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Philosophy 1244.1 - Test 4

Instructions for Today's Session

Today (Monday, May 25) we deal with the first chapter of Mill's book "On Liberty" and with sections I,-III. of Worksheet B.  If you have not already done so, first read section I. of Worksheet B, and then read the first chapter of "On Liberty" together with section II. of Worksheet B.  After that,read section III. of Worksheet B.  (After today's session you should deal with the second and third chapters of "On Liberty", to prepare for the next session.)

You should also look at Assignment B ,which you will find at the end of the Worksheet. Keep the assignment in mind as you read the book and the worksheet. You should focus on the parts of the book and the worksheet which are most relevant to the assignment, and skim quickly through the rest.  The important topics are the ones dealt with in the assignment - the "liberal" principle, the political model, the cultural model and the economic model.  Examples are important only for the purpose of assessing these elements of "liberalism", and there is no need to get bogged down in Mill's discussions of particular issues, such as the issue of how drunks or gamblers should be treated. Some paragraphs in the book are far more important than others, and a few paragraphs in which Mill takes crucial steps require very careful attention.  The first chapter of the book is short and contains many very important paragraphs, but the other chapters contain many paragraphs that are not fundamentally important.  All of the work that we will do before Assignment B is due will prepare you for the assignment.

You can find "On Liberty" here:

Today we will combine the practice questions and the test, and so you should send me your answers to all of the following questions. To do so, reply to this message and put your answers in the body of your message.  DO NOT USE AN ATTACHMENT.  You must send me your answers today, but you do not have to send them by 12.30 pm.  Take your time to think about the questions.  You can include Assignment A in the same message if you wish, or you can send it to me separately.  DO NOT USE ATTACHMENTS FOR ASSIGNMENTS OR DRAFT ASSIGNMENTS.

PHIL 1244.1


1.  On several occasions Ralph Nader was a candidate in a U.S. presidential election.  Ralph Nader was well known in the U.S. because he had achieved fame in his successful battle for legislation that forced car-makers to improve car safety.  He had a reputation for vigorously acting in the public interest.  In each presidential election he obtained a very small percentage of the votes.  He was excluded from the television debates which precede the election of the president - normally only the Democratic and Republican candidates are invited to participate in the television debates, though an exception was made for Ross Perot, who obtained nearly 20% of the vote.  On one occasion a person who had a ticket to be in the audience of one of the television debates gave the ticket to Ralph Nader, but when he presented the ticket he was physically blocked from entering the studio.  The broadcasting companies defended their behaviour by saying that they should be free to choose what they broadcast and who can be on their premises, and that Nader was perfectly free to express himself politically elsewhere.  What should be said about the claim that Nader was perfectly free to express himself politically elsewhere?

2.  Why would Ralph Nader not have faced the difficulties he faced in expressing himself politically in the U.S. if he had been a citizen in a canton of pre-Napoleonic rural Switzerland?

3.  A company has told the members of its sales department that, as a reward for good service,  the company will pay for a trip to a city of the department's choice.  Seven members of the department want to visit a city with a casino and spend all of their time in the casino, but the other five members of the department have no desire to go to a casino and would like to visit a city that is suitable for sight-seeing.  The department can choose a city by majority vote or by consensus.  What difference might it make if they choose by consensus rather than by majority vote?

4.  Imagine that the "liberal" political model is introduced in a society comprising slave-owners and slaves.  Assume that the slave-owners control schools, churches, the media and the security forces, and use them to entrench slavery in every way they can.  The slave-owners control two political parties, the Conservative Party, which maintains that the existing society is the best possible society, and the Slaves' Party, which is intended to capture the votes of the more class-conscious slaves.  The slave-owners' aim is to have a high degree of support for both parties and to turn politics as far as possible into a "contest" between these two parties.  Write some propaganda for use by the Slaves' Party at election time which
(a) makes it plausible to say that the Slaves' Party represents slaves' interests
but which
(b) does nothing to undermine slavery or change slaves' status in any way.
The propaganda should also
(c) deter slaves from voting for candidates who seek to abolish slavery
(d) leave a fairly high proportion of slaves feeling that the Conservative Party might be a better choice for them.
Be satirical if you wish!

5.  If fundamental biological research had much higher priority than it actually has, we would have a better understanding of ourselves, a greater ability to maintain our health, and perhaps even overcome biological death.  Why is the priority of fundamental biological research not an issue in elections held under the "liberal" political model?  How would the issue be handled under the substantive model?

6.  Consider the argument that as people's interests conflict, decision-making by consensus is not possible, forcing us to rely on decision-making by majority vote.

7. In a Swiss canton the only road giving access to a village has become unusable through erosion, and the only way to replace the old road with a new one involves demolishing a beautiful farmhouse.  How would this situation be dealt with under the political model of pre-Napoleonic rural Switzerland?

8. How should one reply to someone who says that Mill should not have offered the "liberal" political model as a vehicle for achieving organization of society in the general interest when he knows that it will not achieve that, and that he should have explored alternative political models.

9. Why do some people who would never support a serial killer, and who might even risk their lives to try to stop a serial killer, vote for politicians who have a record of initiating aggressive wars?

10. Instead of having employers and employees one could have a situation in which everyone shared equally in the wealth that is produced.  Instead of having unemployment we could convert welfare payments into wages and have the unemployed do socially useful work, such as repairing infrastructure, teaching (to reduce class sizes), nursing (to look after patients better) and programming (to make additional software available).  Why are there no candidates in elections who have these alternative policies?

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