PHIL 3100 -- Ethical Theory
Prof. Chris Heathwood
T.A. Jay Geyer
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 list under "Option 1: Open Topic" on the First 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 will 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, 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 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 a posteriori or 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?
- (a) State and explain Non-Cognitivism.
(b) Here is the Frege-Geach Argument, as we presented it in class:
P1. If Non-Cognitivism is true, then moral terms (e.g., 'wrong') mean something different when they appear is the antecedents of conditionals than when they appear in simple sentences.
P2. But if moral terms mean something different when they appear in the antecedents of conditionals than when they appear in simple sentences, then the Iraq Argument is invalid (in particular, it equivocates).
P3. But the Iraq Argument does not equivocate and is not invalid.
C. Therefore, Non-Cognitivism is not true.
Give the rationale for each of the three premises above. (When I ask you to give the rationale for some premise, I am asking you to give the reason it is supposed to be true. You should be able to do this even if you don't think the premise is actually true.)
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 Argument from Disagreement 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 argument be made 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 the Divine Command metaethical theory. State the semantic component, the metaphysical component, and the epistemological component that we discussed in class.
(b) Can Moore's Argument from Disagreement be made to apply to the Divine Command Theory? 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?
- Here is the Arbitrariness Argument, as we presented it in class:
As. DCT is true.
C1. So, God's commands and prohibitions are arbitrary — that is, he has no reason for prohibiting what he prohibits or commanding what he commands. [from As.]
C2. Thus, we have no moral reason to obey these prohibitions and commands. [from C1]
C3. Thus, God's commands have nothing to do with what we morally ought to do. [from C2]
C4. Our moral obligations are determined by God's commands. [from As.]
C. So, DCT is not true. [from As, C3, and C4 by reductio ad absurdum]
(a) Explain the inference from As to C1.
(b) Explain the inference from C1 to C2.
(c) Explain the inference from C2 to C3.
(d) Explain the inference from As to C4.
- Explain informally how the Arbitrariness Argument would apply to Cultural Relativism.
- (a) What is reductionism in metaethics?
(b) What is analytic reductionism?
(c) Consider this metaphysical component of a simple version of analytic reductionism: for an act to be wrong is for it to cause pain. Using this theory, show how moral knowledge of the moral status of a particular action works on analytic reductionism.
(d) What does the moral epistemology of analytic reductionism have in common with the moral epistemology of intuitionism? Compare them.
- (a) What is naturalism in metaethics? (Be sure to define any key technical terms in your statement of naturalism.)
Can there be a form of reductionism that is not a form of naturalism? If so, give an example. If not, why not?
- (a) What is the doctrine of moral supervenience?
Can reductionism explain why this doctrine would be true? If so, give that explanation. If not, why can't it?
- Here is how we stated Moore's Open Question Argument 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 SVRAR is false.
C. Therefore, SVRAR is false.
(a) Give the rationale for P1. (This will require saying what Q1 is and defining '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 SVRAR, our Simple Version of Realist Analytic Reductionism.)
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 introspection. 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.
- (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.