You may complete this final examination as a take-home exam or in class. Write essays of 3-4 pages (take-home) or 4-5 pages (in class) in response to two of the following questions. Your essay should address the question, argue a thesis, discuss ideas about ethics, consider opposing points of view, and use evidence from the lectures and readings to support its argument. If you are on campus, submit a hard copy of your exam. If not, you can upload it to SafeAssign, available on BlackBoard.
1. Pain and suffering. Peter Singer is a consequentialist or utilitarian philosopher. Singer has written that, “Pain and suffering are in themselves bad and should be prevented or minimized, irrespective of the race, sex, or species of the being that suffers.” To what extent is Singer’s utilitarian philosophy—he calls is “a moral calculus;” I call it “doing the math”—a helpful guide to thinking about and reducing the amount of suffering in the world? Consider at least two of the following: torture, abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, healthcare, capital punishment, animal rights, vegetarianism.
2. Altruism? A global ethic? The modern world is being remade by globalization. Philosopher Peter Singer argues that ethics should also be globalized, and that we owe an ethical duty not only toward people who are near to us, but to all people around the globe. He states that we have as much duty to save a child suffering from disease or hunger in Africa as we do to save the life of a child drowning in the Hackensack River. Singer further argues that we should be particularly concerned with aiding people in poor nations: “In general, where human welfare is concerned, we will achieve more if we help those in extreme poverty in developing countries, as our dollars go much further there.” To what extent do we owe an ethical duty to people around the globe—people whom we will never meet? Consider at least two of the following issues: hunger, disease, fair trade, refugees, environmentalism.
3. Civil disobedience and official disobedience. Henry David Thoreau wrote in “Civil Disobedience” that citizens sometimes have a right, even an ethical duty, to defy their government. In recent years, Americans have debated the role of official disobedience, in which government employees such as Edward Snowden have defied the U.S. Government by leaking classified secrets (Snowden divulged that the National Security Agency was collecting information on Americans’ telephone and digital communications. Prior to Snowden’s revelation, the U.S. government had denied that it spied on Americans in this way.) Some consider Snowden a hero, while others consider him a traitor. Under what circumstances is it permissible for private citizens to defy their government? Do government officials have a duty to obey the law and preserve government secrets? Or are they justified in “whistleblowing” and disclosing classified information if they believe that the government is itself engaging in harmful or illegal behavior?
4. War. We all know the expression, “All is fair in love and war.” In fact, though, philosophers and politicians have worked for centuries to determine when it is ethical for a nation to wage war, and what tactics are ethical or unethical when fighting a war. In recent years, Americans have debated whether the use of torture. Is it permissible to torture prisoners of war or enemy combatants in order to extract information from them? (I have posted writings by Sam Harris and Susan Sontag on WebCampus. Feel free to consult these or other sources to support your essay.)
5. Healthcare. Alice needs a double lung transplant in order to survive. How do we determine whether she should be eligible for this surgery? Consider some of the following factors, and weigh their relative importance. (Feel free to consider other factors.)
Her age: Does it matter whether she is 20, or 50, or 80?
Her health: Does it matter if she is healthy? If she has other health problems, in
addition to her need for a lung transplant? What if she has a medical condition that makes her body more likely to reject the new lungs?
Her ability to pay: Should wealthy patients, who can pay for the surgery out-of-
pocket, have priority? Or should money be irrelevant?
Whether or not she has health insurance: Should patients with insurance have
priority? Does it matter whether she has private insurance or public
insurance (that is, taxpayer-funded), such as Medicare or Medicaid?
Or should the insured and the uninsured be treated alike?
Her family: Does it matter whether Alice is married? Has children? Young
Responsibility for her ailment: What if Alice damaged her own lungs by smoking
Cigarettes? What if her lungs were damaged by an industrial accident that
was not her fault?
The other patients who are waiting for a lung transplant: Should this surgery be
on a first-come, first served basis? Or are other factors relevant?
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