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FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON UNIVERSITY Ethics Spring 2002

Odysseus Makridis; Office: Mansion, W28; Phone: x. 8096; Email addresses: omakridis@aol.com // odysseus_makridis@fdu.edu


Paper Topic

Read carefully the following story, whose title is "Mozart and Cleaning Woman." Then, respond to all of the questions, which you will find after the text of the story.

I am giving you questions in order to assist you with writing the paper. By responding to my questions, you do not need to worry if you are leaving out anything important.

This is not the end of the assignment. After you write this paper once, you will have to return to it in the future and add a few paragraphs in response to this additional question: Have you changed your mind about how you decided this case the last time you thought about it? 1) If yes, explain what exactly - from what we have read in the meantime - has made you change your mind. Be specific. 2) If no, you still need to apply the theory we have covered since the last time you reacted to this paper topic, and show why the application of the theory leads to the same conclusion you reached before you had studied the theory.

You will need to return to this paper five more times in the future: 1) After we have studied 'Utilitarianism.' 2) After we have studied 'Kant's Moral Theory.' 3) After we have studied 'Virtue Ethics.' 4) After we have studied "Social Contract and Natural Rights." 5) After we have studied 'Gender and Ethics.'

This is a lot of work - the paper becomes something of a serial paper. But this is a good method for learning. Moreover, in this way, the paper serves as both an essay paper and something of a philosophical journal. And, the good news: This prolonged and serial exercise will allow us to dispense with the Mid-Term altogether. We will, however, have one more exercise - in class. I will give you more specific information in the near future.

One more point: Those of you who do the readings with due diligence will discover that my tale is fashioned after Godwin's "The Archbishop and the Chambermaid," in the anthology edited by Singer. You do NOT have to agree with Godwin's disposition of the case, of course. You do not even have to refer to it - unless, of course, you find it seminal to your own thinking on the moral dilemma he discusses.

The first installment of the paper is due right in class on the Monday after Spring Recess. If you prefer, feel free to do this part of the assignment before the break - but you are not obligated to do so.

Here is the story:

The famous composer Mozart - a peerless genius in musical composition - has been out drinking and gambling all night. Mozart has been known to engage in such unsavory activities - but, after all, his life has been a wretchedly unhappy one: He grew up as a child prodigy - able to play most instruments since he was five years old. His despotic father tried to cash in on his son's fast-growing reputation. The little child never had a chance to play, go to a real school, or live the care-free life of a normal child. Instead, he was turned into an itinerant object of display - perennially on the road, taken from court to court and from mansion to mansion - circus-like - to perform for the amusement and amazement of decadent European royalty. Many were zealous of the child and plotted sinister plots against him. Mozart missed his childhood and has grown to be a child-like man - a child-like genius. He has also remained in poverty throughout his whole life - even though many others benefit from his work.

With the first crack of dawn, Mozart sets out to go back to his home. His wife and children are away. He crawls into bed and is fast asleep. The only other person in the residence is the cleaning woman. She has also had a rough life, as you can imagine. Unlike Mozart, she has no skills or talents that can make other people happy. Mozart will continue to infuse unspeakable joy into myriad ears for many centuries to come, of course. In this sense, his life is precious for others too. Who knows how much more he has in him to compose - if he can only make it through the night. Let's now talk about the cleaning lady. Bent over with prematurely creeping age, she works hard every day, from dawn to dusk. She has been toiling and moiling, ceaselessly, throughout her whole hapless life. The surviving members of her family include a bed-ridden old mother and a suckling infant, as well as two other children who work hard in menial jobs although they are hardly in their teens yet. After her husband's tragic death, they all depend on her for their survival. The family is having difficulties to make ends meet.

Here is where you come into the picture - transported as it were back in time, and catapulted into late 18th -century Vienna, where this incident is taking place. You happen to be passing by Mozart's house right after daybreak. Everyone else in the neighborhood is in deep slumber. Only you are awake - and the cleaning woman, of course, who has already begun her day's cruel routine. Before you know it, you see vast flames engulfing Mozart's house. A fire has broken out. It is no one's fault - construction and safety measures in this squalid part of town are so poor that accidents are known to happen. Mozart is asleep, after a tipsy all-nighter, and there is not a chance that he will awake to the tragic calamity. The cleaning lady is up in the attic; she is not even aware that a fire has broken out. By the time she can find out, it will be too late for her to save herself. You know all this because of your engineering knowledge and superior insight into the intricate details of this case. You also know that you can run in and out of the building without any harm to yourself. There is a catch, though: You only have this much time to accomplish this - and absolutely no more. Either you run in the direction of Mozart's bedchambers, and out with the terrified genius composer in your arms; or you rush upstairs to the attic and come out with the weak and frightened cleaning woman. You can save either Mozart or the cleaning - but you cannot save both.

What should you do?

QUESTIONS {You need to respond to all of the questions. When a question has more than one sub-questions, you need to answer to all of the sub-questions.}

I. Which option should you choose? Here are your options: 1) Save Mozart. 2) Save the Cleaning Woman. 3a) Attempt to save both - even though you know that, if you do that, you cannot save either one. Linger long enough so that you burn to death too. 3b) Attempt to save both, even though you know that you can only save one. Linger long enough to just try and then flee. 4) Run and flee the fire without bothering about anyone else - even though your life would not be in immediate danger if you stayed long enough to save either one of the others. 5) Toss a coin about whom to save - assume that the extra few seconds you need for tossing the coin do not make a difference when it comes to saving one person. 6) Any other option you can think of. [Remember that you are constrained by the facts of this case: For instance, take it for granted that it is impossible to save both persons.]

I think I have covered all the possible options you have. Remember that you will have to keep revisiting this chart of options every time you will need to return to the paper (see above.)

II. How did you reach your decision? By thinking or by depending on your feelings? Show exactly how the one or the other (thinking or emotion) led you to your decision. Justify why you relied on what you chose to rely on - reason or emotion.

III. What assumptions did you make about the worth of the life of human beings other than yourself? What assumptions did you make about the worth of your own life? What assumptions did you make about the relative worth of human beings? Justify your answers: How can your assumptions be justified, or defended, from a moral point of view?

IIIa.Did you need to contemplate big questions about the meaning of life to reach your decision? Why or why not?

IIIb.Did you try to think of precedents - other cases like this? Why was this - or wasn't this - the right thing to do? [Assume that all this is happening in your mind in a flash; no precious extra time is wasted in this way.]

IV. What factors should you take into account - within the sparse moments you had at your disposal as you were agonizing over whom to save? [Answer all the following sub-questions.] A) Should you think of consequences of your action? Consequences for whom? Immediate consequences or long-term consequences? Why do you think this is morally relevant? If you insist that you should not think about consequences, what makes you think that consequences are not relevant to your decision making? B) Should you think of what others would say about your action or inaction? How do you justify thinking about - or ignoring - this factor? C) Did you think of God, the afterlife, or what holy books and divine commandments tell you to do? How do you justify taking, or not taking, this factor into account? D) Should you think of the possibility of a reward? Why or why not? E) What would you say your duty is in this case? How do you understand the word 'duty'? How do you 'know' what your duty is?

You will need to return to this paper and 'revisit' your earlier decisions. Each time you return to the paper (see above for schedule), you will need to apply whatever theory we have just covered in class (utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, virtue ethics, social contract/natural rights, gender and ethics); then, see if you reach the same or different conclusions, and explain how exactly you reach your conclusion (the same as before or a different one) by applying the theory you just studied.

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