Dear First Year Seminar Students,
Welcome to Middlebury! I’m excited to meet you, discuss exciting philosophical issues with you, and to see you transition into some of Middlbury’s best and brightest. You and I will post blog entries here about relevant course topics.
In preparation for our first day of class, you should read and think about the following:
Here are some wedding traditions from around the world:
QUESTION: Under what circumstances are these wedding rituals appropriate? When are they not? What does it mean for a wedding ritual to be “appropriate”?
QUESTION: Which of the following statements do you agree with? Explain.
- The Earth used to be flat, but now it’s round.
- It used to be true that the Earth was flat, but now it’s true that it’s round.
- Most people used to believe that the Earth was flat, but now most people believe that it’s round.
- Most people used to know that the Earth was flat, but now most people know that it’s round.
- It used to be reasonable for educated people to believe that the Earth was flat, but now it’s unreasonable for them to believe this.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is practiced in several countries. You can read more about it here:
QUESTION: Is it wrong for the cultures that currently practice FGM to do so?
A famous anthropological case study involves the Zande people. According to the ethnographic report, Zande believe the following claims:
- Every line of same-sex descent has one proven witch.
- If every line of same-sex descent has one proven witch, then all Zande are witches.
- Not all Zande are witches.
QUESTION: Do you see the contradiction in these three claims? Are the Zande being irrational in believing all three claims? Or is avoiding contradictions merely something that is specific to a particular culture’s form of rationality, e.g. logicians, mathematicians, scientists, people at fancy liberal arts colleges in the US, etc.?