PHIL 351

  
D. Matthews’s Response to N. Bostrom on Existential Risk (Readings and lectures Week 11) 
Format: submit a doc, docx, rtf, txt, or pdf file to Turnitin via iLearn 
Length: 1600-1800 words (include word count at the start of the paper) 
Due date: If submitted by 05/04: +1.5 Extra credit on course grade If submitted after 05/12: penalty: -0.5/day on essay grade 
Overview: 
Nick Bostrom argues that avoiding existential risk and existential loss should be a global priority. Dylan Matthews responds by stating that Bostrom’s argument relies on a false sense of statistical precision, and by questioning his assumption that people who might exist in the future should be counted equally to people who do exist today. This assignment asks you to present and assess Matthews’s critique, that is, identify the claim and its justifications. 
Assignment:
Compose an essay discussing the following questions: 
• How would you characterize effective altruism? Are there good reasons to support this view? 
• According to “existential risk obsessives,” why should effective altruists care about existential risk? 
• What does Matthews mean when he says, “global poverty is a rounding error”? Is this an accurate characterization of Bostrom’s viewpoint? 
• Are Matthews’s criticisms of Bostrom’s argument valid and reasonable? Why or why not? 
Writing and Structural Notes:
• It is crucial that you present Bostrom’s argument and Matthews’s criticism. 
• The presentation of somebody else’s argument should be done in your own words (i.e., not just a quotation), and should be done as clearly and plainly as possible.
• Present also your own take on Bostrom’s argument. That is, explain whether or not you agree with it and why: You may agree with a claim but not the justifications given for it. Conversely, you may agree with all the reasons given to support a claim, but not agree that they do in fact support the claim in question. 
• Be sure to include a proper introduction and conclusion. An introduction should do the following: 
o Introduce the reader to the problem. That is, explain in general terms what the topic is, what the issue is, and why the reader should care about it. 
o Introduce the reader to what will be done in the essay: explain briefly what the different parts of the essay will be, that is, provide a roadmap 
You do not need to use additional sources. 
• Cite all sources using both in-text citations and a works cited page. 
Rubric:
• Most important for this assignment is the accurate, fair exposition of Bostrom’s and Matthews’s claims. • Also, important—but to a lesser degree—is your assessment of these claims (particularly of Matthews’s criticism). • Clarity of expression is paramount. Aim to write simple, plain sentences. Avoid technical terms and jargon whenever possible. 

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