Philosophy 3100 - Ethical Theory

Study Guide for Exam #1

Final Version


Exam #1 will take place on Wednesday, February 18th 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 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. What are the three main areas of normative ethics. For each area, indicate what is evaluated in that area, the terms of evaluation, and also the fundamental question of that area.
  2. What is it for a property to be subjective? Give examples of some subjective properties and, for each, explain why it is subjective.
  3. What is it for a property to be objective? Give examples of some objective properties and, for each, explain why it is objective.
  4. Explain the difference between moral realism and moral anti-realism. Name two versions of each theory and, for each, explain why it is a version of that theory.
  5. What is wrong with the following definition of moral anti-realism: "moral anti-realism is the view that moral properties are subjective properties"?
  6. Why, on our taxonomy, is the divine command theory correctly categorized as a form of subjectivism?
  7. Answer Yes or No to each of the following and then explain your answer (i.e., explain why it is true).
    (i) All cognitivists are realists.
    (ii) All realists are cognitivists.
    (iii) All non-cognitivists are anti-realists.
    (iv) No subjectivists are emotivists.
    (v) Some subjectivists are realists.
    (vi) All nihilists are non-cognitivists.
    (vii) Some intuitionists are naturalists.
    (viii) Some anti-realists are intuitionists.
    (ix) All reductionists are subjectivists.
    (x) Some reductionists are realists.
    (xi) No nihilists are reductionists.
    (xii) All reductionists are cognitivists.
  8. State and explain cognitivism.
  9. State and explain non-cognitivism as well as its two main versions.
  10. Explain the distinction between emotivism and subjectivism. In doing so, explain the distinction between what a sentence literally means and what it conveys (and give an independent example of this distinction).
  11. Explain the difference between an analytic truth and a synthetic truth. Give examples of each.
  12. Explain the difference between a priori and a posteriori knowledge.
  13. What, roughly, is Ayer's "radical empiricism," and why are ethical statements a potential problem for it.
  14. What is Ayer's solution to this problem and how does it avoid the problem?
  15. Explain in detail the Frege-Geach problem for non-cognitivism.
  16. What is Hamlet Subjectivism? Explain a problem for Hamlet Subjectivism.
  17. What is Humean Subjectivism? Explain the better version of the Nazi Argument against Humean Subjectivism. Explain why the first premise of this argument is better than the first premise of the confused version of the Nazi argument. Evaluate the better version of the Nazi Argument.
  18. Explain and evaluate Moore's No-Disagreement argument against Humean Subjectivism.
  19. Come up with a version of Moore's No-Disagreement argument that applies to the following theory: Cultural Relativism: 'x is wrong' means 'my society disapproves of x'. State this argument and give the rationale behind each of its premises.
  20. Explain and evaluate the first kind of argument in favor of subjectivism (either individual or cultural) that Huemer discusses.
  21. Explain what is wrong with the following thought: because cultural relativism is true, it is wrong to criticize the practices of other cultures.
  22. 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.
  23. With what question does Socrates confront an advocate of the Divine Command Theory?
  24. Consider the claim ("Horn 1") that wrong acts are wrong only 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? Describe two ways in which accepting that God's commands are arbitrary is problematic.
  25. Explore the extent to which this arbitrariness objection applies to other forms of subjectivism. Is there an arbitrariness objection to all forms of subjectivism? Explain. Illustrate with examples.
  26. Defenders of Plato's Euthyphro Argument hold that Horn 1 entails that all moral truths are contingent. What does that mean? Why is that supposed to follow from Horn 1? Why is that supposed to be implausible? Illustrate with an example.
  27. Defenders of Plato's Euthyphro Argument hold that taking Horn 1 commits Divine Command Theorists to saying a claim like the following is true: "If God had not prohibited rape and assault, then certain notorious acts of Ted Bundy would not have been wrong." One popular response to this objection is that God would never allow rape and assault. Give two reasons why this response seems ineffective or problematic.
  28. What is the problem with an advocate of the DCT taking Horn 2 of the Euthyphro dilemma?
  29. Present a version of Plato's dilemma (in particular, the arbitrariness aspect of it) for cultural relativism. (Hint: see Huemer, pp. 52-53.)
  30. Distinguish analytic from synthetic reductionism. Why is each of these a form of reductionism in ethics? Given an example of each kind of theory.
  31. How is reductionism in ethics supposed to help with moral knowledge? Illustrate this by showing how an analytic reductionist would account for moral knowledge.
  32. Present and explain the Ayerian version of the open-question argument (against whatever analytic reductionist view you like). Evaluate this argument.
  33. Construct an argument analogous to the one in the last question against the following theory: 'x is a circle' means 'x is the set of points equidistant from a given point'. Explain why this argument isn't as strong as the argument from the previous question.
  34. Consider the following argument:
    P1. Sally pushed Billy off the swing just because she wanted to play on it.
    C. Therefore, Sally did something wrong.
    Is this a counterexample to Hume's Law. Explain.
  35. What do intuitionists and nihilists agree about and what do they disagree about?
  36. What is a non-inferentially justified belief? Why does it seem that my belief that I had breakfast this morning is non-inferentially justified.
  37. Give some examples of some non-moral beliefs that, it seems, can be justified only through reason, or rational intuition. Give some examples of some moral beliefs that, an intuitionist might say, can be justified only through reason, or rational intuition. If such propositions are analytic, why is this a problem for intuitionists?
  38. State the entailment version of the argument from disagreement against intuitionism. Give a detailed rationale for the first premise. Give the rational for the second premise.
  39. 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.
  40. Explain how an intuitionist would try to rebut the first premise of the argument from disagreement. In doing so, explain what we mean by a *genuine* or *fundamental* moral disagreement, and distinguish this from moral disagreements that are not genuine or fundamental. Give examples of each. Explain why, if much of the moral disagreement that exists is not genuinely moral or fundamental, then it poses no problem for intuitionism.
  41. Explain in detail how an intuitionist would try to rebut the second premise of the argument from disagreement. Evaluate this reply.