Ethicist: The general principle-if one ought to do something then one can do it-does not always hold true. This may b...

Rachel on May 8, 2018

Please explain

I am having a tough time understanding this one. Could you please explain all the answer choices and why they are wrong?

2 Replies

Christopher on May 12, 2018

@rmkrutz@crimson.ua.edu This question is asking for the "assumption required" by the argument, which means you're looking at a Strengthen with Necessary Premise question. When you approach these, you're essentially identifying the logical leap that's missing in the original statement. Another way of looking at it is that you're looking for the answer that could be used to challenge the original statement.

The principle that the ethicist is challenging is "if one ought to do something then on can do it." Another way of saying it would be, "if one is ethically obligated to do something, then it is assumed that one is able to do it," and "if one is not able to do it, then one cannot be ethically obligated to do it."

EO ==> Able
Not Able ==> Not EO

His argument against this is that unforeseen, uncontrollable circumstances can cause a person who has an ethical obligation to complete a task to be unable to complete that task.

Taken on it's own, there seems to be a logical leap or at least the assumption (key piece) that the traffic jam would not release the friend from the ethical obligation to meet at a particular time.

The correct answer states, "the obligation created by a promise is not relieved by the fact that the promise cannot be kept," which fills the logical gap in the argument.

The other answers can be eliminated in a number of ways.

A tries to establish a parallel between "ought to do" and "promised to do," which dubious in its own right, does nothing to strengthen or weaken the argument.

B attempts to define what kind of event could potentially cause a breakdown of this general principle but in doing so somewhat weakens the point. The argument hinges on the idea that just because an unforeseen circumstance makes you incapable of doing something does not me that you are not still ethically required to do it. This answer weakens that by giving the person in the traffic jam an "excuse" for failing to show up on time.

C contains a logical fallacy going from EO ==> Able to Not EO ==> Not Able

E is similar to B in that it gives the tardy friend an "out" by shifting the ethical failure to making a foolish promise from being tardy.

I hope that makes sense. Let me know if you're still struggling with it.

Rachel on May 12, 2018

That helped a lot, thank you so much!