Ethics A Very Short Introduction discussion questions
Only choose ONE prompt to respond to. Response must be at least two paragraphs. There are 6 prompts to choose from. The text that the prompts ask about is “Ethics: A Very Short Introduction” by Simon Blackburn
1) In the preface to the book, Blackburn states: “What bothers [people about ethics], I believe, are the many causes we have to fear that ethical claims are a kind of sham. The fear is called by names like relativism, scepticism, and nihilism.” He then goes on to address each of the three terms later in the book. Pick one to describe in some detail.
2) Comparing our sensitivity to (and awareness of) our physical climate to that of our ethical climate, Blackburn says, “The ethical climate will sustain a conviction that we are civilized, and they are not, or that we deserve better fortune than them, or that we are intelligent, sensitive, rational, or progressive, or scientific, or authoritative, or blessed, or alone to be trusted with freedoms and rights, while they are not. An ethic gone wrong is an essential preliminary to a sweat-shop or the concentration camp and the death march” (p. 7). How would you describe the ethical climate of the United States in terms of its sensitivity or awareness of those who are incarcerated?
3) Blackburn states on page 26 that “[t]here must be a course between the soggy sands of relativism and the cold rocks of dogmatism.” What does he mean by this? And what is the value of finding “the middle ground,” so to speak?
4) In part one of the Ethics text, Blackburn describes several threats to ethics. Pick one of the seven and describe it, being careful not to just repeat what he says.
5) In part two of the Ethics text, Blackburn describes some ways in which ethics pervades our lives. Pick one of the eight and describe it, being careful not to just repeat what he says.
6) In part three of the Ethics text, Blackburn describes some foundations of ethics. Pick one of the six sections and describe it, being careful not to just repeat what he says.
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