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.
·         Book parts: I. CONCEPTS & TOOLS, II. OBSTACLES & OBJECTIONS, III. PRACTICE & APPLICATIONS, IV. PROGRESS & CHANGE  
·         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.
P16_____________________________________
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.



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