First paper topic on an unjust action you witnessed

Philosophy 2
Spring 2021
First paper topic on an unjust action you witnessed
Due by 11:59 pm, Saturday, February 6.

Prompt
Think of some action which you witnessed personally or did or had done to you which you thought was unjust. Construct a modus ponens argument which begins with a general principle which asserts that actions of the kind you witnessed are unjust. Here is an example of the sort of argument I am asking you to write:

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1. If every theft or attempted theft is an unjust action, then the action of the guy who tried to steal a circular saw from the pick-up area outside of Lowes was unjust.
2. Every theft or attempted theft is an unjust action.
3. Therefore, the action of the guy who tried to steal a circular saw from the pick-up area outside of Lowes was unjust.

Your paper must be written in a special format, which has five parts which you must identify by number:

1) A title
2) An explicit argument for your claim, in modus ponens form.
3) A discussion of your argument, where you explain your premises and conclusion more fully. Usually the premises of an argument will themselves require some defense or justification. This is the section of your paper where you should do that.
4) An objection to your argument.
5) A reply to that objection.
Rubric for papers
(1) Respond to every part of the prompt.
(2) Make sure your argument is in correct modus ponens form.
(3) Write complete sentences; use periods at the end of your sentences.
(4) Proofread carefully. Make sure there are no misspelled or seriously misused words in your paper.
(5) Accurately represent the views of any author you discuss.
(6) Satisfy the word-count minimum.
(7) Avoid rhetorical questions.

Grading
This first paper will be graded differently than the other papers for the class. If you hand in a paper which satisfies every point of the rubric, you will get full credit (150 points). If you hand in a paper which does not satisfy every point of the rubric, I will return it to you to revise and resubmit.
Other requirements
Please use Times New Roman, 12-point type, with one-inch margins on all sides.
Please double space your work.
Please read your paper aloud to yourself before you submit your final draft.
Your paper should be at least 600 words in length.
Late-paper policy
You may hand in a paper up to one week late with no penalty. You may hand in a paper up to two weeks late with a loss of 10 points from your grade on the paper. If you hand in a paper on time, I will comment on your paper. If you hand in a paper late, I may return your paper to you with a grade but no comments. If you have not submitted a paper within two weeks after its due date, you will receive 0 points for that paper and the highest grade you will be able to earn for the course is a D.

You have to submit all five papers to pass the class with a grade of C or better.
Sample paper in the five-part format:

1) An Attack on Property Is an Attack on Persons

2)
1. If every theft or attempted theft is an unjust action, then the action of the guy who tried to steal a circular saw from the pick-up area outside of Lowes was unjust.
2. Every theft or attempted theft is an unjust action.
3. Therefore, the action of the guy who tried to steal a circular saw from the pick-up area outside of Lowes was unjust.

3)
I stopped by the Lowes in River Park in Fresno a week ago, shortly after dark. As I was walking towards the entrance, I heard shouts coming from the pick-up area. The shouting was coming from a young Lowes worker wearing a red work vest covered with patches. He was grabbing one side of a shopping cart with a large box in it. In the box was an expensive circular saw. On the other side of the shopping cart was a young guy whose face I couldn’t see. The young guy whose face I couldn’t see was pulling at the shopping cart; he gave a pull, then quickly tried to grab the box out of the shopping cart. He tried several times. He was unsuccessful every time because when he let go of the cart to try to grab the box, the Lowes worker pulled the shopping cart away from him. This tug-of-war went on for about thirty seconds. The Lowes worker kept shouting, “Not yours! Not yours!” All the shouting attracted several other Lowes workers to the scene. They scared off the prospective thief, and he began sprinting down the main driveway in front of the entrance to Lowes. He disappeared behind some parked cars. I waited to see him come out from behind the parked cars in his sprint. He never appeared. What did appear was a small black car gunning it down the main driveway of Lowes: his getaway car. The Lowes workers (about seven of them now) rallied around their colleague who had fought off the thief.
I was very thankful that the would-be thief was unsuccessful, and thankful too that the young Lowes worker had not been injured. I thought that what the thief had tried to do was worse than just stealing, because he had threatened the Lowes worker as well as trying to steal an expensive saw. Any act of theft or attempted theft is unjust because it is an attack on a person even if the person is absent. Whoever manufactured that circular saw put their labor and money into its production. Every person has a right to be respected and that means that the fruits of every person’s labor, including their money of course, should also be respected and not taken from them without their consent. The same principle applies to Lowes and its workers. Lowes bought the circular saw from the manufacturer; taking their property without compensation violates their right to dispose of their property as they see fit. An attempted theft also violates the rights of Lowes workers not to have the property of their employer interfered with. Theft harms workers as well as employers, even when the theft does not affect workers as directly as it affected the young Lowes employee who defended the circular saw.

4) Some thefts or attempted thefts are not unjust actions. Theft is justified when a person lacks a necessity of life and is unable to pay for it. People do not steal for the fun of it. The young man who tried to steal the circular saw might have been planning to sell it to buy groceries for his family. It is difficult to judge his actions without having better knowledge of his motives and circumstances. Therefore, we should not consider his action unjust.

5) The objection is weak. The objector is speculating that the thief would use his ill-gotten gains to feed his family. But no one in Fresno needs to steal to secure the necessities of life. Food, clothing, and even shelter are available free of charge from many non-governmental organizations. The objector is partially right that we should refrain from judging when we do not have sufficient knowledge of motive and circumstances. In this case that objection does not apply. The thief was attacking another human being (the Lowes worker), and that is never permissible, even if there was a good motive for the theft itself.

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