Life, the Universe, and Everything

A Course Blog for GET1029/GEK1067

Month: September 2020 (page 1 of 3)

An Interview with Galen Strawson on Free Will and Moral Responsibility

An Interview with Galen Strawson

Quiz 05 Hints

  • Question 1

Do watch the question as it was phrased–“Given the concepts introduced in class, whose statement, if true, will undermine Lena’s position (i.e., make it more likely to be false)?

  • Question 2

Note that the options only claim that someone has a correct understanding of the concept of political authority, not that everything the person has stated is true.

  • Question 3

Note that the question refers to every instance of the “Sam” Argument. Hope this isn’t mysterious. Remember that I introduced “Sam” as an “Argument Template” (see Slide #16). Each time you fill in a different “X”, you get a different “instance” of the “Sam” Argument. For Lena–she’s basically saying that if you take any government + private pair, different moral standards properly apply to them. Some of you seem to be having trouble parsing the participle clauses in what Bern and Will said. Basically, “A’s being F is a sufficient condition for B’s being G” = “A is F” is a sufficient condition for “B is G“, etc.

  • Question 6

See the Q/A for W06 and look for the bit that begins “You can hold everyone to the same general standards while…” for a hint.

  • Question 8

You can interpret what Gene says as meaning: “A contract may not be necessary. They may be other good reasons for enforcing the proposed rule, e.g., to preserve our sanity.” And do remember you can focus on each person’s second sentence.

Quiz 04 Debrief

The outcome is ok (median = 5), but many more of you were thrown off by Questions 6 and 7 than we originally anticipated. Click through to see…

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A Sensible Take on “Neo-Liberalism”

Since someone asked in the last Q/A, here goes.

W06 Q/A

Update–from some of the questions (look for the section beginning “The Sam Argument(s)” below), I realized that some students are confused about what Philosophical Anarchism (vs. Philosophical Statism) is claiming. So let me begin with some clarification, distinguishing it from some nearby claims.

To do that, let me pose a series of yes/no questions:

(Q1) Does government have the moral permission to coerce (at least some times) because it is government that’s doing the coercion?

(Q2) Does government have the moral permission to coerce, at least some times?

(Q3) Do citizens have the moral duty to obey the government, at least some times, because it is the government that’s issuing the order?

(Q4) Do citizens have the moral duty to obey the government, at least some times?

(Q5) Does government coercing subjects bring about good outcomes at least some times?

(Q6) Do citizens obeying the government bring about good outcomes at least some times?

For the purposes of the class, Philosophical Anarchism is the position that answers “NO!” while Philosophical Statism is the opposing position that answers “YES!” to Q1. What you need to keep in mind is that answering Q1 in either way does not entail taking a stand an answer to any of the other questions. The converse is true as well. So suppose you have reason to believe the correct answer to Q2-Q6 is “YES!”–this doesn’t constitute an objection against answering “NO!” to Q1 at all.

It’s conceptually possible for someone to answer “NO!” to Q1, and “YES!” to all the other question. Such a person won’t be a typical Philosophy Anarchist (since typically, they would answer “NO!” at least to Q3 as well), but the position she holds won’t be contradictory. (To see this–just imagine a case where you (by the terms of the scenario) have a moral duty to obey someone. So if you don’t obey, you would be morally blameworthy. But by itself, this won’t entail that the someone has the permission to coerce you–to apply force or threaten you with force–to get you to obey. Likewise the reverse.)

Here goes…

What do you think is the ideal method of governance? (Democracy/Communism/Etc)

Most certainly not Communism as it was/is practiced in actual Communist countries (as opposed to imaginary ones). Other than that, probably some sort of representative democracy with a healthy respect for the private sphere and civil association and other qualifications. But what do I know? Let me quote a passage from Plato though–

Socrates: “Until philosophers rule as kings or those who are now called kings and leading men genuinely and adequately philosophize, that is, until political d power and philosophy entirely coincide, while the many natures who at present pursue either one exclusively are forcibly prevented from doing so, cities will have no rest from evils, Glaucon, nor, I think, will the human race.” (Plato, Republic 473c-d)

Moving on…

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Argument by Moral Analogy

Some of you have noticed how Norcross’ Puppy Argument, Singer’s Drowning Child Argument, and what I called Huemer’s “Sam” Argument share the same overall argumentative strategy. This a post about that overall strategy.

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Political Authority and Utilitarianism/Consequentialism

This question comes up each time I teach this material–could we mount a Utilitarian or Consequentialist argument in support of Political Authority? Here’s an easy way for there to be something that looks like political authority under Utilitarianism (I’ll explain why it doesn’t really work in a bit). So according to Utilitarianism, the right thing for a government agent (or anyone) to do, is to undertake the action among the available options that would have produced the greatest balance of happiness over unhappiness in the world. Conceivably, scenarios can arise where the right thing for that person to do, is to order and coerce the citizens to make them do something. But here’s the problem. The above is not really the sort of outcome that brings comfort to a true Statist.

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Further Thoughts on the Social Contract (Long Post)

The first time I taught this module years ago, I wasn’t happy with the way I delivered this lecture, especially my treatment of the Social Contract Theory. So I wrote a series of blog posts to supplement the lecture. I’m somewhat happier with subsequent versions of this lecture, but since these posts were already written, I might as well make them available, with suitable updates. Note that the below will probably make more sense if you have already followed W06 and have the slides handy. Since there are three different versions of the theory to be considered, this post is going to be quite long.

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The ‘Majority’ can be Less than 51%; Roving and Stationary Bandits

I mentioned in W06 that depending on how you set up your electoral system, it’s possible for people who were supported by less than 51% of the population to form the government. The video below explains how this can happen.

And that little bit about Roving vs. Stationary Bandits…

Podcast Episode #04

On the quizzes, with a current student guest!

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