Feb. 19. 2014
● 3 different parts: Identify, short answer, and essay
● identify: author, title of the text, and a sentence or two about what the specific quote is
saying (don’t be generic)
● short answer: questions like the reading questions; many of them will come directly from
the reading question (things that we talked about in class and were in the reading
questions have the highest possibility to appear on the exam)
● only one prompt: compare different authors on their views and give your own argument
on which you agree with; don’t need to have a thesis statement
● Declarations of Independence; the Kant and Mill’s views on different scenarios
● What do you need to know in a utilitarian calculus?
○ the consequences of your action. The objection is that knowing the consequence
of an action means having an empirical knowledge about things that haven’t
happened yet, which is impossible.
○ Mill said that over generations, empirical data about what leads to happiness has
● Act utilitarianism: you apply the utility principle to each case that you’re thinking of.
● Rule utilitarianism: apply secondary principles (e.g. don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t kill,etc)
to each case and use the utility principle to determine exceptions. With secondary
principles, there can be exceptions in which you can put aside a secondary principle as
long as you are justified by the utility principle (e.g. Although there is a secondary
principle saying do not lie, you can lie when a murderer asks you if the innocent person
he is pursuing is hiding in your house).
○ Objection is that secondary principles seem more obligatory and obvious than
the utility principle. Mill responds that it’s only because we were taught that way
(Don’t lie, don’t cheat, etc.).
● If you can have strong subjective commitment to the transcendence of a religion, you
can also have a strong subjective commitment to the utility principle.
● Mill doesn’t care what your motives were to a moral action. But he does say that relying
on your inner conscience and inner sanctions is much more reliable rather than basing
your motives on external sanctions.
● How do you know the very distinct consequences of your action? The utility calculus is at
a limbo because what you did can be right at the moment but can be wrong in the future
(e.g. When you saved a person’s life but then later that person went on to kill a lot of
people; did you do the right thing to save that person’s life?)
● Having a strong conscience is not enough; you also have to be well-educated to know
whether or not you have the right kind of conscience or not.
● Unity you feel with others is the base of the utilitarianism.If one’s conscience is based on
this fellowship/unity feeling with others, then it’s the right kind of conscience. Ignorance is what break down the sense of unity.
February 24, 2014 On Liberty- Mill
● J.S. Mill and his wife wrote the book together but she gets a sudden illness and
● When Mill met his wife, she was married to John Taylor with two kids. They
decide to “share” and live altogether. They lived like this for twenty years.
○ Back in Mill’s time, this was even more socially unacceptable. Some
people criticized that modern ideas about society lead to improper way of
things. Mill was shunned and ostracized by his friends.
● Mill gives history of the struggle for liberty
○ the struggle took different forms and stages
○ first struggle: to carve out certain particular freedom from absolute power;
constitutional checks; small discrete ways
■ Britain: new taxes can only be levied by the parliament, not by the
crown; taxation was one area where the absolute power did not
have power over and this was seen as liberty during this time
○ second struggle: to have the government by the people
■ being a patriot for liberty was trying to bring forth the government
for the people
○ third struggle: to have political liberties from the tyranny of the majority;
problem of conformity in which if you don’t follow the norms then you are
■ Simply having the government by the people is not enough. Those
who rule are not the same kind of people who they rule over
■ even if you have a perfectly functioning democracy, you can still
have a effect of tyrannizing of majority groups on minority groups
■ Bill of Rights was created for tackling this specific problem → Mill’s
argument is unfair?
■ one example of tyranny (or oppression) of the majority is not being
allowed to buy alcohol on Sunday because it is Lord’s day. The
minority group who aren’t Christians are being oppressed.
■ Connection to Locke’s argument about civil society: if you join a
society, you need to submit to the decision of the majority or else
the society won’t function correctly. Mill says this argument opens
the door for a whole new type of tyranny.
■ “Social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression”
● your soul is enslaved and you might not even know you are
oppressed (happy conformist)
● just because you push for political freedom doesn’t mean
you’re free because you have this social and personal
oppression and not even know it
■ “very simple principle”
● one simple principle that tells us whether or not we should
be interfered by the majority rule or not
○ only interfere to prevent harm from others; if you’re
harming others then you can be interfered by the
○ suicide is now allowed because you can harm
yourself, just not others. (very contrasting with Locke’s
argument about how you can’t quit your own station)
○ you can try to talk and convince someone to not do it
but you can’t interfere with them if he is harming no
one or only harming himself
■ There is this domain of absolute sovereignty that each individual
has and it has to do with one’s own body and mind.
● If I’m not interfering with anyone else in the society, then
there is no question to if any interference is possible.
■ Only children and people who are mentally ill should be subject to
paternalism. But treating normal mature people with paternalism
and telling them this is what you ought to do is offensive and wrong.
■ p.9-10 “Barbarians”: referring to non-European people and saying
that because they aren’t mature enough to self-govern themselves,
they can be governed and be subjected to paternalism →
preceding idea to the “White man’s burden” concept; justification to
“moral” imperialism → not only racist, but hypocritical to his own
beliefs about individual liberty, open debate among individuals etc.
■ In terms of his method, how is he going to argue his liberty?
● he says he won’t use the idea of “abstract right” to liberty as
an argument ; he will instead argue that it is always best for
the benefit of society when all individuals have liberty for
personal pursuits and unity with others (as long as it doesn’t
● he is trying to connect utility principle with liberty.
● freedom is not entirely the matter of the government you live
under (e.g. social tyranny); by freedom, Mill means each
person pursuing their own good in their own way ● We are all better off when everybody is free instead of being
concerned with impeding each other’s liberty
Feb. 26. 2014 On Liberty Ch. 2
● almost all philosophers were persecuted in some way for voicing their opinions
(tortured,killed, imprisoned, etc.)
○ Socrates, Aristotle, Confucius, Epictetus, Boethius, Descartes, Locke, Mill,
Camus, Arenot, Martin Luther King
○ nowadays in United States, we take our right to expressing our thoughts
for granted and as self-evident. (there are places in the world where it is
still dangerous to speak up)
● Mill’s view on silencing dissenting opinion
○ when the dissenting opinion is true
■ rejecting an opinion by saying that you know it is wrong even before
hearing it is assuming infallibility → no human beings are infallible
■ an objection to his view is that a society needs to be decisive in
order to get things dome--it’s not assuming infallibility; it’s just
assuming something is true so decisions can be made
● he responds: there’s a difference BETWEEN assuming
something is true while allowing people to voice their
opinions and making a best decision after listening to both
sides of a debate AND assuming something is true while not
permitting any opportunities for other opinions
■ Mill says that beliefs are strong when they are contested
● example: devil’s advocate
○ even Roman Catholic Church hears dissenting
opinions in its own work
● things that were scrutinized through tests and questionings
are stronger than things that were never scrutinized and
■ Mill says that the incidents when false things are replaced by true
things over time can take place best when people have liberty to
expressing their thoughts and there is openness of debate
■ not listening to an opinion because one thinks it’s impious, immoral,
etc. lead to most horrendous outcomes (e.g. in current days, we
think that people who killed Socrates or Jesus are immoral, not
Socrates or Jesus who they once accused of blasphemy and
○ when the dissenting opinion is false
■ even if you’re going to stick with your true opinion to the end, you should hear the false opinion in order to be challenged→ you need
to genuinely know why you believe your opinion is true
■ if you happen to know something and don’t necessarily know why
it’s true, that’s not really having true belief and knowledge about it.
■ knowledge= justified true belief
● what’s the difference between knowledge and belief?
○ knowing why you believe what you believe makes a
belief true and justified, and therefore knowledge
○ when the dissenting opinion is half true/ half false
■ You get the fullest picture of something when you look at it through
many different kinds of perspectives. By hearing all perspectives
that are each partially true, you can get a fuller picture of what is
○ conclusion: it doesn’t matter whether the content is true or not. All opinions
are worthy to be heard and should be defended to be heard, no matter
what the content is, except the ones that cause harm to people (e.g. false
fire). Silencing an opinion is never good on utilitarian grounds.
Feb. 28. 2014
● Early Christians vs. Modern Christians
○ if you hold something while not knowing why you hold something is only
○ Why were the early Christians in a better position?
■ Christians in the past were challenged on many grounds and had to
fight and defend their beliefs. A religion that is widely promoted
becomes a hereditary creed instead of something an individual
passionately holds→ religious beliefs become a dead dogma; you
have the tendency of the belief but they don’t really have any
meaning and value to you → leads to mediocre life
● Freedom of tastes and pursuits (First page of ch. III)
○ Actions are never as free as opinions.
■ Within your own domain of absolute sovereignty, it is not even a
question that the society should interfere with your opinions.
■ But when you step out of your domain of absolute sovereignty,
when actions that could affect other people are considered, society
can have interest in what you are doing and even interfere if it
violates the harm principle.
March 10, 2014 ● Genius
● Critically-minded average man
● Blindly-conformist average man
● The first two are men in a state of individuals. Not everyone who live according to
their own view of how one should live will turn out to be a genius (not referring to
a high level of intelligence; having a will to go their own way). But at least they
are each trying to be a critically minded average man who is autonomous and
only adapt views that he himself believes to be true.
● We need to promote individualism because it might produce a genius, which will
greatly benefit the society. But even if we take the social benefit of a genius
argument off the table, there is also the utilitarian argument that each one of us is
better off and happier by being free as an individual and sovereign over our own
● Mill’s view on social contract
○ not as technical as Locke puts it but he does say there is an exchange;
Locke’s and Mill’s basis of the argument are different.
○ Locke says that you owe things to the society in your own virtue because
you gave your consent when you entered the society
○ Mill wants to move away from the idea of a contract because he thinks it’s
superfluous; whether or not you gave a consent, you have already
benefited from the society so you already owe things to the society
○ First thing you owe to the society is to not injure others (harm principle;
same as Locke’s). Second thing you owe to the society is that each
person owe protection from harm to each other.
● What is the boundary between your freedom and another’s freedom?
Spontaneous consequences vs. punishment
○ If someone is acting in their domain of self-regarding actions but is
nevertheless causing you discomfort, are you limited by the harm principle
to even voice your opinion about how you feel about it?
■ When someone is doing something you disagree with, you can try
to communicate and convince him/her or shunning the person
(natural and spontaneous consequence with no intention of
harming the person in any way). But if you try to make him/her life
worse (e.g. slandering someone or even boycotting because it’s
harming someone’s financial interests), hoping that you can change
his/her behavior, you are trying to punish him in some way and you
are now violating the harm principle. You are overstepping your
own domain of freedom and infringing on his/her domain of
freedom. ● Domain of self-regarding actions
○ Isn’t it everybody’s duty to set a good example for others? Mill says no,
you cannot interfere with somebody just because he/she is setting a bad
example for others. In fact, a person who lives a wasteful life is setting a
good example to others by showing them that living that way brings bad
consequences. But he does say that if someone hurts oneself or one’s
possessions when people are dependent on him/her, he/she does deserve
to be punished.
○ Modification to the harm principle: In addition to injuring others, you can
also be punished when you violate your distinct and assignable obligations
(e.g. obligation of a father to his family prohibits him from leaving his
family without providing sustenance because its a harm; obligation of a
police or a soldier). Society cannot impose a judgement that gambling is
bad. But it can interfere with a man who gambles if he loses all his money
and cannot provide for his family. In addition, even investing or giving
money to the poor when a man cannot provide for his own family is also
violating his distinct obligation.
March 14, 2014
Existentialism vs. Essentialism
● Existentialism asks the question: What is it like to actually live as a human being
today? You are the person you made yourself and you can be a different kind of
person if you choose to. Each individual has the absolute power to be the type of
person he/she wants to be. Every person has different things they find
meaningful and worthy. What is a particular person like and what makes his/her
● Essentialism asks the question: What is a human being? What is human nature?
What is the essence of human beings? These questions strip away individuality
and unique passion that each and every individual has.
Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
● Danish; last name means graveyard
● his father is a self-made man who went from rag to riches; Soren was his
seventh child. Then later his children began to die one by one because of a
disease. Soren was sure that he will die by the age of 33.
● He wrote books with a pseudonym. What was unique with his writing is that he
wrote not in his own perspective but in someone else’s perspective and said that
it is the perspective of the person he used as his pseudonym.
○ wrote in a first-person point of view of three characters who lives a/an
■ Aesthetic Life: Enjoyment; Hedonist ■ Ethical Life: Duty/Responsibility
■ Religious Life: Faith
● He agreed with the idea behind Socrates refusal to be a teacher of someone.
Instead of making people become followers of his ideas and decide what is best
for them, he wanted people to make their own decisions and choices to how to
live a life.
The Present Age
● People think through things so much in so many aspects that they lose
motivation and passion. Instead of deliberating how to act upon their passion,
people deliberate in how to avoid actually acting.
● Kierkegaard would probably say that Descartes was a passionate thinker who
actively and passionately threw himself into the whirlpool in doubting everything.
We say, “Yea, I agree with Descartes and I doubt everything too” but we are only
inactively agreeing and not actually existentially worrying about it like Descartes
● By “rules of careful conduct and ready-reckoners,” he means that we have these
mental calculators that facilitate our judgment (e.g. categorial imperative and the
utility principle). We are not confronting ethical issues in life ourselves and letting
something else decide for us. We are not passionately grappling with these
● He says that there is something inhuman about a person who is a principle-
● Advertising and Publicity
○ there is a constant height that something is happening but really nothing
great is happening
○ we substitute a thing with the idea of the thing
● Jewel out on the ice
○ Jewel represents whatever that is highly desired. People in the passionate
age were decisive and risked themselves to acquire the jewel, whatever it
may be for them. Now in the age of reflection we value the cleverness of
refraining ourselves from outcomes that could be risky.
○ If you have a show of admiration for someone who deep down you
actually don’t have any admiration for, everything becomes a joke.
○ In order to have meaning and passion in things, we need to have heroes.
We need to humble ourselves to admit that there are people greater than
you, at least in particular aspects, and passionately admire them.
○ Now we shrewdly rationalize that someone became a hero by chance and
that anyone could become like him/her with some practice instead of
having a genuine admiration that he/she is greater than one in a particular
aspect. March 17, 2014 Kierkegaard
● Most people don’t have a guiding passion (highest goal). Which way of life
(Aesthetic, Ethical, or Religious) gives the best highest goal to guide a p