Introductory Paper Assignment

Read Amartya Sen's essay, "Rational Fools," which you can download from the "content" page for the course on Learn@UW.  This is a wide-ranging (and long) essay, which explores the relationship between rationality, egoism, and morality; and defends the existence and rationality of behavior based on "commitment." Behavior based on commitment seems (at least on some interpretations of the notion of "preference") to conflict with the standard theory of rational preference and choice.

Your task for the introductory paper is first to study Sen's paper, which is long and difficult, and then to write an essay clarifying the notion of commitment and addressing the question of whether the existence of committed behavior is inconsistent with the standard model of rational choice discussed in lecture and in Chapter 4 of EAMPPP.

To focus your reading, you can skim the material before p. 322 (section II) as well as section 5. The sections to concentrate on are sections 4, 7 and 8.

The introductory papers should be approximately 1200 words (about four double-spaced typed pages in a reasonably large font).  They are due in class on Friday, October 6 and count for 10% of your semester grade.

Toward the end of the syllabus (which is on the web and in the course reader) you will find some general directions on writing the papers, hints on essay writing, special considerations concerning philosophy papers and some references to resources on the web that might be useful.

Though I won't read rough drafts, I'll be happy to talk over your ideas with you and give  you whatever help and encouragement that I can.