PHIL 440A:  MIDTERM EXAM PART II (TAKE-HOME ESSAY)

 

WORD LIMIT = 1500 WORDS (100 WORDS GRACE)

DUE IN THE PHIL 440 ELECTRONIC DROPBOX AT MIDNIGHT (MORE OR LESS) ON TUESDAY, JULY 5. 

 

Topic:  Evolution and Sensitivity to Normative Truth.

 

            This is a paper on what it makes the most sense to believe on the assumption that human beings are the product of a blind process of evolution.  You may not believe that it is true that human beings are the product of a blind process of evolution, but you should be able to consider what it would make sense to believe if that is assumed to be true. 

            The paper has three parts: (a) first, you must explain the problem:  In Ruse’s terms, the problem is that evolutionary explanations make objective moral truths “redundant”; in Harman’s terms, the problem is that objective moral truths seem to be explanatorily irrelevant.  In class, we discussed how both of these arguments can be understood as arguments that, even if there are moral truths, our moral beliefs are not sensitive to them.  Use ideas from the Ruse and Harman articles to make the strongest argument that you can in favor of their position.  Make sure to explain the concept of sensitivity that you employ in your argument.  (b) Moral realists often respond to these arguments with a “companions in guilt” response.  Refer to at least two authors in the readings to help you construct the strongest “companions in guilt” response that you can to the argument in part (a).  (c) Explain your own position on this issue and give reasons why you favor one side over the other.  (You must choose a side.)

            A great danger in a paper like this is that it will be totally abstract.  To prevent this you must use examples to explain the central issues and to explain the views of the philosophers you discuss.   You are welcome to use examples that they discuss or examples that we have discussed in class.  You are also free to develop your own examples. 

            Your paper should have an introduction that grabs the reader’s attention and gives the reader an overview of the paper.  Because of the word limit, it is not necessary to have a conclusion in which you summarize the main results of the paper. All that is necessary is that you make it clear what your position is and why you favor it over the other side.

 

            BEFORE TURNING IN YOUR ESSAY, MAKE SURE THAT IT COMPLIES WITH THE PAPER GUIDELINES (SEE SEPARATE HANDOUT).

 

            IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THE TOPIC, DISCUSS THEM WITH ME OR SEND THEM TO ME BY EMAIL.  DO NOT DISCUSS THIS ASSIGNMENT WITH ANYONE ELSE.  YOU ARE TO WRITE THIS ESSAY ENTIRELY ON YOUR OWN.