PHIL 3100 -- Ethical Theory
Prof. Chris Heathwood
TA: Jules Guidry
University of Colorado Boulder
Study Guide for Midterm
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 are in-class, closed-note, and closed-reading exams. For the second part, you'll need to bring a bluebook.
For the midterm, you are responsible for all of the material and all of the readings we have studied so far in the class. To get an idea of the topics, you can look at the course schedule on the syllabus. To see all the readings we've done, you can look at the Reading Questions document. The exam will emphasize more what we did in class than what was discussed in some reading but not discussed in class.
To prepare for the exam, re-read any readings that you found challenging, study your reading notes, including your answers to reading questions, study your class notes, and, most importantly, write out your answers to the questions below, as if it were the exam. Do this before the review session, so that you will know what questions you need to ask.
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.
Another excellent way to prepare for the Midterm is to supplement your individual work on the material with group study. Try to arrange a study group with one or more of your classmates.
- (a) What is it for a property to be subjective or "attitude-dependent" (as we use the term in this class)?
(b) Give an example (not from ethics) of a subjective property and explain why it is subjective.
(c) What is it for a property to be objective?
(d) Give an example (not from ethics) of an objective property and explain why it is objective.
- (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.
- Answer TRUE or FALSE to each of the following and then ALSO 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) Some 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.
- (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?
(d) Why does it seem difficult, at least initially, for an empiricist to account for moral knowledge?
(e) What is Ayer's solution to this problem?
- State and explain Non-Cognitivism as we explained it in class.
- I have said that for any metaethical theory, it is best to include a semantic, a metaphysical, and an epistemological component. In class, we didn't do this for Non-Cognitivism. So do that now:
(a) What view on moral semantics (or the meaning of moral terms) does the Non-Cognitivist hold?
(b) What view on
moral metaphysics (or the nature of moral properties) does the Non-Cognitivist hold?
(c) What view on
moral epistemology (or how we gain moral knowledge) does the Non-Cognitivist hold?
Constructivism / Subjectivism
- (a) State and explain a simple individualistic Subjectivist theory. Just the semantic component of such a theory is fine.
(b) State Moore's No-Disagreement Argument against this view, and give the rationale for each premise.
State and explain a simple Cultural Relativist theory. Just the semantic component of such a theory is fine.
(b) Can Moore's No-Disagreement Argument be adjusted to apply to Cultural Relativism? If so, state such an argument and give the rationale for each premise. If not, explain why it can't be made to work against this theory.
State and explain a constructivist (or, in Huemer's terminology, a subjectivist) metaethical theory that avoids Moore's No-Disagreement Argument. Just the semantic component is fine.
(b) Explain why it avoids the argument.
- Here is one way to put the Arbitrariness Problem against constructivism in general:
(1) Assume for reductio: that some constructivist theory is true.
———— It follows that: ————
(2) There are no moral facts prior to a certain specified observer (or observers) taking up attitudes towards things. [from (1)]
It follows that:
(3) This observer's attitudes are arbitrary. [(2)]
It follows that:
(4) We have no reason to conform to the observer's attitudes. [(3)]
It follows that:
(5) We have no reason to conform to or to care about morality. [(1), (4)]
(6) We do have reason to conform to and care about morality. [premise]
———— Therefore: —————
(7) Constructivism is not true. [(1), (5), (6), reductio ad absurdum]
(a) Explain the inference from (1) to (2). As part of your explanation, use a particular version of constructivist for illustration.
(b) Explain the inference from (2) to (3). Be sure to explain the meaning of the key term in (3). As part of your explanation, use a particular version of constructivist for illustration.
(c) Explain the inference from (3) to (4). As part of your explanation, use a particular version of constructivist for illustration.
(d) Explain the inference from (1) and (4) to (5).
- (a) What is reductionism in metaethics?
(b) What is analytic reductionism?
(c) What is naturalism in metaethics? (Be sure to define any key technical terms in your statement of naturalism.)
(d) State Analytic Reductive Utilitarianism (our sample version of reductionism).
Can there be a form of reductionism that is not a form of naturalism? If so, give an example. If not, why not?
How is reductive naturalism supposed to help with explaining moral knowledge? (By 'reductive naturalism' I just mean a theory that is a form of both reductionism and naturalism.)
(g) What is the doctrine of moral supervenience?
Can ethical reductionism explain why this doctrine would be true? If so, what is the explanation?
- Here is how we stated Moore's Open Question Argument (as against Analytic Reductive Utilitarianism) in class:
P1. Q1 is open.
P2. Q2 is not open.
P3. If P1 and P2, then Q1 and Q2 don't mean the same thing.
P4. If Q1 and Q2 don't mean the same thing, then Analytic Reductive Utilitarianism is false.
C. Therefore, Analytic Reductive Utilitarianism is false.
(a) Give the rationale for P1. (This will require saying what Q1 is and giving a definition for 'open'.)
(b) Give the rationale for P2. (This will require saying what Q2 is.)
Give the rationale for P3.
(d) Give the rationale for P4. (This will require saying stating Analytic Reductive Utilitarianism is.)
Intuitionism and Nihilism
- (a) What do intuitionists and nihilists agree about and what do they disagree about?
(b) What is a non-inferentially justified belief?
Give a putative example of a non-inferentially justified belief that is justified on the basis of perception. Explain why this is (arguably) a non-inferentially justified belief.
Give a putative example of a non-inferentially justified belief that is justified on the basis of rational intuition but that is not a moral or evaluative belief. Explain why this is (arguably) a non-inferentially justified belief.
(e) Give three examples of moral or evaluative beliefs that, an intuitionist might say, can be justified non-inferentially, on the basis of rational intuition.
(f) Do intuitionists believe that these propositions (your answers from part (e)) are a priori or empirical? Explain.
(g) Do intuitionists believe that these propositions (your answers from part (e)) are analytic or synthetic? Explain.
(h) Explain why the doctrine of moral supervenience seems to pose a problem for intuitionism.
- (a) State the Argument from Disagreement against Moral Realism
Give the rationale for each premise.
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? Explain. (Here I am not asking you to consider what follows if Nihilism is true and we all know it to be true, but rather what follows if Nihilism is true and everything else is the same -- in particular, everyone still holds lots of moral beliefs.)
(d) Discuss in detail what you take to be the Moral Realist's strongest response to the Argument from Disagreement.