Philosophy 3100 - Ethical Theory

Study Guide for Exam #1


Exam #1 is an in-class exam. Check the syllabus for the date. Bring a bluebook. Also bring (and write your exam in) blue or black ink -- no red ink, no pencil. Like all our exams, 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 (as we use the term in this class)?
    (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 realism and anti-realism in metaethics.
    (b) Explain the difference between cognitivism and non-cognitivism in metaethics.

    (c) Explain the difference between reductionism and non-reductionism in metaethics.
    (d) Explain the difference between naturalism and non-naturalism in metaethics.

  3. Answer TRUE or FALSE 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) All non-cognitivists are subjectivists.
    (e) Some subjectivists are realists.
    (f) All naturalists are reductionists. (Use our definition of 'naturalism' from class, rather than Huemer's definition.)
    (g) Some intuitionists are naturalists.
    (h) All reductionists are anti-realists.
    (i) No nihilists are reductionists.
    (j) All reductionists are cognitivists.

  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 empiricism, and why does it seem difficult, at least initially, for an empiricist to account for moral knowledge?
    (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. (Go one premise at a time; treat each premise individually.)
    (c) Evaluate the argument. (That is, say whether you think this is a successful argument, and why.)

  6. (a) State and explain the theory we called Simple Subjectivism.
    (b) State Moore's Argument against this view, and give the rationale for each premise.
    (c) Evaluate 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. 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.
    (a) What does this (the claim that God's commands are arbitrary) mean?
    (b) Why is this claim supposed to follow from Horn 1?
    (c) Why is this problematic?
    What is the problem with an advocate of the DCT taking Horn 2 of the Euthyphro dilemma?
    Describe how the arbitrariness objection can apply to other forms of subjectivism/constructivism.

  10. (a) Explain analytic reductionism.
    (b) Use an example to show how moral knowledge works on analytic reductionism.
    (c) State a simple version of analytic reductionism (of your choosing), and then state Hare's Speech-Act "Open Question" Argument against this theory.
    (d) Give the rationale for each premise of this argument.
    (e) Evaluate the argument.

  11. (a) What do intuitionists and nihilists agree about and what do they disagree about?
    (b) What is a non-inferentially justified belief? Give an putative example of a non-inferentially justified belief that is justified on the basis of visual experience. Give an example of a non-inferentially justified belief that is justified on the basis of reason, or rational intuition (but not an example from ethics)?
    (c) Give some examples of some moral beliefs that, an intuitionist might say, can be justified through reason, or rational intuition.
    (e) Do intuitionists believe that these propositions are analytic or synthetic? Explain.

  12. (a) State the Argument from Disagreement (or from Relativity) against Intuitionism/Moral Realism, and give the rationale for each premise.
    (b) 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 that it is true, but rather what follows if Nihilism is true and everything else is the same -- in particular, everyone still holds lots of moral beliefs.)
    Discuss in detail, and then evaluate, what you take to be the Moral Realist's strongest response to the Argument from Disagreement.