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Moral and Contemporary Philosophy Coursework


State Scanlon’s view of why one should act rightly, and contrast it with the utilitarian view, using an example.

Scanlon, in his book, offers an alternative utilitarian view, the philosophical utilitarianism, which states that the “fundamental moral facts” are only those that relate to a person’s well-being. The philosophical utilitarianism view explains why morality is everybody’s concern and elucidates the “nature of the reasons” behind any moral act. A person behaves rightly because of the ‘well-being facts,’ which are integral to morality. For instance, person X would only care about the moral facts (related to acting A), which have an effect on his well-being. The desire to preserve his well-being motivates him to act rightly. Philosophical utilitarianism is different from the utilitarian view because it focuses on the reasons that morality gives. It is also concerned with the natural facts (acts that affect individual well-being); these are different from the normative ones promoted by utilitarianism.

Contrast Singer’s “strong” and “weak” principles. Present an objection to Singer’s thesis.

Singer, in his article, criticizes the common perceptions about famine aid and morality. He argues that in order to help the needy, affluent individuals should change their lifestyles and moral beliefs. He puts forth the following two principles: (1) suffering and death caused by any factor are morally wrong, and (2) if a person has the ability to avert a moral crisis, he or she should do so. The ‘strong’ version of the second principle advises people to act for “something of roughly equal moral importance” (238). In contrast, the ‘weak’ principle lays emphasis on “something of moral significance.” He gives hypothetical examples of saving a drowning child in which he advises anybody near the river to rescue him or her, as this has a high moral cost. In my view, we are not obligated to act as Singer suggests in his ‘weak’ version of the second principle. A person cannot devote all his/her efforts, time, and money to charity, as doing so would contravene one’s moral autonomy.

Why, for Singer, is there no moral difference between saving a drowning child close by and trying to aid a poor person far away? Taking into account some of his relevant arguments, explain whether you think he is right and why.

Based on Singer’s first principle, helping a poor person far away is no different from rescuing a drowning child nearby because distance has no bearing on their suffering. Therefore, it follows that one has a moral obligation to aid those who are suffering irrespective of whether the other people who can give help are not doing so. Similarly, there is no moral difference between the existence of uncharitable people and the lack of generous individuals in a society. In my view, Singer is right when he argues that money spent on luxuries should be given to charity, as this would enhance the survival of the poor. It is, therefore, obligatory and morally ‘just’ to donate to charity. The singer is also right in his argument that people should dedicate their efforts and time to alleviate suffering and pain because, based on the utilitarian view, that would bring happiness to many people.

Using an example, explain the difference between absolute poverty and inequality, and explain three of the reasons Scanlon gives why inequality might matter, even when the equality of distribution does not.

Absolute poverty and inequality represent different formulations of well-being. Absolute poverty refers to a lack of resources, which makes people vulnerable to hunger, disease, and even death. It can be alleviated through equitable redistribution of wealth. Inequality, on the other hand, is the lack of equality between the poor and the wealthy. Inequality gives the rich undue power to control the economic and social aspects of the poor’s lives. For example, the difference in life expectancy between the U.S. (74.2 years) and Malawi (37.1 years) can be attributed to health inequality. Scanlon gives reasons why inequality might matter even when the equality of distribution does not. First, social status, as seen in caste systems, causes stigma and discriminates against certain groups based on gender, ethnicity, or race. Inequality can also be objectionable when it gives some people domination over others. Lastly, inequality can be exceptionable when it undermines fairness and equity in social institutions.

Present two of Krugman’s reasons in favor of sweatshops, explaining why neither necessarily answers the charge of exploitation. Indicate whether you think sweatshops are ultimately justifiable and why.

Paul Krugman presents two arguments in favor of the new export industries (sweatshops) in third world countries. His first argument is that sweatshops provide “higher wages and better working conditions” for workers than the other alternatives do (Krugman 56). Thus, while the Western multinationals may benefit from the export industries, the third world laborers, who constitute a large proportion of the population, are the “greatest beneficiaries.” However, Krugman does not explain whether the working conditions match those provided in the Western industries. Krugman’s second argument is that third world countries need sweatshops to stimulate industrial growth. Thus, in his view, enforcing labor standards can hamper economic growth and increase unemployment and poverty. It can be noted that, in this argument, Krugman does not talk about the exploitation and injustices propagated by corporations that do not adhere to international labor laws. In my view, sweatshops present a form of exploitation since fewer benefits trickle down to the workers, as much of the profits are repatriated. They can only be justified if the laborers receive equitable treatment as that given to their counterparts in Western industries.

State Locke’s three conditions for appropriating property as one’s own, and, using an example, explain whether you think they apply to intellectual property and why.

Locke observes that firms that produce goods for global markets must take responsibility for labor issues in their supplier factories. He offers three conditions for assigning production to third-party factories. The first one is private and voluntary regulation, whereby industries manage their entire supply chains in order to monitor manufacturing in developing countries. The second condition is capacity building. Capacity building programs can equip industries with resources, systems, and trained workforce to ensure quality production. The third condition is the supplier focus. Firms should direct their policies towards improving suppliers’ factories to avoid violations of labor standards. Locke’s conditions aim at creating efficient supply chains. However, these conditions might not apply to intellectual property rights. For instance, Coca-Cola has patents for the formula it uses to make its soft drinks. However, it has no much control over the actions of its distributors and thus, cannot take full responsibility for their transgressions.

When and why, for Shiffrin, can it be wrong to have a child? Explain whether you agree and why.

Shiffrin explains that if a rescuer saves a hurting person, the victim cannot launch a complaint against him even though no consent was sought in the first place. In contrast, doing well during the rescue does not necessarily shield one from complaints. Similarly, procreation does not protect the infant from greater harm. According to Shiffrin, it is wrong to have a child if his existence will bring more harm to him. He argues that pain, suffering, and distress, which children are forced to face in their lives amount to harm. I agree with Shiffrin’s argument because procreation is not a straightforward process and thus, has inherent moral risks to children. Congenital disorders cause pain and suffering to children. In my view, these moral risks can sometimes override the reasons for procreation.

Explain why Parfit’s “non-identity problem” might mean that there is little or nothing wrong with climate change. Give a reason why this conclusion would be mistaken.

Parfit’s non-identity problem centers on our obligations to protect people who, by virtue of our actions, come to exist but have inevitably flawed existences. Parfit’s example of the ‘young girl’s child’ aptly illustrates the non-identity problem as it relates to climate policy. Given two policy options, people would choose the one with short-term benefits even though, in the long-term, it may turn out to have undesirable effects. In this regard, Parfit argues that a policy to control procreation conditions, i.e., time of conception, would give rise to a different future generation from those who would exist if another plan were adopted. Thus, the non-identity problem can be taken to mean that actions that cause climate change will not injure or benefit future generations’ physical health. Nevertheless, this conclusion may be mistaken to mean that our actions have no bearing on future generations’ rights because it states that their existence is not dependent on ours.

Relying on Singer, present a reason why advanced countries should do more than developing countries to address the problem of climate change. Present an objection and explain whether you think the objection succeeds and why.

Peter Singer supports the principle of fairness when addressing climate change. According to Singer, globalization has made the world more interconnected than ever before, making climate change a common problem. He argues that evaluations of actions that combat climate change should be pegged on each country’s greenhouse emissions, a principle known as ‘the polluter pays.’ Since much of the pollutants are emitted by industrialized nations, they must play a leading role in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Based on this principle, wealthy nations should pay an amount equivalent to their emissions. However, Sanger’s assertion that, under this principle, everyone has “equal rights for emissions” is objectionable. While it may be easier to measure emissions by estimating a country’s consumption of fossil fuels, no criteria exist that could determine the developing countries’ compensation. An international organization should be appointed to oversee these payments to ensure that the program works.

Why does Baylor-Johnson believe that we are not morally required to reduce our emissions but required to support schemes that, if established, will require lower emissions generally. How does Broome disagree?

Baylor-Johnson argues that individuals are not morally obligated to reduce their individual emissions. Instead, in his view, to avert the tragedy of the commons, efforts should be directed at improving ‘collective schemes.’ Baylor-Johnson holds the view that collective schemes that address global issues can help alleviate free riding, which, according to him, is immoral. However, since no such schemes exist, unilateral reductions are optional. In this regard, everyone has a moral obligation to promote unilateral reductions at an individual level. Besides, unilateral reductions appeal to many people because of political and psychological reasons. On his part, Broome holds the view that we must maximize the expected value of climate change, which is largely uncertain.

State a version of the “precautionary principle,” contrast it with “expected value theory,” and explain when, for Broome, the latter does not apply.

The precautionary principle is applied to climate change uncertainty. One version of this principle reads as follows; “in order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation” (Broome 119). This principle cautions people to take the necessary measures to avert the ‘uncertain’ adverse effects of climate change. In contrast, the expected value theory states that, in evaluating climate change and its effects, we must gauge the expectations. Therefore, the potential harm or benefit of climate change should be multiplied by the probability that it is happening. However, according to Broome, the effects of possible catastrophes caused by climate change may be so severe that multiplying global warming with a small probability would not reflect the magnitude of the harm caused.

Explain why Scheffler believes that, if people stopped reproducing, much that we do would cease to be meaningful. Is he right? Why or why not?

Scheffler begins his argument by stating that our attitudes in life would change dramatically if we had knowledge about doomsday. He writes that, in an infertile world, individuals will lose interest in common human endeavors because everyone will become “emotionally detached” from his/her interests. Moreover, infertility would limit people’s power and self-esteem. In my opinion, Scheffler is wrong because people act for personal interests. People attach meaning to something when it serves their interests. Giving birth to children is only a natural process; it has less to do with one’s ego or self-esteem. Thus, in an infertile world, people will still pursue their interests and endeavors.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Moral and Contemporary Philosophy'. 2 February.

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