Guess Who is Coming to Dinner
These discussion boards have been designed to explore controversial philosophical topics. Some of the questions are designed to solicit very personal responses and opinions, and these debates have the potential to become heated. In the act of creating ideas, heat can be a good thing, but not at the expense of hurt feelings or frustration. Remember that the practical aspect pf philosophy asks us to examine and perhaps even change something about ourselves. Hopefully, we will be challenged by others with a different opinion, but we need to remember that a challenge to our beliefs is not a threat. To the contrary, it should be regarded as an opportunity to re-evaluate and understand why we hold these beliefs.
Some important rules to follow:
- There will be no Ad hominems (attacks against the person); not following this rule may result in failure of the assignment. You can disagree with a person’s opinions, but you may not attack other people. You may, however, disagree with the ideas of others, but do so in a constructive manner. For example, you can say, “I don’t agree with your post. I think instead that . . . ” But, you cannot say, “You’re an idiot” or even “That’s just plain stupid.” Academia requires a diversity of opinions but presented politely; after all, ethics is part of Philosophy.
- Avoid making statements meant to be absolute (such as, “There is no other way to think about this”). Instead of asking closed-ended questions looking for a “yes” or “no” or the “right” answer, ask open-ended questions (such as, “Have you thought about . . . ?”)
- Try to connect the current discussion to topics from other lessons. Remember that all of the Philosophers wrote about more than a single topic and the way they think about one area of Philosophy probably affects other areas as well. For example, it might be extremely useful to mention John Stuart Mill’s ethical theories from an earlier lesson during a later discussion of his support for women’s rights and equality.
- Rather than simply reacting to the readings and the responses of your classmates, think about the arguments being made. Really consider the effectiveness of these arguments. “I agree” responses are not useful to the discussion and will not receive credit.
Give some serious consideration to the topic or scenario before answering; and, then, using the questions below as a guide, write a 75-100 word initial response about the issue being discussed. Next, please take the time to respond to at least two of your classmates.
Immanuel Kant said that lying was, without exception, always wrong and that we have a moral duty to tell the truth. When posed with a dilemma in which we might be tempted to lie, he said we are still obligated to do the right thing, even if we think doing the wrong thing would produce better results.
The traditional example is of a serial murderer showing up at your front door and demanding to know the location of your family so he can kill them. You know full well that you just sent them out the back door, and most people could probably convince themselves that because they do not know the technically “exact” location, saying “I don’t know” would not be telling a lie.
Additionally, you reason that because he is a murderer, you have no real obligation to help him kill your family by telling the truth; so, you lie to him and say, “I don’t know.”
Unable to complete his plans, he leaves and is headed back to the sidewalk—just as your family is coming around the house. And, he kills them all. Had you told the murderer that the family went out the back door, that would have bought them the time they needed to escape as he ran through the house.
According to Kant, you are now responsible for their deaths because you did the wrong thing. Had you done the right thing, even if your family died, it would not have been your fault. Your lie made you morally responsible for their deaths.
Unless being honest would land you in jail, please truthfully discuss the following questions:
- Describe under what circumstances, if any, is it permissible to lie. Under what circumstances, if any, do you think it might be preferable to lie? What do your answers indicate about the justification of the nearly universal principle that one ought not to lie?
- A hungry cannibal chieftain looks you over and declares that you will indeed make a fine dinner. Using some of the ideas from our readings, what can you say to the cannibal chieftain to convince him that cooking you would be morally wrong? (Convincing him that you won’t taste good is not enough to keep you out of the cooking pot.)
Please read entire discussion. Initial post must be 75 to 150 words, but may go longer depending on the topic. Please cite any outside sources.