For this final assignment, you can select one or more of the arguments below and:
- Create a map of the argument
- Evaluate the quality of the argument
These arguments may be challenging: they are somewhat tricky, and you may disagree with them! In that case, after you’ve taken the time to map them accurately, you can take satisfaction in pointing out exactly what’s wrong with them.
Feel free to use any software tool you like to create your map (or maps, if you choose to work on more than one) and your evaluation(s). This is not a test, so also feel free to go back to lessons in the course that can help you develop your maps and evaluate the arguments.
When you’re finished with your map and evaluation, put it all together in a single document and submit it (in any format) using the form below.
Once you have submitted your assignment, you will be redirected to a page where you can see a solution map for your chosen argument, as well as videos showing how that argument can be mapped and evaluated, which you can compare with your own work.
You will also be given a rubric that you can use to score yourself on this assignment. You can use this rubric in your classroom if you want to give this same assignment to students.
The Right to Ridicule
Freedom of speech is not just a special and distinctive emblem of Western culture that might be generously abridged or qualified as a measure of respect for other cultures that reject it, the way a crescent or menorah might be added to a Christian religious display. Free speech is a condition of legitimate government. Laws and policies are not legitimate unless they have been adopted through a democratic process, and a process is not democratic if the government has prevented anyone from expressing his convictions about what those laws and policies should be.
Ridicule is a distinct kind of expression; its substance cannot be repackaged in a less offensive rhetorical form without expressing something very different from what was intended. That is why cartoons and other forms of ridicule have for centuries, even when illegal, been among the most important weapons of both noble and wicked political movements.
So in a democracy no one, however powerful or impotent, can have a right not to be insulted or offended. That principle is of particular importance in a nation that strives for racial and ethnic fairness. If weak or unpopular minorities wish to be protected from economic or legal discrimination by law—if they wish laws enacted that prohibit discrimination against them in employment, for instance—then they must be willing to tolerate whatever insults or ridicule people who oppose such legislation wish to offer to their fellow voters, because only a community that permits such insult as part of public debate may legitimately adopt such laws.
From “The Right to Ridicule” by Ronald Dworkin
Gay Wedding Cake
Background: In a significant case implicating free speech, religious expression, and public discrimination law, the Supreme Court ultimately decided 7-2 that baker Jack Phillips (owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado) was within his rights to refuse to make a custom wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins (a gay couple).
Mr. Phillips wasn’t violating any discrimination laws, since there is a difference between denying someone services that are generally available to everyone – such as refusing to sell them a cake that was already out for sale in the store – and denying them the use of one’s artistic talents for a specific project. Baking a custom cake for a specific event (in this case, for a wedding ceremony) falls into the latter category. For example, a videographer isn’t committing wrongful discrimination if she refuses to make a violent or offensive video for a prospective customer, based on her personal beliefs. Similarly, the baker can refuse to make custom art in the form of a wedding cake for a gay couple, just like he can legitimately refuse to make offensive cakes, Halloween cakes, or cakes with alcohol in them.
On a different note, if a country such as the United States truly values religious freedom, business owners should not be forced to act in a way that violates this freedom. For example, if a baker believes that gay marriages are sinful, he should not be forced to bake a cake for a gay wedding. This act clearly goes against his religious beliefs, and forcing him to do an act that goes against his religion is a violation of his religious freedom.
Health Insurance for Smokers
I’m in favor of charging smokers more for health insurance. After all, smoking is a known health hazard, and financial incentives are known to help people quit. Since we’re all better off health-wise if people quit smoking, why shouldn’t we financially incentivize quitting? And what better financial incentive could there be than decreasing your monthly health insurance premium? After all, this would be a reward you get every month when you pay a lower premium.
Even if you don’t buy my idea that a reduced insurance premium is a monthly reward, you should be swayed by the argument that insurance is fundamentally about pooling risk. We all pay into an insurance pool knowing that some of us will have major medical expenses which will be covered by the money we all paid in, but we don’t know in advance who those people will be. That’s how insurance works. But smokers are voluntarily increasing their risk of health problems. Thus, they’re increasing the odds that they will be the beneficiaries of everyone else’s hard-earned cash. Now, I’m not saying that smokers want to get sick. That would be crazy. I’m just saying that insurance provides a safety net that costs everyone money, and we’re allowing smokers to take advantage of that safety net if we don’t charge them a higher rate to cover their higher risk.
What about other people who are high-risk, you might ask? Some people have genetic predispositions to certain diseases, or risky hobbies like riding motorcycles. Does my argument require that we charge those people more too? It depends. We need to make a distinction here between risks that are voluntary and those that are not. You can’t control whether you have a genetic predisposition for a disease, so we can’t hold you responsible for that extra risk. Motorcycle riders, well, I might be in favor of charging them more too!