Philosophy 1020-Honors

Philosophical Arguments

  1. Moral luck according to Thomas Nagel is holding someone to a certain moral judgment even though the majority of that person’s actions are controlled by “factors beyond his control”. Nagel explains that even though we possess an intuition in which we can recognize and differentiate between actions out of someone’s control, we continue to judge them separately with different levels of moral harshness. A prime example of the different reactions generated by moral luck is the case of the two drunk drivers. Both recklessly chose to drive, one driver has the misfortune to hit someone, while the other does not. Hearing both accounts, we know that their initial actions are completely the same, yet our intuition then constructs different judgment on both drivers. Nagel then explains that many if not all of our prior assessments or judgments would be wrecked if we are to apply the filter of control or lack thereof it as a factor in determining anything. While questioning the condition of control, he then suggests that one is able to reach conclusions that match their natural moral judgment when observing actions that have a lack of control that is not ultimately a causal drive towards the outcome of the actions. Nagel informs us of the four types of moral luck that can influence the direction of our moral judgments. The first he identifies is the luck based on the results or consequences stemming from one’s actions. The moral judgment we provide, whether they deserve it or not, is exclusively based on the outcome of their action. Being subject to constitutive luck implies that you are assigned a certain type of personality or “capacities” that cannot be truly reflective or responsible for whether or not you had a good will in performing an action. Nagel depicts the luck connected to our circumstances through the example of the two men from Germany during WWII. Both men could have been subject to the malevolence of the effects of war, but we blame the man who is in the circumstances of war more harshly than the other man who seemingly has the same potential but in different circumstances. The final type of luck he explains is the luck connected to the causes of our actions or what makes us do what we do. Nagel connects this type of luck to the belief in a deterministic world and the freedom of our actions. People who tend to believe in a deterministic world, are more likely to assign the blame on the victim and thus have different moral judgments than those believing in free will.


2    A food desert is an impoverished area defined by a lack of access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and other nutritional foods. Putting into perspective the social, economic and political issues raised by a food desert, we draw forth one of the top generalized societal synopses created in my opinion by the [moral] luck of one’s circumstances when inhabiting the food desserts: the knowledge that they are of the lower class. Detroit is one of the major urban food deserts in America, with 92% of its food distribution through “Fringe Retailers” such as gas stations and convenience stores. It does not come as a surprise that many view the city of Detroit as a city of blight and crime. Detroit is used in a mainstream frame as the place when referring to the “ghetto” or wanting to add a reference (street cred) in a rap song. When we consider circumstantial moral luck in Detroit, we see that it is of unlucky nature. Detroit is the War-Germany in question. We can have two people in mind, one a resident of Detroit and the other a resident of San Francisco. The resident of SF is a healthy clean eating person, while the resident of Detroit is an overweight person who eats at fast food chains. Immediately our intrinsic attitude harshly judges the Detroit resident as lazy, or undisciplined, while judging the SF resident as dedicated, and ambitious. Like the example with the German men, people fail to factor in the control or circumstances of each person. That person from Detroit could have been just as healthy and fit if he had not been raised in circumstances limiting him to the option of purchasing cheap and readily available fast food. The government also prioritizes in its providing public assistance such as SNAP and WIC to major urban food deserts including Detroit, Southwest Chicago, and even Cleveland.


Ashwak Alshami

Philosophy 1020


An action is morally right if and only if it is performed with a good intention.

I disagree with this claim because there can be many things that are done with good intentions (joy, peace) but can result in actions that are categorized as morally bad (death). An example of this situation would be the slave labor of workers to create homes for their masters (joy) or things that can improve other people’s lives such medical equipment. Another argument that can be raised against this statement can be objectively considered through a Utilitarianism perspective. In two scenarios that both ultimately cause the same amount of harm, the scenario with the action that has a good intention (winning the fight) is considered morally good, but the scenario with the action that intended harm (murder) is morally bad. Through the Utilitarianism perspective we see that the amount of harm is equal on both sides, yet one is still considered morally good. Kant argues for this statement in that nothing other than acting in the good will can be considered morally right. He opposes the notion that actions because of things such as emotion, intellect, and external goods can be “good without qualification”. His main argument for actions performed by good will claim that good will, unlike the other things we label as good, is reliable and cannot be tainted or corrupted. There cannot be a good intention (duty) or ultimate good will that can be recognized in every situation or decided upon by every person. Emotions can be more than compulsions of we feel, they can be derived from the identification of situations people they have the emotions toward are in. For example, you love your son and you want to save him, but in a way, your love for him is what enabled you to recognize the danger he is in and thus, providing you a good intention for your action. In a sense there can also be actions that lack motives or intentions and still be classified as morally wrong or right. There can be actions that have specific intentions that can lead to other action that lacked any intentions, but still produce either morally right or wrong things. For example there can be a thief who has just entered a house to rob it, upon entering the house he is confronted by a male. The thief panics and attacks the man rendering him unconscious. The thief, however, did not know that the man he had attacked was actually a serial killer who had planned to murder the whole family. Saving the whole family from being slaughtered was not the intention of the thief, however it is still considered morally right. This statement also fails to factor in scenarios that can have options that all the intentions allowed or available are bad. Bad intentions then, in the context of this statement, leave no space for a morally right action.


Morality and self-interest never conflict with one another: it is always in a person’s own best interest to do the right thing.

I agree with what this statement claims, but to understand my compliance we must define specifically what self-interest actually is. When thinking of self-interest, we most likely think of superficial things that we want to have such as a sports car or tons of money in the bank. Unbeknownst to us all, most of the actions we perform that are in self-interest also coincide with morality. As mentioned earlier, some of the things in our self-interest may seem superficial, but the true question to ask is: when acquiring those things did we really overlook morality? I think that morality advocates the right or “good” means by which someone performs or attains things. If we attained those superficial things through ways that were morally wrong, do they really contribute to the same amount of self-interest if we had acquired them through morally just ways? I think that the level of self-interest when working towards something through hard labor, intensifies when it is in sync with morality. Aristotle supports this claim through the function argument, how can a human be a good human? Humans are good when they function in the right way and that is through obtaining virtue through manner. While humans are seeking happiness through rationality they have been also enforcing morality through their actions.


Ashwak Alshami

Philosophy 1020


Many behaviorists perceive the mind as a part of our physical body. Behaviorists object to the philosophy that our mind is an object of seclusion that is fully established outward and away from the brain itself. Immaterialists believed that the mind is not physical but that it still has control over physical aspects of our bodies. Descartes, for example, distinguished the mind as “spiritual substance”. Behaviorists fall under the category of Physicalism because they agree that the mind is a material object that allows mental states which are just the outcome of different variations in matter. Behaviorist link the mind and mental states of it to outward behavior. So emotions are the outcome or result of a specific behavior. Meaning that only when you show anger are you actually angry. Armstrong agrees with the Behaviorists defense against the notion of a mental state not portrayed through behavior. The Behaviorists argue that having the disposition to behave is in itself eliminates the objection because the potential power of the disposition could be accessed at any moment. Armstrong, however, points out that Behaviorists (Ryle) are objecting their own claim and implying that our mental states are not behavior because they are not acted upon, hence dispositions. Armstrong then explains that mental states cause behavior, but they are not literally behaviors. Since Behaviorists claim that the mental states are behavior, it would mean that there is only one possible outcome or effect for every state. For example, when you are crying, you are always sad. This would claim that crying because of joy or frustration is improbable. Seeing that it does occur, Behaviorists’ claim is incorrect or to be precise, lacking. Not only is the claim Behaviorists present is lacking, but so is there knowledge of behaviors and mental states. There are mental states that cannot be expressed physically by actions. If we say that sadness is crying and anger is striking something, how do we classify other emotions such as envy, longing, pride? Likewise, there are physical behaviors that we cannot classify under mental states or emotions. Also Behaviorists rule out the fact of deceptive outward behavior. What if I was not sad, but started to cry in order to elicit a specific response from those around me? With the concept of deception we also have the concept of different perceptions. Behaviorist classify all mental states and behaviors in one way. People may have different perceptions than others causing them to behave differently. This then invalidates any way of being able to predict or interpret outward physical behavior.