Mini-Midterm, September 30, 2002

Part I: Circle T for true or F for false. For each question that you mark false, give a counterexample. Don=t write anything after a question if you circle T. (10 minutes; 30 points)

T F 1. Every rationally persuasive argument is sound.

False.  One might mistakenly believe that it is sufficient for a contract to be binding that the parties be competent and sign voluntarily and on the basis of this false premise (which one believes mistakenly to be true) that surrogate motherhood contracts should be legally binding.  Rational persuasion may be mistaken.

T F 2. If an argument is unsound, then its conclusion is false.

False.  Example of an unsound argument with a true conclusion:  All professors are male.  Dan Hausman is a professor.   Therefore Dan Hausman is male.

T F 3. If an argument is sound, then it is valid.

True.  By definition and argument is sound if and only if it is valid and all its premises are true.

T F 4. If the premises of an argument are false, then the argument is invalid.

False.  Example:  All women are six foot tall.   Dan Hausman is a woman.  Therefore Dan Hausman is six foot tall.  Valid but both the premises are false.  In the example  in 2 the argument is valid, and one of its premises is false.

T F 5. If the conclusion of an argument is false, then the argument is unsound.

True.  In a sound argument the premises are true and the conclusion follows as a matter of logic from the premises, so the conclusion must be true, too.

Part II (to be written in blue book): 30 minutes (15 minutes each); 70 points (35 points each)

1. Someone might object that I should not have asked you to read the court decisions by Judge Sorkow and by the New Jersey Supreme Court, because those decisions concern legal questions rather than moral questions. Explain this objection and discuss how these court decisions can be relevant to the moral questions with which this course is concerned.

The short answer is that law has been influenced by morality and that in making legal decisions judges are influenced by moral commitments and arguments.   For example, the NJ Supreme Court found that surrogate motherhood contracts should not be enforceable because they conflicted with laws against paying for surrender of rearing rights.  That doesn't establish that as a matter of morality, surrogate motherhood contracts should not be enforceable, because one cannot take for granted that the law prohibiting paid transfer of rearing rights is defensible.  But the opinion does point one toward a possible moral argument relying on the premise that paid surrender of rearing rights should not (as a matter of morality) be permitted.

2. Give an example of a contract that almost everyone would agree should not be legally enforceable, even though it does not call on the parties to do anything that violates any legal or moral rights or duties and even though it is signed voluntarily by competent individuals. What relevance does your example have to the question of whether surrogate motherhood contracts should be legally binding?

The easy answer would be in terms of inalienable rights.  You could, for example, give the example of date contracts.   The question then is whether enforcing surrogate motherhood contracts violates any inalienable rights.  In particular, one is driven to ask whether a woman's parental rights to her newborn are inalienable.