma that would work (but that you can’t use) is the question of nuclear power.  Should the U.S. continue to build nuclear power plants?  Do more than consider the validity of ‘global climate change’ and consider whether we have a duty to the happiness [or, indeed, the existance] of future generations.  Here’s an article from the Washington Post that explores the same dilemma in Japan.  Read it if you’re starved for ideas.
  • once you’ve discussed it, write a one-paragraph explanation of how Bentham would make a choice using his philosophy.  You should use excerpts from the two utilitarian texts in support of your ‘response’.

and here’s a new topic for a modern application for our ethics unit – what is ‘fair’ income for a CEO?  Here’s an editorial that introduces the conversation with one viewpoint.  What would be a differing view?

Utilitarianism Homework 4/23

For tonight, do two things –

  1. Critically read and mark the linked Bentham Primary Source to fill in some of the gaps that remain with Utilitarianism.  Remember that he and John Stuart Mill were contemporaries and friends; they are considered Utilitarian thinkers.  In addition, you may choose to consult this secondary source that explains a few of Bentham’s ideas.   You must either print the primary source on your own tonight or make sure that you have a document available electronically in class [and that you’ve ‘marked’ the document up so that there is evidence of critical reading on the revised document.]
  2. Consider a contemporary moral dilemma and respond (in writing) to the dilemma with a utilitarian viewpoint.  You may choose from any current dilemma, but may not craft a hypothetical example. 

Moving into the Ethics unit…

As we move into the ethics unit, there are many issues and questions arising from our daily conversations.  Knowing that eventually we aim to write a manifesto which explains our moral philosophy and applies it in a modern-day dilemma, it is important to consider the ethical dilemmas that are inherent parts of life.  The Los Angeles Times has recently published some photographs of U. S. Soldiers posing with corpses.  The publishing of these photos is a professional dilemma, the U. S. government and the Afghan government have responded.  Should the photos have been published?  Read up on it and decide for yourself.

During this unit, it is important to gather examples of ethical dilemmas and to supplement your journal entries with your own personal explorations into the topics.