Discussion Question

Topics 1-5 Reflections and Replies



Guidelines: For each of the Topics 1-5 listed in the syllabus there will be a Reflection with a Reply. The Reflection addresses several questions. The Reply is your response to another student.

To complete a reflection post your answers as a “new thread” in the forum.  Please do not post links or attachments–it is better to cut and paste so that others can readily access the material.  After posting you will be able to read the posts of others. Submit your reflection two days before the discussion closes. If the discussion thread locks on the 10th you need to submit the Reflection by the 8th and the Reply by the 10th.  

Scoring:  4 points total: 3 for the reflection and 1 for a reply. Grading focuses on the following:

1) length: at least a single-spaced half page (restating the questions does not count) for the reflection itself, not the reply. 

2) content: original contribution that demonstrates knowledge of course readings–not a copy and paste from the Internet

3) justification: what you think but also why you think it, using evidence or reasons especially for the Argue section. 

4) reply: respond to at least one classmate with at least five sentences that focus on course material or argumentation. Points will not be given for replies that simply offer affirmations such as “I agree” or “I disagree.” See below for an explanation. 

Due Date Againsubmit the Reflection at least two days before the discussion locks so that others have time to reply. Once the discussion locks, no additional comments can be submitted. If a topic locks at 11:59pm on the 10th, post the Reflection no later than the 8th at 11:59pm; submit the reply before the thread closes on the 10th.

How to do a Reflection:  This activity works on the philosophical skills of articulation and argument.

Articulation strives to understand and to present clearly and precisely the concepts or ideas from the topic material.

Argumentation relies on articulation, but goes further. It does more that state a view, and certainly does more than simply pick a side or offer an opinion. The skill of argumentation for establishing and defending a philosophical position is not unlike a construction project that requires building materials, assembly, and an architectural plan. The building blocks are the course concepts and your own thinking; assembly requires the cement of evidence and the design of reason in order to become a well constructed whole.  Simply stating what we “think” or “believe” is not enough–no more than throwing down a pile of wood in front of a tree is sufficient for making a treehouse.

There are no participation trophies in philosophy. Some ideas are better than others; some arguments are better than others. A philosophical position requires justification, not unlike a construction project requires design and assembly. Consider the argue section as a place to practice using the tools of philosophy for building moral foundations and frameworks, as Boss suggests in her introduction. If we don’t build a moral framework then even our strongest opinions are probably no better than simply following the crowd or believing whatever we are told.

Arguewhat I think and  why  I think it. Here’s an example of the what  without  the why.  There is no justification, just an opinion:

“I totally agree with animal rights supporters. We should never do scientific experiments on rats. This is just terrible! These little creatures should not be used for medical research under any circumstance.”

Justification offers evidence and/or reasons that another person can understand and consider plausible. For example, here’s a better position with the what and  the why :

I totally agree with animal rights supporters [agreement doesn’t justify]. We should never do scientific experiments on rats. This is just terrible![feelings don’t justify] These little creatures should not be used for medical research under any circumstance  because  rats are animals that experience pleasure and pain. Rats are sentient, just like humans. Therefore rats have the same rights and protections as do humans. If we can’t experiment on children then we cannot experiment on rats.”

The second statement offers justification. Whether we are convinced by the justification is a matter for the next stage of the philosophical process. Nevertheless, the second statement offers  the why–the argument and justification– for doing philosophy.

After you post your reflection as a new thread you will be able to read and respond to classmates.

How to do a Reply: Focus on whether your classmate articulates and/or argues well. Avoid the the ceremonious but unnecessary “I agree” or “I disagree.” Agreement does no philosophical work. Millions of people can agree that the earth is flat, but that doesn’t make it the case. For example, rather than beginning with “I agree” start with something such as “The point about X and the example of Y are very persuasive. I had not considered these” or “Ellin seems to be saying that objectivism is not necessarily absolutism. There can be exceptions built into universal principles.” Again, philosophy goes beyond the sharing of an opinion

Everyone has an opinion; few have an argument; fewer have a good argument. 






Martin Luther King Jr.’s  Letter from Birmingham Jail    Letter from Birmingham Jail (also try  https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html ) states that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  From this statement and the first few pages articulate what makes him either a moral relativist or moral objectivist/universalist. Identify which normative theory he employs to advocate for justice as a means to overturn local laws.


Divine Command Theory and Natural Law/Rights Theory are often said to be two of the oldest and longstanding ethical theories.  Argue for which of the two is more compelling. Offers reasons along with evidence or examples.

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