Midterm Study Questions
Environmental Ethics, Spring 2010
Some important concepts: Interest, speciesism, absolute/moderate speciesism, moral standing, indirect duty/direct duty, intrinsic value, instrumental value, moral agent/moral patient, being used as a means versus being used as a MERE means, subject of a life, sentience, simple creatures versus self-conscious creatures (Jamieson on Singer), anthropocentrism, sentiocentrism, natural (2 senses), tragedy of the commons, public goods, externalities, philosophical naturalist, optimal state of pollution, environmental justice, environmental racism, taking under eminent domain/regulatory taking, equal versus identical treatment, moral versus factual equality, inherent value, earned versus unearned value, marginal case argument, utilitarianism, rights view, duty based on a right versus duty not based on a right, perfectionism, replacement argument, domestication as mutualism, conscientious omnivore, vegan versus vegetarian, animal activist versus environmentalist
Study Questions, Jamieson, Ch 1: Environment as an ethical question
1. Explain the distinction between protecting nature and protecting the environment, using Harlem as an example.
2. Explain some of William Cronon’s criticism of “wilderness environmentalism” (the tendency in environmentalism to focus on protecting special wild places). Do you agree with Cronon?
3. A good essay question: Are humans part of nature or not? Explain the considerations on each side of this issue and develop your own views on it. Discuss whether our environmental problems are due in part to people’s mistaken answer to this question.
4. Explain the difference between the idea that earth and its ecosystems are stable and the notion that they are delicately balanced. Which of these (if either) does Jamieson accept and why?
5. In your own mind how important is technology as a cause of environmental problems and as a possible solution to them?
6. In your own mind how important is economics as a cause of environmental problems and as a possible solution to them?
7. Explain the following concepts and given environmental examples of each: public goods, externalities, internalizing externalities, discount rate.
8. Do markets work well in allocating public goods? Why or why not?
9. Why did Larry Summer’s argue that we need more pollution in the developing world?
10. What did Lynn White argue in the “Historical Roots of our Ecologic Crisis?”
11. In what way is Christianity anthropocentric (human-centered) and Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism not?
12. Does White think technology has nothing to do with the env. Crisis? How does he respond to the objection that non-Christian countries have greatly exploited their environments (and why might someone think this is an objection to his view?)
13. In your own mind how important is religion as a cause of environmental problems and as a possible solution to them?
14. Which (if any) does Jamieson think is key in causing and solving env. Problems: technology, economics, religion/values?
Moriarty on Nature Naturalized: A Darwinian Defense of the Nature/Culture Distinction
1. What are the two senses of ‘natural’ between which Moriarty distinguishes ? Give examples of things not natural in each of these two senses and things natural in each of these two senses.
2. On Moriarty’s view is lion culture natural in either of these senses? Is human culture natural in either of these senses?
3. Do these senses of natural allow for degrees, that is, more or less natural? Give examples.
4. Does Moriarty think humans are natural (in each of these senses)? Why or why not? Do you agree with him on this?
5. What does Moriarty think about whether what is natural is good or bad? Is everything that is natural good? Is everything that is unnatural (that is cultural) bad, on his view?
6. What is a “philosophical naturalist.” Does Moriarty embrace this view? Do you? Why or why not?
7. Does thinking that what humans do is significantly cultural (as opposed to natural in the non-cultural sense-N2), imply that humans are supernatural (that is, transcend nature in this sense–N1)? What does Callicott think? What does Moriarty think? What is your own view on this?
8. Evaluate the following argument from your own and from Moriarty’s perspective: Since Humans are natural, what humans do is also natural.
9. Explain the argument and reasons for thinking that embracing a nature/culture distinction is environmentally problematic. Do you think it is? What is Moriarty’s view on this?
10. Explain Moriarty’s definition of “culture.” Do you think nonhuman animals have culture in this sense? Does Moriarty?
Study Questions Arnold on Environmentalism and Wise Use
1. According to Ron Arnold, what are the three basic assumptions of the dominant Western worldview with which the "Wise Use" movement agrees? (Hint: Faith in growth, technology, and unregulated markets.) How does he claim environmentalism challenges this worldview? Do you think this characterization of the environmental debate is fair and accurate? Which side of this dispute do you most agree with and why?
2. Identify and explain Arnold’s criticisms of environmentalism. In what ways, if any do you agree with him? In what ways not? Why?
Study questions for Baxter (People or Penguins: The Case for Optimal Pollution)
1. Define and explain the concept of “anthropocentrism” and give an example. What makes an ethic “non-anthropocentric”?
2. Does Baxter think penguins are important? Does he think they are important for their own sake? Explain how they might be indirectly important, but not important for their own sake.
3. Explain William Baxter’s response to the claim that anthropocentrism will lead to destruction of the environment.
4. What are Baxter’s arguments for thinking nonanthropocentric ethics are unworkable in practice. Is he right?
5. Is Baxter right that environmental groups are self-interested users of the environment on a moral par with business/industry groups who also want to use the environment but for different purposes?
6. Explain (in some detail) what Baxter thinks the optimal state of pollution is.
Study questions on Wenz’s “Just Garbage” and Environmental Justice
1. What is environmental justice? What is environmental racism?
2. What are the reasons for thinking it is true that nonwhites face a “disproportionate” amount of environmental hazards in this country? Do they?
3. What is the doctrine of double effect and how does Wenz use it in his critique of environmental racism?
4. Using examples, explain Wenz’s principle of commensurate burdens and benefits. How does he use this principle in his analysis of environmental justice?
5. Why does Wenz discuss consumerism and how does it fit into his argument concerning environmental justice?
6. Who does Wenz believe should receive the lion’s share of env. hazards and what is his argument for this conclusion?
7. Explain Wenz’s proposal concerning the awarding of LULU points. How does he think this suggestion would lead to a drastically reduce production level for environmental hazards?
8. What is the free market approach to the distribution of environmental hazards? Why does Wenz reject this? Do you agree with his reasoning?
Study Questions on Property and the Environment
1. What principle justifying ownership suggests that the U.S. should own the moon?
2. John Locke argues that someone comes to own a previously unowned object by mixing her labor with it. Is this a good argument justifying ownership of previously unowned things?
3. A Lockean restriction on the justifiability of owning land is that there must be as much and as good left for others after one has appropriated land. Why might this void land claims today?
4. What are some landowners doing to prevent people from using the rivers/creeks that run through their property? What is one of the criteria that the law uses to determine if a moving body of water is public or private?
5. What are some environmental and public policy concerns about docks? Do people who own land next to the water have a right to build a dock?
6. What is the “tragedy of the commons” and how does private ownership of what was once commons provide a solution to this tragedy? What is another solution?
7. Why might some argue that making whales private property would protect them better than they are now protected?
8. If because of the Endangered Species act one’ can’t cut trees on one’s property, does the government (i.e., the public) owe you compensation for the lost revenue? Why or why not?
9. *What does the 5th amendment say about “taking” of private property? Does it allow it? Hint (here is the passage): “Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
10. *How does a “regulatory taking” (e.g., above endangered species case) differ from eminent domain taking (e.g., when government physically takes a citizen’s property to build a road through it).
11. Under what conditions do all sides of the debate agree that the government may permissibly restrict what a landowner does on his/her property and not owe him/her any compensation for lost economic value? (Hint: Consider if the owner is considering using the land in a way that is a “public nuisance”– e.g., a pig farm or brothel in a residential area.)
12. Describe the David Lucas case on the Isle of Palms. Do you think Lucas should have been compensated as a result of the regulation that affected his property? Why or why not?
Notes and questions about the film "The Witness"
* Are there morally relevant differences between wearing fur and leather?
o Fur was a main target of the movie, but few people wear it. No mention was made of leather, but virtually everybody wears it.
* Are there morally relevant differences between wearing fur and eating animals?
o What are the rationales for eating animals? Taste? Nutrition?
* Are Eddie Lama's views about animal psychology justified?
o Do animals know they are going to be killed?
o Are animals who are being harmed--and about to be killed--feeling the type of desperation and helplessness that Lama did when he was mugged and no one came to help him?
* Lama argues that there are no morally relevant differences between pets and animals used for food and fur (pigs and mink). (They are all "animals.")
o Internal properties (e.g., psychological abilities) the same; relational properties are not the same.
+ Might those relational properties justify differences in treatment?
o Special duties of care for pets (and those close to us)?
o Is it morally relevant that these animals are created for different purposes (but many eat dogs/cats...)?
o Are there morally relevant differences between domestic and wild animals?
* Lama is someone who acts on his beliefs and works for change
o Power of example
o Of what use is a belief about right/wrong unless you are willing to act on it?
o Are some of us like those at the end of the film who see the cruelty/injustice and then keep walking (and don't change or work for change)?
* Is there a problem if someone believes raising and killing animals for food is wrong but then continues to eat meat?
o Do they really believe it is wrong (but are too weak to act on their belief) or do they not really believe it is wrong?
* The secretary who works for Lama is not a vegetarian and she says Lama is respectful towards her.
o How wrong can one believe something is and still tolerate it in others?
o If one tolerates others engaging in a practice, does that mean one doesn't really believe it is seriously wrong?
Study questions Jamieson, 5.1: Speciesism
1. Explain the difference between being a moral agent and being a moral patient (that is, having moral standing or being morally considerable).
2. Give an example of an indirect duty regarding something and explain why the existence of that duty does not entail that the thing had moral standing. (Hint: consider the duty not to damage my car.)
3. Using examples, explain why virtually all of the proposed criteria that are suppose to distinguish all humans from all animals end up being too demanding (excluding some humans) or not demanding enough (including some animals).
4. What is an obvious problem with making moral agency the criterion of moral standing?
5. Define “speciesism.” Explain the difference between Homo sapiens-centric speciesism and indexical speciesism. Explain the difference between absolute and moderate speciesism. What is the reason moderate speciesism gives for why humans count more?
6. Explain why the following argument is not speciesist: Because President Obama cares about his life and has complex plans for his future it would be worse for him to die than for the Obama family dog Bo to die, since Bo does not have complex plans for his future.
7. If one systematically preferred the interests of humans to nonhumans, does it follow that one is embracing speciesism? Why does Jamieson argue that it does not?
8. Explain how Jamieson uses his Dylan and Casey example to argue against moderate speciesism.
Questions on oral presentations articles on Human Uses of Animals
1. Are the animals we use for food treated and killed humanely in our current system of animal agriculture? Why or why not? Give some examples from the articles we read and consider (1) whether there are any federal laws protecting animals while on a farm, (2) the enforcement of the “Humane Slaughter Act” (and its lack of application to chickens), and (3) the issue of “downer cows.”
2. What are some of the recommendations the Pew Commission makes concerning industrial farm animal welfare? Consider intensive confinement of pregnant sows and egg laying chickens, force feeding of fowl for liver production, and forced molting of chickens.
3. Describe some of the steps that some in the meat-food industry (and some states) are taking to improve conditions for animals raised for food.
4. Are animals sold as “organic” humanely treated?
5. Discuss the debate over whether or not environmentalists may/should eat meat. What are the environmental reasons for not eating meat? How are these different from the animal welfare reasons not to eat meat?
6. What is the LD50 test?
7. What is one reason for thinking hunters are good environmentalists and one reason for thinking they are not?
8. Describe how good zoos differ from bad zoos. Be specific. What is the strongest argument for the existence of zoos? What is the strongest criticism of zoos? Should elephants be kept in zoos?
Study questions on Singer’s All Animals are Equal
1. Define and explain utilitarianism. How does this moral theory determine what is right and wrong?
2. State and explain the utilitarian argument against eating meat.
3. What is the utilitarian criterion of moral standing? How does it follow from the definition of utilitarianism?
4. What makes a being sentient? Are there any living beings that are not sentient?
5. Must a utilitarian weigh animal and human pain equally when it is of the same intensity, duration, and quality? Could a utilitarian discount animal pain? Why or why not?
6. Define and explain the idea of speciesism. What are reasons for thinking this is a kind of unjust discrimination?
7. It is often argued that because typical animals are less psychologically sophisticated than typical humans, doing nasty things to both humans and animals would cause humans more pain (typically). Give an example where the relative lack of psychological sophistication would mean the animal would suffer more than the human. (Pollan has a great example of this.)
8. Give an example where it is at least arguable that the interest of a human and the interest of an animal are identical. Give an example where an animal's interests and a human's interests have the same name, but are arguably not identical interests.
9. State and explain Singer's response to the following objection: Animals and humans can't be morally equal because they are factually very different from each other.
10. State and explain Singer's response to the following objection: Humans and animals should not get equal treatment since this would involve absurdities like giving animals the right to vote and providing them with a high school education.
11. Does equal treatment require identical treatment? Why or why not? Give examples.
Study Questions on Jamieson on Singer
1. Define “an interest.”
2. What are Jamieson’s examples of pains and pleasures that may not be equal in humans and animals?
3. What is Jamieson’s response to the criticism that it is difficult to calculate and determine the relative weight of pleasures/pains across species (and so utilitarianism can’t be practically implemented).
Study questions on Regan the Case for Animal Rights
1. What is the difference between a consequentialist moral theory like utilitarianism and a rights view like Regan’s? Which factors do they consider when determining if an action is right/wrong?
2. State, explain, and evaluate Tom Regan's two criticisms of utilitarianism.
3. What is Regan’s criterion of moral standing?
4. What does Regan mean by “being a subject of a life?” Is a tree a subject of a life for Regan? Explain.
5. What does Regan mean when he says all subjects of a life have "equal inherent value?" Does one earn such value by one's behavior?
6. Do you think it makes sense for two beings to have different amounts of inherent value (moral standing)?
7. What does it mean to treat a being as a means to one’s own ends? How is this different from treating another as a MERE means to one’s own ends?
8. Can one treat an individual with respect and still use it in a harmful way?
9. Explain the “marginal case argument” and how it is used in debates about our treatment of animals.
10. Discuss the implications of Singer's utilitarianism and Regan's rights view on the practices of factory farming, animal experimentation, and hunting. How might the two disagree with each other? Which view (if either) gives greater protection to animals? Which view (if either) is more reasonable?
11. How might an advocate of “environmental ethics”(specifically a biocentrist or ecocentrist) criticize both Singer’s and Regan’s views on moral standing (namely, sentio-centrism)?
Study Questions on Jamieson on Regan’s Rights View
1. What is “perfectionism.” What is to be said in favor of it? What is to be said against it?
2. How does Regan’s view about the obligation to help humans in trouble differ from his view about our obligations to help animals in trouble?
3. Does Regan think the death of a dog and a human are equally harmful? Why or why not?
Study questions on Jamieson on Using Animals
1. Describe some of the environmental costs of the meat industry. (Consider: Water pollution, climate change, and antibiotic resistance.)
Study Questions on Jamieson on Killing vs Causing Pain and Replacing Simple Creatures
1. How are the views of Regan and Singer different concerning painlessly raising and killing animals for food?
2. What is the difference between a simple creature and a self-conscious one?
3. Why might it be worse to kill a simple creature (painlessly) than a self-conscious one?
4. Why might a utilitarian like Singer allows that painless killing and replacing simple creatures is morally permissible?
5. How does Jamieson criticize this “replacement argument” for eating animals that are painless raised and killed?
Study Questions on Pollan’s An Animal’s Place
1. What is the basic reason Pollan thinks animals are treated so badly in modern factory farming operations? What solution to this problem does he offer?
2. Does Pollan believe it is morally permissible to eat animals? If not why not? If so, why and under what conditions?
3. Does Pollan think that animals can feel pain and/or suffer? Explain.
4. Explain Pollan’s views on domestication of animals. Does he think of it as exploitation or enslavement? Why or why not?
5. Have domesticated animals benefitted from their relationship with humans on Pollan’s view? Why or why not? Assess his position from your own perspective.
6. Evaluate the claim that we should look to nature (to how nature treats animals) as a guide for how we should treat them.
7. Describe Pollan’s ideal farm. Are animals happy/fulfilled on such a farm, according to Pollan? Why?
8. Explain (and evaluate) Pollan’s suggestion that vegetarians kill more animals than do meat eaters. Explain and evaluate the suggestion that hunting is better for animals than being a “supermarket vegetarian.”
9. What is wrong with the following account of Pollan’s views about eating animals: “It’s okay to eat animals if they have been humanely raised and slaughtered. What’s wrong with current practice is the pain we inflict on the animals. Painless killing of animals is not a serious moral issue.”
Study Questions for Jamieson on Conscientious Omnivore, Vegans vs Vegetarians, and animals and other values (p. 131-144)
1. What are Jamieson’s reasons for worrying about the conscientious omnivore response to the issue of eating animals?
2. Does Jamieson believe it is better to eat sea-creatures?
3. Explain what Jamieson means by imperceptible consequences are real consequences
4. What are vegans and why do they think vegetarianism is not enough?
Carl Cohen and The Use of Animals in Biomedical Research
1. What is a moral agent? Is a rapist a moral agent? Are any nonhuman animals moral agents?
2. Explain and evaluate the following argument: Since animals are not moral agents, they can't have rights. Assume it is true, that animals are not moral agents. Use the marginal case argument to criticize this argument.
3. Explain and evaluate the following argument: Since animals can't have rights, we can't owe any direct duties to animals. (Assume the premise is true–that animals can’t have rights. Does the conclusion follow?)
4. Does Cohen accept the anthropocentric criterion for moral standing (moderate or absolute)? Does Cohen think we have direct duties to animals? Explain Cohen's position on this issue.
5. Does a utilitarian calculus support or oppose current practices of animal experimentation? What does Cohen think about this and why? What do you think and why?
6. Does Cohen think we should reduce, increase, or eliminate animal experimentation?
7. Discuss possible alternatives to the use of animals in research. Are these alternatives practical enough to justify the reduction and/or eventual abolishment of research on animals?
8. Is it inconsistent to be opposed to animal experimentation and yet continue to use animals in other ways? Why or why not? What does Cohen have to say about this issue?
9. Define the notion of a right and explain it in detail.
10. Do rights entail duties on the part of others? In other words, if someone has a right, does that mean someone else has a duty? Or again, if no one has any duties, does it follow that no one has any rights?
11. Do duties entail rights (i.e., if someone has a duty does that mean someone else must have a right to what the duty says should happen)?
12. Do rights entail responsibilities on the part of the rights holder? That is, if someone has a right does that mean that the same individual must has responsibilities/duties?
13. What is Cohen's response to this marginal case argument? Is this response a good one?
14. Is it wrong to treat an individual on the basis of typical characteristics of groups to which they belong, instead of treating the individual on the basis of her/his own individual characteristics? For example, is it morally appropriate to treat individuals (such as marginal case humans or women) on the basis of characteristics normal for their group/species (even though they lack these characteristics)?
15. Why does Cohen think animals can't have rights? Do you think any animals have any rights? If so, which rights?
Study questions on Sagoff’s Animal Liberation and Environmental Ethics: Bad Marriage, Quick Divorce
1. State and explain Mark Sagoff's criticism of animal activists (such as Peter Singer and Tom Regan).
2. Is Sagoff right that an animal liberationist can't be an environmentalist and vice-versa? Why does he claim this? State and evaluate his argument for this position.
3. Discuss some of the potential differences between animal activists and environmentalists (and mention specific groups that fall into each camp).
4. What does Sagoff mean when he says that Mother Nature makes Frank Purdue look like a saint? Is he right about this? Why or why not?
5. How should an animal activist (e.g., one who believes in animal rights or that animal suffering is equally important to human suffering of the same extent) respond to the suggestion that we reintroduce predators to control ungulate populations? Can an animal activist positively value predation?
6. Does it make sense for a utilitarian like Singer to oppose human inflicted suffering of animals but not naturally occurring suffering of animals?
7. Explain and evaluate the following responses that an animal activist might give to Mark Sagoff's criticisms: (1) Animals have only negative rights (not to be interfered with) but no positive rights (to assistance); (2) Only moral agents can violate rights, and because nature is not a moral agent, when nature causes harm to animals, no rights are being violated. Humans only have a duty to prevent rights violations. Thus animal activists only opposed human caused suffering and killing.