PHL 256 Contemporary Moral Issues Reflective Writing Assignments
Due Date: Section D010: Monday, May 4 by 11:59 pm
Section D020: Tuesday, May 5 by 11:59 pm 80 points
Please write thoughtful responses to ALL FOUR of the following prompts. EACH response must be a minimum of 500 words in length (longer than 500 words each is okay, but shorter than 500 words each is NOT okay). Please include a word count at the end of each entry. Included here are the instructions for submitting this assignment electronically on Eagle. I prefer that you use just ONE document to submit all four essays at the same time.
These are not formal research papers. They are assignments that require only informal writing, asking you only to reflect and write on each of the topics. You need not revise or rewrite your initial responses. There is a penalty of 20 points per day for late submission.
- Fences, borders, passports, prisons, tollbooths, checkpoints, visas, green cards, photo ids, hall passes. Is there any legitimacy to our attempts to limit the movement of others? Don’t human beings actually have what Frederick Douglass called a natural right (a right granted by nature, not by people) to locomotion, to movement, to migration, no matter what some people/governments, etc. try to say? If you decide that fences, borders, passports, prisons, tollbooths, checkpoints, visas, green cards, photo ids, hall passes, etc. ARE morally justified, be sure to explain WHO has the authority to require these things and WHERE they got the authority to limit other people’s movements. How, after all, would it ever become true that a particular patch of land came to be the private property of a human being, thereby legitimizing the notion that other human beings could not stand in that spot?
- Drones. Lie detectors. Cameras in buses, intersections, elevators, school hallways, on public streets and people’s bodies. DNA databases used by police, hospitals, insurance companies. Tracking software used by social media companies, marketers, phones. What is the status of our right to privacy? Did it never exist? Did it go away? Is it still intact, but just not being respected? What would ground a right to privacy, or, in other words, where would a right to privacy even come from? If you were responsible for drawing the lines around a human being’s private life, where would you put those limits? In other words, what areas of a person’s life should count as solely theirs, as inviolable and private? The “inside” of their bodies (because, if so, how do we justify requiring DNA samples, blood draws for DUI tests, etc.)? Their use of their bodies (Do we really have a right to require people to wear seat belts and not inject heroin into themselves?)? Their thoughts (Is it okay to force people to take a lie detector test, to pry into their very thoughts? Is it fair to punish someone not just for their bodily actions, but for what they were THINKING when they acted that way, as appears to be happening when hate crimes are punished?)? Their communications (Should employers, Homeland Security, your parents, anyone be allowed to monitor or ever check without your permission your communications with others?)? Their hard drives? Their movements and whereabouts? Their property? Which property? Be sure to explain why you would put the limits where you would and whether you have any actual right to do that.
- “When we are talking about racism, and anti-black racism in the United States, we have to remember that under slavery black lives were considered only a fraction of a human life, so the prevailing way of valuing lives assumed that some lives mattered more, were more human, more worthy, more deserving of life and freedom, where freedom meant minimally the freedom to move and thrive without being subjected to coercive force. But when and where did black lives ever really get free of coercive force? One reason the chant ‘Black Lives Matter’ is so important is that it states the obvious, but the obvious has not yet been historically realized. So it is a statement of outrage and a demand for equality, for the right to live free of constraint, but also a chant that links the history of slavery, of debt peonage, segregation, and a prison system geared toward the containment, neutralization and degradation of black lives, but also a police system that more and more easily and often can take away a black life in a flash all because some officer perceives a threat.” From “Black Lives Matter: Interview between George Yancy and Judith Butler.
After reading this, reflect and write about the possibility that it might not make sense to respond to assertions of “Black Lives Matter” with responses like “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter”. In what ways has society already made it abundantly clear that the lives of police officers matter? In what ways has society already made it abundantly clear that human lives matter? Can it be said honestly that society already has made it abundantly clear that the lives of black human beings matter just as much? Or is it the case that the particular claim “Black Lives Matter” needs to be asserted over and over and over again, without meeting with responses/chants about what else matters, too?
- I don’t understand why Americans think ______________________________ is some big moral deal. Why do they spend so much time focusing on that? In my opinion, there are much more significant moral challenges facing us, like the issue of _________________________________.
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