Philosophy in the Age of the Internet Assignment Two
Overview: Evaluation of an Argument
Your task in this assignment is to assess the validity of a natural-language argument. This involves demonstrating that you have comprehension of what is being argued, even when this is vague or confused, and that you can sort out the premises and conclusions of the argument.
Note that natural-language arguments are often sly or even rhetorical to the point of fallacy. Be on the lookout for this: it is the real nub of this second-level philosophical skill, after exposition as examined in Assignment One.
To perform this logical analysis, you must have a grasp of the following concepts: truth, validity, and soundness. These are the cornerstone concepts of all deductive reasoning.
When assessing an argument, then, be sure to sort out these aspects of it clearly. You don’t need to formalize the argument in Ps and Qs – though you are welcome to do so – but be sure that you see the difference between premises and conclusions, the logical relations between these, and the truth or falsity of the statements contained in the premises and the conclusion.
Reminder: common examples will illustrate these points.
All men are mortal. Socrates is a man.
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
1.This argument is sound because the conclusion follows logically from the two premises (a major premise and minor one, as they are called) AND those premises are true.
By contrast, the following argument is valid but not sound:
All organisms with wings can fly. Penguins have wings.
Therefore, penguins can fly.
The argument is valid because the premises logically generate the conclusion, but the first (major) premise is false, even though the second (minor) premise is true, thus generating a false conclusion.
Philosophy in the Age of the Internet Assignment Submission Details:
Your paper should be approximately 1000-1200 words, as indicated on the syllabus. It must be word-processed in a 12-point serif font (Palatino, e.g.; Times is very dense and best avoided), double spaced, with 1-inch margins. The weighting of this paper is 40% of your final grade.
of your first page include your NAME, STUDENT NUMBER, and the COURSE CODE (PHL256S). Please indicate the TA’s NAME from your first assignment (check your emailed comments if uncertain).
Make sure to NUMBER all pages.
NB: It is your responsibility to keep a copy of your paper.
Your paper is due on MARCH 9 by 11:59pm via Quercus. As with Assignment One, grades and comments will be sent to you via direct message from the course website.
There are NO EXTENSIONS. If you have medical issues that prevent you from submitting on time, you must arrange to submit relevant documents and/or register with Accessibility Services for accommodation.
Late assignments are subject to penalties unless accompanied by proper documentation (e.g., a doctor’s note from U of T clinic). The penalties are as follows (stated on the syllabus): 10% the first day, 5% every day thereafter. This includes both days of weekends.
Any assignments that are more than one week late will NOT be accepted.
Philosophy in the Age of the Internet Assignment Resources:
Choose ONE of the following arguments for assessment:
“Something entirely new is happening in the world. Just in the last five or ten years, nearly everyone started to carry a little device called a smartphone on their person all the time that’s suitable for algorithmic behavior modification. A lot of us are also using related devices called smart speakers on our kitchen counters or in our car dashboards. We’re being tracked and measured constantly, and receiving engineered feedback all the time. We’re being hypnotized little by little by technicians we can’t see, for purposes we don’t know. We’re all lab animals now.
“Algorithms gorge on data about you, every second. What kinds of links do you click on? What videos do you watch all the way through? How quickly are you moving from one thing to the next? Where are you when you do these things? Who are you connecting with in person and online? What facial expressions do you make? How does your skin tone change in different situations? What were you doing just before you decided to buy something or not? Whether to vote or not?
“All these measurements and many others have been matched up with similar readings about the lives of multitudes of other people through massive spying. Algorithms correlate what you do with what almost everyone else has done. The algorithms don’t really understand you, but there is power in numbers, especially in large numbers. If a lot of other people who like the foods you like were also more easily put of by pictures of a candidate portrayed in a pink border instead of a blue one, then you probably will be too, and no one needs to know why. Statistics are reliable, but only as idiot demons.”
“Well, I don’t think that the robots will take over. And there are two reasons why I don’t think that. One is that I don’t think they will be intelligent enough. And another is that they won’t want to. They don’t want anything, they do what they are designed to do. So they’re not going to turn around and want to do things that we don’t want them to do. ‘But, of course, in trying to solve certain problems that we give them, they might come up with solutions which don’t suit us …’”
“The intelligence explosion and the speed explosion are logically independent of each other. In principle there could be an intelligence explosion without a speed explosion and a speed explosion without an intelligence explosion. But the two ideas work particularly well together. Suppose that within two subjective years, a greater-than-human machine can produce another machine that is not only twice as fast but 10% more intelligent, and suppose that this principle is indeﬁnitely extensible. Then within four objective years there will have been an inﬁnite number of generations, with both speed and intelligence increasing
3. Beyond any ﬁnite level within a ﬁnite time. This process would truly deserve the name ‘singularity’.
“Of course the laws of physics impose limitations here. If the currently accepted laws of relativity and quantum mechanics are correct or even if energy is ﬁnite in a classical universe – then we cannot expect the principles above to be indeﬁnitely extensible. But even with these physical limitations in place, the arguments give some reason to think that both speed and intelligence might be pushed to the limits of what is physically possible. And on the face of it, it is unlikely that human processing is even close to the limits of what is physically possible. So the arguments suggest that both speed and intelligence might be pushed far beyond human capacity in a relatively short time. This process might not qualify as a ‘singularity’ in the strict sense from mathematics and physics, but it would be similar enough that the name is not altogether inappropriate.”
Philosophy in the Age of the Internet Assignment Question Specified:
What is being argued in the passage you have chosen? Sort out the premises from the conclusions. Then ask: Is it a valid argument? If so, why? If not, why not? Then ask: Is it a sound argument? If not, why not? What are some of the relevant objections and counter-arguments? Are there multiple, perhaps nested arguments? Do these require objections or counter-arguments?
Philosophy in the Age of the Internet Assignment Expectations:
The purpose of an argument assessment is to test a given argument to see whether it withstands the force of reason. To do this, you have to see clearly what the argument is – which, as mentioned, can be difficult if the argument is not presented clearly or logically, or if it conceals hidden premises and prejudices. Once you see the argument clearly, you can begin to assess its soundness and validity, up to and including offering rational objections and counter-arguments.
For you to do this successfully, you will need to do the following:
First, go through the various passage options presented and see which strikes you as most interesting.
Second, begin to sketch the argument in terms of premises and conclusions. All arguments have an implied logic of entailment, whereby stated or assumed premises lead to desired conclusions. What are the relevant ones in play here?
Third, begin to assess the arguments in terms of their logic. Do the premises support the conclusion? Are the premises true, debatable, or false? What are the relevant objections and counter-arguments?
Fourth, write out your assessment in clear and unfussy language, using complete sentences, and making sure to define or clarify any concepts specific to the issue.
Philosophy in the Age of the Internet Assignment Tips and Resources:
Do not simply state an opinion as an argument. Part of assessing arguments is learning about your own unquestioned premises and chains of (possibly invalid) reasoning. Be sure to support all assertions with reasons. Above all, in this case, IT IS NOT RELEVANT WHETHER YOU PERSONALLY AGREE WITH LANIER, BODEN, OR CHALMERS!
Be sure to keep your paper well organized. This means, among other things, NOT having two solid pages of prose; break it up into well-formed paragraphs. Your paper should have a VERY short thesis paragraph at the beginning and VERY short conclusion paragraph. Every paragraph should begin with a topic sentence. Watch out for run-on sentences (especially the comma splice), sentence fragments, and misuse of common expressions (‘however’, ‘begs the question’, ‘disinterested’, etc.).
Do not go over or under the word limit. If your first pass at the paper lies significantly below the minimum word count indicated above, then you are not explaining the argument in enough detail. Alternatively, if your first pass at the assignment lies significantly above the word limit, then you have not successfully broken the argument into clear parts. (You may not be able to explain every aspect of the argument; you will have to decide what to keep and what to set aside.)
Use your own words. An argument assessment does not need to involve any quotations or reference to other sources.
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