Chapter 3 Ethics

3.1 To-do list (Week 2)

  • Reading: Rachels, except from The Elements of Moral Philosophy

    • What are the arguments for both sides?
    • What do you learn from thinking about these arguments?

3.2 To-do list (Week 3)

  • Reading: Rawls, excerpts from A Theory of Justice

    • What is his main argument?
    • What is the veil of ignorance?
    • What are the two principles of justice?
  • Reading: Nozick, Distributive Justice

    • What is his theory of justice?
    • From his theory, can there be redistribution? Why?
  • Reading: Berlin, excerpts from Liberty

    • What are positive and negative liberties? Describe their difference in your own words.
  • slides
  • Bolton from BBC
  • Alan Dershowitz’s latest defense of Trump
  • Speech Draw

3.3 Justice

3.3.1 What about the readings?

  • Is the John Rawls’ reading need-based or merit based? (survey quiz)
  • This affects your political view. For instance, what are your rights? (positive vs. negative)

    • tax, health care, income inequality

3.3.2 John Rawls

3.3.3 Robert Nozick

3.3.4 Taken together

3.3.5 Previous issue: justice and punishment

  • Retributive justice
  • Rehabilitation
  • Kantian vs. Utilitarian
  • Other thoughts?

    • Deterrance
    • Restorative

3.4 Freedom

  • Discuss in small groups: what is your definition of freedom? Pick the most essential freedoms and tell us why.

  • How is freedom toay?
  • What percentage of people live in a free country? How has freedom in the U.S. changed over the past two decades?

3.4.1 Five freedoms

  • What are the five freedoms listed on the First Amendment? What are the possible limits? Why?

  • Discuss whether the following scenarios should be allowed. Why or why not?

    1. A student refuses to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance with the rest of his class. He says it is against his religion. He stays quietly in his seat while the rest of the class recites the pledge.
    1. A group of college students who oppose U.S. involvement in foreign wars gather in a public park and burn an American flag as a symbol of their protest.
    1. A newspaper receives top secret documents that show that the government has been lying about its involvement in an ongoing war. The newspaper publishes the documents to reveal the truth to the public.
    1. A group of white supremacists (people who believe descendants of white Europeans are superior to other people) gather in Washington, D.C., and march to the U.S. Capitol. They have a permit for their event and march calmly while chanting and carrying signs that harshly criticize other races.
    1. A group of people with cancer, including several teenagers, believe that marijuana could help ease their suffering. They organize a petition to gather signatures from voters who believe that the state should pass a law allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana to their patients as a form of medical treatment.

3.4.2 Supreme Court Cases

  • Lee v Weisman.

    • If you were the principal, how would you defend inviting the rabbi to participate in the graduation ceremony?
    • If you were the student’s father, how would you argue against allowing the rabbi to participate in the graduation ceremony?
    • If you were a Supreme Court justice, how would you rule on this case? Why?
  • Holding: By a 5-4 vote, the court held that schools may not promote religious exercises either directly or through an invited guest at graduation ceremonies.

  • Reasoning: The court found that the Establishment Clause forbids government from coercing people into participating in a religious activity. Forcing students to choose between attending a graduation ceremony containing religious elements with which they disagree or avoiding the offending practices by not attending their graduation ceremony was inherently coercive and unlawful. The court found that students who do attend are exposed to subtle coercion to appear as though they approve of or are participating in the prayer.

  • Majority: “The principle that government may accommodate the free exercise of religion does not supersede the fundamental limitations imposed by the Establishment Clause. It is beyond dispute that, at a minimum, the Constitution guarantees that government may not coerce anyone to support or participate in religion or its exercise, or otherwise act in a way which ‘establishes a [state] religion or religious faith, or tends to do so.’” (Justice Anthony Kennedy)

  • Dissent: “Thus, while I have no quarrel with the Court’s general proposition that the Establishment Clause ‘guarantees that government may not coerce anyone to support or participate in religion or its exercise,’ I see no warrant for expanding the concept of coercion beyond acts backed by threat of penalty — a brand of coercion that, happily, is readily discernible to those of us who have made a career of reading the disciples of Blackstone rather than of Freud.” (Justice Antonin Scalia)

  • Another case: Do Students Have Free Speech in School?.

3.4.3 Positive vs. Negative

3.4.4 More discussion

3.5 Acknowledgement

The five freedoms exercises are taken from Newseum’s You Can’t Say That in School?!. And more resources. Seven lessons in personal freedom from Nelson Mandela. Here is a class plan for talking about the difference between Liberty and Freedom. Here is a lesson plan for different philosophies. The Coddling of the American Mind: How Overprotective Parenting Led to Fragility on Campus.