Monday, October 02, 2006

Philosophy 302, Study guide for 1st Exam, Monday, October 9.

You should be able to answer all these questions and explain the various concepts and arguments below. Anything in the readings or discussed in class is eligible test material.

Study groups are highly encouraged!!

Logic & Arguments

  • What is an argument?
  • What is a conclusion?
  • What are premises?
  • What is a logically valid argument? Define ‘validity’ or ‘a valid argument’.
  • Give an example of a valid argument.
  • Why is it important for an argument to be valid?
  • Can a valid argument have true premises and a false conclusion?
  • What is a sound argument? Define 'a sound argument'.
  • Can a sound argument be an invalid argument?
  • Can a sound argument have false premises?
  • Can a sound argument have a false conclusion?
  • How, in general, do you show that a conditional, an if-then statement (‘if p is true, then q is true’) is false?
  • Identify and give an example of these invalid logical fallacies:
    Affirming the consequent
    Denying the antecedent
  • What is a necessary condition, a sufficient condition, and a necessary and sufficient condition? Be able to define these concepts and illustrate them with an example.
  • Explain how the term ‘morally right’ is ambiguous and explain the two meanings of the term. Give an example of an action that is ‘right’ in one sense of the term, and another action that is ‘right’ in the other sense of the term.

    EMP Ch. 1:
  • Explain, in detail, Rachel’s “minimum conception of morality.”
  • Explain Rachels’ argument that Baby Theresa cannot be “used as a means.”
  • Explain why some people might think that Baby Theresa is already dead. Explain why some people might think that she is not dead yet. (This suggests an ambiguity in ‘being alive’).
  • Be familiar with the Jodie and Mary case and the hospital’s reasoning.
  • Explain what a “slippery slope” argument or response is; explain how some people gave this response about the case of Tracy Latimer.

    EMP Ch. 2: CR & FGM
  • State and fully explain the idea of cultural relativism. If someone accepts CR, what theory does she believe?
  • State a valid argument for cultural relativism from moral disagreements between cultures (“cultural differences”). (Note: Rachels gives a version of this argument that he says is invalid; we discussed, however, a valid version). State whether you think the argument is sound or not; if you think it is not sound, explain which premise(s) is false. If you think it is sound, explain why all the premises are true.
  • Be able to give at least 3 valid arguments against CR; be able to explain each premise – that is, explain why someone might think the premises are true (this will often involve explaining why something is a logical consequence of cultural relativism. Explain whether you think the arguments are sound or not and why.
  • If you think we should be “tolerant”, should you think that cultural relativism is true? That is, if cultural relativism is true, is it true that we should be tolerant? (You might want to think about these questions also: should we always be tolerant, of everything? If we should just sometimes be tolerant, when should we be tolerant?)
  • Rachels argues that, sometimes, there is less moral disagreement than we might think because some moral disagreements are superficial: we accept the same moral principles, but differ in our beliefs about the facts. Explain this idea with an example.
  • Some people say that different cultures “disagree about everything, morally.” Explain Rachels’ argument that this is not true, that is his reasons to think that all cultures will share some moral values. What are some of these values that he thinks we all hold in common?
  • Female circumcision / female genital mutilation: what do its “advocates” say in favor of the practice, i.e, for why it is not wrong to have it? What do the critics (e.g., the editors at the Harvard Law Review) say against these advocates, and what are their arguments that it’s wrong? Whose arguments are sound, in your view?
  • Rachels presents a culture neutral standard of right and wrong. What is it? Explain his idea.
  • Even if cultural relativism is false, its advocates might teach us something useful. What are these things, according to Rachels?

    EMP Ch. 3: Simple Subjectivism & Homosexuality
  • State and fully explain the idea of simple subjectivism. If someone accepts simple subjectivism, what does she believe?
  • Be able to give at least 2 valid arguments against simple subjectivism; be able to explain each premise – that is, explain why someone might think the premises are true (this will often involve explaining why something is a logical consequence of simple subjectivism. Explain whether you think the arguments are sound or not and why.
  • Explain what Rachels thinks the general nature of “moral truths” or “truths of ethics” are.
  • Rachels thinks he can “prove” that some ethical judgments are true. What are the examples of his proofs?
  • Be able to state many common arguments against homosexuality (including those discussed in the articles in the RTD book) in valid form, and discuss whether they are sound or not. Be able to state which, if any, premises are false.

    EMP, Ch. 4 Does Morality Depend on Religion?
  • What is the Divine Command Theory of ethics? What are the objections to it? Are these objections strong objections to it, i.e., give reason to think it’s false, or not? Explain.
  • Rachels discusses a number of challenges in appealing to religious texts, authorities and traditions for understanding and resolving moral issues. What are these challenges? (57-62; also, 46 [middle of page]-47). Is Rachels right in thinking that these are challenges, or not? Defend your view on whether appealing to Bible and religious traditions alone are adequate to answer moral questions.

There might be some questions about the “Patterns of Resistance” article also.

See for some notes on what we have done.

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