Critical Response Paper #1
PHIL 1040 – Introduction to Ethics
Dr. Thomas Provenzola
Topic: Hedonism: Shafer-Landau, The Fundamentals of Ethics, Part One, Chapters 1-4 and other relevant readings on moral objectivity in the readings up to date.
Be sure to carefully read the Critical Response Paper Guidelines posted to the ‘Contents’ folder under the ‘Course Information’ tab of eLearn before attempting and submitting the assignment.
The critical response paper must be posted to eLearn Dropbox no later than 11:30PM on Wednesday, February 20, 2019. The paper is worth a possible total of 100 points.
Critical Response Paper Question
For this assignment, use all the assigned readings in Shafer-Landau, The Fundamentals of Ethics, Part One, Chapters 1-4 and other relevant readings on moral objectivity in the readings up to date.
Shafer-Landau argued in Chapter 3 that the Desire Theory version of hedonism is one of the strongest defenses of the pursuit of the good life put forward as a legitimate ethical approach. Throughout this discussion, we’ve made distinctions between subjective theories and objective theories of ethics. Why is the desire theory not an objective approach to ethics, and how does the desire theory conceive of the good? Why is this significant? In other words, on the desire theory, what is the connection between the good and well-being, and what is the connection between well-being and motivation? Why is this connection significant? Can you think of any counterexamples to the assumption of self-interest in the desire theory, that we always have reasons to pursue what we want?
Finally, how would you sum up the fundamental problems for the desire theory as discussed in Chapter 4 of Shafer-Landau? What is the fundamental difference between the good and the good life in the desire theory, and do you think there may be good reasons to question the assumption that the good life consists in our getting what we want? As you ponder this question, how do you think the desire theory hold up in light of the objections to hedonism discussed in Chapter 2 of Shafer-Landau?
You will notice that a philosophical exercise such as this is comprised of a mixture of objective answers and debatable points of view. In other words, you must first have a correct conceptual understanding of hedonism and the desire theory before you can offer a substantive critical analysis. No one is required to agree with your critical analysis, and your grade is not based on whether you are deemed right or wrong. You grade is based on your ability to reflect good philosophical reasoning, the way you’ve seen it presented in the readings.
Start early. If you wait too long, you’ll likely feel rushed and not benefit from the design intention of the assignment. I realize it is easier said than done but do your best to enjoy the exercise. The more you can step back and have time to reflect, the more you will likely benefit from the insights and enjoy the process.
Keep in mind that the purpose of a written assignment is to write. So, while there is a minimal word count of no less than 700-800 words, you are strongly encouraged to produce a paper of sufficient length to clearly and concisely cover the critical nuances necessary for a substantive discussion of the question.
Points for Consideration
As all good philosophical arguments go, the conclusion is only as good as the premises from which it follows. If we reject the truth of the premises or premises, or if the premise is expressed as a definition we find inadequate or objectionable on good rational grounds, it’s difficult to make a rational defense for the conclusion. For example, what does it mean to say that morality is objective, that human reason discovers universal moral principles of morality, or that, through the use of human reason we can see whether certain moral theories, whether objective or subjective, suffer from various indefensible inconsistencies?
Be sure to carefully define your terms. What is meant by objectivism? What is meant by relativism?
Is there such a thing as a universal moral intuition that can be used as the basis for objective moral truth?
Keep in mind that these are only points for consideration. I’m asking you to think about these questions as you work through your paper—that is, they are intended as a primer. A good deal of critical analysis is about asking the right kinds of questions and thinking through various implications.
The real value of the paper is to allow yourself to go through the process of reflective thinking. This means you’ll want to start sooner rather than later to allow yourself plenty of time to introspect on the ideas in question.
All the best in your endeavors,