National University Duty or Consequences Discussion


Week Two: Discussion 1: Duty or Consequences?
Brief Overview Responses: To complete this discussion topic, you will be posting a brief response to each of the four controlling questions below and then posting two critical peer comments. These should be in the form of a basic summary or brief explanation of your understanding of the issue(s) addressed in each question, followed by your own answer to the main question raised in each of the four questions. On this first pass, your response may be somewhat tentative or speculative. Do your best, in about 200-250 words (for each question), to come up with an answer you could more fully explain and defend in an essay of greater depth and length. You need not cite any external sources in these first sets of four responses, but if you do quote, paraphrase, or take any content from another source, please limit those sources for this first set of responses strictly to the course textbook or other course content. Please post these four brief responses in a single thread, due Thursday.
Critical Comments: By Friday (end of day), please post a brief critical commentary on at least two other students’ brief overview responses. It is important to understand that a critical comment may be positive or negative, but it goes beyond merely stating your agreement/disagreement, interest/indifference, shared understanding, or confusion. Your comment may start out that way, but to be a critical comment, it must also provide a reason or reasons for your reaction or specific comment. Each critical comment should be at least 100-150 words in length. You will be posting a longer critique of one of your peers’ critical essays at the end of the week.
Controlling Questions

Explain the concept of ethical egoism and in doing so, point out how it differs from psychological egoism.

How does Ayn Rand defend ethical egoism and in particular, how does she justify her claim that selfishness is a virtue? 
What problems do you see with ethical egoism, if any? 
Consider perhaps the most defensible form of ethical egoism: We ought to treat others as we wish to be treated so that we can ensure our own welfare, safety, and prosperity. What can be said in favor of this position? What can be said against it? 
What is your own stand with respect to ethical egoism, and why do you take that stand?

In Book II of Plato’s Republic, Glaucon proposes that people act justly only because they have entered into a kind of “social contract” in which they agree neither to commit nor to suffer injustice; however, if people could engage in unjust behavior without anyone ever knowing about it and without the risk of every being punished for it, they most certainly would do so.To prove his point, Glaucon tells the story of the Ring of Gyges, a magical object in the form of a ring that allows the wearer to become invisible.

Imagine that you had the Ring of Gyges. What would you do? Would you react as an ethical egoist, an altruist, or something in between? In answering this question, explain the difference between egoism and altruism, and say why you would act in the way you have described. What does this ultimately suggest to you about the nature of justice and people’s desire or inclination to do what is just? 
Do you agree with the view that Plato introduces through the character of Glaucon? Why or why not? Defend your answer using whatever evidence you believe to be relevant.

Describe an ethical decision you have made at some time in your life, and try to remember what your reasoning was in coming to a final course of action. Now rate your moral reasoning according to Bentham’s Hedonistic Calculus, and then compare your reasoning in the situation with Mill’s revised Utilitarian thesis.

Does your thinking coincide with the tenets of either Bentham’s or Mill’s version of Utilitarianism? 
Reflect on your own moral decision-making process from the standpoint of Utilitarian ethics (be sure to explain how Mill’s version of Utilitarianism differs from Bentham’s). 
Do you live your life according to some version of Utilitarianism? Why or why not?

When Kant presents his theory of moral judgment, he discusses both hypothetical and categorical imperatives. What is the difference between the two? Kant tells us that in his way of seeing things, doing the right thing is a categorical imperative (Do what’s right!), not a hypothetical one.Kant has several different formulations of his “Categorical Imperative,” one of which may be paraphrased as “act only according to that [subjective or personal] maxim whereby you can, at one and the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” What does Kant mean here? Explain Kant’s position as it relates to or contrasts with consequentialist ethics and ethical relativism. Do you agree with the accepted characterization of Kant’s view as a nonconsequentialist theory? What is your position with respect to Kant’s view? Does he get it right? Explain and defend your view and use at least one specific example to illustrate your position.

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