Final Exam Study Questions, Introduction to Philosophy, SP-06
- What is egoism? What is altruism? What is hedonism? How is it different
- What is psychological egoism? What is ethical egoism? How are they
different? Is either (or both) a theory about the nature of morality (i.e., a
moral theory)? Explain.
- Does it make sense to believe both theories at once? Does one theory
provide evidence or support for the other? (If psychological egoism is true
does it follow that ethical egoism is also true? How about the other way
around?) If both psychological and ethical egoism are true, what follows
about the rightness or wrongness of our actions?
- Does it matter whether or not psychological egoism is true? What
implications does this have for morality (for example, consider utilitarian
moral theory) and for the design of social institutions (consider the
socialism versus capitalism debate)?
- Present the two arguments considered in the text for psychological egoism.
Does Rachels think these are sound arguments? Do you think they are?
- Do you think psychological egoism is true? Why or why not? Explain what
Rachels thinks about psychological egoism.
- What is the "strategy of reinterpreting motives?" Why does Rachels think
this can't prove the truth of the version of egoism it is used to support?
- What is the difference between acting out of self-interest and acting
selfishly? What is the difference between acting out of self-interest and
acting to achieve pleasure? Give examples of acts which are one but not the
- Evaluate the following argument for ethical egoism: "Since we each know
what is in our own interests better than others do, and since we each are
generally better able to provide for our own well-being than we are for the
well-being of others, society as a whole would be better off if each person
acted in her own self-interest." What does Rachels think about this
- Is the following a good argument for ethical egoism? What does Rachels
think about this argument? "Since it is in a person's own self-interest to
obey the rules of morality (e.g., not to lie, steal, cheat, or murder), ethical
egoism justifies our ordinary moral rules and thus provides a solid
foundation for morality."
- Explain in detail Rachels own argument against ethical egoism. (This is the
last one he considers in the chapter comparing egoism to racism/sexism.)
Evaluate this argument from your own perspective.
- Define discrimination. Is discrimination always wrong? Give an example
where it is clearly not wrong. Define unjust discrimination. Define racism.
Explain why racism is unjust discrimination. Why might someone think
egoism is unjust discrimination? In your own assessment, is it? (Some of
this question requires creative thinking on your own.)
- If one believed ethical egoism was true, which moral theory ought one to
advocate publicly? Ethical egoism? Ethical altruism? Explain.
- Define utilitarianism and describe in detail how a utilitarian would go about
deciding whether or not an act is morally right. In what sense is
utilitarianism a consequentialist moral theory?
- If act A made 10 beings happy and act B made 50 beings happy would a
utilitarian be committed to saying act B is better than act A? Why or why
not? (Consider degrees of happiness)
- If act A made people happier overall than did act B, would a utilitarian be
committed to saying act A is better than act B? Why or why not? (Consider
affects on all sentient beings)
- If act A made all beings overall happier than did act B, would a utilitarian
be committed to saying act A is the morally right act? Why or why not?
(Consider alternatives that produces even more happiness)
- Could a utilitarian ever recommend an act which on balance would produce
unhappiness? Why or why not? (Consider if other alternatives are worse)
- What is the difference between utilitarianism and ethical egoism?
- What is hedonism? Does Rachels agree or disagree with hedonism? Why?
In other words, does he think happiness is the only thing that matters (is
good in itself)? Is he right in his views about hedonism? Why or why not?
- State and evaluate one of Rachels arguments against hedonism.
- How does Rachels use his criticism of hedonism to attach utilitarianism?
- Explain why a critic of utilitarianism thinks it can't account for the moral
concepts of rights and justice. Make this case as forcefully as you can. Use
examples. Do you agree with his criticism?
- What is a "backward looking" moral considerations? Give an example.
What is the relationship between utilitarianism and backward looking moral
- Explain the reasons for why one might think utilitarianism is too demanding
a moral theory. Do you agree?
- Explain the reasons why some think utilitarianism undermines personal
relationships. Do you agree?
Callicott, Environmental Ethics, and Animal Liberation
- What are some of the differences between "environmental ethics" and
"animal liberation or animals rights?"
- Explain what it means to say the land ethic is "holistic" and not
"individualistic" and that it is "inegalitarian" and not "egalitarian."
- What is "Leopold's Maxim"? What is Leopold's "reappraisal slogan?"
- What is "moral extensionism" and how might someone argue it is arrogant?
- What is Callicott's view of the difference between domestic and wild
- Does Callicott favor "animal liberation," animal activists concern with
animal pain, and vegetarianism? For each, explain why or why not?
Ethics of Respect (Kant's non-consequentialism)
- What is the difference between an hypothetical and a categorical
- What does Kant mean when he says that moral rules must be
universalizable? Give an example of a rule of action which is not
universalizable and explain why it is not (hint: is it self-defeating and/or
- What does it mean to say moral rules are absolute? What did Kant think
about this and why?
- Does consistency in application of moral rules imply absolute moral rules?
Why or why not? If one allows that there are some exceptions to moral
rules, can one still be committed to the universalizability criterion?
- What does Kant mean when he says that we must treat humanity as an end
in itself, and never as a mere means? Give an example of treating humanity
as a mere means and then as an end in itself.
Retributivist and Utilitarian Justifications for Punishment
- Explain the retributivist and the utilitarian view of punishment. What are
their views about punishment considered just in itself? (Good? Bad?
Why?) What rationales would each give for punishment and what sorts of
punishment would each accept? Explain the arguments each would use
against the other's views. In your own judgment, whose views are better?
- In what way is the retributivist view of punishment a Kantian approach to
- Explain why some think that punishment shows respect for the person
punished? Is there any way that execution can be seen as respecting the
person to be executed?
Social Contract Theory
- Explain the origin of the state and government according to the social
contract theory. How does the theory justify state authority? Why does
state authority need to be justified? What is authority?
- What is the social contract theory of morality? Define and explain it.
- Why might a proponent of the social contract theory worry about the
objection that the social contract is a fiction? How might such a proponent
respond to this objection?
- What is the difference between an implicit and explicit consent?
- How could someone who held to the social contract theory of morality
argue that they have no moral obligation to obey the anti-drug and anti-sex
- Explain how the social contract theory of morality could morally justify the
civil disobedience on the part of blacks in this country in the 1960's.
- According to the social contract theory of morality, is it morally wrong to
murder another human being in a state of nature? Explain why or why not.
- Explain why Rachels thinks the social contract theory has problems
accounting for our obligations to animals, infants, and severely retarded
people. (Hint: consider the role of reciprocity in the theory.)
Liberty-Limiting Principles (Feinberg)
- What are the four liberty limiting principles (or reasons for making laws)
that Feinberg discusses? Why are they called "liberty limiting principles"?
- Which of the liberty limiting principles would a proponent of the social
contract theory accept and why?
- What is the harm principle? What is it meant to justify?
- Give the best example you can think of of a harmless immorality, and
explain why it is immoral and show how it is harmless.
- Define Legal Moralism. Give examples of laws which you think are most
plausibly justified by legal moralism and explain why. Give examples of "morals laws" which you think are clearly unjustified and explain why. Do
you think legal moralism is a justifiable liberty-limiting principle? Why or
why not? What are some of the arguments for it? Against it? What does
Feinberg think about this? What is the "tyranny of the majority?"
- What is the difference between offense and harm? Give examples.
- Explain what the offense principle is. Give examples of laws which you
think are most plausibly justified by the offense principle and explain why.
Give examples of laws aimed at preventing offensive behavior which you
think are clearly unjustified and explain why. Do you think the offense
principle is a justifiable liberty-limiting principle? Why or why not? What
are the arguments for it? Against it?
- Explain what constraints on the offense principle must be in place for
Feinberg to accept it.
- Define Legal Paternalism. Give examples of laws which you think are most
plausibly justified by legal paternalism, and explain why. Give examples of
laws which you think are clearly unjustifiably paternalistic and explain why.
Do you think legal paternalism is a justifiable liberty-limiting principle?
Why or why not? What are the arguments for and against it?
- Explain what Feinberg has in mind when he defends "weak paternalism?"
Feminism and Feminist Ethics
- Define feminism as we did in class.
- What is the difference (as defined in class) between gender personality and
sex. Should each sex take on a single gender? What does "androgynous" mean? Is this a good ideal? Why or why not?
- Do you think that there are important psychological differences between the
men and women? Do these differences justify differences in sex roles, that
is, differences in what kind of jobs and duties each sex has (or is encouraged
- According to Rachels, do feminists think that men and women are
- What criticism was made of Kohlberg's stages of moral development by
proponents of feminist ethics?
- What is feminist ethics? How is it different from a more male approach to
ethics? Describe some of the differences between an ethics of care and an
ethics of principle. Do you think these are importantly different ways of
pursuing ethics? Do you think that women tend toward one and men
toward the other? Do you think either is a more developed or mature way
of doing ethics?
- Why does Rachels argue that feminist ethics does well with our ethical
relations with family and friends, but poorly with our ethical relations with
- Evaluate the claim that there is empirical proof that women are subordinate
by nature: "Just look around and you will see the majority of women playing
subordinate roles. Its obvious that women tend to naturally be better suited
than men for the domestic role, just look at women and men in our society
today and you will see what I mean. Generally speaking, women are better
cooks, they know better how to take care of the baby, they tend to be more
emotional and family oriented, and so on."
- What is evolutionary psychology and how is it used to argue that men and
women are different by nature?
- Does significant sexism continue in American society? Why or why not?
As forcefully as you can, argue that the tradition of wives taking their
husband's name is sexist. Now argue as forcefully as you can that it isn't.
Which argument do you think is stronger and why?
- How might men's ideas about sexually attractive women contribute to the
subordination of women?
- Is it wrong to treat women as "sex objects," that is, to "sexually objectify" them? What does this mean?
Virtue Ethics and Rachels' Theory
- What is a virtue? What is a vice? Define each and give examples.
- What does Aristotle mean when he says virtue is a mean? Explain this
using an example.
- Explain how virtue ethics is different from an ethics of duty or right action.
- Does Rachels think the virtues are the same for everyone or does he think
virtues are culturally relative?
- How will a defender of virtue ethics answer the question about how we
- Explain the notion of impartiality and some problems with impartiality as an
- Why is it important to treat people as they deserve to be treated? What facts
about a person are relevant in determining what she deserves? Consider:
her native intelligence, her fortunate social circumstances, and her own past
- Describe and explain Rachels' own moral theory (what he calls "morality
without hubris"). In what way is it utilitarian; in what way is it Kantian? Is
this a good theory? Why or why not?
- What does Rachels think about the practice of rewarding people because of
the superior natural endowments they possess? Do you agree with him?
Why or why not?