In the Ancient Greek world (the world of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, often regarded as the birthplace of philosophy) a “symposium” was a banquet held after a meal, an “after party” of sorts that usually included drinking, dancing, recitals, and engaging conversations on the topics of the day.
For our purposes in this course, the Symposium discussions will not involve dancing, recitals, or a banquet, but they will provide food for thought on current ethical issues and direct application of the ethical theory discussed in each of these weeks.
It is almost impossible these days to turn on the news or log onto social media without encountering a controversy that cries out for ethical discussion. For these Symposium discussions, your instructor will choose a topic of current ethical interest and a resource associated with it for you to read or watch. Your task is to consider how the ethical theory of the week might be used to examine, understand, or evaluate the issue.
This week, you will consider how utilitarianism applies to a controversy, dilemma, event, or scenario selected by your instructor. It is a chance for you to discuss together the ethical issues and questions that it raises, your own response to those, and whether that aligns with or does not align with a utilitarian approach. The aim is not to simply assert your own view or to denigrate other views, but to identify, evaluate, and discuss the moral reasoning involved in addressing the chosen issue.
Your posts should remain focused on the ethical considerations, and at some point in your contribution you must specifically address the way a utilitarian would approach this issue by explaining and evaluating that approach.
If you have a position, you should strive to provide reasons in defense of that position.
When responding to peers, you should strive to first understand the reasons they are offering before challenging or critiquing those reasons. One good way of doing this is by summarizing their argument before offering a critique or evaluation.
You must post on at least two separate days, must include at least one substantial reply to a peer or to your instructor, and your posts should add up to at least 400 words.
Your instructor may include additional requirements, so be sure to pay attention to the prompt.
In this symposium I would like you to focus on utilitarianism and rights and what determines someone or something to have “rights” – Tom Regan argues from a Utilitarian view that we all have equal inherent value by virtue of being ‘experiencing subjects of a life’. What does it mean to be an ‘experiencing subject of a life’? When we “boil this down” it often turns out (from a Utilitarian perspective) that if one is not ‘experiencing a subject of life’ that someone or something does not have rights because they do not have “equal” inherent value. So, for example, someone in a permanent vegetative state or a fetus in the early stages of abortion, or someone with severe cases of dementia would not be experiencing subjects of life. Do you think that being the subject of a life means that one has equal inherent value? From this line of reasoning, does it then follow from that view that animals should be given rights to life and freedom as they are able to be experiencing subjects of life when certain “persons” would not be?