Philosophy 3100 - Ethical Theory

Study Guide for Exam #1

Final Version


Exam #1 will take place on Thursday, September 30th in class. Bring a bluebook. Also bring (and write your exam in) blue or black ink -- no red ink, no pencil. Exam #1 will be a closed-note and closed-book exam.

You are responsible for all the material on metaethics -- i.e., all the material we've studied so far this semester. This includes both the lectures and the readings.

How to Prepare:

Let me emphasize the importance of actually writing out answers to these questions. We often think we understand something -- until we try to put it in writing. Only then do we realize that we don't really understand it. If you don't write out your answers, you won't know what you don't know.

Study Questions

  1. (a) What is it for a property to be subjective?
    (b) Give examples (not from ethics) of some subjective properties and, for each, explain why it is subjective.
    (c) What is it for a property to be objective?
    (d) Give examples (not from ethics) of some objective properties and, for each, explain why it is objective.
  2. (a) Explain the difference between moral realism and moral anti-realism.
    (b) Name two versions of each theory and, for each, explain why it is a version of that theory.
    (c) What is wrong with the following definition of moral anti-realism: "moral anti-realism is the view that moral properties are subjective properties"?
  3. Answer Yes or No to each of the following and then explain your answer:
    (a) All cognitivists are realists.
    (b) All realists are cognitivists.
    (c) All non-cognitivists are anti-realists.
    (d) No subjectivists are emotivists.
    (e) Some subjectivists are realists.
    (f) All nihilists are non-cognitivists.
    (g) Some intuitionists are naturalists.
    (h) Some anti-realists are intuitionists.
    (i) All reductionists are subjectivists.
    (j) Some reductionists are realists.
    (k) No nihilists are reductionists.
    (l) All reductionists are cognitivists.
    (m) Some naturalists are realists.
    (n) All naturalists are cognitivists.
    (o) Some nihilists are naturalists.
  4. (a) Explain the difference between an analytic truth and a synthetic truth. Give two examples of each.
    (b) Explain the difference between a priori and empirical knowledge. For each of these ways of knowing, give two examples of propositions that can be known that way.
    (c) What is Ayer's empiricism, and why are ethical statements a potential problem for it.
    (d) What is Ayer's solution to this problem?
  5. (a) State the Frege-Geach argument in line-by-line format (as we did in class). Include any additional information required to understand the argument.
    (b) Give the rationale for each premise.
    (c) Evaluate the argument.
  6. (a) State and explain the theory we called Humean Subjectivism.
    (b) State Moore's No-Disagreement Argument against this view. Give the rationale for each premise. Finally, evaluate the argument. (NOTE: when I ask you to evaluate an argument, I am asking you for your own view on the argument.)
  7. Explain what is wrong with the following thought: because cultural relativism is true, it is wrong to criticize the practices of other cultures.
  8. Is the Divine Command Theory (as we formulated it in class) logically compatible with atheism? If not, explain why they are incompatible. If they are compatible, explain what follows from the combination of DCT and atheism.
  9. (a) With what question does Socrates confront an advocate of the Divine Command Theory?
    (b) Consider the claim ("Horn 1") that wrong acts are wrong because God prohibits them. Defenders of Plato's Euthyphro Argument hold that this claim entails that God's commands are arbitrary. What does this mean? Why is it this supposed to follow from Horn 1? Why is this problematic?
    What is the problem with an advocate of the DCT taking Horn 2 of the Euthyphro dilemma?
  10. Describe how the arbitrariness objection can apply to other forms of subjectivism.
  11. (a) Explain analytic reductionism.
    (b) Use an example to show how moral knowledge works on analytic reductionism.
    (c) State the Open Question Argument against analytic reductionism. Provide the rationale for each premise.
    (d) Evaluate that argument.
  12. (a) What do intuitionists and nihilists agree about and what do they disagree about?
    (b) What is a non-inferentially justified belief? Why might it be that my belief that I had breakfast this morning is non-inferentially justified.
    (c) Give some examples of some non-moral beliefs that, it seems, can be justified only through reason, or rational intuition.
    (d) Give some examples of some moral beliefs that, an intuitionist might say, can be justified only through reason, or rational intuition.
    (e) Do intuitionists believe that these propositions are analytic or synthetic? Explain.
  13. (a) State the Argument from Disagreement (or from Relativity) against intuitionism/moral realism.
    (b) Give the rationale for each premise.
  14. How well does nihilism explain the phenomenon of moral disagreement. In other words, if nihilism is true, would widespread moral disagreement be all that surprising? Why or why not? Explain. (Here I am not asking you to consider what follows if nihilism is true and we all know it, but rather what follows if nihilism is true and everything else is the same -- in particular, everyone still holds lots of moral beliefs.)
  15. (a) Discuss in detail one way that a moral realist might respond to the Argument from Disagreement.
    (b) Evaluate this response.