The Floating University

Video Quiz

Take this quiz to test your knowledge of Professor Gendler's political philosophy lecture. Find the answer key at the bottom, as well as an additional quiz on the assigned reading!

(1.) Political philosophy is best described as which of the following?

  • (A.) Part of the Normative Component of philosophy; it is concerned with understanding how things ought to be, and is associated with aesthetics and moral philosophy.
  • (B.) Part of the Descriptive Component of philosophy; it is concerned with describing how things are and how we know that, and is associated with metaphysics and epistemology.
  • (C.) Part of the Normative Component of philosophy, it is concerned with describing how things are and how that differs from how things ought to be, and is associated with economics and game theory.
  • (D.) A combination of the Descriptive and Normative components of philosophy; it is concerned with both questions of describing how things are and how they ought to be, and uses approaches from both moral philosophy and metaphysics.

(2.) Which of the following scenarios would not be applicable to political philosophy?

  • (A.) Two countries are engaged in tense negotiations about nuclear disarmament; both countries would prefer to disarm, but are unwilling to do so in case the other side is not earnest in its intention.
  • (B.) A man is caught casting a vote on behalf of his wife, who is in a coma; he claims to accurately represent his wife’s interest at the ballot box despite the fact that she in unconscious.
  • (C.) Two farmers are in dispute about the respective rights to a large pond that extends to both of their properties, and petition a local court to settle the matter.
  • (D.) A debate occurs at an art opening between two high-profile critics; one critic claims the artist is a hack and shouldn’t be on display, while the other lauds the artist as bold innovator.

(3.) Which of the following statements best describes Hobbes’ concept of the State of Nature?

  • (A.) The State of Nature affords the maximal amount of natural rights to human beings, and the State by its nature curtails human rights and cuts people off from the State of Nature.
  • (B.) The State of Nature is universally undesirable, as people must stay hyper-vigilant to protect their persons and material interests, to the detriment of human flourishing.
  • (C.) The State of Nature is what all people strive toward, and the development of governments and politics over the last 2000 years has gradually allowed human beings to live in a condition that approaches the State of Nature.
  • (D.) The State of Nature is one of perpetual warfare, as groups of people seek to maximize their freedoms and material interests to the detriment of other groups. Periods of peace are contractions of the State of Nature as governmental bodies restrict natural instincts toward war and conflict.

(4.) Recall the example of the Cold War between the USSR and the USA as an illustration of the Prisoner’s Dilemma; why was the rational outcome for both sides to divert resources to armaments?

  • (A.) The USA and USSR both wanted the other side to allocate resources to weapons rather than infrastructure; the USA was afraid that if it disarmed and invested in schools and peaceful technology, the USSR would follow suite, and build up an economic advantage, and vice versa; ergo it was more rational to spend money on weapons regardless of what the other side did.
  • (B.) The USA and USSR both wanted to have the biggest military on the planet; if the USA announced a larger military budget, it would force the USSR to increase spending as well to remain competitive, and vice versa; ergo it was rational to channel more and more money into defense spending in the hopes that the other side would run out of resources first.
  • (C.) The USA and USSR both would have preferred to allocate resources to infrastructure; the USA was afraid that if both sides spent money on schools rather than weapons, that the USSR would “catch up” with the USA’s soft power in human resources, while the USSR was afraid that, if it disarmed, the USA would continue building up militarily and develop a dangerous advantage; ergo it was more rational to spend money on weapons regardless of what the other side did.
  • (D.) The USA and USSR both would have preferred to allocate resources to infrastructure; the USA was afraid that Russia would have a dangerous advantage if it retained its weapons, and vice versa; ergo it was more rational to spend money on weapons regardless of what the other side did.

(5.) Which of the following statements best describes John Rawls’ break with the philosophical tradition of Utilitarianism?

  • (A.) Rawls held that a just society only grants rights to human beings, and never takes them away; any Utilitarian considerations weighing net benefits versus net consequences when dealing with human rights are therefore violations of liberty.
  • (B.) Rawls held that a just society imputes a number of rights to the human being that are determined largely by context; therefore Utilitarian considerations must be made on a case-by-case basis, rather than uniformly.
  • (C.) Rawls held that a just society imputers a number of rights to the human being, some of which are inviolable, and some of which can be violated for the greater good; in issues of property people can have their rights violated for the Utilitarian good, but in issues dealing with bodily health these rights cannot be violated, even if the result will save lives.
  • (D.) Rawls held that a just society imputes a number of inviolable rights to the human being, which cannot be violated even if such a violation would produce a greater Utilitarian good.

(6.) Which of the following make-ups of society would people be most likely to choose from behind the Veil of Ignorance?

  • (A.) A society in which the average income is $100,000 a year and 85% of the population is allowed to vote.
  • (B.) A society in which the average income is $120,000 a year, and in which 75% of the population is allowed to vote.
  • (C.) A society in which the average income is $85,000 a year, and in which 95% of the population is allowed to vote.
  • (D.) A society in which the average income is $110,000 and only those who own property are allowed to vote.

(7.) Robert Nozick would object to all of the following governmental actions EXCEPT:

  • (A.) A man makes a contract with a carpenter to build an addition to his house. The carpenter performs the work, but the man refuses to pay; the government steps in and forces the man to pay the carpenter.
  • (B.) A family wins $10,000,000 in the lottery, and spends it all by sending out $100 checks to people randomly chosen from the phonebook. At the end of the year the government demands that the family pay a large percentage of the $10,000,000 in taxes, even though the family has already given away all of the money.
  • (C.) A Boy Scout troop finds an unexploded bomb in the forest during a hike, originally dropped by the Air Force as part of a WWII training exercise. The troop removes the bomb, cleans it up, and sells it on eBay. The government catches wind of the transaction and charges the troop leader with a crime.
  • (D.) A man breaks into a derelict house and takes a number of items from within, which he then sells at a garage sale. A patron at the garage sale learns how the items were acquired and reports the seller to the police, who arrest him for robbery.

(8.) Which of the following criticisms of Robert Nozick’s conception of Individual Liberty would Professor Gendler most likely agree with?

  • (A.) Individuals who accrue large amounts of money via voluntary transactions are able to pay for advertisements and sales personnel who promote the interests of the wealthy individuals using false data and manipulative arguments, which, while legal, degrade the social fabric of society.
  • (B.) Individuals who accrue large amounts of money via legal, voluntary transactions can then use that wealth to influence the government to enact policies that promote their rights over the rights of the less well-off.
  • (C.) Transactions that are legal and voluntary on an individual level can, on a large scale, lead to situations where individual rights are violated; for instance, a real estate agent could sell shares of an apartment building, but sells so many shares that the apartment building becomes unlivable.
  • (D.) People are born with different levels of innate ability, and thus it is unjust to consider everyone’s opportunities and rights as equal when the better off or more naturally successful citizens are able to persuade the lesser off to make unwise voluntary transactions.

(9.) On the question of if we should have universal healthcare, which statement best reflects the perspectives of Rawls and Nozick?

  • (A.) Rawls would endorse universal healthcare, as having sound health is a requisite to being an equal participant in a just society; Nozick would reject universal healthcare, as it represents a government intrusion into individual liberty, and has to be paid for through coercive taxation.
  • (B.) Rawls would reject universal healthcare, as the tax burden it would require to operate would not be chosen by someone evaluating government from behind a Veil of Ignorance; Nozick would reject universal healthcare, as it represents a government intrusion into individual liberty, and has to be paid for through coercive taxation.
  • (C.) Rawls would endorse universal healthcare, as having sound health is a requisite to being an equal participant in a just society; Nozick would endorse universal healthcare as the enforcement of a natural right, namely the right to possess good health, similar to the right to own property and conduct voluntary transactions.
  • (D.) Rawls would reject universal healthcare, as the tax burden it would require to operate would not be chosen by someone evaluating government from behind a Veil of Ignorance; Nozick would endorse universal healthcare as the enforcement of a natural right, namely the right to possess good health, similar to the right to own property and conduct voluntary transactions.

(10.) On the question of if we should be able to sell our votes, which statement best reflects the perspectives of Rawls and Nozick?

  • (A.) Rawls would endorse the ability to sell votes, as for many of the least-well off selling their votes would disproportionately improve their life, more than making up for the potential political inequality; Nozick would reject the ability to sell votes, as your vote is not property, and instead constitutes a natural right that would be violated if allowed to decouple from personhood, much in the same way as selling people is also wrong.
  • (B.) Rawls would reject the ability to sell votes, as voting constitutes a fundamental right that would be violated by transferability, even if selling votes would produce a Utilitarian greater good; Nozick would reject the ability to sell votes, as your vote is not property, and instead constitutes a natural right that would be violated if allowed to decouple from personhood, much in the same way as selling people is also wrong.
  • (C.) Rawls would endorse the ability to sell votes, as for many of the least-well off selling their votes would disproportionately improve their life, more than making up for the potential political inequality; Nozick would endorse the ability to sell votes, as your vote can be seen as a type of property, and you should have maximal liberty to dispose of your property as you see fit.
  • (D.) Rawls would reject the ability to sell votes, as voting constitutes a fundamental right that would be violated by transferability, even if selling votes would produce a Utilitarian greater good; Nozick would endorse the ability to sell votes, as your vote can be seen as a type of property, and you should have maximal liberty to dispose of your property as you see fit.

Answer Key: (1.) A, (2.) C, (3.) B, (4.) D, (5.) D, (6.) C, (7.) A, (8.) B, (9.) A, (10.) D

Reading Quiz

This quiz is based on:

Course Pack: Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia. (Preface, entire (pp. ix-xiv); Chapter 7, Introduction (pp. 149-150); Chapter 7, Section I, up to “Sen’s Argument” (pp. 150-164))

Course Pack: John Rawls, A Theory of Justice. (Chapter I, opening paragraph (pp. 3); Chapter I, section 1, paragraphs 1-2 (pp. 3-4); Chapter I, section 2, paragraph 1 (pp. 6-7); Chapter I, section 3, paragraphs 1-8 (pp. 10-14); Chapter I, section 4, entire (pp. 15-19); Chapter II, section 11, entire (pp. 52-56))

(1.) According to Nozick in Anarchy, State, and Utopia, what is the difference between end-result principles and historical principles of distribution?

  • (A.) An end-state principle looks only at the current distribution of justice to make judgments about said distribution, whereas a historical principle compares the distribution to the historical norm over a given period of time to judge whether the current distribution is better or worse than the natural average.
  • (B.) An end-state principle looks only at the current distribution of justice to make judgments about said distribution, whereas a historical principle examines the actions and qualities that caused the distribution when making judgments of fairness.
  • (C.) An end-state principle looks at identical distribution structures and determines which is better based on who occupies the respective slots, whereas a historical principle compares the distribution to the historical norm over a given period of time to judge whether the current distribution is better or worse than the natural average.
  • (D.) An end-state principle looks at identical distribution structures and determines which is better based on who occupies the respective slots, whereas a historical principle examines the actions and qualities that caused the distribution when making judgments of fairness.

(2.) All of the following are examples of a patterned distribution of justice EXCEPT:

  • (A.) A group of friends finds a bag of antique coins, and negotiates amongst itself as to how to distribute the treasure.
  • (B.) A nation designs its tax system so that wealthier citizens pay a greater percentage of their income in taxes than do poorer citizens.
  • (C.) A piñata is presented at a party that only the tallest third of attendees are able to bat.
  • (D.) A judge splits up a contested will of a patriarch according to the current salaries of the beneficiaries.

(3.) Under Rawls’ conceptualization of the ideal social contract, why does utility not affect the formulation of society?

  • (A.) The actors in Rawls’ theoretical society crafting process are divorced from social bias, economic status, and naturally distributed ability, and thus have no concept of maximizing individual utility.
  • (B.) Understanding that social divisions will naturally arise, a rational man will not agree to a societal structure in which benefits are taken from the well-off to give to the poor, in case he happens to be well-off in the new society.
  • (C.) Starting from a state of equality, a self-interested individual would not choose a societal structure in which he could end up less well-off for the benefit of another person or group.
  • (D.) When formulating an ideal social contract, the citizens will be well aware of the failures of previous institutions, and will take great pains to avoid a society that allows for utility-maximizing social arrangements.

(4.) Given that the original position described by Rawls is purely theoretical, how does the author argue for its relevancy?

  • (A.) The conditions of the original position are impossible to enact, but nonetheless reflect what most people already believe should be true of the construction of social contracts.
  • (B.) While the original position is a hypothetical model, if applied correctly it is able to produce conditions and judgments that would create a perfect society if ever applied in the real world.
  • (C.) Justice is a natural human instinct that is inevitably distorted by imperfect social institutions, and applying the veil of ignorance allows the best and most selfless elements of the human to arise, creating the most just theoretical society.
  • (D.) While the original position cannot be literally enacted on a society-wide basis for many practical reasons, strangers of average ability can be assembled into groups to run the social contract shaping experiment; when repeated enough times, this experiment will produce a consensus on how to best structure a just society.

(5.) According to Rawls’ two principles of justice, which of the following arrangements would be permissible?

  • (A.) A society in which only ten people hold government authority (from a pool of positions open to all to compete for), but societal friction is far less as the general public spends far less time worrying about politics.
  • (B.) A society in which income inequality exists, but for every dollar less a poor citizen takes home, a wealthier citizen takes home five dollars more, greatly boosting the overall economy.
  • (C.) A society in which church-going is banned, but all citizens instead must spend four hours every Sunday working on community projects that benefit everyone.
  • (D.) A society in which women are not allowed to vote in every election, but in turn receive 25% more in wages.

Answer Key: (1.) B, (2.) D, (3.) C, (4.) A, (5.) B