In the Ancient Greek world (the world of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, often regarded as the birthplace of philosophy) a “symposium” was a banquet held after a meal, an “after party” of sorts that usually included drinking, dancing, recitals, and engaging conversations on the topics of the day.
For our purposes in this course, the Symposium discussions will not involve dancing, recitals, or a banquet, but they will provide food for thought on current ethical issues and direct application of the ethical theory discussed in each of these weeks.
It is almost impossible these days to turn on the news or log onto social media without encountering a controversy that cries out for ethical discussion. For these Symposium discussions, your instructor will choose a topic of current ethical interest and a resource associated with it for you to read or watch. Your task is to consider how the ethical theory of the week might be used to examine, understand, or evaluate the issue.
This week, you will consider how utilitarianism applies to a controversy, dilemma, event, or scenario selected by your instructor. It is a chance for you to discuss together the ethical issues and questions that it raises, your own response to those, and whether that aligns with or does not align with a utilitarian approach. The aim is not to simply assert your own view or to denigrate other views, but to identify, evaluate, and discuss the moral reasoning involved in addressing the chosen issue.
Your posts should remain focused on the ethical considerations, and at some point in your contribution you must specifically address the way a utilitarian would approach this issue by explaining and evaluating that approach.
If you have a position, you should strive to provide reasons in defense of that position.
When responding to peers, you should strive to first understand the reasons they are offering before challenging or critiquing those reasons. One good way of doing this is by summarizing their argument before offering a critique or evaluation.
You must post on at least two separate days, must include at least one substantial reply to a peer or to your instructor, and your posts should add up to at least 400 words.
Your instructor may include additional requirements, so be sure to pay attention to the prompt.
This discussion will be assessed on a 10-point scale and is worth 3% of your final grade.
To ensure that your initial post starts its own unique thread, do not reply to this post. Instead, please click the “Reply” link above this post.
Please read the description above and/or watch the video explaining the symposium and its requirements. If you are still unsure about how to proceed with the discussion, please contact your instructor.
This week, we will consider how utilitarianism applies to politics.
Please read or watch the news media of your choice and discuss the presence of utilitarian reasoning. If utilitarian reasoning is not present, should it be? If it is present, is it the right kind of ethical reasoning in that specific political context?
Your approach to this symposium discussion can be a bit more open-ended than the main discussion, remembering that our main goal is to work together to identify the main ethical questions and considerations, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the reasons for different positions one might hold, and come to a better understanding of utilitarian theory.