Overview Handout

Making Moral Progress: An Ethical Arguments Workbook

This handout is overview of an introductory ethics textbook called Making Moral Progress: An Ethical Arguments Workbook. This open-access (i.e., freely available) book applies the basics of formal logic to evaluate arguments concerning a number of pressing contemporary moral issues, such as abortion, euthanasia, absolute poverty, the treatment of animals, female genital mutilation, sexual ethics (e.g., homosexuality), drug use and more.  

·         Novel features: (1) begins with what ‘ordinary people’ say; (2) very logic-focused; (3) experimental, discussion-oriented, and skills-focused: more how to think than what.
·         The process: (1) Identify conclusion(s); (2) identify premise(s); (3) make the argument logically valid; (4) evaluate for soundness (true or reasonable premises & logical validity).
·         Persistent questions: “What do you mean?” And “Why think that?”

“Doing this is wrong because…”

P1. Fetuses are human.

P2. ______________________________________
C1. Abortion (killing fetuses) is prima facie wrong.

P3. Fetuses are potential persons.

P4. _____________________________________

P5. ______________________________________
C2. Abortion (killing fetuses) is prima facie wrong.
P6. Meat tastes good; it’s pleasurable to eat.

P7. ________________________
C3. Therefore, eating meat (&killing animals) is morally permissible.

P8. Animals aren’t rational.
P9. ________________________
Therefore, eating animals is morally permissible.

P10. Animal research is necessary.
P11. ______________________
C4. Animal research is morally permissible.

P11. Homosexuals can’t reproduce.

P12 __________________________________
C5. So, homosexuality is wrong.

P13. Homosexuality is unnatural.
P14. __________________________________
C6. So, homosexuality is wrong.

P15. (Illegal) drug use is dangerous and unhealthy.
C7. So, (illegal) drug use is wrong.

P17. People have a moral right to their bodies.
P18. ____________________________________
C8. Therefore, drug use is morally permissible.
P19. Female genital mutilation is a tradition.
P20. ______________________
C9. Therefore, FGM is morally permissible.

P21. FGM is chosen by (some) women and girls.
P22. ______________________
C.10 So, it is morally permissible.

Under construction!

The webpage for Making Moral Progress: An Ethical Arguments Workbook, a (text) book in progress by Nathan Nobis (Morehouse College, GA) and Scott McElreath (William Peace University, NC): SMcElreath@peace.edu . Here's from an earlier draft of an introduction:

This book is about making moral progress. It’s about making things better, morally or ethically.
Our focus is on improving how we think about ethical issues. This should improve what we think about them, and how we feel about them.  Since we act on the basis of what we think, thinking is the place to start.
To think better, to improve our moral beliefs, we will improve our skills at thinking about moral arguments: what they are, how to find them, how to explain and present them.
Most importantly, we will improve our skills at evaluating arguments. Not everything said about morality is an argument, and not all moral arguments are good ones. Indeed, some are very bad, in many ways. We will get better at separating the good moral arguments from the bad, and explaining exactly what the differences are.
These critical skills will help us be constructive. They help us create and present better moral arguments, and critique arguments we develop along the way, to abandon or revise and improve any bad ones. This is how we’ll make steps towards moral progress. 

This video illustrates some of the book's approach to evaluating moral arguments:

Here is the Brief Contents:

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