Let me start with the course or study related questions, before going to the substantive content questions in subsequent parts on the blog, or podcasts.

Hi Prof, just suggesting – i think itd be btr for the QnA to be shifted over to Zoom’s QnA function. That way while you’re explaining, maybe the tutors can help answer the questions asked using that function. the quality of the qns can improve since everyone here hides behind anonymity to shitpost

Hi Prof, I feel like the Pollev questions might be too distracting at times, is it possible for this to be shifted to another format so that the questions can be better curated/ less distracting?

prof can create a subreddit? then have different discussions for each lecture? cos that way we can respond to each others questions too

As far as I can tell, the fundamental constraint here isn’t really the platform–it’s the fact that there are many students. If you think it’s distracting to you, it’s just as distracting for us too… This is why I believe the it’s important for there to be smaller groups–likely based on tutorial groups, or clusters of them under the same tutor. Or your own informal peer groups. Likely using Telegram or some other persistent platform. But these can be managed by students, or perhaps the tutors.

On the other hand, the Pollev should be used primarily for genuine questions directed at the panel (instructor/tutors). The first Webinar attracted 256 responses, but I recall that there was a big fraction that’s not genuine questions. The second Webinar attracted 267 responses, and the vast majority are genuine questions. Though many of them are similar questions. Let’s see if it makes a difference if people are more conscientious in upvoting each other’s questions, rather than creating new responses.

so where is the telegram group? 🙂

These are student created so I don’t know–though I recall that a few invite links were passed around last week. But no worries, I believe the tutors are also creating telegram groups for the students under their care. Look out for those. And once you start using MS Teams, you have access to another messaging platform based on your tutorial group.

are we encouraged to go for the philosophy peer mentoring sessions?

These aren’t organized by me or the Department–they are purely student initiatives. All I can say is that many students in the past said they benefited, and I’m pretty confident many of you will too. But it’s entirely up to you.

for the survey, do we wait until after next week when the quiz is done to submit?

The deadline for all the “Module Design” surveys is basically the end of the module (I think I set it to be 13 Nov or something like that). So as long as you do by then. I’ll say wait until you have completed the quiz.

will the quiz qns be manageable, at least enough that it’s hard to fail ?

Are the quizzes going to be about the principles we learnt from the lecture or are any of the questions going to be subject to debate?

If we’ve done our jobs correctly, none of the questions will be subject to debate. If you think that the announced answer is debatable, email me your reasoning for my considerations. I’m totally willing to update if you can show me good reason, based on the material you’ve been introduced to in class. The quizzes are maximally about the careful understanding of the concepts and arguments that you have introduced to in class, and secondarily, the careful understanding of what’s been said in the readings. And yes, there are objectively correct answers! This means that we won’t bother to ask you which of the three theories is better, for instance–since that’s something we should debate.

But if the above is so, why ask such questions in the quiz–because any debate about the theories, or any attempt to think philosophically (in the sense of “doing philosophy”, and not just “dabbling” or “watching”) about the subject matter will required that you be able to handle the concepts and arguments in that careful manner. The quiz is part of the training–so that you can freestyle.

would you cover stoicism as well? since in ancient greece stoicism and hedonism were opposed factions

How familiar do we need to be with Aristotle’s theory for the quiz and exams?

The answer is–in principle, yes. If I find a nice, compact argument from one of the Stoics that fit within the overall design, it’s in principle possible to include it. One year there was an argument from another Greek philosopher–Pyrrho–that we considered for the knowledge topic. Nowadays, I’ve used a argument (derived) from Zhuangzi. I’ll also sprinkle references to other historical figures throughout the course to spice things up. But at the end of the day, I have a overall design that I fully intend to deliver. On this design, knowing who said what when is not the focal point of the class. The module is built around (accessible) topics–ideas and arguments. Not the systematic doctrines of specific thinkers.

If something comes up, you will have access to your notes. But focus on the ideas and arguments, rather than the fact that it came from Aristotle, or Kant, or for that matter, Zhuangzi. In the past, I have mixed things up by introducing a quote from a thinker not talked about in class (I think I quoted Confucius or Mencius once, for a quiz)–but even so, everything you need for you to answer the question is in what you were actually taught, rather than in any further thing you might be interested to find out about those thinkers.

what is the point of the assigned reading if the author ended on a conclusion that there isn’t really a satisfactory theory for well-being? Is it to show us the faults of the theories that were proposed?

As I explicitly said in W01, the readings are meant to be the starting points of discussion, not the last word. Their job is not to give you a theory to master–as if that’s the gospel truth. We expect you to learn to be able to handle them carefully–in being able to understand what they are saying in a careful and precise way. But the point is so that you are prepared to grapple with the topic in that same careful and precise way yourself. But we are definitely not saying that they tell you the One Truth.

In general, this is not that kind of class. In fact, I might even say that this isn’t what the study of Humanities and Social Sciences is generally about–mastering established doctrines and theories. We are here to grapple with enduring questions to do with the human condition. They are enduring both because they don’t admit of easy answers and yet they are questions we do care about–we should care about, if we care about being human at all. Being aware of and being able to navigate that greyness and uncertainty is exactly part of the very point of an education in the humanities

With the above in mind, the specific reading (by Hausman) serves to introduce you to the ongoing debate between some of the main possible theories of well-being. To say that each of these theories have their own problems is just to say that this is an ongoing debate. If this is a topic that you want to get further into–e.g., you begin to have an opinion about which theory you think is worth defending–you now know that huddles you face, what shortfalls remain to overcome, what worries remain that you need to address, etc. Not all the readings are this ‘uncommitted’–many of the others argue for a specific point of view. But even so, the points above still apply. Your job isn’t to agree with them. You get your money’s worth by being spurred to have your own carefully thought though opinion!

Isn’t Hausman also an economist?

Indeed. Or more precisely, a big part of his research is exactly on the intersection of philosophy and economics. You can see his profile page here.

Am I the only one who feels very lost?

The lectures are soooo interesting yet somehow i am extremly confused too:(

Is it normal to be lost? I have been paying close attention to the entire lecture so far but I feel that somehow nothing is really going into my brain haha

Being lost and having infinite questions is the whole point of philosophy. Deal with it

Just want to say that some of your seniors said the same in previous years’ Pollev as well. And they did fine overall.

One of the great dangers of a clear lecture is exactly that students feel as if they understood–when they haven’t. So while this doesn’t mean that I should aim to be hard to understand, to force you to work harder–no, I’m not old school in that way–it does mean that to complete the learning cycle, the “workout” (discussion and tutorial and quiz) that follows is indispensable. If the reading is the start of that cycle, the lecture is not even the beginning of the end–it’s only the end of the beginning–of that cycle.