Thursday, April 30, 2009

Study Guide for Final Exam : Study Groups Encouraged!!

EMP, Ch. 4 Does Morality Depend on Religion? (see also RTD, “Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy”)

1. What is the Divine Command Theory of ethics (see both RTD and EMP)? Is an against it, i.e., arguments to think it is false? Are these objections strong objections to it, i.e., give reason to think it’s false, or not? Explain.

2. Socrates asked, "[A] Does God command doing certain actions because they are right actions, or [B] are actions right because God commands them?" Explain this question, responses [A] and [B] and what’s entailed by them, and which response is a better response and why.

3. Can a theist reject the Divine Command Theory of ethics? If so, how? Why might a theist do this?

4. Rachels discusses a number of challenges in appealing to religious texts, authorities and traditions for understanding and resolving moral issues. What are these challenges? (62-67; also, 50-51). 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.


Be able to present all the arguments about abortion that we discussed in class in logically valid premise-conclusion form, explain them and evaluate them as sound or unsound, with reasons. A full handout, with all the premises stated, is here:

Be able to know which arguments are Marquis’s and which are Thompson's. Here are some details that you’ll know if you are familiar with all the discussed arguments;

1. Some people think about “abortions” in general. Explain why we thought it’s better, when one develops a moral view about abortion, to make it clear whether one’s view pertains to all abortions or only some of them, and if just some of them, that one explains which abortions one is arguing to be right or wrong. The Feldman handout gave some insight into this:

2. Some people disagree about whether fetuses are “human” or “human beings”. To help resolve this dispute, be able to explain how the word “human” (as in the claim ‘Fetuses are human’) is ambiguous; be able to explain two distinct meanings, with examples. Although we discussed this in class, warren also provided this explanation in this extra credit reading:

3. Be able to explain one method of reasoning to try to figure out the meaning of the word “person” or what the concept of “person” or “being a person” is. This method is generally useful for trying to figure out the meanings of words or concepts when their meanings are not clear.

4. Be able to explain what it is to be a person, on the theory developed in class, and the view that was developed in class. Explain why, on this theory, if God exists, God is a person. Explain why, on this theory, if “ET” existed, ET, Worf, Jabba The Hut and other fictional persons would exist as persons.

5. Since you should be able to explain all the arguments, be able to give a logically valid argument against abortion from fetuses’ potential to be persons. Be able to explain whether any premises in that argument are false. In particular, you need to explain whether , in general, potential things of a kind have all the characteristics (esp rights) of actual things of that kind.

6. According to scientists and physicians, approximately when do human fetuses develop some kind of consciousness and ability to feel pain? (Present the range of scientific estimates). Do most actual abortions occur before or after this time period?

7. Explain why a bumper that said “Aren’t you glad your mother didn’t have an abortion?” doesn’t appear to suggest a sound argument against abortion because it suggests an analogous argument against birth control.

8. Some arguments against abortion suggest that birth control and even abstinence are wrong also. (However, since most people don’t believe that birth control and abstinence are wrong, they take this false implication to reveal a fault with the argument.) Explain how this is so and which exact premises have that implication.

9. Some people get upset when it is said, and even argued (i.e., reasons are given), that (early) fetuses are not “persons” and not conscious, feeling beings. Explain to them why they should not get upset, since these facts do not entail that abortions are right. Explain why that is so, i.e., why this argument is invalid:

a. If fetuses were persons, then killing them would be wrong.

b. But fetuses are not persons.

c. Therefore, killing them is not wrong.

10. What’s Don Marquis’s argument for the immorality of abortion? What’s his overall strategy? Present an objection to each premise of the argument that is not the "objection" that not everyone has a valuable future.

11. What’s Judith Thompson's argument for the moral permissibility of abortion? What’s her overall strategy? What important points does she contribute to the discussion of the ethics of abortion?

Here’s a PowerPoint on abortion that you might find interesting:

What is ethical egoism? (If someone is an ethical egoist, what exactly does he or she believe?)
• Present at least two logically valid arguments against ethical egoism, i.e., for the conclusion that ethical egoism is false.
• Are these arguments sound or not? Explain and defend your view.

Famine / poverty aid:
• What is Singer’s argument regarding famine aid issues? Be able to present his complete argument in a logically valid form. You will need to know the details.

What role do the examples of the pond/pool, Dora and Bob play in his argument? (i.e., why does he discuss these examples?)
• Be able to present at least 5 objections to Singer’s argument in logically valid form. Since identifying the unstated assumptions behind these arguments was our focus, these objections should be made as logically valid arguments; you’ll need to explain why these arguments are sound or unsound (i.e., why at least one premise is false) and/or defend their premises. Simply asserting that Singer is wrong, or that we have no such obligations, or other responses – without giving reasons and defending them – will be inadequate.
You might find this Powerpoint interesting:
And there’s a video here:

Questions on the arguments from Singer's "All Animals Are Equal" and Simmons' "Reasonable Humans and Animals"

Singer on racism, sexism, "intelligence"-ism and speciesism,

· According to Singer, racists and sexists violate “the fundamental principle of equality.” Explain what this principle is and how they violate this principle. Explain what interests are. Fully explain how Singer argues this principle applies to animals.

· Why, according to Singer, would we not want to tie our opposition to racism and sexism to “factual equality?” This addresses a response to racism and sexism that Singer thinks we wouldn’t want to accept.

· Singer discusses a number of other hypotheses to explain why racism and sexism are wrong. What are these other hypotheses? Why are they not good explanations for why racism is wrong, according to Singer?

· Why, according to Singer’s reasoning, is it wrong that animals are raised and killed to be eaten, worn and experimented on? (His reasoning is not that they have “rights”). Is his reasoning sound? Why or why not?

· What is “speciesism” according to Singer? Why is it wrong, according to Singer? Is he right?

· Singer gives a principle for when an experiment on an animal would be morally acceptable. What is his suggestion? Is he right? Why or why not?


· Be able to present and explain – in valid, premise-conclusion form -- John Simmons’ argument from the article “Reasonable Humans and Animals.”

· Be able to present ten objections to Simmons’ argument in logically valid form, where all the premises are clearly stated, and evaluate these objections with reasons. At least 50 objections are here: