2. I find the idea of cannibalism repulsive. But is it a moral issue? Suppose that some small religious sect in this country included in their death rituals the eating of a small portion of flesh from
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2. I find the idea of cannibalism repulsive. But is it a moral issue? Suppose that some small religious sect in this country included in their death rituals the eating of a small portion of flesh from the deceased and regarded that as a very important part of their religious practices and an important part of honoring their dead. Should such practices be legally prohibited? Would such practices be morally wrong?
3. Must ethics match common sense? Physics does not; psychology does not; chemistry does not; astronomy does not. Must ethics?
4. As was discussed in the opening chapter and discussion, one basic difference in ethical views is between transcendent ethical theories (ethical principles are fixed and absolute and universal) and contingent theories (ethics is simply part of our changing natural lives). Intuitionists (like Ross) are generally in the transcendent camp, while those (like Hume) who emphasize feelings usually favor contingent ethics. Does that basic difference in perspectives explain the difference between intuitionists and feelings theorists? That is, do intuitionists and feelings theorists have the same experience, but just interpret it differently?
5. Plato believed that if you genuinely know what is good, then you will do it; that is, all morally bad acts are the product of ignorance of moral truth. Some think that Plato’s claim is too strong, but still hold that if you know what is good, then that must involve at least some motive for doing what is good or pursuing the good; that is, they would say that you cannot consistently believe that it is good to help your friends when they are in distress and yet have no inclination whatsoever to aid your distressed friends. Does knowing what you ought to do, knowing what is right and good, necessarily supply some motivation for action? Can I genuinely believe that honesty is good and yet have no inclination toward honesty?
6. Kant formulates two versions of his categorical imperative, though he claims they are merely different formulations of the same principle. Would it be possible for someone to consistently hold the first imperative (always act in such a way that you could will that your act should be a universal law) but deny the second imperative (always treat others as ends in themselves, and never merely as means)?
7. Extraterrestrials arrive, and they are far superior to us in intellect—the most brilliant human thinkers would be regarded as severely mentally deficient among these profoundly rational ETs, and their reasoning processes are far beyond ours: their mediocre high school students offer mathematical insights that astonish and awe our most advanced mathematicians. It turns out that the ethical principles of these super-rational extraterrestrials are very different from ours; would a Kantian conclude that we ought to adopt their ethical system, even though we can’t really understand the reasoning process by which they developed that system?
8. One objection to utilitarian ethics is that it turns everything into an ethical issue: if I spend an evening at a baseball game, but would have derived more pleasure from going to a concert, then I have com-mitted a moral wrong. Nothing is exempt from moral evaluation. Is that a fair criticism?
9. You are trying to decide what you should do in a case: Say, should I purchase a term paper off the Internet and submit it as my own work? Would it be more helpful to think about that issue in terms of whether the act would be right or wrong, or in terms of whether this is contributing to development of the sort of character you approve of?
10. Would it ever be right to sacrifice your own virtue for the good of others?
11. I have lived a dissolute life for many years: a life devoted to excessive eating, heavy drinking, laziness, deceitfulness, and pettiness. At age 45, I awaken one morning in the gutter, painfully sober after a three-day binge, and I resolve to change my ways and pursue virtue. Could I become a virtuous person within an hour? A week? A month? A year? Ever
12. Which sort of world would you prefer? A world in which there is a clearly ordered ranking of values, without conflict, or a world in which values genuinely conflict, and no rank ordering is possible?
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