Philosophy Question

Same formatting and grading guidelines as previous papers (5-7pgs, 12pt font, double spaced, etc). Please see other assignment sheets if you have any questions. The final paper is intended to be rather straightforward.

  • Explain what a thought experiments is.
  • Explain the benefits of thought experiments.
  • Explain the limitations of thought experiments.

That’s it. At a more detailed level –

  • Make sure to include a pair of thought experiments – like the Trolley Problem cases – where you’re supposed to draw 2 conflicting conclusions about the scenarios. These can be Trolley vs. Organ Transplant; Chairmen; your own; or other researched examples
  • Make sure to describe each scenario. Explain the conclusion. Present the basic principle that explains the conclusion. (e.g., Trolley Driver = redirect trolley, killing 1 less bad than killing 5, pure consequentialist reasoning; Organ Transplant = no surgery, killing 1 worse than letting 5 die, not consequentialist – maybe something about killing being worse than letting people die.) This will be harder if you make up your own cases, but its totally up to you.
  • When you explain what a thought experiment is, you might consider comparing to scientific experiments. Explain what is “experimental” about them? What are we supposed to be able to get from them? What is the methodology (<= super important). We said a lot about this in class, so feel free to address anything that seems important.
  • We talked about a lot of pros/cons. It is okay for you to favor one side and to ultimately conclude that they’re no good (or great!), but make sure you give each side a balanced discussion.
  • If you like thought experiments, you might focus on something more like the Trolley Problem, since it has generated a lot of important discussion. If you hate them, you might focus on the Chairmen because the study had some obvious flaws. This is not necessary however. Talk about whichever you like however you like. Use your judgment.
  • You may limit your discussion to an abstract discussion. Once you give your pair of cases, you needn’t talk about the philosophical/ethical substance of the cases or the disagreement they cause. You would only need to talk about, for example, how the method works in the context of the cases. Basically, use the cases to explain how the method works.
  • However, you may choose to engage with the philosophical debate. One place this might show up is when talking about pros/cons. For example, you might note that thought experiments like the Trolley problem can help us get to generalizable principles. While it might intuitively seem like we’re making inconsistent judgments about the different cases (and therefore getting different conclusions), it might turn out that there’s a more general explanation for our intuitions. The DDE, for example, seems to be able to explain both. The DDE is….The thought experiments helps us discover this by…You get it? You do not need to do this sort of applied work. This is just one way to approach the problem.
  • You might consider trying the new Intro. style that I suggested, but you do not have to do that. If you’re comfortable with the Intro. style I already taught you and want to stick with it – go ahead. Try the new style (just presenting the pair of cases at the intro and offering a brief analysis) only if you feel like it. Its a chance to shake things up, but don’t do it if you think you have a better way of introducing the cases. I suggested this only because I know some of you will struggle effectively incorporating the cases into the paper. This will be especially true for people who only want to do the more abstract analysis. This way, you can introduce them. Say that they’re important. Give the general intro. to say what you’ll do in the paper in light of this interesting methodology, and then just sort of abandon the cases. If you know how to tie them in more organically, please do so. There are many many ways of incorporating the thought experiments into the paper.