IB Testing and the 2018 Ethics Unit

Testing starts this Friday and

Our Ethics unit will fall into three segments:

  • Part One will happen before IB Testing (April 16 – April 26)
    • We will read the assigned texts below and have in-class discussions
  • Part Two will happen during IB Testing (and be optional for Diploma Students)
    • We will watch films with themes linked to our curriculum
  • Part Three will happen after IB Testing (May 21 – May 29th)
    • We will view The Minority Report and prepare for our Unit Assessment

Over the course of the next several weeks, we will continue our Ethics unit by introducing several philosophers and their ideas.  We will start 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.  Your Ethics Journal will be due on the day of our Ethics Unit Assessment – likely May 29.  Your Ethics Journal is significant for several reasons:

  • You will need to submit a quality Ethics Journal
  • You will need to review and understand this material for the Unit Assessment as well as the Final Exam.  The Unit Assessment 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.
  • Your Final Exam will require the same and it will ask 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

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.  Essay? Possibly.

This assessment will happen the week of May 29.  

When you’ve received (or been assigned) the texts, be sure to do all the things good critical thinkers do when they analyze and react to a text [for your journal]:

  • 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. Many of the readings below will be required.  All Required readings have the word Required after the selection (please note that two required elements are ones you will print out, mark, and react to).  If time allows, we will do more than the required, we will do all of the assignments below.

  1.  4/17  Kant – Categorical Imperative Required.
  2. 4/18 Mill – Utilitarianism Required.
  3. 4/18  Bentham – Hedonistic Calculus and related questions Required.
  4. 4/19 Machiavelli – The Prince Required.
  5. 4/20 Aristotle – Virtue Theory Primary Source Required.  Recommended Aristotle overview (it’s helpful, check it out)
  6. (on your own) Exodus – Divine Command Theory Required.
  7. 4/23 The ToK Course Companion textbook-                                                                     pages 262-265 one two three four Required.
  8. 4/24 Thoreau – Civil Disobedience Required.
  9. 4/25 Leopold – Environmental Ethics Required.
  10. Your own selection (and written justification) Required. (see below #7)
  11. Your own selection (and written justification) Required. (see below #7)

These are optional readings (you may do them as #10 & #11 above):

In addition to the above required critical readings, please add written responses to the following into the Ethics Journal. IF YOU WERE ABSENT on the assigned day, please invest at least 20 minutes writing thoughtfully in your response.  This is not a place to be brief; consider that your response should represent the equivalence (in thought) of a thirty minute discussion.

1. (4/16 in-class) How do we know right from wrong? [encouraged hw: 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?] 

2. (4/18 in-class) What makes us human?   Is it our ability to reason?  To feel emotions?  To care about others? To do something selfless?

2a.  (4/19) How would Bentham consider right and wrong?  How do we figure it out?

3. (4/19) Is it ever right for a few to suffer for the greater good?   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?  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.   (4/19) 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.

5.  (4/23) 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.  HW: The ToK Course Companion textbook- pages 262-265 one two three four

6. (4/24) When, if ever, is it acceptable to break a law?  Critically read Civil Disobedience.

7.   (4/25) 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. (5/21 – after IB testing) 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) soon.

Pre ToK <3

Here is the make up assignment.  Your writing and research can be submitted as an email to Mr. Braman; the synthesis is a product to be published outside his office 2410g.  Make it good.

Our discussion of Love

Without doing any research, write a few sentences or more about each of the following prompts (be sure to use examples):

What is love [of people or groups, not material things]?

Is it one thing?      Or many things?   Explain.

Describe the different types of love?

Is love the same thing to different people?  Why or why not?

Should we think of Love as receiving?                      Or giving?

Is it best known as “love for” or “love of?”

What tools do we use to know about love?

Consider the ToK diagram at right.

Which Ways of Knowing apply as we try to know love?


Who should we ask to know more about Love?

A chemist?  A biologist?  An anthropologist?  A psychologist?  An artist?  A painter?  A dancer?  An author?  A musician?  A poet?  What perspectives would each bring to the conversation?  Discuss.

Which would be the most informed in your view?


Research at least four different sources that would tell you about love.  Make sure they are a diverse set of experts (different fields, perspectives).  Write a brief paragraph about what makes their view a quality one.

And then…

Synthesize your thoughts about love and create a reflection based on your experience.  It will go up on the wall of the hallway outside Mr. Braman’s office.  Post it when you are done.  Be sure to include:

  1. Your synthesis (answer) of the questions: What is love and how should love be understood?
  2. Evidence from your own personal experience to support your argument
  3. Consideration of an additional perspective to the question raised
  4. Evidence from at least two sources … and your analysis to interpret the sources