Reconstructing Arguments -- Answer Sheet

A. (From Steven Pinker's, "The Moral Instinct")

 In his influential essay “The Wisdom of Repugnance,” Leon Kass, former chair of the President’s Council on Bioethics, argued that we should disregard reason when it comes to clon­ing and other biomedical technologies and go with our gut: “We are repelled by the pros­pect of cloning human beings . . . because we intuit and feel, immediately and without argument, the violation of things that we rightfully hold dear. . . . In this age in which everything is held to be permissible so long as it is freely done . . . repugnance may be the only voice left that speaks up to defend the central core of our humanity. Shallow are the souls that have forgotten how to shudder.”

There are, of course, good reasons to regulate human cloning, but the shudder test is not one of them. People have shuddered at all kinds of morally irrelevant violations of purity in their culture: touching an untouchable, drinking from the same water fountain as a Negro, allowing Jewish blood to mix with Aryan blood, tolerating sodomy between consenting men.

Reconstruction of A

1. If the shudder test reliably indicates what is morally wrong, then touching an untouchable, drinking from the same water fountain as a Negro, allowing Jewish blood to mix with Aryan blood, and tolerating sodomy between consenting men are all morally wrong.

2. Drinking from the same water fountain as a Negro, allowing Jewish blood to mix with Aryan blood, and tolerating sodomy between consenting men are not all morally wrong.

thus 3. The shudder test does not reliably indicate what is morally wrong.

B. (From "What are moral questions and how can they be answered?)

Second, her question (about whether abortion is morally permissible) is not a question that a sociologist can answer. If she reads that 62.27% of her fellow citizens think that an abortion is permissible in circumstances like hers, her problem has not been solved. She still needs to decide whether she ought to have an abortion or not.

Reconstruction of B

1. If moral questions can be answered by sociologists, then they can be answered by polls.

2. Polls do not answer moral questions.

thus 3. Moral questions cannot be answered by sociologists.

C. (From "What are moral questions and how can they be answered?)

If a social consensus [concerning a moral question] guaranteed its own correctness, all defenders of unpoular views would automatically be mistaken. But iconoclasts cannot be refuted with polls,. . .

Reconstruction of C:

1. If the social consensus concerning the answers to moral questions is always correct, then those who disagree with the consensus are always mistaken.

2. Those who disagree with the social consensus concerning the answers to moral questions are not always mistaken.

thus 3. The social consensus concerning the answers to moral questions is not always correct.

D. (From Mary Ann Warren's "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion")

Regardless of how he got captured, he is not morally obligated to remain in captivity for any period of time for the sake of permitting any number of potential people to come into actuality, so great is the margin by which oen actual person's right to liberty outweighs whatever right to life even a hundred thousand potential people have. And it seems readsonable to ocnclude that the rights of a woman will outweigh by a similar margin whatever right to life a fetus may have by virtue of its potential personhood.

Reconstruction of D

1. If it is morally permissible to escape from a brief period of captivity at the cost of depriving 100,000 potential people of the opportunity to become actual, then the right to life of potential people is of neglible importance.

2. It is morally permissible to escape from a brief period of captivity at the cost of depriving 100,000 potential people of the opportunity to become actual.

3. The rights of pregnant women are of considerable importance.

4. Rights of considerable importance outweigh by a large margin rights of negligible importance.

5. The rights of fetuses are the rights of potential people.

thus 6. The rights of pregnant women outweigh by a large margin the right to life of fetuses.

E. (From Don Marquis, "Why Abortion Is Immoral")

The suffering caused by the infliction of pain is what makes the wanton of infliction of pain on me wrong. . . .The wanton infliction of pain on animals causes suffering. Since causing suffering is what make the wanton infliction of pain wrong and since the wanton inflict of pain on animals causes suffering, it follows that the wanton inflict of pain on animals is wrong.

Reconstruction of E

1. It is wrong to cause suffering wantonly.

2. The wanton infliction of pain on animals causes suffering wantonly.

thus 3. It is wrong to inflict pain on animals wantonly.

F. (From Don Marquis, "Why Abortion Is Immoral")

One problem with the desire account is that we do regard it as seriously wrong to kill persons who have little desire to live or who have no desire to live, or, indeed have a desire not to live. We believe it is seriously wrong to kill the unconscious, the sleeping, those who are tired of life, and those who are suicidal.

Reconstruction of F

1. If what makes it wrong to kill people is frustrating their strong desire to live, then it is not wrong to kill people who do not have a strong desire to live.

2. It is wrong to kill people who do not have a strong desire to live, such as the unconscious, the sleeping, those who are tired of life, and those who are suicidal.

Thus 3. It is not the case that what makes it wrong to kill people is frustrating their strong desire to live.

G. (From Baruch Brody, "Opposition to Abortion: a Human Rights Approach,")

Our intuition is that the person whose life is threatened (call that person A) may either take the life of the person (B) who threatens his life or call upon someone else . . . to do so. . . [But] Consider the following case: there is, let us imagine, a medicine that A needs to stay alive. C owns some, and C will give it to A only if A kills B. Moreover, A has no other way of getting the medicine. In this case, the continued existence of B certainly poses a threat to the life of A; A can survive only if B does not survive. Still, it is not permissible for A to kill B in order to save A's life.

1. If it is morally permissible for A to kill B (in self-defense) whenever (1) B is a threat to A's life and (2) A can save his/her life only by killing B, then in the case in which A can only get a life-saving medicine from C by killing B, it is morally permissible for A to kill B (in self-defense).

2. In the case in which A can only get a life-saving medicine from C by killing B, it is not morally permissible for A to kill B (in self-defense).

3. In some cases it is not morally permissible for A to kill B (in self-defense) even though (1) B is a threat to A's life and (2) A can save his/her life only by killing B.