The Envelope & the Vintage Sedan

This activity draws heavily upon Peter Unger's book, Living High and Letting Die, and in particular upon two thought experiments featured within its pages, "The Vintage Sedan" and "The Envelope".

There are a few things to note before you get started.

1. You should carefully read the scenarios that follow. This is important because it's likely you'll see at least a couple of scenarios that are similar in structure, but where the small differences between them are (possibly) significant.

2. You should not aim at consistency, but simply answer in the way that most accurately reflects your moral views.

3. We're interested in your baseline moral intuitions here. This means you should avoid making judgements purely in terms of their social desirability. In other words, if you believe it is morally permissible to punch a kitten, for example, don't respond that it is not permissible just because you know that that's what most people will think.

Okay, we're going to start by asking you to respond to three scenarios. We won't comment on your responses at this stage, because we want to minimize the possibility of influencing the judgements you make.

Really Deep Thought

A poet, in his private letters, seldom thinks it necessary to keep up the farce of feeling; but casts off the trickery of sentiment, and glides into the unaffected wit, or sobers quietly into the honest man.
   --William Hazlitt.


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