Philosophy 1308 Paper #2

Due date: Monday, October 22 [changed!], handed in electronically by midnight Central Time.


Paper topics

Topic A. Abortion

Carefully state one of the major arguments we studied in favor of or opposed to some or all abortions.  Make sure the assumptions in the argument are clearly stated.  Does the author intend the argument to apply to all or only some cases?  Which ones?  Does the argument in fact have a chance of working for all of the cases for which the author intends it to apply?  How might an opponent criticize the argument?  Could the author respond to these criticisms in any way?

Topic B. Wolff and Raz (hard)

What is Wolff's autonomy-based argument against the idea that the state has an authority that we ought to obey?  Make sure you take into account what Wolff says about how sometimes we do need to do what someone who takes charge says, and explain why Wolff thinks this is consistent with Wolff's basic position.  Raz, by distinguishing different kinds of reasons, attempts to respond to Wolff.  How?  Evaluate the arguments on both sides, adding some of your own on at least one side.

Topic C. Capital punishment

Carefully state and examine two different arguments in favor of capital punishment.  Then criticize the arguments.  Does the proponent of at least one of the arguments in favor of capital punishment succeed in arguing that in circumstances somewhat like those that prevail in our society capital punishment is justified?  If your conclusion is that capital punishment is not justified, then consider one further question: Suppose we could be 100% certain that a person is guilty--would capital punishment be justified then?

Topic D. Obedience to the law

Why do some people think there is a conflict between what Socrates--or maybe the Laws, in their speech--says about the obligation to obey the law in the Crito and Socrates' claim in the Apology that he would disobey a sentence that prohibited him from philosophizing. How do the Laws argue in the Crito that we must obey the laws? Criticize the argument, and discuss how the Laws might respond to the criticism. Does the argument of the Laws apply to the case discussed in the Apology?