We began with a short discussion of what arguments are, why they might be interesting, and a few of the ways that they can go wrong. Philosophy classes are all about arguments. When we talk about the readings, we’re going to translate prose into premises and conclusions. Then we’re going to try to determine whether the conclusions follow from the premises.
After talking about arguments in general, we talked about Singer’s argument in particular.
Singer is trying to show that famine aid is morally mandatory. To show this, he proposed the following argument.
Both the second and third premises are open to dispute. We will largely concentrate on the second. Our question is: how does Singer try to establish his moral principle?
The answer had something to do with the example of the drowning child. He claims that his principle identifies the relevant features of the drowning child example that explain why it is that I would be required to save the drowning child.
I suggested this as a way of representing his strategy.
The threat to Singer’s argument comes from alternative moral principles. More specifically, the threat comes from alternative principles that both explain why I should save the drowning child but do not lead to his conclusion that famine aid is morally required. Singer has to show that his principle is the best explanation of why we are required to save the drowning child.
Next time, we’ll talk about possible alternative principles. Is there an alternative that has three features?
You should be familiar with the following terms and concepts: