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Joe N.
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Writing
TutorMe
Question:

Correct the mistakes in the following passage: John mist the bus home yester day so he walked back to his house, instead. Its a three mile walk and it was quiet hot out that after noon and bye the time he got home John was absolute exausted. He pored him a glass of water and sit down to watch tv.

Joe N.
Answer:

John missed the bus home yesterday, so he walked back to his house instead. It's a three-mile walk, and it was quite hot out yesterday afternoon, so by the time he got home John was absolutely exhausted. He poured himself a glass of water and sat down to watch TV.

Philosophy
TutorMe
Question:

What characterizes consequentialist ethics, and what problems are there with such ethical systems?

Joe N.
Answer:

Consequentialist ethics determine an action to be praiseworthy or blameworthy based solely on the consequences of that action. This is in contrast to deontological ethics, which determine the moral worth of an action based on the intentions of the actor; and to virtue ethics, which focus on the moral worth of an actor rather than actions themselves. For example, Action X could cause negative results, but could have been motivated by positive desires or intentions. Consequentialist ethics would determine Action X to have been immoral based solely on the consequences, while deontological ethics would determine Action X to be moral based solely on the motivating intentions or desires, and virtue ethics would have nothing to say about that action in isolation – rather, that action would be placed in a much broader context including many other actions to determine the moral worth of the actor herself, not the act. There are many variations on these broad categories of ethics, and they are often not mutually exclusive. One basic problem with consequentialism is the limit of human knowledge. It is impossible to know the outcomes of an action with certainty, and therefore, for the consequentialist, it is impossible to know the morality of an action before observing how it plays out in practice. This limits the value of consequentialist ethics as a branch of normative ethics, since the answer to the question "How should I act?" is impossible to give in advance except in terms of probabilities. Another problem is that of inconsistency, or "moral luck" as it is sometimes called: Person A and Person B could both perform Action X with the same intentions and in the same basic environment, but Person A could be morally praiseworthy and Person B morally blameworthy if their respective executions of Action X bring about sufficiently different results. This not only reinforces the limited value of consequentialist ethics as a guide for ethical behavior, but can be interpreted to suggest a certain moral fatalism – that our moral worth is not determined by our own efforts. We also have to take into account our reactions to the example cited above: if we noticed the similarities between Person A's and Person B's actions, we would likely pity Person B and begrudge Person A for their respective fortunes – very unusual ways to express moral sentiments, especially if we still maintain that those moral valuations of their actions are still true. However, the full picture is more complicated: even deontological and virtue ethics rely on consequentialist understandings of morality more than their proponents are often willing to admit. A deontological ethicist may say an action is praiseworthy because of the intentions behind the action, but those intentions are likely to have been intentions of a good result – that is, of good consequences. Similarly, a virtue ethicist may not examine acts in isolation, but in any such ethical system, "virtuous" people are likely to be those whose actions tend to produce good consequences for themselves and others.

English
TutorMe
Question:

What is an unreliable narrator, and how can a reader determine what to believe and what to distrust when dealing with one?

Joe N.
Answer:

An unreliable narrator is, as the name suggests, a narrator whose account is in some way inaccurate or misleading. While many works of fiction are told from the perspective of an omniscient third party, works told from the perspective of a character within the story often include clues that the story we hear from that character is somehow a distorted one. There are several reasons why a narrator may be an unreliable one: the narrator could have an interest in presenting certain characters in the tale (including him- or herself) in a more positive or negative light than they would be if the story were told without distortion; or the narrator could be unreliable for reasons having nothing to do with intentions, such as insanity or stupidity. In the case of the former (a narrator intent on putting a certain editorial spin on events, or even one willing to lie outright) it is important for the reader to ask why the narrator, as a character, might be inclined to bend the truth. The fact that a narrator is unreliable does not mean that nothing he or she says can be useful to us. Narrators will often be unreliable because they want to justify their own actions or opinions to their audience. If this is the case, there should be clues to that effect in the text – unreliable narrators are also often imperfect liars, and finding discrepancies in their accounts can give the reader insight into the truth, as well as insight into the character of the narrator. If we find two contradictory pieces of information, chances are good that one of them will seem to serve the narrator's interests better than the other, and this is often the information to be distrusted. When a reader has discovered and dealt with such a discrepancy, more is accomplished than simply the rooting out of the true account, because the reader has now learned some new information about the narrator as a character. Learning what characters are willing to lie about, or are unwilling to admit, is very valuable information. In the case of narrators who are unreliable for reasons having nothing to do with intentional deception, it becomes more complicated to discern the truth, but often easier to discern what these inaccuracies might tell us about the narrator. Motives for lying are often straightforward, and so when we suspect a narrator is lying to us, we can guess that the truth is somehow unflattering to the narrator. However, if the account is untrustworthy because of the narrator's insanity, or limited mental capacity, there are no neat motives to point to in order to discover the truth. Rather, we must look at the information they present and see if they have made any assumptions an otherwise sane or intelligent person would not have – or if they have failed to make associations an otherwise sane or intelligent person would have.

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