Shorty topics #5

More “shorty” topics; these are set #5, due by email Sunday night, October 7th. As always, send to Bonnie if you’re registered for PHI 632 and to Ron if you’re registered for PHI 652, and find more information is on the Shorties Page. (Remember, the Railton is continuing into this week, and we’re doing the Seneca and Kekes pieces, but the Annas and Kraut are being pushed back one week.)

  1. After rejecting the notion that pleasure is the highest good, Seneca characterizes Epicurus’ teachings as “upright and holy.” How do the views of Epicurus and Seneca differ, if at all?
  2. Both Kekes and Seneca reject the view that happiness is getting what you want. Explain and compare their views on this issue.
  3. According to Kekes, “…a man is extremely unlikely to have a happy life without having a more or less clearly formed view about what his life should be.” (181) Explain his reasons for thinking this. According to Gilbert, the notion of a rational life-plan as a constitutive part of having a happy life is in serious conflict with what we know about human psychology. Who do you think is right, and why?
  4. Kekes suggests that hedonism is either trivially true or false. Explain his view. Could a sophisticated hedonist give a plausible response?
  5. Kekes’ rejection of the single-minded pursuit of one end seems to imply that someone passionately devoted to something — excelling in art, philosophy, science, or a sport, for example — could never be happy. Is this a defect of his account? Why or why not?
  6. What is the role of luck, if any, in Kekes’ architectonic conception of happiness?
  7. Kekes gives two ways in which a person might be mistaken about whether her life is happy. What are they? Does either of these ways pertain to the example Sumner gives of the woman married to a faithless husband? Suppose he was an incredibly good liar so that his wife’s belief that he was faithful was a reasonable one. On Kekes’ account, should we say that the woman was happy during the years she was unaware of his dual life?
  8. According to Kekes, a happy man may be immoral. Is this claim consistent with his overall view? Why or why not?
  9. How is Railton’s “delta meter” example supposed to account for some of the data about subjective well-being? Do you think this account is successful? Why or why not?