Life, the Universe, and Everything

A Course Blog for GET1029/GEK1067

Month: August 2020 (page 2 of 3)

W02 Q/A Part 4: Ethical Hedonism

To recap (W02 Slide #21):

Ethical Hedonism = Pleasure is the only intrinsically good thing (pain is the only intrinsically bad thing).

And if we frame this as a theory of well-being, we get–

Pleasure/Pain Theory of Well-being (PPT) = Ah Beng is doing well =df Ah Beng experiences pleasure rather than pain (or, a positive balance of pleasure over pain).

And this is a specific instance of a general kind of theory in which well-being consists in experiencing certain mental states, e.g., pleasure and the absence of pain. Ok, on to your questions.

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W02 Q/A Part 3: Well-being, and Morality

Hi prof, what is the difference between value theory and normative theory? whats the diff between good vs bad (value) and morally good/morally bad(normative)?

The short answer is that the matter of W02 is the good/bad while the subject of W03 is right/wrong. I’ll revisit this in W03.

What do we mean by morally correct if it is not subject to criticism? Since what is morally correct is subject to each other’s point of view (so everyone’s criticism?)

If you really did what is objectively right, then, you are not–rationally, deservingly–subject to criticism. This might not stop others from criticizing you, of course, since they might not have the correct beliefs. I should make this clearer in W03.

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W02 Q/A Part 2: Descriptive/Prescriptive, Well-being, and a Side of Aristotle

Before jumping into the Q/A itself, a general reminder. We are talking about two kinds of claims.

Descriptive Claim: A claim about how things are.

Prescriptive Claim: A claim about how things ought to be / how people ought to behave, etc.

But before going further, keep in mind that both kinds of claims admit of being true or false. That is, a claim (or in the terminology of “A Short Lesson for Arguments and Logic”, a statement) is true if and only if it’s the idea expressed really is the case. For example:

The claim “Singapore is part of Asia” is true if and only if it really is the case that Singapore is part of Asia.

The claim “People ought to be more caring to those who come from a disadvantaged background” is true if and only if it really is the case that people ought to be more caring to those who come from a disadvantaged background.

Conversely, when the thing expressed isn’t the case, then the claim is false. Don’t confuse the definition of what it means for a claim to be true with other issues such as, for instance, how we can know if a certain claim is true. They are related but not the same things. Ok, on with the questions.

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W02 Q/A Part 1: Course Matters

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.

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Arguments Lesson Bot on Telegram

Over the last few years, my tutors and I have created a set of handouts (they are in Luminus > Module Overview > 1) to help students with basic concepts to do with arguments and logic. While formal logic (or for that matter, the formal study of informal logic) isn’t part of the syllabus of GET1029, we do introduce and reinforce concepts such as the basic idea of an argument, the difference between validity and soundness, and very importantly, necessary vs. a sufficient conditions–throughout the semester. The tutors have their marching orders to help me with all this, and the quiz questions do assume your familiarity with them. But no worries–even as you are still finding your footing in these concepts, the handouts are there to help you as ready reference material. This semester, we found a way to do something better (we hope it’s better anyway).

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Podcast Episode #01 (W01)

PIG Peer Mentoring

The Philosophy Interest Group (PIG) is organizing three peer mentoring events to discuss aspects of philosophical study at a peer level. These are:

Stage (A) Philosophical Reading (Week 3)

Stage (B) Philosophical Writing (Week 5)

MCQ Clinic (Recess Week)

The sessions are independent of each other and do not require prior attendance at previous stages. They are basically seeking to help students with little to no prior philosophical background may be enrolled. This isn’t the first time the group is doing it–so they have quit a bite of tradition and practice by no.

The signup link is:


A 42-Seconds Introduction of the Tutors

It’s Week 2 of the Semester already, and tutorials start in Week 3. A good time to introduce the tutors for GET1029 Life, the Universe, and Everything!

W01 Q/A Part 4: Life

Whats the meaning of life

Will we become all depressed or become great thinkers? Will everything become meaningless?

how to deal with weekly existential crises? :c

Is it true that ignorance is bliss?

Do you become more cognizant as you learn? Or do you feel like the more you learn the lesser you actually know?

Will we gain more IQ? Will I get a good looking partner? Does it even matter? Do we have free-will? So is freedom a mere social construct that we use to lie to ourself?

“Meaning of life” isn’t one of the topics in the module, though Topic 1 will be relevant. Also, the module can’t promise that you will “find meaning in life” by taking this module. Nonetheless, I hope that by the end of the module, you would have picked up the sensibility to see that the whole matter (“meaning of life”) is actually a more involved topic than might appear at first sight–since answering it will require that we have a plausible idea about what kind of “meaning” we are talking about in relation to “life”, since, presumably, the may meaning in question is clearly not the same as the meaning in the question What is the meaning of “life” (i.e., the word “life”)? So before we can start, we need a theory about the the sort of meaning that non-word things can have…

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W01 Q/A Part 3: Philosophy and Studying Philosophy

Hey prof what if we find out halfway into the mod that Philo doesn’t really work for us?

shouldve taken something else to clear my humanities basket sry

If the module isn’t working out for you, it’s not too late to drop. This is serious advice here–I always tell students to please read modules that you are interested in whenever given the chance.

I really dont want to flop this mod, please show me the way

Is there a high bell curve for this module?

How to study GET1029? I’m worried I don’t study in the wrong way.

how do we keep up with the module? esp students from a vastly different faculty

do you have any tips if we are looking to take philosophy as a second major?

What is the best mindset to have when approaching this module?

How well-versed in philosophical jargon do we need to be to properly experience this module?

The curve for this module is… very classical. Mostly because of large numbers. By the way, in case you are under some misinformation–the NUS curve is actually relatively forgiving. No one needs to fail, for instance. Also, if there’s good reason to deviate, we will just have to deviate and justify. I also take it a matter of doctrine to design modules that–in principle–everyone enrolled can pass. That is, I see it as my job to give you the sort of structured learning experience that, as long as you are willing to do the work, you will be able to learn and pass! So how to keep up? Take the intended workflow mentioned in W01 seriously and be consistent. Work together with tutorial small group mates and other peers–test each other’s understanding. Don’t be shy to reach out to your tutors or I to seek clarifications where needed. All this applies whether you are intended to take Philosophy as your first major, second major, minor, or just reading this module.

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