Ethics Unit

Over the course of the next several weeks, we will continue our Ethics unit by introducing several philosophers and their ideas.  We have already started this process by discussing Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative, introducing John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism, and exploring Jeremy Bentham’s Hedonistic Calculus.

The Ethics journal will be important.  It is also likely that your journal will be due before you leave from break (even if you leave early – late is late).  Your Ethics Journal is significant for several reasons:

  • You will need to submit a quality Ethics Journal for the first journal of the second semester.
  • You will need to review and understand this material for the Final Exam.  The Final Exam will cover this material and ask you to make comparisons between these thinkers, the assigned readings, the film Minority Report, and material you’ve learned throughout the year.  It is likely that your final exam asks you to read excerpts from these texts and then:
    • identify the author
    • specify the main point
    • recognize the philosophy
    • compare this ideology to others you’ve learned

A sample author we will introduced in class today is John Stuart Mill.  Read and consider a brief excerpt from John Stuart Mill’s text titled “Utilitarianism”.  When you’ve received the texts, be sure to do all the things good critical thinkers do when they analyze and react to a text:

  • identify important passages
  • paraphrase relevant/main points
  • react in the margin
  • identify the author’s assumptions
  • consider and address the implications of the argument

Master List of Ethics Authors:  [Below are several readings we may later assign.  Assignments you are NOT required to do will have strike through.  These will be considered extra credit.  Required work for the final Ethics Journal you need to do on your own is in green.  All Required work has the word Required after it.]

  1.  1/27  Kant – Categorical Imperative Required.
  2. 1/31 Mill – Utilitarianism Required.
  3. 1/31  Bentham – Hedonistic Calculus and related questions Required.
  4. 3/1 Aristotle – Virtue Theory Required.
  5.  2/15 Thoreau – Civil Disobedience Required.
  6. Nietzsche – Will to Power Part Nine: 257  258  259  260  261 Optional
  7. Sartre – Existentialist Ethics Read pages 1-7 of this text Optional
  8. Exodus – Divine Command Theory Required.
  9. Leopold – Environmental Ethics This will go in a future unit.
  10. The ToK Course Companion textbook- pages 262-265 one two three four Optional.
  11. 2/8 Machiavelli – The Prince Required.
  12. David Brooks – What is inspiration? Optional
  13. Your own selection (and written justification) Required. (see below #7)
  14. Your own selection (and written justification) Required. (see below #7)

What sorts of applications will Mr. Braman encourage you to think about on the test? Issues raised by complaints against the current administration? What about human genomes?  Or the Death Penalty?  Or an apology for the bombing at Hiroshima?  How would Robert McNamara respond regarding Hiroshima?  What will the format be?  Will it be another dialogue test? Likely.

This assessment will happen the week of March 6th.  

IF additional sources are added to this list, they will also be provided as links.

In addition to the above critical readings, please add written responses to the following into the Ethics Journal.

1. What makes us human?   Is it our ability to reason?  To feel emotions?  To care about others? To do something selfless?

2. How do we know right from wrong?  [From class 1/25 ] What is the source of your certainty?  Is it a person?  Your self?  A process?  A text?  What are the challenges to knowing what is morally right in this manner?

2a.  How would Bentham consider right and wrong?  How do we figure it out? [in class 2/1]

3. Is it ever right for a few to suffer for the greater good?  [in-class  2/1] What if we had to make a few suffer?  Would it be right to do so if the society benefited?  How should we deal with an epidemic? [in-class 2/2]  Here are some of the real-world examples of how things went in Liberia, the role of the quarantines played in that December 2015 outbreak,the questions that remain, and the new CDC regulations awaiting approval from the Trump administration.

4. Is cheating ever right?   Please justify your answer.  And then interview/discuss the subtleties of your viewpoint with a willing adversary (if you missed class, record snippets of that conversation).  What are the essential questions that must be asked?  List them.

5. 2/8 discussion Do the ends (ever) justify the means?  (Required) Explain your rationale.  [this will come later] Quality responses will consider both the premise of Minority Report and Machiavelli’s The Prince.

6.   2/15 When, if ever, is it acceptable to break a law?  Critically read Civil Disobedience.

7.   Research, identify, print out, and critically read additional documents for the Ethics Journal. AT LEAST TWO additional unique expert sources of your choosing must be included in your ethics journal.  In a brief paragraph, justify their inclusion as research into your own personal philosophy.

8. 2/14 Follow a current issue as it develops regarding the ethical implications of the event as it develops.  You should have a second article (critically read) by 2/27.


Essay submission for January Essays

Just to be redundant, as explained in class on Wednesday, these are the expectations for the current essay submission.

  1. Choose a prompt (that is different from the prompt you chose in December)
  2. Write a complete draft that is more than just complete
    1. remember that you should have quality knowledge questions
    2. include examples to support your opinions
    3. Target word count 1500 for all normal students.
      1. Except Val.  Val needs 1,532 words exactly.
  3. upload your draft to  You can upload until Saturday January 28th at noon without penalty. Image result for is your momma la llama

Welcome to 2nd Semester

As you are well aware, 2nd semester has begun.  In the last few days, I have worked to remind you and refresh your memory about expectations.  Please be sure that you are ready for class tomorrow, Wednesday January 26th.  You should have:

  1. A new three-prong folder with pockets (with your name/period in the top corner)
  2. in-class notes from our ethics unit day one
  3. a brief interview transcript from the person you’ve interviewed: “How do we know right from wrong?”
  4. your critical reading and notes from the two-sided handout: Immanuel Kant and CNN
  5. your self-evaluation stapled to the article

Reviewing for the final

First and foremost, please make sure you BRING YOUR COMPLETED AND ORGANIZED DAILY JOURNAL TO CLASS ON THE DAY OF THE FINAL.  Yes, I was shouting just then.  Journals submitted late will be penalized 15% per day.  Not worth it.  Your journal will be worth roughly 12% of your overall grade; your final exam is worth only 5% of your overall grade.  Notice the difference.  It matters.  And don’t give me a jumbled mess of papers to evaluate.  Be proud of what you submit.

I will hand you a copy of the journal rubric when you arrive.  If you want to see it again, here it is.

You will have (as mentioned in class) 40ish multiple choice questions and two written tasks, and one written paragraph.

Study the list of concepts – there will be little from the history unit, nearly 15 questions from the math unit, 8 or so from the experts in the WoK unit, and a bunch from Kuhn.

Good Luck.

Reading Schedule for Kuhn

Monday night 1/9 – Critically Read chapter 2

Tuesday night 1/10 – Read your assigned chapter 3, 4, 5, 6, or 9

Wednesday night 1/11 – no homework (if you’re ready to present your chapter)

Thursday night 1/12 – read and take notes on chapter 13

Friday night – prepare for final exam 🙂

Here’s a start for your final exam review:

TOK Concept List (Semester 1 final):    

Science Unit:

  • All concepts related to Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions

History Unit:

  • Carr: the Historian and his facts
  • Limitations of historical evidence

Math Unit:

  • Universal Grammar, Noam Chomsky
  • Sapir/Whorf hypothesis
    • “linguistic determinism”
  • Euclidean Geometry
  • Henri Poincare
  • Axioms
  • Fractals, bifurcation
  • Mandelbrot set
  • Self-similarity
  • Chaos Theory
  • Butterfly effect
  • Golden Ration/Spiral
  • Fibonacci Sequence, Pascal’s Triangle

Ways of Knowing Unit:

  • Descartes
    • God
    • “evil genius”
  • Immanuel Kant
    • a priori, a posteriori
      • Cause/effect, reciprocity
      • Necessity, Possibility, existence
    • Locke
      • Reflection/ Sensation/ Experience
    • Plato:
    • Allegory of the Cave
      • Chains, prisoners, shadows, sun, statues, vessels, puppeteers, fire, raised way
      • The Good
      • Theory of Forms
    • Emotional Intelligence
    • Gestalt Theory
    • Matrix
    • Skepticism
    • Hedonism
    • Metaphysics