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Anthropology 1026F/G Study Guide - Final Guide: Blackburn Blackburn, Egotism, Biological Determinism

Course Code
ANTH 1026F/G
Study Guide

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Write one essay - BB & topic (choice of topics: deals with a theory of ethics Blackburn talks about &
somehow join it with some discussion with Hippolytos)
Essay is 50% (out of 40)
20 Short Answer is 50% (2 marks per question, their are part marks, 40 marks)
Set of short answer questions
Straight forward - could answer in a word, no need for sentences, 4 lines is too long
Questions are from Blackburn
Some reasons are better than others
There are inclining reasons to be offered when there are disputes about ethics
When we express what we think it is not all we‟re doing, offer something behind the opinion and those are
the reasons
Sometimes some peoples opinions are not worth taking seriously because they are so wrong (objecting the
correct time).. finally we just tune them out.
Blackburn is prepared to tune out subjectivists (time wasting position)
Maximize pleasure, preferences, best interests
There are things we have to do that will be conturing to your best interests
There are choices like this that we have to make - but no one can ever make these choices - our wiring.
Is egoism correct?
It is a psychological theory
Grand Unifying theory, could be false/wrong
Egoism: an empirical, theory ought to be based on experience
Reason, there are things people can know A theory is only empirical if its at least possible for observations
to show that the theory is false/wrong.
Theory: always acts on self interest - its got to be an empirical theory because its about philosophy, which
is an empirical science

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Can we imagine situations where someone does not act within their own self interests? Example: self
sacrifice: they are not maximizing their own pleasure or happiness
cutting & anorexia - they are not maximizing their own pleasures
bad relationships - difficult to get out of, and then possibly back in another after
pathological cases, not acting to maximize their pleasure or satisfaction
Guilt can be overcome if the choice went towards pleasure and happiness
People will do the right thing without maximizing their own interests or pleasure
Ex) jumping on a grenade to lessen the impact for those around it
Think of cases that falsify the theory, and then see if there are any actual such cases in the world, therefore
we reject the theory because it is then false
Sacrifices people make for their own children, especially when there is not a great deal of satisfaction -
when there isn‟t much happiness, it will be a falsifying case
Not optimistically, but for them its the right thing to do
They get pleasure from the sense that this is the right thing to do
Look at them, do they look like they are having a good time? Often the answer is no.
Care for the child, but might institutionalize a child if they are physically or mentally ill
Some parents won‟t do that, some will
Forgetting the ethical issue, you will find a happier family when the child has been institutionalized.
WHOLE POINT: people will choose unhappy things
If this is true, there is some room for ethics, because they might choose the thing that makes them
People act heroically at the cost of themselves, does anyone believe in heroic action?
Gospel of John- lay his life down for his fellow man - idea of self sacrifice
Titanic - lay their lives down for strangers
Sacrifice friends over perfect stranger, where does that warmth of feeling come from? Yet one might still
do the relevant thing. There is non egoistic action
About Epicureans:

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Egoism is a threat to ethics
Everyone always acts for themselves - within their own best interest and there is no choice about this
matter (but if there really is no choice, then its just a waste of time to tell people to do what they can‟t)
It is obvious sometimes we don‟t act solely for ourselves
Altruistic action?
Behaviorist criterion of wanting
Action/choice is the criterion of whether there is a desire
Way of thinking about the mind
I cant see your thoughts or emotions
We can see what we do, how you talk (external)
You can never know what is going on within someone‟s mind
Behaviorists say - there is nothing going on internally, only observe responses, can predict what they will
If you take this general view of mental life
If you got to go get your kid in the middle of the night you must want to do it, because you chose it
We don‟t normally adopt the moralist way of talking (distances himself from behaviorism)
Behaviorism has a great deal of influence in North American psychology til the late 60‟s, therefore is was
an important way of thinking
since then, there is a more open way of mental states (interior)
Evolutionary Theory
If evolution is true, there cant be ethics
Organisms fall into groupings (different species of things) and within this their are subspecies
Traits get passed along when mating occurs and an offspring is produced, the genes of the parents in their
DNA is transfered into the fertilized egg - in effect, the DNA is a recipe for its own replication
But there‟s variation with ethnicities therefore variation with the offspring
Different traits within organisms contribute to different levels of biological fitness
Biological fitness - the number of offspring that one produces, the more, the greater chances of success
Different changes in time effect differences in biological fitness
The DNA doesn‟t want anything, its a machine, it doesn‟t want to reproduce itself
Blackburn points out biologists write about how genes want to reproduce themselves and that they are in
competition with each other as if they want their team to win
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