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Phil 1000 : Introduction To Philosophy

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Section 1 

Read the thought experiment. After reading the thought experiment, proceed to the paragraph labeled ‘argument’.

That passage contains a valid argument. Extract the argument from the passage and put it in standard (premise-conclusion) form. Remember, not every sentence in the passage is going to function as a premise; in fact, most of these sentences below are neither premises nor conclusions. Be sure to appropriately label your premises and conclusion. (Hint: It is possible to standardize the argument using only two premises and one conclusion. If the number of premises used far exceeds two, then you might want to rethink your standardization.)

Thought Experiment: Mike and Ike spend an evening together at a bar. At closing time, a pint or two over the limit, both totter to their cars to drive home. Mike gets home without alarm, as he has dozens of times before, slumps into bed, and wakes up the next morning with nothing worse than a mild hangover. Ike—just as experienced and adept at driving after a few drinks—makes sedate progress homeward until his journey is interrupted by a young man suddenly flinging himself into the road in front of him. No time to stop, and the man is killed instantly. Ike is thrown into a police cell and wakes up the next morning with a mild hangover and the certainty of spending years in prison.

Argument: It is widely held that one cannot be held morally responsible for what is not under one’s control. This is why it would be inappropriate for me to hold you responsible for a major earthquake or for someone else’s crimes. But it looks as though we do want to hold Ike morally responsible for hitting and killing the pedestrian. This is true, moreover, despite the fact that what distinguishes the situation that Mike is in from the situation that Ike is in is a matter of luck—a man jumped out in front of Ike’s car but not in front of Mike’s car. But luck is always something that’s outside of one’s control. If this is the case, then it follows that Ike should not be held responsible for the pedestrian’s death.


Section 2 

Assume the perspective of either the act utilitarian or the rule utilitarian and evaluate the argument for soundness. Would the utilitarian agree with the conclusion that we ought not hold Ike responsible for the pedestrian’s death? Would the utilitarian think that each of the premises is true? If so, then be sure to give a defense, from the utilitarian perspective, of each premise. If the utilitarian would say that the argument is unsound, then be sure to tell me which premise(s) the utilitarian would think is false and explain why the utilitarian would think this.

As part of your response, be sure to define utilitarianism and any relevant technical terms that you might use. Remember, I want you to convince me that you understand the moral theory, and know how to apply it to novel cases.


Section 3 

Answer the same questions posed in Section 2, but this time from the perspective of Kantian ethics. Again, be sure to define Kantian ethics and any relevant technical terms that you might use. Remember, I want you to convince me that you understand the moral theory, and know how to apply it to novel cases.


Section 4

 I now want you to personally weigh in. Do you think that there is a moral difference between Mike and Ike’s actions? Which of the two theories that you’ve discussed do you think has the more satisfying perspective? If you think that both theoretical perspectives are problematic, why? Be sure to thoroughly explain your position, and provide a detailed defense of your position.

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