PHIL 1100 -- Ethics
Prof. Chris Heathwood
T.A. Bodhi Melnitzer
University of Colorado Boulder
Study Guide for Midterm Exam
The midterm exam will come in two parts and will take place over two class periods. The first part will consist of very-short-answer questions (multiple-choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank questions, and the like). The second part will consist of short-answer questions (questions that can usually be answered in a sentence to a paragraph). Those will be similar to the sorts of questions below. Both parts will take place in class, and will be closed-note and closed-reading. For the second part, you'll need to bring a bluebook.
For the midterm, you are responsible for five main topics:
- what ethics is
- religious approaches to ethics (DCT, the Euthyphro Problem)
- sociological approaches to ethics (CR, arguments for and against CR)
- utilitarianism (AU, arguments against AU).
You are responsible for fifteen readings and one radio segment:
- Shafer-Landau, "Introduction" (2011)
- Rachels, "What is Morality?" (2009)
- Mortimer, "Morality is Based on God's Commands" (1950)
- Plato, from Euthyphro (~380 B.C.E.)
- Antony, "Good Minus God" (2011)
- Herodotus, from Histories (~450 B.C.E.)
- Benedict, from "Anthropology and the Abnormal" (1934)
- Rachels, "The Challenge of Cultural Relativism" (2003)
- Lewis, from Mere Christianity (1958)
- Midgley, "Trying Out One's New Sword" (1981)
- Mill, from Utilitarianism (1863)
- Feldman, "What is Act Utilitarianism?" (1978), pp. 16-26
- Feldman, "Act Utilitarianism: Pro and Con" (1978), pp. 36-41
- Rachels, "The Debate Over Utilitarianism" (2009)
- Thomson, "Killing, Letting Die, & the Trolley Problem"
- Radiolab, "Morality"
Being responsible for the readings includes being responsible for the Reading Questions. In fact, some of the questions on the first part of the midterm will be derived from the reading questions; some may even be identical.
And you are responsible for everything we did in lecture, including what we talked about and what's on the slides. The slides are available on the course schedule on the syllabus.
To prepare for the exam, re-read any readings that you found challenging, study your notes, study the lecture slides, and, most importantly, write out your answers to the questions below, as if it were the exam. Do this before the review sessions, so that you will know what questions you need to ask.
In some questions below, I ask you to "Present, Explain, and Evaluate" some argument. I am asking for something very specific. To know what that is, see this document: Presenting, Explaining, and Evaluating Arguments.
- (a) What are the three main areas of normative ethics? Name a question that is asked in each area.
(b) What is the fundamental project of the Normative Ethics of Behavior?
(c) Give an example of a theory in the Normative Ethics of Behavior. Give an example of a moral principle in the Normative Ethics of Behavior that is not a theory (i.e., not a “fully general” principle).
- (a) What is an argument? What does it mean to say that an argument is valid? What does it mean to say that an argument is sound?
(b) Can a sound argument have a false conclusion? If so, invent an example of an obviously sound argument with an obviously false conclusion. It not, explain why not.
(c) Can an argument in which every line is false be valid? If so, invent an example of an obviously valid argument in which every line is obviously false. It not, explain why not.
(d) Suppose we have an argument with a certain conclusion. If you say that that argument is unsound, are you thereby saying that you think the conclusion is false? (In other words, if an argument for a conclusion is unsound, does it follow that the conclusion is false?) Explain your answer.
- (a) State 10C (the theory based on the Ten Commandments).
(b) Give your own counterexample against 10C, based on your own specific case (it can be a imaginary one). Describe your case in detail, and then represent your argument against 10C in the form of an argument like this:
P1. If 10C is true, then ______________________ .
P2. But it’s not the case that _____________________ .
C. Therefore, 10C is not true.
(c) Then give the rationale for each of the above premises (that's the reason the premise is supposed to be true).
- (a) State DCT (the Divine Command Theory). Illustrate the theory with an example.
(b) Does believing in the Divine Command Theory logically require believing in God? If so, explain why. If not, explain what follows from the combination of DCT and atheism.
(c) Explain The Euthyphro Problem for DCT.
(You can either present and explain the line-by-line version of the argument we had on a slide, or you can explain the problem less formally. Whatever you do, your answer should include the following elements: (i) Socrates’s Question; (ii) an explanation of both possible answers, or “horns”; (iii) a detailed explanation of both of the allegedly implausible implications of “Horn 1”; (iv) an explanation of why “Horn 2” is evidently not an acceptable option for a Divine Command Theorist.)
- (a) State CR (Cultural Relativism). Define any technical terms. Illustrate the theory with an example.
(b) Does CR imply that everyone should be more tolerant of the practices of other cultures? Explain your answer.
(c) Present the Cultural Differences Argument in favor of CR, give the rationale for P1, and then say what you think of P2.
(NOTE: When I ask you to “present” an argument, I am asking you simply to write down the premises and conclusion, in valid form. When I ask you to “give the rationale” for a premise, I am asking you to give the reason the premise is supposed to be true -- the reason that a proponent of the argument would give for thinking that the premise is true. You can give the rationale for a premise even if you think the premise is false.)
(d) Present, Explain, and Evaluate the The Argument from the Evaluation of Cultures against CR.
Present, Explain, and Evaluate some version of The Gallup Poll Argument against CR.
- (a) State Act Utilitarianism (AU), defining any technical terms. Explain the basic idea of the theory in your own words (as you would do if you were explaining it to a friend).
(b) Give an example involving an act that is intuitively morally obligatory and that AU agrees is morally obligatory. Explain thoroughly why AU implies this.
(c) Give an example involving an act that is intuitively morally wrong and that AU agrees is morally wrong. Explain thoroughly why AU implies this.
(d) Sometimes people say that utilitarianism is the view that right actions are those that cause more pleasure than pain. Name one thing wrong with this way of understanding utilitarianism.
(e) Present, Explain, and Evaluate the "Lack of Time" Argument against AU.
(f) Present, Explain, and Evaluate the Organ Harvest Argument against AU.
(g) Explain the cases Switch and Footbridge. Then state "the Trolley Problem."
(h) Someone might propose this idea: it's ok to kill the one and save the five in Switch but not in Footbridge because in Footbridge, but not in Switch, if you save the five, you must physically push the one to do so. Describe a variant of the Footbridge case that removes this difference between the case and that suggests that this idea is not a successful solution to the Trolley Problem. Be sure to explain why this shows that this idea is not successful.
(i) Explain why, if we are unable to identify a morally relevant difference between Switch and Footbridge that can explain why it's ok to kill the one and save the five in Switch but not in Footbridge, this can be used to defend AU against the Organ Harvest Argument.
Again: to know what I am asking you to do when I ask you to "Present, Explain, and Evaluate" an argument, see this document: Presenting, Explaining, and Evaluating Arguments.