Due Date: Sunday, Nov. 29 (11:59pm EST) Assignment: Write a 3-5 page (12-pt font, double-spaced) paper in which you criticize a view, or argument, advanced by one of the authors we’ve read in this class. Guidance: Look through the readings we’ve done in the course from Week 4 on (beginning with Adam Smith). Find an argument, or a view, among any of those readings that interests you. (Maybe it’s one that you really hate.) Then, argue against that view in an original way. (By “original” I mean original relative to this class. It doesn’t have to be a thought that has literally never occurred to anyone on the planet. I just want the key move(s) in your paper to be something that has not already been stated explicitly in one of the course readings by one of our authors.) This list isn’t exhaustive, but here are a bunch of topics you might like to write about. • One version of the consequentialist argument for capitalism begins by pointing to a bunch of the empirical data (see slides 56-64) about how people in largely capitalist countries tend to live longer, have more leisure time, be way richer, way happier, and so on—especially relative to less capitalist countries. It concludes from this that capitalism is the best way to organize an economy. Is that a good argument? Why or why not? • Marx argues that capitalism inevitably leads to alienation for workers and that this is excellent reason to move away from a capitalist mode of production as soon as we can. Is he right? Why or why not? • Elizabeth Anderson argues that many employers have entirely too much control over workers’ lives. It’s similar in kind (though different in degree) to the way the worst communist regimes (not necessarily all of them) control and dominate their citizens. Is she right? Why or why not? • Tyler Cowen agrees that employers exert a lot of control over workers’ lives, but he argues that, once we take into account all the pros and cons of their having that control, things aren’t so bad. Is he right? Why or why not? • Milton Friedman argues that it’s a terrible idea to ask private firms to engage in “corporate social responsibility”—the practice of giving up or forgoing profits for the sake of achieving some nonbusiness-related, socially-desirable goal. He thinks that business managers aren’t competent to do that, so they shouldn’t try. Is he right about that? Why or why not? • Michael Sandel argues that it’s morally wrong to buy and sell some things, such as surrogacy services or bodily organs. Is he right about that? You can pick just one thing (e.g., kidneys) and focus on that, if you like. • Jason Brennan and Peter Jaworski argue that, if it’s morally permissible to give something away for free, it’s also permissible to sell it. Are they right? Why or why not? • Brennan and Jaworski think it’s morally permissible to run a private prison, sell your vote, pay kids for good grades, pay people for kidneys, etc. Are they right? (Again, you can, and probably should, just pick one of these items and argue that it shouldn’t be for sale.) • Jeffery Moriarty argues that CEOs are paid too much. He gives a bunch of arguments. He argues that CEOs don’t deserve their high pay, that it’s not the best way to cost-effectively help companies boost their profits, and that their pay is not as consensual as defenders of high CEO pay say it is. Is he right? • Jason Brennan argues that employers have no obligation to pay a living wage. Is he right? (Again, you can focus on just one of Brennan’s arguments if you like, or take the whole view and criticize it.) • We also have readings arguing for and against price-gouging, sweatshops, and factory farming. • If you’re paralyzed by all this choice, email me or come to office hours and we’ll try to work it out. 2 Road Map: Here’s roughly how to do this. It’s fine to deviate from this road map a bit. Some sections may take longer than I say here. Some may be shorter. But it’s still a decent road map. 1. Introduction: Introduce the topic. What are we talking about here? Then tell me what you’re going to argue. 2. Describing view you’ll criticize: Describe your philosophical opponent’s view, or argument, as thoroughly as you need to in order to make your big point(s). Make sure you represent their view accurately. Otherwise, you’ll be arguing against a view that no one holds. 3. Your objection: Say why you don’t find this view, or this argument, convincing. What’s your objection? (Don’t worry. I’m not expecting you to decisively refute the view or argument in question. Professional philosophers rarely do that. I’m just looking for some powerful considerations against the author’s view.) 4. Anticipating a Reply: Now imagine how a proponent of the view you’ve just criticized will respond to you. What would they likely say to defend their view against your criticism? Write that down, taking care to represent the objection as powerfully and sympathetically as you can. 5. Responding to the Reply: Now say why you’re not convinced by that response. 6. Conclusion: Wrap up. Maybe recap what you’ve done. Finish with a closing thought if you want. I’m not looking for fireworks here, but it’s fine if you’ve got some.
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