These discussion boards have been designed to explore controversial philosophical topics. Some of the questions are designed to solicit very personal responses and opinions, and these debates have the potential to become heated. In the act of creating ideas, heat can be a good thing, but not at the expense of hurt feelings or frustration. Remember that the practical aspect pf philosophy asks us to examine and perhaps even change something about ourselves. Hopefully, we will be challenged by others with a different opinion, but we need to remember that a challenge to our beliefs is not a threat. To the contrary, it should be regarded as an opportunity to re-evaluate and understand why we hold these beliefs.
Some important rules to follow:
- There will be no Ad hominems (attacks against the person); not following this rule may result in failure of the assignment. You can disagree with a person’s opinions, but you may not attack other people. You may, however, disagree with the ideas of others, but do so in a constructive manner. For example, you can say, "I don't agree with your post. I think instead that . . . " But, you cannot say, “You’re an idiot” or even “That’s just plain stupid.” Academia requires a diversity of opinions but presented politely; after all, ethics is part of Philosophy.
- Avoid making statements meant to be absolute (such as, "There is no other way to think about this"). Instead of asking closed-ended questions looking for a “yes” or “no” or the “right” answer, ask open-ended questions (such as, “Have you thought about . . . ?”)
- Try to connect the current discussion to topics from other lessons. Remember that all of the Philosophers wrote about more than a single topic and the way they think about one area of Philosophy probably affects other areas as well. For example, it might be extremely useful to mention John Stuart Mill’s ethical theories from an earlier lesson during a later discussion of his support for women’s rights and equality.
- Rather than simply reacting to the readings and the responses of your classmates, think about the arguments being made. Really consider the effectiveness of these arguments. “I agree” responses are not useful to the discussion and will not receive credit.
Give some serious consideration to the topic or scenario before answering; and, then, using the questions below as a guide, write a 75-100 word initial response about the issue being discussed.Next, please take the time to respond to at least two of your classmates.
- If you and several hundred other people were about to form a new society (let’s say, as you plunged into space to populate a newly discovered planet), what principles of justice would you propose to your peers?
- What sort of principles (if any) do you think would gain general agreement? (Examples: “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” “Everyone shares what they’ve got equally with others.” “No one should be punished under any circumstances.” “Anyone who breaks even the smallest law is exiled to space.”) Include at least three principles or laws that everyone would have to follow.
- Who would be in charge of enforcing the laws and why?