PHIL 3100 -- Ethical Theory
Fall 2015
Prof. Chris Heathwood
T.A. Jay Geyer
University of Colorado Boulder


Study Guide for Final Exam


The final exam will come in two parts and will take place over two meetings, the first during the last week of classes and the second during finals week.  The first part, which is worth fewer points, 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 closed-note and closed-reading exams.  For the second part, you'll need to bring a bluebook.

For the final exam, you are responsible for all of the material and all of the readings that we have studied since the midterm.  To get an idea of the topics, you can look at the list under "Option 1: Open Topic" on the Second Paper document.  To see all the readings we've done, you can look at the Reading Questions document.  Being responsible for the readings includes being responsible for the reading questions.  In fact, some of the questions on the first part of the midterm may be derived from the reading questions; some may even be identical.

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, study the slides from lecture (which you'll find on the syllabus), and, most importantly, write out your answers to the questions below, as if it were the exam.  Do this before the review sessions, 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 final exam 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.  If I can be of assistance in helping you form a study group -- e.g., I could send out an email to the class about it -- please let me know.


Study Questions


Normative Ethics of Behavior

  1. (a) What is the fundamental project of the normative ethics of behavior?
    (b) What is the difference between a mere moral principle and a fully blown moral theory?
    (c) Carefully state a sample theory in the normative ethics of behavior that is based on a popular ethical precept.  It could be based on the golden rule, the platinum rule, the Ten Commandments, something else ... .
    (d) Present a clear and convincing counterexample to this theory.

  2. (a) State act utilitarianism (AU).  Be sure to define the two technical terms.
    (b) State a defective formulation of act utilitarianism and explain why it is defective.
    (c) Does AU imply that it is always right to calculate utilities before we act?  If so, explain why.  If not, explain why not by giving a counterexample (to the claim that it is always right to do this according to AU).  (Hint: in answering this question, you might consider Sepielli's claim that deliberating a kind of acting.)

  3. (a) Explain the organ harvest objection to AU.  Doing so will require telling the story behind the objection, and presenting the relevant line-by-line argument.  Also give the rationale for P1 of the argument.
    (b) What is wrong with giving the following rationale for P2 of this argument?:
    "P2 is true because if the doctor were to kill her patient in order to save the five others, people would no longer trust their doctors.  They would be afraid to go to hospitals and so would be dying in great numbers of easily preventable diseases.  This would be disastrous."
    (c) In class we discussed two responses to this argument, one based on a trolley case and another involving a series of cases.  Explain one of these lines of response in detail, as persuasively as you can.

  4. (a) Define 'prima facie duty'.  Illustrate the idea by means of an example.
    (b) Present Ross's list of seven basic prima facie duties.  For each duty, say in a sentence what the duty is.
    (c) State Rossian Pluralism (RP).  Explain the basic idea of the theory in your own words.  Illustrate the theory with an example of your own devising.
    (d) State Ross' Argument from Promises against Utilitarianism.  This will require giving Ross' example.
    (e) Give the rationale for each premise of this argument.
    (f) In class we laid out an argument against Ross' theory that contained this premise: If we all successfully follow Rossian Pluralism, we'll be less happy as a whole than if we all successfully follow Utilitarianism.  Give a thorough and detailed rationale for this premise.

Axiology / Welfare

  1. (a) Explain the difference between intrinsic value (for a person) and instrumental value (for a person).  Give intuitive examples of each (i.e., an example of something that intuitively is either intrinsically good for a person or intrinsically bad for a person, and an example of something that intuitively is merely either instrumentally good or bad for a person).
    (b) Explain the difference between welfare and value simpliciter.  Give an intuitive example of something that might be intrinsically good or bad simpliciter without being intrinsically good or bad for anyone.
    (c) Suppose you wanted to determine whether being alive is intrinsically good for people.  How would you go about doing this?  Illustrate how this works.  What answer do you get?

  2. (a) State Hedonism about welfare (all three parts).
    (b) Must Hedonists believe that a life devoted to sensual pleasures (e.g., a life of "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll") is the sort of life that it would be best for everyone to live?  Explain.
  3. (a) Describe Nozick's experience machine.
    (b) Does Hedonism about welfare imply that everyone would choose to enter the machine?  Explain.
    (c) State our version of the experience machine objection to Hedonism about welfare, and give the rationales for each premise.

  4. (a) State a standard version of the Desire-Fulfillment Theory of welfare (do it in three clauses, analogous to the formulation of Hedonism above).
    (b) Explain how this theory avoids problems with the experience machine.  (In other words, explain why, if you replaced 'Hedonism' in your experience machine argument above with 'Desire-Fulfillment Theory', the argument would be less plausible.  Note that this question is about the standard desire theory, not Heathwood's particular version of the desire theory.)
    (c) Present some version of the "sick stranger on a bus" objection (or "exiled uncle" objection) to the standard desire theory.
    (d) Present one possible desire-theoretic solution -- in the form of a modification to the theory -- to this objection.
  5. (a) What in general is the Objective List Theory of well-being and what is Rice's particular version of it?  Be sure say what is meant by describing this theory of well-being as an "objective" theory.
    (b) Explain how an Objective List Theory avoids problems with the experience machine.
    (c) Present one main reason that Rice prefers an Objective List Theory over competing theories.
    (d) Present Heathwood's reason for rejecting an objective theory of well-being in favor of a subjective one.

Moral Uncertainty

  1. (a) What is the problem of moral uncertainty?
    (b) Describe the position known as 'moral hedging'.
    (c) Why is moral hedging an attractive response to the problem of moral uncertainty?  Describe a case where, intuitively, we ought to morally hedge.
    (d) Describe the Absolutism Problem.
    (e) Describe the Problem of Inter-theoretic Value Comparison.