Philosophy 524 Syllabus
Economics and philosophy overlap in three main ways. First, economists and philosophers are both interested in questions in epistemology and philosophy of science, though economists are only professionally concerned with them insofar as they pertain to economics. Second, both economists and philosophers are interested in rationality and the relations between reasons and choices. Third, both economists and philosophers are interested in questions about welfare, justice, liberty and rights, at least insofar as these are connected to features of economic institutions, processes, or outcomes. The emphasis this semester will be on the third set of questions, though we will need to say a little bit about methodology and a good deal about rationality in order to address the questions that lie at the intersection between economics and ethics.
The overall goal is provide a solid understanding of the interrelations between economics and ethics. More specifically the course aims:
1. To clarify the nature of cost-benefit analysis and its ethical presuppositions.
2. To provide an introduction to rational-choice theory and game theory and to show how they may bear on moral philosophy.
3. To sketch some of the central questions concerning the moral appraisal of modern economies and the current process of globalization.
4. To help you to develop your abilities to present and to criticize arguments both in discussion and, in particular, in writing: Every good essay, regardless of the subject matter, is an extended argument for some thesis or conclusion. The only thing special about philosophy essays is the extent to which one focuses upon the logic of the argument. This course should help you to write more sharply organized, focused and effective essays.
The extent to which these course goals can be achieved is, of course, largely up to you, but it is important that you appreciate what I am trying to accomplish. If you cannot see how any particular lecture or reading assignment relates to the goals of the course, please be sure to ask about it. In abstract matters it is especially important and especially difficult to be clear on what the point is. Keep asking "So what?" Since this course is concerned with mastering skills as well as with acquiring information, it demands your active participation.
1 This course is no substitute for a course in social and political philosophy or for a course in normative economics. By focusing on the overlap, it inevitably presents an unrepresentative view of the relevant areas of both economics and philosophy.
Daniel Hausman and Michael McPherson, Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy.
David Gauthier, Morals by Agreement.
Xeroxed Course Reader.
These are available at the Underground Textbook Exchange, which is temporarily located in the basement of The Varsity building (401 N. Lake St.) on the Northeast corner of Lake St. and University Ave
A variety of material, including the syllabus will also be available on the web. Some of it will be on a public web page: http://philosophy.wisc.edu/hausman/524/Fall2006/524-Fall2006.htm.
Other resources (such as student access to grades and discussion forums) will be available via the Learn@UW web site: https://learnuw.wisc.edu/.
There will be two essays, two midterms, five-minute essays, and a final examination. Your semester grade will depend on the essays (50%), the midterms (20%), the five-minute essays (10%), and the final (20%).
LECTURES Attendance is technically optional, but frequent absences will lower your grade on the five-minute essays. Intelligent contributions to discussion will also help to boost your semester grade.
INTRODUCTORY PAPER The introductory essay should be no more than 1200 words in length. It is designed to give you an opportunity to try your hand at writing a philosophy essay without the anxiety of having much of your grade depend on the result. It counts for only ten percent of your grade and is due promptly at the beginning of class on Friday, October 6.
TERM PAPER The term paper counts for 40% of your semester grade. It should be no more than 2500 words and the first draft is due at the beginning of class on Monday, November 13. The term paper is due early in the semester in order to make it possible for you to rewrite it and to submit a revised version. The revised version will be due on Friday, December 8. If you submit a revised version, your grade will be the average of your grades on the two versions.
MIDTERMS There will be two, which will count for 10% each. They will be held on Friday, September 29 and Friday, November 3. The questions will be a mix of short answer and essay.
FINAL EXAMINATION The final examination will be cumulative, though it will emphasize material that is not covered by either of the midterms. It will involve both short-answer and essay questions.
FIVE-MINUTE ESSAYS There will be a large number of these, each of which will count for .35% of your semester grade. They are designed to provoke thought and encourage discussion, not for assessment. Since there will be at least 30 of the five-minute essays, they will present an opportunity for some extra credit.
Friday, September 8: Positive versus normative economics
Reading: EAMPPP, ch. 1, pp. 3-11
Monday, September 11: An introduction to welfare economics: Summers's Memorandum
Readings: EAMPPP ch. 2, pp. 12-17
Wednesday, September 13: More on welfare economics and Summers's Memorandum
Readings: EAMPPP ch. 2, pp. 20-23
Friday, September 15: School vouchers
Readings: EAMPPP ch. 2, pp. 23-29.
Monday, September 18: Rationality
Readings: EAMPPP ch 4, pp. 45-51
Morals by Agreement, pp. 21-29.
Wednesday, September 20: Ordinal utility
Readings: EAMPPP ch 4, pp. 45-51.
Morals by Agreement, pp. 38-42.
Friday, September 22: Expected utility theory and the independence axiom
Readings: EAMPPP ch 4, pp. 51-55
Morals by Agreement, pp. 42-46
Monday, September 25: Controversies concerning expected utility theory
Readings: EAMPPP ch 4, pp. 55-59
Wednesday, September 27: Utility theory: review and discussion
Readings: EAMPPP, Sec. 5.1, pp. 60-64.
Monday, October 2: Utilitarianism
Readings: EAMPPP, ch. 7, pp. 99-117.
Wednesday, October 4: Utilitarianism
Readings: EAMPPP ch. 7, pp. 99-117
John Harsanyi, "Morality and the Theory of Rational Behavior" (xerox)
*Friday, October 6: Utilitarianism (conclusions)
Readings: EAMPPP ch. 7, pp. 99-117
John Harsanyi, "Morality and the Theory of Rational Behavior" (xerox)
Monday, October 9: Welfare
Readings: EAMPPP ch. 8, pp. 118-134
Morals by Agreement, pp. 29-38, 46-59
Wednesday, October 11: Welfare
Readings: EAMPPP ch. 8, pp. 118-34.
Frey and Stutzer, "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?" (xerox)
Friday, October 13: Efficiency, Pareto optimality, and perfect competition
Readings: EAMPPP sec. 5.2, pp. 64-67; and sec. 9.1-9.2, pp. 135-44.
Morals by Agreement, pp. 83-90
Monday, October 16: The market, freedom, and morality
Readings: Morals by Agreement, pp. 90-104
Wednesday, October 18: Cost-benefit analysisReadings: Nicholas Kaldor, "Welfare Propositions of Economics and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility" (xerox)
Friday, October 20: Cost-Benefit and Cost-effectiveness Analysis
Readings: Chapter 1, "Introduction," Chapter 1 of Valuing Health For Cost-Effectiveness Regulatory Analysis (xerox)
Readings: "Characteristics of Major Regulations and Current Analytic Practices," Chapter 2 of Valuing Health For Cost-Effectiveness Regulatory Analysis (xerox)
Hausman and McPherson, "Preference, Belief and Welfare" (xerox)
Wednesday, October 25: Can cost-benefit analysis be defended after all?
Cass Sunstein, "Cognition and Cost-Benefit Analysis" (xerox)
Readings: John Broome, "Cost-Benefit Analysis and Population" (xerox)
Monday, October 30: Summary appraisal of cost-benefit analysis
Wednesday, November 1: Catch up and review
Monday, November 6: Justice and contractualism
Readings: EAMPPP, Chapter 12, pp. 198-209.
Wednesday, November 8: Social choice theory
Readings: EAMPPP, Chapter 13, sections 13.1-13.3, pp. 217-25.
Kenneth Arrow, "Values and Collective Decision Making"
Friday, November 10: Arrow's Theorem and its consequencesReadings: EAMPPP, Chapter 13, sections 13.1-13.3, pp. 217-25.
Readings: EAMPPP, ch. 14, section 14.1, pp. 234-39
Morals by Agreement, pp. 60-75.
Term papers due
Readings: EAMPPP, ch. 14, section 14.2
Morals by Agreement, pp. 75-82.
Friday, November 17: Game theory: justice and cooperation
Readings: EAMPPP, chapter 14, section 14.3
Robert Frank, "A Theory of Moral Sentiments" (xerox)
Readings: EAMPPP, Chapter 14, section 14.5, pp. 251-4
Morals by Agreement, pp. 112-29.
Wednesday, November 22: Gauthier's theory of rational bargaining
Readings: Morals by Agreement, pp. 129-46
Monday, November 27: Rational bargaining and justice
Readings: Morals by Agreement, pp. 150-56.
Wednesday, November 29: Compliance and constrained maximization
Readings: Morals by Agreement, chapter 6, pp. 157-89
Friday, December 1: Is constrained maximization rationally defensible?
Readings: Morals by Agreement, chapter 6, pp. 157-89
Robert Frank, "A Theory of Moral Sentiments" (xerox)
Monday, December 4: How to make the bargain just: what are the limits to the non-agreement point?
Readings: Morals by Agreement, pp. 190-208.
Readings: Morals by Agreement, pp. 209-223.
EAMPPP, Chapter 10, Sections 10-2-10.4, pp. 163-67.
Readings: Morals by Agreement, pp. 223-232.
EAMPPP, ch. 6, sections 6.1-6.3, pp. 78-89.
Monday, December 11: The role of ethics in positive economics
Readings: EAMPPP, ch. 3, 16; pp. 30-42, 274-90
Wednesday, December 13: Conclusions on normative economics
Readings: EAMPPP, ch. 15, pp. 259-73
Frey and Stutzer, "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?"
If my office hours, (Monday 9:50-10:50 and Wednesday 2-3) are not convenient, see me after class to arrange another time to meet. My job is to help you to master the skills and material with which this course is concerned, so feel free to come see me.
Email can be a great convenience, but it can get out of hand. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any specific questions you have about assignments or requirements. If the question and answer are relevant to others, I will post them on the course discussion page. If you do not want your question posted, you should let me know. Otherwise I will assume that in emailing me, you’ve given me permission to post your question. You can send me substantive philosophical questions, too, provided that you also post them on the course discussion page. I will post my answers as well. That way I can serve as many students as possible. Some questions are not appropriate. For example, "Could you please restate the last three lectures?" And some questions are better discussed in person than over email. I’ll do the best I can to be helpful.
Plagiarism is a serious offense. All sources and assistance used in preparing your papers must be precisely and explicitly acknowledged. If you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism, please come talk with me. Ignorance of what constitutes plagiarism is not a defense. It is your responsibility to be sure. The web creates special risks. Cutting and pasting even a few words from a web page or paraphrasing material without a reference constitutes plagiarism. If you are not sure how to refer to something you find on the internet, you can always give the URL. It is generally better to quote than to paraphrase from material on the web, because in the absence of page numbers it can be hard to find passages that are paraphrased rather than quoted.
I am planning on employing the on-line gradebook on the Learn@UW web site, despite bizarre, annoying, and ridiculous problems with previous versions of the software, which have supposedly been fixed. (Ha!) Grades will be recorded in points that will be added up to constitute your semester grade. Assignments that have not yet been graded do not of course have any points, and so the gradebook (unhelpfully) records those grades an "F's." To keep the gradebook from becoming too cluttered, only dates of missing 5-minute essays will be noted.
Even though the grades at the end of the semester are limited to A, AB, B, BC, C, D, and F, I will draw finer distinctions on particular assignments. Here is the conversion table I will use so as to record your letter grades on assignments as point grades:
On assignments where you receive letter grades, such as papers, I will record the grade as the middle number in the range. So, for example, someone who gets a B+ on their term paper and does not hand in a revision will have 17.4 points in the tp (term paper) column and 17.4 points in the tpr (term paper revision) column, because 17.4 is 87% of 20 points. Assignments that are not completed will get zero points. The conversion from total points for the semester to final letter grades is as follows:
|Total points||92 and above||86-91.99||80-85.99||74-79.99||68-73.99||60-67.99||below 60|
Although I will cite and criticize specific arguments from the readings, the lectures often present an independent perspective on the issues. Critically engaging with the arguments in the lecture is your most important task, but you may have a hard time understanding my arguments if you do not study the readings carefully. I selected the readings to represent a variety of different perspectives, and even when the readings are mistaken, there are valuable lessons to be learned from understanding their mistakes. The examinations will ask not only that you have mastered the material in the lectures but that you be able to relate the arguments in the lectures to the arguments in the readings and to respond intelligently to questions concerning the important arguments in the readings.
You should aim to master most of the readings, which are relatively brief. Here are some detailed hints about how to do so:
1. Use your highlighter very sparingly. It is much more useful to pencil in marginal notes summarizing or querying specific points than to highlight passages. Actively engaging the author is much more valuable than merely trying to assimilate the prose. And if you do highlight, only highlight a small percentage of the text. (There is not much point to highlighting everything, apart from adding color to the page!)
2. The assignments are usually short, and you should plan on reading the assignments at least twice. During the first reading you should ask yourself:
a. What is the author's position?
b. What is the general structure of the paper or chapter? Is it a collection of separate arguments, or does it aim to make one main argument?
c. What are the author's main assumptions? (Where is the author coming from?)
d. Against whom does the author take him/herself to be arguing? What is the context in which the piece was written?
e. What is the main line of argument (or what are the main lines of argument)?
f. What objections does the author address and how successful is the author in answering them?
g. How does the author's position relate to your views? To what extent does the author reinforce or challenge your views?
h. How do the author's arguments relate to the arguments developed in lecture and in other reading assignments? What criticisms would the author make of arguments developed in lecture or in other readings? To what extent is the position of the author open to criticisms made in lecture or in other readings?
During the second reading of the assignment, you should proceed more slowly and critically. Rather than asking, as suggested above, questions about what the author's purposes, organization, and argument are, you should try to assess all of these and particularly the author's arguments
Style and references:
1. You are expected to give references when you cite detailed claims or arguments made in the readings, and your papers should, where appropriate, show familiarity with relevant materials from the lectures or reading for the course. But you are expected to write essays, not examination answers. So don't introduce irrelevant matters to demonstrate that you have done the course readings. (But you must not ignore relevant supporting arguments and, particularly, objections in the readings.) Cite the readings only when they are relevant. Be sure that your paper is a well organized argument for some clearly articulated thesis.
2. When you quote, paraphrase, or make use of a point made by others, be sure to document the source. We are not particular about what style you use. All that matters is that your references be precise and usable. If you say that Arrow says that constitutions limit freedom, it should be clear on what page Arrow supposedly says that. The easiest way to give a reference is simply to put the source and page number in parenthesis. Papers without clear references (where needed) will be marked down.
3. Papers must be typed or printed double-spaced with wide margins (at least one inch) on all sides, so that there is plenty of room for marginal comments. Be sure to keep copies of your papers. Please do not use binders.
4. Papers for the course must be essentially correct in their "mechanical" aspects-- spelling, punctuation, grammar, typing, and so forth. Papers with more than 3 or 4 errors per page will be marked down, and if they are very messy, they will not only be penalized, but they will also be returned for correction before they are graded. Obviously spelling and typing are of no intrinsic importance, but messy papers are hard to assess; and it is not unfair to expect you to take responsibility for making sure that your papers are correct in these regards. If you have difficulty with the mechanical features of paper writing, please get someone to proofread your paper before you hand it in.
1. The paper topics are not recipes for writing your essays. You have to decide what it is that you want to maintain in your essays. Do not regard the paper topic as an essay examination question. Although your papers must be on the assigned topic, the point is to write a well-organized and unified argument for some clearly enunciated conclusion.
2. The task of writing a good essay is virtually identical with the task of thinking out a clear thesis or conclusion that you want to defend and then elaborating and defending it. You should be able to say clearly and precisely not only what your paper is about, but also what your paper maintains or shows. Be sure each of your papers has both a thesis--that it asserts something definite--and a logical organization. Once it is clear what you what to show, you will have a criterion to decide what is relevant and the basis for organizing your paper. Can you put your main point clearly in a sentence? Can you say clearly in a sentence what your paper shows or proves? Are all the parts of your paper relevant to your main point? Is the structure of your argument clear? No good essay merely summarizes things you have read and then offers your remarks or points of comparison or differences you noticed. Every acceptable essay integrates its remarks into an argument of its own. Exposition of the views of others should always be part of your argument for your thesis.
3. Note that a well-organized paper is not merely orderly. For example, a paper that argues that Anderson argues claims 1, 2, and 3 and that one can defend claim 1 as follows, claim 2 as follows, but not claim 3 is certainly orderly, and it certainly has a thesis. But it would only be well-organized--truly one paper rather than three--if the discussions of the three claims bore some relations to one another and if the paper added up to some unified and substantive statement. Please do not put section headings in your papers.
4. Avoid first paragraphs that say things such as, "First I will discuss the views of Anderson and Sunstein. Then I will discuss their strengths and weaknesses. Then I will compare their conclusions and formulate my opinion." Passages such as these make it sound as if your argument will begin only on the last page. Exposition of the views of others has to find its place within your argument, not as a preface to your argument. If you think in terms of what you want to establish, and outline your paper in terms of stages in your argument, your essay will be much stronger.
5. Try to say exactly what you mean. Pay careful attention to your language. Sentences such as "Anderson is full of errors." are unacceptably careless. Value your words and use them accurately.
6. To help in organizing your thinking, you should attempt to answer the following three questions:
If you cannot answer these questions clearly and easily, then there are serious problems with your paper. Do not regard your papers as finished or acceptable until each clearly implies answers to the above questions. (But an essay is not, of course, a list of answers to any set of questions.) Taking the task of answering these questions seriously can make a big difference in the quality of your paper.
1. In a political debate, the point is to win, and one consequently tries to make the arguments of one's opponents sound as ridiculous and worthless as possible. In a philosophical debate (or in writing a philosophy essay), in contrast, the objective is to learn the truth. So you should try to make the arguments conflicting with your views as compelling as possible, before you answer them. If there are any objections to what you are maintaining that you cannot answer, then you cannot be sure that you are right. Work hard at trying to see "the other side".
2. Although many sociological and economic facts are relevant to the issues you are addressing in your essays, be sur that your work contains some significant philosophical content. If you aren't sure whether your papers are philosophical or not, check with me.
When working on the final versions of your essays, feel free to come to me for help. You do not need to do further research, but you can consult with me if you want references for further reading.
There are some excellent resources on the web for writing philosophy papers. I particularly recommend:
www.sfu.ca/philosophy/writing.htm This is brief, clear, and helpful.
http://www.princeton.edu/~jimpryor/general/writing.html Excellent, but much lengthier.
www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/philosophy.html For those who are serious about philosophy.
www.cofc.edu/~portmord/tips.htm Contains lots of references for further study.
A terrific general source on writing is Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. The first edition is available on the web at http://www.bartleby.com/141/
An "A" paper typically has all of the following virtues, although in exceptional cases papers with only five of the six virtues might merit an "A"