Possible Paper Topics or Topic Areas

Introduction to Philosophy, Spring 2016


1.      Sexual morality

         a.       Lust: Vice or Virtue? See Simon Blackburn’s work on Lust

         b.      The morality of homosexuality; Naturalness and homosexuality

2.      Date rape; consent and sexuality

3.      Issues in Transsexuality

         a.      The idea that some people find themselves “trapped in the wrong body” See Bettcher, “Without a Net: Starting Points for Trans Stories”

4.       Is anger rational?

         a.      Transitional Anger, Martha C. Nussbaum; ABSTRACT: A close philosophical analysis of the emotion of anger will show that it is normatively irrational: in some cases, based on futile magical thinking, in others, based on defective values.

5.      Theories of punishment; desert and the death penalty; retribution versus rehabilitation

         a.       Death Penalty:

                  i.      Flaws in Death Penalty Research

                  ii.     20 Years Defending Death Row Inmates

6.      Ethics and animals;

         a.      ethics and zoos; See Dale Jamieson’s Against Zoos and Zoos Revisited

                  i.       ethics and circuses

         b.      Pets and morality; see Gary Varner, Pets, Companion Animals, Domesticated Partners

         c.      Eating Animals

                  i.      New York Times Essay Contest on Why Ethical to Eat Meat

                  ii.     Give Thanks for Meat (Pro eating meat essay contest winner; if interested see also other finalists essays)

7.      Religion

         a.      Is “religious naturalism” a religion? Is it plausible?

                  i.      Michael Dowd talk at CofC on "Religious Naturalism" (video)

         b.      Are religion and science compatible?

         c.      Religious pluralism versus exclusivism

                  i.      Alvin Plantinga, A Defense of Religious Exclusivism

                  ii.     John Hick, Religious Pluralism and Ultimate Realty

         d.      Criticism or defense of Atheism (versus Agnosticism?)

                  i.      Richard Dawkins, How an Atheists Looks at Sex, Death, and the Meaning of Life (video)

         e.      The design argument for God’s existence

         f.      Faith and reason; what is faith? Is it rational? Is it reasonable to “will to believe”

         g.      Pascal’s wager See Silverman’s Wager

8.       Abortion:

         a.      Thompson, "A Defense of Abortion"                               

         b.      Noonan, "An Almost Absolute Value in History"

9.      Euthanasia:

         a.      David Wasserman, “Killing Mary to Save Jodie: Conjoined Twins and Individual Rights

10.    Killing versus Letting Die

         a.      Rachels on "Killing versus Letting Die"

11.    Doctrine of double effect: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/double-effect/

12.    The ethics of “female circumcision.”

         a.      Female Genital_Mutilation: Tolerating_the Intolerable by_Xiaorong Li                   

13.    Cosmological argument

         a.      Hettinger notes on Kalam Cosmological Argument

         b.      Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Cosmological Argument

14.    Feminism

         a.      Feminism topics from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

         b.      An assessment of feminist ethics

15.    Sexism against men

         a.      David Benatar, “The Second Sexism: Discrimination Against Men and Boys” (35 pages)

16.    Ethics and Biotechnology

         a.      Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and Human Happiness

         b.      Paul Root Wolpe: It's Time to Question Bio-engineering(20 min TED talk)

         c.      Nick Bostrom, “Why I Want to be a Post-Human when I Grow UP

         d.      Ethics of cloning; of human enhancement

17.    Racial (In)Equality

         a.      What is white privilege?Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh

         b.      The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

                  i.      Legal Scholar: Jim Crow Still Exists In America (audio)

18.    Humor: Berys Gaut “Just Joking: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Humor” Philosophy and Literature Volume 22, Number 1, April 1998(1998)

         a.      Hettinger notes on above

19.    Aesthetics: Interpretation of Fiction

         a.      Is Dumbledore Gay? Who's to Say? (Tamar Szabó Gendler)

20.    The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles

         a.      Table of Contents

21.    Environmental Philosophy

         a.      Pope Francis on Environment (Phil Cafaro summary of his views)

         b.      Protecting nature for its beauty Yes, No

         c.      The Anthropocene and Environmental Ethics

22.    Deception

         a.      Harry Franfurt’s “On Bullshit” (67 pages)

         b.      From Wiki: On Bullshit (2005), by Harry G. Frankfurt, is a philosophical essay that presents a theory of bullshit that defines the concept and analyzes the applications of bullshit in the contexts of communication. As such, bullshit can be neither true nor false; hence, the bullshitter is someone whose principal aim — when uttering or publishing bullshit — is to impress the listener and the reader with words that communicate an impression that something is being or has been done, words that are neither true nor false, and so obscure the facts of the matter being discussed.[1] In contrast, the liar must know the truth of the matter under discussion, in order to better conceal it from the listener or the reader being deceived with a lie; while the bullshitter’s sole concern is personal advancement and advantage to their own agenda.[1]

23.    Arguments for and against legalization of drugs

         a.      Douglas Husak, “Four Points about Drug Decriminalization

24.    For (or against) ethical egoism; Ann Rand’s egoism

25.    World hunger and the duty to contribute to famine relief

         a.      See Peter Singer, Famine, Affluence, Morality

26.    Critique or defense of utilitarianism

27.     Is torture ever morally permissible?

28.    Justifying civil (or uncivil) disobedience

29.    The ethics of patriotism                                                    

30.    Legal paternalism and dwarf tossing

31.    Legal moralism

         a.      Morality and flag burning

32.    Freedom of speech

         a.      Obscenity: How to define it and should it be regulated?

         b.      The offence principle: Should non-harmful offensive behaviors be outlawed?

33.    Defense of the harm principle as the only legitimate liberty limiting principle

34.    An assessment of virtue ethics

35.    The meaning of life

36.    The mind/body problem

37.    In what does personal identity consist? Is it the mind or the body? Or something else?

38.    Physicalism (everything is physical and only physical–there are no nonphysical things): for and/or against

39.    Free will and determinism: We do (or do not) have free will (and what is it?)

40.    A defense of compatibilism (we are both free and determined)