PHIL 1100 -- Ethics
Fall 2015
Prof. Chris Heathwood
T.A. Bodhi Melnitzer

University of Colorado Boulder

Reading Questions

Here are questions to go along with our readings. Have them with you as you are doing each reading.  Write down what you take the answers to be.  If there is a pop quiz on the reading, some or all of the questions on the quiz will be taken verbatim from the questions below.  Remember that reading quizzes are open-note, so you can have your answers to the questions below out on your desk as you take the quiz.  So if you do the readings and write out your answers the questions below, you should ace every reading quiz.  Reading quizzes are not open-reading -- only open-note.

There is a beneficial side-effect of doing this.  Reading more actively -- e.g., taking notes on a reading, answering questions about the reading, looking out for particular ideas and issues in a reading -- rather than reading passively helps us better understand and better remember what we've read, and helps us connect the ideas in the reading to other things we know.

Russ Shafer-Landau
, "Introduction," from The Fundamentals of Ethics (Oxford University Press, 2011).
  This is the introductory chapter to an ethics textbook that we won't be reading.  But Shafer-Landau touches on some themes that will come up in our course.  He also has an introduction to logic and reasoning, which we'll be studying shortly.

pp. 1-7

  1. Shafer-Landau lists some reasons why some people are skeptical of the whole enterprise of ethics.  Which one of these reasons do you find to be the most plausible.  Try stating the reason in your own words, as if you were describing it to a friend.
  2. Shafer-Landau lists quite a few of what he calls "ethical starting points."  What is an ethical starting point?
  3. Do you disagree with any of Shafer-Landau's ethical starting points?  If so, which ones?

pp. 7-15

  1. According to Shafer-Landau, which two things does all reasoning involve?  What do they together make up?
  2. Can an argument in which every premise is true still be a bad argument?
  3. What is it for an argument to be logically valid?
  4. What is it for an argument to be sound?
  5. According to Shafer-Landau, what are the gold standard of good reasoning?
  6. According to Shafer-Landau, what is moral philosophy primarily a matter of?
  7. According to Shafer-Landau, what do moral philosophers want that physicists and psychologists also want?

James Rachels
, "What is Morality?" from The Elements of Moral Philosophy, sixth ed. (McGraw Hill, 2010). A chapter from another ethics textbook that we won't be reading.

  1. Name two of the moral principles that, according to Rachels, professional ethicists appealed to in explaining why, in their view, it would be wrong for the parents to remove Baby Theresa's organs so that they could be given to other children who needed them.
  2. Compare Rachels' definition of an argument's being sound to our definition.
    (a) What term does he use for our term 'premises'.
    (b) How does he express the notion of validity in his definition?
  3. According to Rachels, using people" typically involves what?
  4. Name one of the moral principles that the parents of Mary and Jodie appealed to in explaining their view about that case.
  5. TRUE or FALSE: Rachels argues that the question of who should make some decision is equivalent to the question of what the decision should be.
  6. According to Rachels, what three kinds of action have all been objected to with slippery-slope arguments?
  7. Why does Rachels think that slippery-slope argument should be approached with caution?
  8. According to Rachels, if we want to figure out what's right or wrong in some particular case, we must let our _____________ be guided by _____________ .
  9. According to Rachels, the two main ways to assess an argument in ethics are (i) to determine whether it has its _____________ straight, and (ii) whether the _____________ is appeals to are justified.
  10. Rachels lists five features of his idea of a conscientious moral agent. Name three of them.

Robert C. Mortimer
, "Morality is Based on God's Commands" (excerpt from his Christian Ethics, 1950)

  1. According to Mortimer, when some action is right, it is right because ____________ .
  2. Which of these would Mortimer accept?
    1. that our conscience won't lead us astray
    2. that what is right for some people might not be right for other people
    3. that human beings are of infinite worth
    4. the individual exists for the good of society
  3. TRUE or FALSE: Mortimer thinks that when Christianity tolerated slavery, this was justified.

, excerpt from Euthyphro (380 BC)

  1. Euthyphro claims to be an expert about __________.
  2. Who indicted Socrates for impiety?
  3. Socrates didn't want Euthyphro to give him examples of pious actions, but to explain to him what?
  4. For what purpose does Socrates want this explained to him?
  5. Euthyphro proposes the idea that what all the gods love is pious, and what they all hate is impious. What view of Mortimer's is similar to this?
  6. What question does Socrates put to Euthyphro in response to this proposal of his?
  7. TRUE or FALSE. In the end, Euthyphro provides an account of piety with which Socrates is satisfied.

Louise Antony
, "Good Minus God"

  1. Antony suspects that so many people dislike atheists because they think that rejecting God means rejecting what?
  2. As Antony sees it, why do nihilistic atheists deny that there are objective facts about what people morally ought or ought not to do?
  3. Who from the history of philosophy was a nihilistic atheist, according to Antony?
  4. Antony writes, "Things don't become morally valuable because God prefers them; God prefers them because they are morally valuable."  What should this remind us of?
  5. Does Antony think that even theists should agree with her about this?  Why?
  6. Antony identifies two things that the Divine Command Theory of ethics nicely explains.  What are they?
  7. According to Antony, Divine Command Theory can succeed only if it can explain __________.
  8. What is the "Divine Independence Theory"?
  9. According to Antony, if the Divine Command Theory is true, then what kind of reason can we have and what kind of reason can we not have to obey God?
  10. Does Anthony think that our choices become more significant or less significant if atheism is true?  Why?

Herodotus, from his Histories (~450 B.C.E.)

  1. TRUE or FALSE: According to Herodotus, most people believe that their own customs are far better than those of all others.
  2. According to Herodotus, what was Pindar right about?

Ruth Benedict
, "A Defense of Ethical Relativism" from "Anthropology and the Abnormal," Journal of General Psychology 10 (1934).

  1. According to Benedict, the examples she discusses in first half of her essay show that what is culturally defined?
  2. According to Benedict, what mistake do we no longer make?
  3. What, according to Benedict, is 'morality' a convenient term for what?
  4. According to Benedict, most individuals are plastic to what?

James Rachels, "The Challenge of Cultural Relativism" from The Elements of Moral Philosophy, fourth ed. (McGraw Hill, 2003).


  1. According to Rachels, what recurring theme in social science does the story of Darius, the Greeks, and the Callatians illustrate?
  2. According to Rachels, in what two ways do Eskimos appear to have less regard for human life than we do in our culture?
  3. Rachels enumerates a number of claims commonly made by cultural relativists. How many does he list?

C.S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity (Macmillan, 1958)

  1. Lewis begins by talking about "standard[s] of behaviour" that we expect others to know about. In lecture, what name did we give to such standards?
  2. Why, according to Lewis, do some people believe that the idea of a law of decent behavior known to all people is fictitious?
  3. TRUE or FALSE: Lewis thinks that while there are differences between the moral codes of different cultures, there are some common to elements to them all.
  4. TRUE or FALSE: Lewis believes that most of us are generally good at doing what we ought to do.
  5. Near the end of his chapter, Lewis is discussing a view like the one we are calling Cultural Relativism. Name one of the implausible consequences of this view, according to Lewis.
  6. Lewis says that sometimes, what appear to be differences of opinion about morality are actually differences of opinion about what?

James Rachels
, "The Challenge of Cultural Relativism" from The Elements of Moral Philosophy, fourth ed. (McGraw Hill, 2003).


  1. Rachels lists a number of what he takes to be implausible consequences of Cultural Relativism. Which one that he mentions is not mentioned by Lewis?
  2. Rachels emphasizes that from the fact that customs differ between two cultures, we cannot automatically conclude that what differs between them?
  3. Rachels cites a number of values that he believes are shared by virtually all cultures. Name two of them.
  4. TRUE or FALSE: Rachels thinks that if one judges the practice of another culture to be wrong, this commits one trying to end that practice in that culture.
  5. What genuine insight does Rachels say Cultural Relativism is based on?


Mary Midgley, "Trying Out One's New Sword" from her Heart and Mind: The varieties of moral experience (1981).

  1. What is moral isolationism?
  2. Is Midgley a moral isolationist?
  3. Describe the practice that the title of Midgley's article is derived from.
  4. Midgley claims that if it is ok to praise other cultures, it is also ok to do what?
  5. What does Midgley think moral isolationism lays down a general ban on?

John Stuart Mill, excerpts from "What Utilitarianism Is," ch. 2 of his Utilitarianism (1863). Check out a first edition of the book, published in London in 1863.

pp. 1-4 (to 2/3 of the way down p. 4)

  1. At the beginning of the reading, Mill appears to state what is more or less a fully general moral principle, or a moral theory. What is it?
  2. What two names does he give it?
  3. According to Mill, what are the only two things that are desirable in themselves?
  4. According to Mill, what is true of all Epicurean "theories of life"?
  5. TRUE or FALSE: According to Mill, it can happen that two pleasures are equal in the amount of pleasure they contain, yet one is more desirable than the other.
  6. According to Mill, it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a what?
  7. TRUE or FALSE: According to Mill, utilitarianism holds that right and wrong are determined by appeal to the agent's own happiness.
  8. What common moral rule does Mill think contains the basic essence of utilitarianism?

Fred Feldman, "What is Act Utilitarianism?" from his Introductory Ethics (Prentice-Hall, 1978).

pp. 16-26

  1. Feldman thinks that you are probably a utilitarian if you think that the moral status of an action is determined by what?
  2. What are the main differences between generic actions and concrete actions?
  3. Consider this claim: "an act is wrong if it makes someone feel bad." Is making someone feel bad a necessary or a sufficient condition for the act's being wrong?
  4. Consider this claim: "an act is wrong only if God forbids it." Is God forbidden it a necessary or a sufficient condition for the act's being wrong?
  5. Recall this interpretation of Mill's theory: "an act is right if and only if it causes pleasure and the absence of pain." Feldman thinks that this principle is not true because it implies that what?
  6. Recall this interpretation of Mill's theory: "an act is right if and only if it causes pleasure and does not cause pain." Feldman mentions two features that this principle lacks that he thinks any plausible utilitarian principle needs. Name one of these features.
  7. State the interpretation of Mill's theory that Feldman thinks is the best interpretation.
  8. What is consequentialism?

John Stuart Mill, excerpts from "What Utilitarianism Is," ch. 2 of his Utilitarianism (1863).

the rest of the reading

  1. According to Mill, those who think that utilitarianism is "too high for humanity" claim that utilitarianism requires us always to be motivated by a desire to promote what?
  2. Mill thinks that to make this objection against utilitarianism is to confuse what with what?
  3. TRUE or FALSE: Mill holds that if you save a child from drowning in order to get a reward rather than in order to promote happiness, then your act is wrong.
  4. Mill suggests that utilitarianism harmonizes quite nicely with religion if it is assumed that God desires what?
  5. According to an objection to utilitarianism that Mill discusses, utilitarianism requires us to do what before we act?
  6. In response to this objection, Mill claims that it is a mistake to use utilitarianism to directly test what?
  7. According to Mill, when we are in a situation in which we have conflicting duties, to what do we appeal to decide between them?

Fred Feldman, "Act Utilitarianism: Pro and Con" from his Introductory Ethics (Prentice-Hall, 1978), pp. 36-41.

  1. TRUE or FALSE: In discussing the "too high for humanity" objection, Feldman claims that when he treats his neighbors with respect, his motive is to promote the general interests of society.
  2. Which premise of Feldman's formalization of the "too high for humanity" objection would Mill reject?
  3. According to Feldman, on utilitarianism, just because someone did something wrong does not mean that it is right to do what to them?
  4. Which premise of Feldman's formalization of the "lack of time" objection would Mill reject?
  5. What is practical normative ethics?  Be sure to explain the key term in the definition.
  6. What is theoretical normative ethics?
  7. TRUE or FALSE: According to Feldman, if Mill put forth utilitarianism as a principle of practical normative ethics, then the "lack of time" objection is a good objection.
  8. TRUE or FALSE: According to Feldman, if Mill put forth utilitarianism as a principle of theoretical normative ethics, then the "lack of time" objection is a good objection.
  9. Does Feldman assume that utilitarianism is intended as a principle of practical normative ethics or theoretical normative ethics?

James Rachels, "The Debate Over Utilitarianism" from The Elements of Moral Philosophy, fourth ed. (McGraw Hill, 2003).

  1. What two questions does Rachels say are different questions?
  2. What, according to Rachels, is Hedonism?
  3. What two things does Rachels suggest are good to have in your life in addition to happiness?
  4. Does G. E. Moore reject Hedonism or Consequentialism?
  5. FILL IN THE BLANK: McCloskey's example is supposed to show that utilitarianism fails because it is insufficiently sensitive to considerations of __________ .
  6. Rachels suggests that one reason utilitarianism fails is that it does not recognize "backward-looking reasons."  Give an example in which, intuitively, to decide what one ought to do, one needs to look back at the past and not only at the consequences of each of one's options.
  7. According to Rachels' understanding of the "too demanding" objection, utilitarianism requires you to do what?
  8. What is it for an action to be "supererogatory"?
  9. A Rule Utilitarian first asks, "What general rules of conduct tend to promote the greatest happiness?"; and then when it comes to deciding whether a particular action is right or wrong, the rule utilitarian asks what?
  10. What common moral methodology does the utilitarian philosopher J.J.C. Smart reject?
  11. Rachels wonders whether future generations will look back at us in disgust for what two common practices that utilitarianism would seem to condemn?

Judith Thomson, "Killing, Letting Die, & the Trolley Problem" The Monist 59 (1976): 204-217.  Only §1 (pp. 204-208) is required.  The rest is optional.

  1. What is the "lovely, nasty difficulty" that interests Thomson?
  2. What does Thomson call it?
  3. FILL IN THE BLANKS: As Thomson describes Foot's solution to this problem, it involves the claim that a ______________ duty not to ______________ is more stringent than a ______________ duty not to ______________ .
  4. TRUE or FALSE: Thomson accepts Foot's solution.
  5. The reason for the answer to #4 is based on what case?  Describe the case.
  6. What, according to Thomson, is very much like the doctor in the organ harvest case taking the organs from one healthy person to save the five other people?

Radiolab, "Morality" (up to 13:40).

  1. According to Radiolab, if you ask people whether it's ok to kill one man to save five "using a lever" (that is, as in their first thought experiment), how many out of 10 will answer Yes?
  2. According to Radiolab, if you ask people whether it's ok to kill one man to save five "by pushing the guy" (that is, as in their second thought experiment), how many out of 10 will answer Yes?
  3. TRUE or FALSE: According to Marc Hauser, most people have a pretty good understanding of what drove these judgments in them.
  4. What is the central question that researcher Josh Greene is interested in?
  5. What device does Greene use to try to answer this question?
  6. What is the gist of Greene's theory as to why we make different judgments about the two thought experiments?
  7. What would Frans de Waal agree with Greene about?

W.D. Ross, "What Makes Right Acts Right?" from his The Right and the Good (1930).  I have indicated what to read and what to skip.  I have marked with a star what to pay special attention to.

pp. 16-33:

  1. State "the egoistic theory" that Ross mentions.
  2. Ross rejects utilitarianism, but does he also reject hedonism?  Provide a quotation to prove your answer.
  3. TRUE or FALSE: According to Ross, Kant maintains that it is always wrong to break a promise.
  4. TRUE or FALSE: Ross agrees with Kant about this.
  5. According to Ross, each prima facie duty cannot seriously be doubted to have what?
  6. TRUE or FALSE: Ross claims that several of the duties found in the Ten Commandments can be explained by appeal to some of his prima facie duties.
  7. It is self-evident to Ross "that if there are things that are intrinsically good, it is prima facie a duty to bring them into existence."  Who that we have studied this semester would be likely to agree?
  8. Ross appeals to three of his duties to explain the general duty to obey the law.  To which three does he appeal to explain this?
  9. How does Ross think we know that it is prima facie right to keep a promise?
  10. According to Ross, the set of basic prima facie duties is just as much a part of the fundamental nature of the universe as what?
  11. According to Ross, while we can be relatively certain of the general principles of moral obligation, our judgments of what are much less certain?

pp. 34-42:

  1. TRUE or FALSE: Ross maintains that it is sometimes right to make the world worse.
  2. According to Ross, cases in which a person has done what best illustrate his view on the previous question.
  3. According to Ross, our certainty that it is prima facie right to keep a promise depends not on our recognition of the good consequences of keeping promises but on what?
  4. TRUE or FALSE: Ross thinks that there is a general duty to keep promises despite the fact that he thinks that promise-keeping has little effect on the general well-being.
  5. According to Ross, what are the data to which moral theories must conform?
  6. According to Ross, an act is morally right if and only if it has what?  (Notice that this question is in the form of all the moral theories we have studied.)

Immanuel Kant, excerpts from Groundwork for the Metaphysic of Morals (1785).

  1. According to Kant, nothing is good without qualification except what?
  2. What, according to Kant, is far from deserving to be called good without qualification?
  3. According to Kant, it is better to act from __________ than from ___________ ?
  4. What do you think Kant means by, "I am never to act otherwise than so that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law"?
  5. TRUE or FALSE: Kant thinks it is never prudent to make a false promise.
  6. According to Kant, when I am truthful from duty, what implies a law for me?
  7. Why, according to Kant, can't I will that lying (or false promises) be a universal law?
  8. In discussing the example of the false promise, Kant gives an example of a maxim.  What is that maxim?
  9. According to Kant, a will that resolved to live by the "Let everyone be as happy as Heaven pleases" maxim would do what?
  10. The "Humanity Imperative" requires that we act so that we what?
  11. TRUE or FALSE: Kant thinks that his Categorical Imperative is equivalent to the Golden Rule.

David Lyons, excerpts from "Corrective Justice, Equal Opportunity, and the Legacy of Slavery and Jim Crow," Boston University Law Review 84 1375 (2004). Pp. 1375-1404, 1375- 1378, 1386-1397 excerpted; 167 footnotes omitted.

  1. TRUE or FALSE: Lyons maintains that present-day Americans are at least partly to blame for the slavery that existed in America in the past.
  2. Lyons emphasizes that in the United States, racial subordination was not just something that some private citizens did to other private citizens but was a matter of what?
  3. Lyons gives only a vague description of Jim Crow.  What was Jim Crow?  Give an example of a Jim Crow law.  (This will require a little bit of outside research.)
  4. Who does Lyons think is responsible for the significant gap between the life prospects of white Americans and black Americans?
  5. TRUE or FALSE: Lyons maintains that a government can be held accountable for its past wrongs even when no one or hardly anyone who is in the government now was in the government during the time of those past actions.
  6. To what institution did the U.S. federal government become committed when it drafted the U.S. constitution?
  7. What is the name of the court case that upheld Jim Crow laws?
  8. In 1994, the median net worth of white Americans was about what percent greater than the median net worth of black Americans?
  9. Lyons thinks that government policies concerning what are of special significance to the black-white life prospects gap.

Randall Robinson, "America's Debt to Blacks," The Nation 13 (2000).

  1. Robinson appeals to a moral principle roughly like the following: if a country ______________ that causes citizens living much later to _____________ , then the country must ______________ .  Fill in the blanks in a way that reasonably captures Robinson's principle.
  2. TRUE or FALSE: Robinson maintains that present-day Americans are at least partly to blame for the slavery that existed in America in the past.
  3. TRUE or FALSE: Both Lyons and Robinson believe that "redlining" has played an important role in the unjust treatment of African Americans.
  4. TRUE or FALSE: Robinson believes that the public initiatives required to address America's slavery-related wrongs are a matter of charity as opposed to a duty to justice.

David Horowitz, "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks is a Bad Idea for Blacks -- and Racist Too" 3 (2001).

  1. TRUE or FALSE: Horowitz maintains (i) that the pro-reparations view is based on the claim that only whites have benefited from slavery, but (ii) black Americans have much greater incomes than do the black Africans who live in the African countries from which the original slaves were kidnapped.
  2. Horowitz does not deny that reparations were owed to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, Japanese-American victims of internment during WWII, African-American victims of the Tuskegee experiments, and others.  But he thinks there is a morally relevant difference between these cases and the case of reparations for slavery.  What is it?
  3. TRUE or FALSE: Horowitz maintains that the United States has already paid reparations to African Americans to redress past wrongs.
  4. Horowitz claims that the case for reparations is based on the claim that all African-American descendants of slaves suffer from the economic consequences of slavery and discrimination.  Would Robinson agree that all African-American descendants of slaves so suffer?

Alastair Norcross, "Puppies, Pigs, and People: Eating Meat and Marginal Cases" Philosophical Perspectives 18 (2004).


  1. What does Fred do, and why does he need to do it?
  2. According to Norcross, most of the chicken, beef, and pork eaten in the U.S. comes from what?
  3. Norcross claims that almost no one would have worse health if they did what?
  4. If we condemn Fred for what he does, who else do we have to condemn just as much, according to Norcross?

David Boonin and Graham Oddie, "Arguments from Analogy" from What's Wrong?: Applied Ethicists and Their Critics (Oxford University Press, 2005).

  1. In your own words, in one sentence, explain what arguments from analogy are supposed to do.
  2. What is one way that one can object to an argument from analogy?
  3. What is the other way?
  4. Which of the two kinds of objection that you describe in the last two questions do Boonin and Oddie suggest is usually a more promising way to object?
  5. According to Boonin and Oddie, what two things does one have to do if one wants to object to the premise that the two practices discussed in the argument are morally on a par?
  6. What is the name of the strategy that one can use to test whether some difference between two practices is a morally relevant difference?

Alastair Norcross, "Puppies, Pigs, and People"


  1. In class on Monday, you all came up with four possibly morally relevant differences between Fred's behavior and buying factory-raised meat:
    (1) Ignorance;
    (2) Intending the harm vs. the harm being a mere side-effect;
    (3) Harming directly vs. indirectly;
    (4) Dogs are different.
    Which of these four does Norcross himself mention and reply to, and which of them not?
  2. Norcross discusses an objection from "causal impotence."  Does he ultimately concede that becoming a vegetarian has no chance of doing any good?
  3. TRUE or FALSE: Norcross is sympathetic to the Doctrine of Double Effect.
  4. TRUE or FALSE: Norcross agrees that it's probably the case that most puppies have a greater degree of rationality than most chickens.
  5. TRUE or FALSE: Norcross agrees that it's probably the case that most puppies have a greater degree of rationality than most pigs.
  6. TRUE or FALSE: Norcross agrees that our caring about some entity can give that entity increased moral status.

Don Marquis, "Why Abortion is ImmoralJournal of Philosophy 86 (1989): 183-202.

thru §II

  1. According to Marquis, what do most philosophers affiliated with secular institutions of higher education believe about the anti-abortion position?
  2. Marquis' paper will argue that abortion is in the same moral category as what?
  3. Marquis discusses two senses of the term 'human being'.  What are they?
  4. According to Marquis, in what way is the term 'person' typically defined in pro-choice arguments?
  5. Does Marquis think that having rights entails being conscious?
  6. Marquis claims that in order to settle the abortion debate, we need a general theory of what?
  7. To begin developing such a theory, Marquis first asks what simple question?
  8. State one of the counterexamples Marquis gives to the view that what makes killing a person wrong is the harm it would do to others.
  9. TRUE or FALSE: Marquis holds that the main thing that makes it wrong to murder an adult is what this does to him or her.
  10. Just what does killing some people do to them that makes it wrong, according to Marquis?
  11. TRUE or FALSE: According to Marquis' theory of the wrongness of killing, what makes killing Yoda or Frodo or Spock wrong is the very same thing that makes killing you or I wrong.
  12. TRUE or FALSE: Marquis' theory of the wrongness of killing implies that the killing of any human being is wrong.
  13. TRUE or FALSE: According to Marquis' theory of the wrongness of killing, what makes killing a healthy newborn baby wrong is the very same thing that makes killing you or I wrong.
  14. TRUE or FALSE: According to Marquis' theory of the wrongness of killing, what makes killing a healthy human embryo or fetus wrong is the very same thing that makes killing you or I wrong.
  15. Given what Marquis' says about inflicting pain on animals, would Marquis' agree with Norcross that what Fred does to his puppies is wrong?
  16. TRUE or FALSE: Marquis' argument for the wrongness of killing a fetus relies on the premise that a fetus is a person.
  17. Which of the following theories or philosophers that we have studied does Marquis NOT make any kind of reference to (including ideas used in those theories)?
    (a) Divine Command Theory
    (b) Cultural Relativism
    (c) Utilitarianism / Mill
    (d) Kant's Categorical Imperative / Kant
    (e) Rossian Pluralism / Ross.
  18. TRUE or FALSE: Marquis thinks that all abortions are wrong.


  1. Which of these more accurately describes Marquis' account of the wrongness of killing?
    (a) If an individual has a future like ours in store, it's seriously prima facie wrong to kill that individual.
    (b) If an individual does not have a future like ours in store, it's not seriously prima facie wrong to kill that individual.
  2. What is the desire account of the wrongness of killing?
  3. What does the desire account of the wrongness of killing imply about the morality of abortion, and why?
  4. Why does Marquis think that the desire account is mistaken?
  5. The "mentation requirement on victimizability" holds that in order for it to be wrong to deprive an individual of a future like ours, what must be true of that individual?
  6. What is Marquis' counterexample to this view?
  7. TRUE or FALSE: Marquis agrees that his position on abortion commits him to the claim that contraception is wrong.

Gerald Paske, "Abortion and the Neo-Natal Right to Life: A Critique of Marquis's Futurist Argument," originally in The Abortion Controversy: A Reader, Louis Pojman and Francis J. Beckwith (eds.) (Boston, MA: Jones and Bartlett, 1994): 343-53.  Reprinted in D. Boonin D and G. Oddie (eds.) What's Wrong? Applied Ethicists and Their Critics (New York, NY: Oxford University Press).

  1. Does Paske accept or reject Marquis' position on abortion?
  2. As Paske understands the notion of being a person, is every member of our species a person?
  3. As Paske understands the notion of being a person, could there be persons who are not members of our species?
  4. What, according to Paske, is the main reason it is wrong to kill an adult?
  5. Paske's argues against Marquis' Future-Like-Ours Theory of the Wrongness of Killing on the basis of an example of murdering the elderly.  What does Marquis' Theory imply about this case that Paske thinks is implausible?
  6. What does Marquis' Future-Like-Ours Theory imply about the case of the kitten that Paske thinks is mistaken?
  7. On Paske's view, is what makes it wrong to kill adults also what makes it wrong to kill newborns?

Judith Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion," Philosophy & Public Affairs 1 (1971): 47-66.

thru §4

  1. According to Thomson, the most common argument for the claim that the fetus is a person is based on the fact that the development of a human being from conception through birth is continuous, and so to choose a point in this development to be the point at which the fetus becomes a person is to make an arbitrary choice.  She thinks this is a bad argument because this sort of reasoning would commit you to what obviously false claim?
  2. According to Thomson, many who argue against abortion spend a lot of effort trying to show that a fetus is a person but little effort trying to show that from this it follows that what?
  3. In her defense of abortion, what is Thomson prepared to grant about the fetus?
  4. TRUE or FALSE: Thomson thinks that you cannot ever be unplugged from the violinist.
  5. Does Thomson thus think that we can always do whatever is required to save our own lives?
  6. TRUE or FALSE: Thomson holds that although the violinist has a right to life, he does not have the right to the use of your body, even though that is required to save his life.
  7. Thomson assumes that it is obvious that when a pregnancy is due to rape, the woman has not given the fetus what?
  8. Thomson considers the view that when a pregnancy is due not to rape but to voluntary sex, the woman has given the fetus what?
  9. According to that view, having an abortion in such a case would be more like what act and less like what act?
  10. In order to cast doubt on the idea that voluntary sex gives a fetus the right to use the woman's body, Thomson notes that voluntarily opening a window in your house does not give a burglar a right to what, nor "people-seeds" a right to what?


  1. TRUE or FALSE: Supposing that you only had to be plugged into the violinist for an hour, Thomson still thinks that it would be ok for you to unplug from him and let him die.
  2. TRUE or FALSE: Thomson thinks that both of these claims can be true together: (i) an older brother ought to give his younger brother some of his chocolates, but (ii) the younger brother has no right to any of the chocolates.
  3. TRUE or FALSE: Thomson thinks that if the burdens or pregnancy were small enough -- e.g., if they lasted only one hour -- then abortion even in cases of rape would be something the woman shouldn't choose.
  4. Thomson claims that no one in any country is legally required to do what for anyone else.
  5. She then notes that there is one striking exception to this.  She says it is obvious what that is.  What is it?
  6. Thomson thinks that those working towards making abortion illegal must also, on pain of inconsistency, work towards implementing what kind of laws generally?
  7. TRUE or FALSE: Thomson has not argued that abortion is always ok.

Richard Taylor, "The Meaning of Life," in Good and Evil (New York: Macmillan, 1970).

  1. Since the idea of a meaningful life is hard to understand, Taylor decides to directly examine what kind of life instead?
  2. And which figure from Greek mythology illustrates this life?
  3. According to Taylor, if we change Sisyphus's life so that it eventually comes to an end, does this make it no longer meaningless?
  4. According to Taylor, if we change Sisyphus's life so that the toil is easier, does this make it no longer meaningless?
  5. According to Taylor, if we change Sisyphus's life so that his work contributes to the creation of something beautiful and enduring, does this make it no longer meaningless?
  6. According to Taylor, if we change Sisyphus's life so that what he is required to do is just what he wants to be doing, does this make it no longer meaningless?
  7. TRUE or FALSE: Taylor maintains that, whereas the lives of the birds and the fish that he discusses are "accomplishing nothing, getting nowhere," the lives of the cicadas and glow worms are meaningful.
  8. TRUE or FALSE: At least initially, Taylor thinks that human life is really just as meaningless as the life of Sisyphus and the lives of the living beings that we find all around us.
  9. In the end, Taylor thinks that our lives can have a kind of meaning.  Which of the following best captures it:
    (a) Our lives are meaningful if God endows them with meaning.
    (b) The meaningful life is one in which our efforts culminate in something tangible and enduring.
    (c) A life is meaningful if the person living it spends his/her time engaged in activities he/she wants to be engaged in.
    (d) Meaning arises when subjective attraction meets objective attractiveness.

Susan Wolf, "Happiness and Meaning: Two Aspects of the Good Life," Social Philosophy and Policy 14: 207-225 (1997).

thru §III (pp. 207-219):

  1. Wolf distinguishes the question of what is in a person's interest from the question of what activities are meaningful.  What are the three theories self-interest that Wolf mentions (all you need are the names), and which of the three does she endorse?
  2. Who is one person who Wolf claims had a meaningful life, and who is one person who Wolf claims had a meaningless life?
  3. According to Wolf, meaningful lives are lives of what?
  4. Wolf lists examples of things that she thinks contribute to a life's meaningfulness as well as examples of things that, though we like them, do not.  Give one example of each.
  5. TRUE or FALSE: Nagel and Camus agree with Wolf that some projects and activities are more worthwhile than others, and that choosing to engage in the worthwhile ones provides a basis for a meaningful life.
  6. Recall the version of Sisyphus whose "one desire in life is to roll stones, and he is absolutely guaranteed its endless fulfillment" (Taylor, p. 22).  Call this person 'Fulfilled Sisyphus'.  TRUE or FALSE: Wolf would describe Fulfilled Sisyphus's life as meaningful.
  7. Wolf writes that if some people "are led by such mind-altering means to spend their lives occupied by ... watching endless reruns of Leave It to Beaver or counting and recounting the number of tiles on the bathroom floor ... then it seems to me most in line with ordinary language to describe them as leading meaningless lives, however fulfilled they may feel themselves to be."  Do you personally agree with Wolf that such lives are meaningless?

§§IV-V (pp. 219-225):

  1. According to a hedonistic theory of self-interest, what is the explanation for why it is in person's interest to have a meaningful life?  Does Wolf accept this as the full account of meaningfulness' value for us?
  2. According to a preference theory of self-interest, what is the explanation for why it is in person's interest to have a meaningful life?  Does Wolf accept this as the full account of meaningfulness' value for us?
  3. What is Wolf's view on why it is in person's interest to have a meaningful life?


-- The End --

thanks for reading!