A relatively light week this one, which was good as I was up late watching the superbowl then up early to accept a delivery. This week focused first on whether it is bad to die (Epicurus didn’t think so, since you’d be dead so you shouldn’t/wouldn’t care) and if so why. The main theory put forward was the Deprivation View (it’s bad because of the things you can’t do/have on account of being dead) with a few different flavours within that view in terms of who/what it applies to (bad news for sheep) and how you measure the deprivation. No audio to listen to, which is good for me as I tend to drift off during long interviews (or get distracted doing something else at the same time), I am much more likely to take in the written word when independently studying.
I am still two weeks ahead of the schedule, so I managed to submit TMA03 on Friday ahead of going full-time with my studies and was able to start book 4 of the philosophy course. This books is titled “The Value of Life” and week 1 was looking at whether life is sacred, and if so why.
I’m going to have to say that I agree with Peter Singer on this one, that people indulge in a form of species-ism when they state that (specifically human) life is sacred, since if you are looking at it from a capabilities viewpoint then there are plenty of humans that fail to meet the thresholds that can be set and plenty of non-humans that meet them. I think it is one of those tricky cases where your gut is telling you one thing (that you are special and unique), but you can’t back it up in a logically coherent manner. This is a good example of why instincts should not be a guide for philosophy without the application of reflection and thorough interrogation.
I start the cognitive psychology course tomorrow.
I am still a couple of weeks ahead of the schedule, which was helpful at Saturday’s tutorial, as I recognised more of the material. This week was looking at the final chapter of the Reason in Action book, specifically looking at group agency and moral responsibility. I really enjoyed this chapter, looking at the different arguments for and against group agency and whether groups can have moral responsibility. Unfortunately the next assignment is looking at preferentism instead, but at least I have lots of time to think about it and work on it (especially since the next course book hasn’t been sent out yet). It’s worth a whopping 23% of my continuous assessment score, so I need to give it my full attention before my psychology course starts and begins to put pressure on my time and interest.
I’m managing to continue to keep a couple of weeks ahead of the schedule, which means that this week I was looking at the third of four chapters on ‘Reason in Action’ and hopefully means I will understand a bit more of what is said at this weekend’s tutorial than if I had only read the first chapter per the schedule.
A return of Plato to the philosophical discussion and his mouthpiece Socrates. As usual I found the arguments unconvincing, though I am not sure whether that is because the format is unfamiliar or that I find the Socrates character incredibly arrogant in his assumptions. I much preferred Richard Holton’s idea about weakness of will being an unreasonable change of intention to it being consciously and deliberately acting in a way known to be against your best interests. It strikes me as a more realistic approach and more everyday usage of the term that the traditional philosophical view.
I did both independent studies, but found the first tougher to slog through, much preferring the second which drew on psychological research. The books have arrived for my psychology course, and the website opens tomorrow. Exciting (and busy) times!
I’m continuing to use the Christmas break to get a head start on my philosophy studies before the psychology course kicks in and I’m back up to full-time studenting. The week was continuing to look at what values are “rational” to have and aim towards as goals, looking at some alternatives (but not really) to hedonism in preferentism (if I want it, then it must be valuable to me) and objectivism (I will tell you what you should want, it will be valuable to everyone). Some interesting side-roads of the interpretation of people’s preferences in under-developed nations by first world countries and whether preferentism is complicit in social oppression and whether the masses should just be allowed to eat cake.
Well, there’s timing for you. Having just posted that I hadn’t had my TMA result back yet (and maybe didn’t want it back), what comes flying into my inbox but the automated email that my marked assignment is available. Big breath and click through to the TMA section of the website (where you see the mark before you get the options to download the marked assignment and accompanying notes). My word, a 75. I will definitely take that. I was thinking a 67, I just wasn’t sure of my answer to the question. My tutor seemed to appreciate what I did though (and I appreciate his use of smiley faces), even if I did have a bit of a wobble at one point. Phew.
Last week was a review week after a TMA week and I am supposed to be on Christmas break for the next two weeks, but the next book arrived in the post and my next tutorial is only three weeks away, so I thought I may as well get ahead.
The new book is titled “Reason in action” and is looking at rationality and reasons for taking actions. This first week’s study was looking at whether happiness is a final value and brought in old friends Nozick with his experience machine thought experiment and of course David Hume and Jeremy Bentham (can’t have a discussion about hedonism without Bentham, or any philosophical discussion without Hume it appears). This time we got to pick holes in Nozick’s thought experiment when previously we hadn’t really been allowed to – so this is what level 3 feels like.
No sign of my TMA result yet. Technically it’s due back Xmas day. I’m not sure how it went so maybe it would be better if I didn’t get the result back until next year.
This week was finishing off the War book, looking at the ways in which people try and justify acting outside the jus in bello conditions during war, invoking supreme emergencies and ticking bomb scenarios. All a lot of smoke and mirrors in my opinion and all very unconvincing, especially when Walzer claims that only nation states can be exempted but can’t provide a good reason as to why. If people want to torture or bomb civilians then they should own it, not try and weasel they way into moral acceptability.
We also had our second tutorial on Saturday which started off badly for me with discussions of war in relation to prescriptive realism (bwuh?) but ended in more comfortable territory with Battlestar Galactica. I wonder if I can reference Homeland in my upcoming assignment?
An early start to the day and therefore an early start to the week’s study. Still with war, this week was looking at when it’s morally permissible to kill non-combatants and when it’s morally impermissible to kill combatants during war. Lots of amusing examples of naked soldiers in the bath being targeted by snipers, mostly I got to write the word ‘combatant’ a lot. This book seems a little different to the last as there seems to be more recounting of what other philosophers say and less thinking about things ourselves. Maybe it is the subject matter, or maybe it is just the author’s style, but things seem a little less complex than the previous topic of painful art.
I also got the result of my first essay back this week. It would seem that the strike my tutor was engaged in has ended as I got the comments and the mark back (a very healthy 78 which I was pleased with). In comparison to my previous philosophy tutor’s comments, these were perfection. instead of generalisations, there were specific comments about what was good, what could be altered (including how), and exactly what would have made the essay better and achieved a higher mark. All useful feedback that can be applied to the next essay without having to guess what the tutor is looking for. A good start, let’s hope I can maintain it.
More war again this week (but no tutorial as the tutor was ill, and no marked TMA either yet though the strike is still ongoing so I won’t get a score anyway). This week was looking at whether combatants in a war are morally equal. The traditional view is that they are, so each set of combatants can try and kill each other pretty much with impunity, but they should try and keep it proportionate and not kill too many civilians. The revisionist view is that just combatants (those fighting for a just cause) can try and kill unjust combatants (those fighting for an unjust cause), but an unjust combatant can never be morally justified in trying to kill anyone, so they are not morally equal.
Lots of paper thin lines drawn between excusability and justifiability, just and unjust, whether combatants can be expected to know whether they are fighting for just or unjust cause, whether a combatant is being aggressive or acting in self-defence, and whether the right to be killed can be given up entirely or temporarily when voluntarily enlisting in an armed force.
A lot of hypotheticals and ignoring that the real world is messy (naively I think that philosophy should be applicable to the real world or it’s all just pontificating).