Epistemology

General instructions            The midterm is in two parts of equal weight: 1 epistemology, and 2 ethics and Utilitarianism. You should write an essay of about 500-1000 words on one topic from each part. You may undertake research and discuss your responses with others, but your essays should be entirely in your own words.

The best answers will show: that you understand and can apply key concepts from the first half of the course; that you can use technical terms correctly; that you are aware of and can express complexities in philosophical reasoning; that you are conscious of your own ethical preferences and biases. The best essays will be clearly organized, precisely and elegantly written, carefully proofread, and attractively presented.

Please submit your midterm as a single Word document.

Part 1 Epistemology

Write an essay of 500-1000 words on one of these three topics:

1          In what ways is our genetic inheritance vital to our understanding of the world? How might this genetic inheritance be unreliable? Illustrate this unreliability by discussing at least one episode from your life in detail.

2          Michel Foucault and others argue that people with power shape our view of the world in order to protect and enhance that power. Explain what he means in detail. Analyze an example of this pouvoir from your own experience.

3          Our decision-making is often handicapped by our poor collection and assessment of dataone common problem is confirmation bias. Explain what this means in detail. Analyze an example of this bias from your own experience.

4          Our ability to understand the world is often handicapped by the weakness, selectivity, and corruptibility of our memories. Discuss these problems in detail. Analyze a moment from your own experience where your memory led you astray.

Part 2 Ethics and Utilitarianism

Write an essay of about 500 words on one of these three topics:

1          Ethical reasoning is often divided into two general approaches: deontological and consequentialist. Define these terms, and analyze a case from your own experience where these different approaches led to different ethical judgments. How did you decide what to do or think?

2        Would you walk away from Omelas? What, if anything, would you do about the imprisoned child if you lived there? What ethical principles would underpin your conduct? How would you apply them?

3        What practical problems make the Principle of Utility difficult to use? Discuss how these difficulties might affect your decision about whether to inform your teacher that your friend has cheated.

4        What is “effective altruism”? What are its strengths and weaknesses as a guide to ethical decision-making? Discuss how you might apply it to a particular decision in your own life.

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