This discussion has two parts, both of which require careful examination of Section 4.2 in Chapter 4 of the text, so consider reading it more than once like you were asked to do in the Week 1 Reading Philosophy discussion.
In Part 1 of this discussion, you will create your own test case following the format presented in Section 4.2 of the textbook. In Part 2, you will create a test case based on a single sentence you select from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
PART 1 – Test Case
Discuss either the formula of universal law or the formula of humanity.
Create your own test case following the format presented in Section 4.2 of the text. The text case can be anything you want to consider, but it must be an action such as lying, cheating, or killing one person to save the lives of five others. It can even be an absurd or far-fetched example such as a test case with a maxim that states you will eat a piece of cake any time you sneeze, or that you will sing a brief song every time you blink (These work well when imagining what the world would be like if everyone in it obeyed the universal law).
Follow the numbered steps below to present your test case.
Maxim: State the maxim of your action using first-person singular.
For example: Every time I blink, I will sing a brief song.
Universal Law: Formulate a universal law based on the maxim.
For example: Every time anyone blinks, they will sing a brief song.
The World: Describe what the world would look like if everyone in it must obey the universal law. This step should have a good amount of depth and detail and fully explain the types of behaviors and actions that would occur in this world.
For example: If everyone in the world sang every time they blinked, there would be almost constant singing when people were awake.
Is There a Contradiction? Consider whether there is a contradiction in the world you have imagined. This step is often tricky, so just keep in mind that you are looking for a logical or moral contradiction or paradox—something that would make the world immoral or dysfunctional or absurd.
For example: A world in which everyone sang whenever they blinked would be both dysfunctional and absurd.
State Whether the Maxim Is Moral: If there is no contradiction, then the maxim is moral. If there is a contradiction, then the maxim is immoral.
For example: The maxim is not moral.
PART 2 – Test Case: “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”
Using the same format as above,
Identify a sentence in Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” that you think is consistent with the principles of deontology. Look for sentences that focus on a single idea and above all, sentences that contain an action or can be transformed into an action.
For example, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” is a sentence that falls within the general territory of deontology but does not contain a clear action. To rephrase this maxim with an action, you might state, “Anytime I see injustice, I will fight against it because it is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Place your sentence just below the Part 2 heading, then fill in the five reasoning steps as presented above: (1) Maxim, (2) Universal Law, (3) The World, (4) Contradiction, (5) Conclusion.
Complete your primary post by explaining whether a utilitarian would agree with the conclusion in one of your test cases.
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