September 2012

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Here are the new (week #4) “shorty” topics; please do one of these. These are due by email Sunday night, September 30th. As always, send to Bonnie if you’re registered for PHI 632 and to Ron if you’re registered for PHI 652. And more information is on the Shorties Page.

  1. In chapter 4, Gilbert uses the contrast between Adolph Fischer and George Eastman to make a point about a common mistake people make when attempting to predict happiness. What is the mistake, and do you think it helps to explain or illuminate the example of Fischer and Eastman? Why or why not?
  2. Gilbert claims that we “fill” in the future assessment of how much we’ll like something in something like the way vision “fills in” the blind spot in the eye, or areas in the periphery of vision. What do you think are the best (most accurate and illuminating) and worst (most misleading) consequences of taking this parallel seriously?
  3. What are Griffin’s arguments against hedonism, as recounted by Sumner? Could Bentham or Mill defend hedonism against these arguments? How?
  4. Sumner says that he is looking for “something in between”. In between what two things? What’s the best reason for thinking that there is something in between in the way he thinks, or the best reason for resisting that idea?
  5. In the middle of page 9, Sumner accuses Griffin of a confusion. What is that confusion supposed to be? Does Summer’s criticism seem right? Why or why not?
  6. One of Sumner’s main criticisms of a desire theory of happiness is it implies that we can be benefited by occurrences we never experiences, such as those that occur after we die. Is that right? Defend or rebut this criticism.
  7. What bit of data reported on by Railton do you think has the largest impact on what your view of happiness (or well-being, or whatever)? Why should it have such an impact?
  8. Explain how Sumner uses discounting to resolve the question of whether the wife was or was not happy during the years when she was being deceived. Are you persuaded by his account? Should you be? Why, or why not?

Here are the new (week #3) “shorty” topics; please do one of these. These are due by email Sunday night (Sept. 16th). As always, send to Bonnie if you’re registered for PHI 632 and to Ron if you’re registered for PHI 652. And more information is on the Shorties Page.

  1. According to Julia Annas, in twentieth century moral philosophy “virtues have typically been seen merely as dispositions to do the right thing, or to do the right thing reliably…” (247) What two predictable results of this conception of the virtues does she identify? Is she correct in thinking that the virtues cannot play an important role in utilitarianism?
  2. Can one consistently hold, as Socrates did, that (1) everything we do, we do in order to be happy and (2) virtue is the only thing worth having — that being a good person is more important than wealth, health, or even preserving one’s life? If the view is consistent, is it plausible?
  3. Why does Socrates believe that being virtuous is sufficient for happiness? Compare his view with Aristotle’s and/or Hume’s. Which do you find more plausible and why?
  4. Can an immoral person be happy? Consider Hume’s views as well as those of Cahn and Murphy.
  5. Why does Adeimantus claim that it is not justice, but the appearance of justice, that benefits a man? How does Socrates try to show that justice itself, and not its appearance, is to a man’s own interest and advantage?

Here are the new (week #2) “shorty” topics; please do one of these. These are due by email Sunday night (Sept. 9th). As always, send to Bonnie if you’re registered for PHI 632 and to Ron if you’re registered for PHI 652. And more information is on the Shorties Page.

  1. Epicurus claims both that no pleasure is intrinsically bad and virtue is a necessary and sufficient condition for leading a pleasant life. In your view, can he consistently maintain both views? Why or why not?
    How might Bentham respond to Nozick’s experience machine example?

  2. Mill famously says, “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.” (123) Can he consistently make this claim and be a hedonist? Why or why not?
  3. Haybron says that hedonism “appears to commit something of a category mistake.” (176) What does he mean by this, and is he right?
  4. According to Haybron, happiness has a causal depth that pleasure lacks. What does he mean by this? Is this claim consistent with his project of determining the nature of happiness as a psychological state? Why or why not?
  5. Haybron faults hedonism for treating the case of the flat tire as it treats the case of the parent who learns of a child’s sudden death. Explain why he thinks this shows that hedonism is false. Can a successful hedonist response be made?