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 ContractTheory. 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.
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…
Consider again the standard Trolley Problem where by switching the rails, you can save five people from certain death by allowing the trolley to crash into one. Supposedly, most people think that switching the rails in the scenario is at least permissible, if not obligatory. Utilitarians have a straightforward way to explain the judgment–the five lives are worth more than the one, five times as much, in fact (assuming that each of the lives involved is worth about the same).
he In W03 Right and Wrong, I mentioned that to resolve the issue about knowledge posed by the Tandey case, some Consequentialists prefer to talk in terms of the expected outcome of an action, rather than actual outcome. In this post, I will expand on this idea. But before that, let’s make sure we are on the same page.
The basic version of Consequentialism introduced in W03 says that the moral status of an action is all about the value of its outcome for the world; we have only one duty—to act so as to bring about the best overall outcome for the world. A couple of points to note. First, this outcome (or “consequence”) includes everything that the action brings about, which, incidentally, includes the action itself. Second, Consequentialists are interested in the value of the outcome for the world, i.e., in other words, whether this outcome is good or bad for everyone (or everything within the relevant domain). Since it’s “everyone”, the agent himself is, of course, included too; the point here is just that the good outcome can’t just be good for the agent or those he cares about, but in some sense good “for everyone”.
So the Deontologist thinks that the action is right which conforms to categorical norms. The Consequentialist thinks that the action is right which brings about the best outcome for the world. But what about Virtue Ethics? In this post, I’ll say a bit more about Virtue Ethics but keep in mind that we aren’t focusing on it for the purposes of the module.
Let’s begin with terms that we use to appraise the character of people. Not just a specific action at a specific time, but a person as an entity that displays a pattern of conduct over time, and from whom we can expect more of the same. Think appraisals like “he is a brave person“, “he is a kind fella“, “she is compassionate“, “she is a filial daughter“, “he is an honest broker“. (These are just examples.) The important point is that when we say such things, we often don’t just mean that the person has done one or two brave or kind or compassionate thing, but that the person has a brave or kind or compassionate disposition. For instance, a compassionate person can be expected to do certain sorts of things in a range of circumstances–when she sees a stranger in dire straits she steps forward to contribute some cash, when she sees a child lost in the mall she tries to calm her down and helps contact the parents, and so on.
I will be brief for most of the questions (additions in blue). And, as announced, I won’t be posting the questions since you were allowed to take them out of the exam hall (so please don’t email me to ask for them). The 75th, 50th, and 25th percentile scores are 17, 15, 12, respectively. Yes, this one turns out to be harder. But please don’t fret–this is where the NUS curve is in your favor. A very few forms had incorrect matriculation numbers, but I was able to figure out all of them and account for all students who took the exam. I expect to finalize all marks by no later than Wednesday/Thursday. Click through to see…
The survey continues with similar efforts in previous semesters, and a total of 398 students submitted responses. Module Design and Workload used to be two distinct surveys, but with the newly added “Effects of Learning through Peer Discussions” data study, I’ve rolled some of what used to be in the Workload survey into the Module Design survey; the rest are in the data study.
This post is not just for you, but also a way for me to organize my own thinking. Feel free to send me further comments by email or come talk to me directly. Comparisons are always with runs of the module in the past under me (rather than any other instructor). I’ll start with the quantitatives (data taken as of 10:30AM 20 November)…
I’m in the process of collating your peer review for the Special Project. The overall impression reading the comments on group dynamics is that most students had a positive experience with the group–in some cases, even a very positive experience. I won’t have time to post extensive analysis of the qualitative comments but the attached wordcloud for Question 4 (“Any further general comments about your project group”) created using https://www.wordclouds.com/ gives you a sense of the overall situation. (Click on the graphics to see a larger version.)
Below are my preliminary analysis of the quantitative returns, dated as of evening of 11 November.