Final Exam Study Questions

Intro to Philosophy, Sp 2016, Hettinger

Study questions Rachels, Ch 7, Utilitarianism

1.      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? What is the difference between utilitarianism and ethical egoism?

2.      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)

3.      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)

4.      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)

5.      Give a utilitarian evaluation of the rightness or wrongness of euthanasia. Do you agree with this account?

6.      Provide a utilitarian evaluation of whether or not smoking marijuana is morally permissible and relatedly a utilitarian evaluation of whether or not marijuana should be legalized. Do you agree with the utilitarian approach to this issue?

7.      What is the traditional “anthropocentric” view of moral standing/intrinsic value of nonhumans? Is cruelty to animals wrong on this view? Why or why not?

8.      What is “speciesism?” What is the main criticism of this doctrine?

9.      Explain why a consistent utilitarian must include the pleasure/pain of animals in deciding what it is right to do.

10.    Explain why a utilitarian commitment to equal consideration of the interests of humans and sentient animals, does not mean they should be treated the same.

11.    Provide a utilitarian defense or critique of our use of animals for food

Question on Hettinger’s “Age of Man Environmentalism and Respect for an Independent Nature”


1.      Identify and explain some of the main ideas behind what Hettinger identifies as “Age of Man Environmentalism.” Consider its views on preservation, restoration, rewilding and the value of naturalness. What does it say about humans managing the planet, about the relationship between humans and nature, about how to understand nature? Contrast those ideas with what Hettinger calls the views of “traditional environmentalism.”

2.      What is the “Anthropocene?” Describe some of the human impacts that have led people to talk about the dawn of a new geological epoch named after humans.

3.      Evaluate the idea that humans have created nature or have created the earth as it is today. What is to be said in favor of this idea? Against it? Does nature now depends on us?

4.      Do humans today have a responsibililty to manage earth? Consider these reasons for answering “yes:” “There is no pristine nature left; Humans have altered everything on earth,” “We are already managing earth and must lean to do it well,” “We have so disrupted nature that it can no longer survive on its own w/o our management,” and “Without human management of the planet, nature will not longer provide the benefits to humans we need to survive.”

5.      Should humans manage the earth’s climate? Should humans decide which plants and animals will survive in which places on earth? Do we have a choice?

6.      Explain how Hettinger defines “naturalness” and “nature.” On his account, does nature exist only when something is “pristine” and “untouched by man?” Does nature exist in urban parks? In the human person?

7.      Is “naturalness” value adding? That is, does something being (relatively) natural (uninfluenced by humans) frequently/typically make it more valuable than if it had been influenced by humans? Would the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone lose value if it was regulated by humans manipulation of its underground plumbing?

8.      Are humans natural? Are we just as natural as beavers or birds? Are humans part of nature? Are we (also?) separate from it and importantly different? What does Hettinger think about this issue? What do you think?

9.       Is the value of naturalness and nature’s autonomy more or less important in the Anthropocene? What does Hettinger think and why? What do you think?

10.    What is the “nature is pristine myth?” Do environmentalists’ goals of preserving and restoring ecosystems involve the “pristine myth,” that is, the belief that we should preserve untouched ecosystems and restore degraded ecosystems to a state they were in before humans influenced them? What is wrong with this goal?

11.    Does naturalness come in degrees? Can humanization wash out of ecosystems so that they become more natural? Can naturalness return even without nature returning to how it was before it was influenced by humans?

12.    What is rewilding? Is its aim to restore nature to classic pristine ecosystems and manage them so they remain as such (museum pieces)? How does it respect nature’s autonomy?

Questions on Jamieson’s Respect for Nature

1.      What is the difference between respect for nature as a duty and as a virtue?

2.      Define and then explain the relationship between domination and nature’s autonomy. What is the relation between domination of nature and respect for nature? Are humans dominating nature in your opinion?

3.      What does it mean to say nature is “amoral?” That it is “other?” That it is “sublime?” That it is “home.”

4.      Explain why someone might think of nature as the enemy of humanity. Does this make sense in your own view?

5.      What is a “nature lover?” Are you a nature lover? Why or why not?

6.      Jamieson identifies 3 reasons for respecting nature as prudence, meaning, and psychological wholeness. Explain what he means by each of these reasons.

7.      Identify at least one reasons to think humans are part of nature and at least one reason it is important to distinguish humans from nature.

Questions on Jamieson and Nadzam’s “The Anthropocene”

1.      What is an “artifact?” What are some reasons for thinking the nature on earth today is significantly artifactual?

2.      What is the difference between the problem with the ozone layer and climate change problem? What are two important factors that led to successfully addressing the ozone problem? How do those factors play out with respect to climate change? (Hint: Scientists and international cooperation).

3.      Jamieson and Nadzam identify a particular problem in sacrificing today to make sure the future has certain goods. What is that problem? How serious a problem is it?

4.      What is “the Anthropocene?” How will it be different from the Holocene in terms of stability?

5.      Jamieson and Nadzam use the example of “driving one’s SUV to the 7-Eleven for a Slurpee” in order to make what point? (Hint: Responsibility/agency)

6.      Jamieson and Nadzam note that “Book of Matthew tells us sun shines on just and unjust alike.” What does this have to do with geo-engineering, humility and compassion?

7.      Do you agree with Jamieson and Nadzam that in many ways love and nature are inseparable?

Study Questions Ch 8, Debate over Utilitarianism

1.      Explain the three central features of utilitarianism that Rachels identifies (Ch 8)?

2.      Explain and give examples of the difference between intrinsic (valued for its own sake) and instrumental value (valued as a means to something else).

3.      What is hedonism? Does Rachels agree or disagree with hedonism? Why? In other words, does he think happiness is the only thing that matters intrinsically (i.e., is good in itself)? Explain how Rachels two examples count against hedonism (pianist with damaged hands and friend ridiculing you behind your back).

4.      Explain why a critic of utilitarianism thinks it can't account for the moral concepts of rights and justice. How do these concepts purportedly show that utilitarianism’s consequentialism (only the consequences of actions matter in determining their rightness) is false. Use examples to explain this criticism of utilitarianism. How might a utilitarian respond to this criticism?

5.      Explain and give an example of a "backward looking" moral considerations? What is the relationship between utilitarianism and backward looking moral considerations?

6.      Explain the reasons for why one might think utilitarianism is too demanding a moral theory. How does the notion of strict impartiality fit into this criticism?

7.      Explain the reasons why some think utilitarianism undermines personal relationships. Do you agree?

8.      What is rule utilitarianism (as opposed to act utilitarianism)?

9.      How do utilitarians respond to the objection that their views of morality have consequences that violate common sense.


Rachels, Ch 9: Are There Absolute Moral Rules?

1.      Explain and give an example of an absolute moral rule. Do you think there are any such rules?\

2.      "If you had to chose between boiling one baby and letting some frightful disaster befall one thousand people (or a million if a thousand is not enough), what would you do?"

3.      What is the difference between a consequentialist moral theory and a non-consequentialist moral theory? Which can and which cannot support absolute moral rules and why?

4.      What is the difference between an hypothetical and a categorical imperative? Give examples. Which kind of imperative does morality involve and why?

5.      State Kant’s “categorical imperative.” What does it mean?

6.      What does Kant mean when he says that moral rules must be universalizable? Give an example of a rule of action which Kant believes is not universalizable and explain why it is not (hint: is it self-defeating and/or not reversible?)

7.      Why does the possibility of conflict in moral rules create problems for the belief in absolute moral rules?

8.      Give an example where someone fails to consistently apply a moral reason.


Ch 10, Questions on Kant and Respect for Persons

1.      Why does Kant think humans are special? And in what way are they special, according to Kant? Do you agree with him?

2.      What reasons does Kant offer for thinking humans are special? It it true that these reasons apply only to humans and not other creatures?

3.      What does Kant mean when he says that morality requires us to treat humanity as an end and never as a mere means? Give examples of treating humanity as a mere means . Now given an example of treating a person as an end in him/herself.


Rachels, Ch 10, Section on Retributivist and Utilitarian Justifications for Punishment

1.      Explain the retributivist and the utilitarian view of punishment.

2.      What are their views about punishment considered in itself (apart from any consequences)? (Good? Bad? Why?)

3.      What rationales would each give for punishment and what sorts of punishment would each accept? (Consider: Deterrence, rehabilitation of wrong doer, and giving a criminal what she deserves.)

4.      Explain the arguments each would use against the other's views.

5.      In your own judgment, whose views are better? Why?

6.      What are the two principles of retributivist punishment and explain how utilitarian violates each.

7.      Explain why retributivists think that punishment shows respect for the person punished.


Question on Nagel’s, The Mind-Body Problem

1.      Explain what is at issue in the “mind-body problem.” What are examples of conscious states? What are examples of physical states?

2.      What is dualism? What is physicalism? What is the “identity theory?” Explain and compare how physicalism and the dualism understand mental states and people.

3.      Explain Nagel’s main (taste of chocolate) argument for accepting dualism. Why does he think the experience of the taste of chocolate is not something physical? Why does Nagel talk about scientists licking your brain? If your brain did taste like chocolate to a scientist licking your brain (while you were eating chocolate), would that mean he perceived your taste of chocolate, according to Nagel?

4.      Evaluate these arguments in favor of physicalism: Everything else is made of matter, why not the mind? Unscientific to believe otherwise. Just like science discovered water made up of H2O (two gasses!), it will discover that mental stuff is made up of stuff very much unlike it.

5.      What is Nagel’s view on this debate (is he a dualist or physicalist)? Does he think physical science will be able to explain everything?

6.      Explain the argument for dualism that claims that mental states do not have locations, weights, or shapes.

7.      Explain why some think dualism has trouble explaining causation between mental and physical states.


Study questions, Dan Dennett, Where Am I?

1.      Describe Dennett’s story where his body and brain and himself all get separated.

2.      How does this story cause trouble for physicalism’s view of the person (that you are identical with your brain). (Consider looking into a vat where your brain is,)

3.      Explain how brain transplants undermine the idea that you are wherever your body is.

4.      How does Dennett use the idea of putting a convicted criminal’s brain in prison (but not his body) to show that you are not identical with your brain?

5.      In principle, could a computer program which is functionally equivalent to your brain (given the same inputs, it gives the same outputs as does your brain), be a substitute for your brain in terms of running your body (and being you?)? Would it be conscious?

6.      Do you think you are identical with your brain? Your body? Your mind/soul? All three?


Questions on Tom Nagel, Free Will

1.      Explain the similarities and differences between the Free Will, Determinism, and Compatibilism positions. What are each of their views on whether or not a person (1) has free will (2) is determined, and (3) could have done otherwise that what she did?

2.      The free will proponent thinks some things are determined and some things not. Give concrete examples of each.

3.      Why does the determinist think our choices are determined? How are they determined?

4.      Does compatibilism accept the idea that we are determined? What kind of cause of our action does the compatibilist think is compatible with our free will and what kind not? What kind of cause of our action does the compatibilist believe allows for us being morally responsible and what not?

5.      What is the difference between holding someone morally responsible and trying to train them to behave differently?

6.      What position on moral responsibility does each position take? Why might determinism undermine moral responsibility? Why does the compatibilist think it does not?

7.      If free will is indeterminism, what effect does that have on moral responsibility?

8.      Why might someone argue that free will requires determinism, rather than indeterminism (no cause)?


Rachels Ch 11, Feminism and the Ethics of Care

1.      Define feminism both as we did in class and from your own perspective. Are you a feminist? Why or why not?

2.      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 social roles and duties each sex has (or is should be encouraged to have)?

3.      Describe some of the ways in which it has been claimed that women and men think and act differently. Are their personalities (on average) different? If so, how so? If so, what accounts for this? Nature? Nurture?

4.      Do feminists believe that men and women think differently? Which feminists?

5.      Describe Kohlberg’s “Heinz drug stealing story” experiment, what conclusion he draws about women and men’s moral development and then explain Carol Gilligan’s “Care Ethics” response.

6.      Describe some of the differences between feminist ethics (“care ethics”) and the traditional male ethics of justice/principle? (This feminist ethics chart might help). You might also use the Jake/Amy drug stealing story.)

7.      What is “evolutionary psychology” and how do some believe it explains some of the differences between men and women’s values, psychology, and behavior?

8.      What does Rachel’s suggest that feminist ethics (based on caring and preserving personal relations) would say about our moral obligations to children with HIV in the developing world? To farm animals (in contrast to pets)? Contrast the feminist ethics response with the (male) “ethics of principle” response. Which is better on your view?

9.      Explain why Rachels thinks an ethics of duty/obligation/principle is ill-suited to deal with the moral relations among family and friends. Does an ethics of care do better here?

10.    Does Rachels think an ethics of care should replace an ethics of principle/justice? Does he think we should reject the ethics of care?


Study Questions on Articles for Class Discussion on Feminism

1.      Does Coontz (in “The Myth of Male Decline”) think there has been significant progress in the treatment of women in the last 50 years? If so, what are some of the positive changes? If not, why not? What are some of the ways she thinks women have not achieved equality with men?

         a.      What % of CEO in Fortune top 1000 companies are women?

         b.      What has happened to job segregation by gender in the last 50-60 years? In the last 10-15 years? Consider computer science as an example.

         c.      What percent of married women in dual earner households out earn their husbands? 4% or 30%?

         d.      What has happened in the last 20 years to domestic violence rates, rates of sexual assault & rapes, and the share of housework and child care that men do?

2.      Coontz suggests that boys/men need to liberate themselves from pressure to prove their masculinity because they are held back by a “male mystique” enforced by bullying and ostracism if they engage in “girlie” activities. What are her examples? Do you agree that this is a problem? Why or why not?

3.      Gates (in “Balancing the Burden of Unpaid Work”) suggest that women in both poor and rich countries “do an outsized proportion of the unpaid work.” Is this true in your family?

         a.      Explain the story of the Tanzanian 14 year old girl.

         b.      Is Gates correct that “our economies are built on the back of unpaid work?”

         c.      Do you think that there is “huge potential” in women that our economies are not tapping into because of women’s “time poverty?” Would the economy be invigorated if “slacker men” did more of the chores and/or if new technologies reduced the amount of unpaid work women end up doing?

         d.      What concrete public policy does Gates suggest for redistributing “unpaid work” in this country? Do you favor such a policy?

         e.      Are you planning on there being equality in terms of household/child duties with your partner?

4.      Concerning “Myths That Make It Hard To Stop Campus Rape”:

         a.      When 2000 college men were asked if they had ever forced sex w/o consent, how many said yes? 1/5, 1/16, 1/50, 1/100, or 1/1000?

         b.      Did they admit it reluctantly or did they brag?

         c.      Are campus rapists men who get drunk and make a one time mistake or are they serial rapists who target the most vulnerable women?

         d.      What weapon do the serial rapists use?

         e.      According to this article, what percent of college woman are sexually assaulted? 1/3, 1/5, 1/10, 1/20, 1/50, 1/100?

         f.      Should college men found responsible for sexual assault be expelled? Or should we treat these events as “teachable moments” and give the offenders a second chance? What % are expelled?

         g.      Are women who get drunk and then are sexually assaulted responsible (significantly, partly, not at all?) for these assaults?

5.      The Bechdel Test:

         a.      State the test. Hint it has 3 (or perhaps 4) requirements. What is it a test for?

         b.      What % of films allegedly meet these requirements? 1/10, 1/3, ½, 3/4, 9/10?

         c.      Why might one think that films that fails this test are likely to be sexist? Do you think this is a good test for sexism? What might be an example of a movie that fails this test but is not sexist?

         d.      What is “the sexy lamp test?”

         e.      Is the film industry’s portrayal of women sexist? What other factors besides failing the Bechdel test suggest it is?

         f.      Discuss: A character from the television series Sex and the City has one of its 4 female main characters ask: "How does it happen that four such smart women have nothing to talk about but boyfriends? It's like seventh grade with bank accounts!"

         g.      What are some reasons for thinking that even if a work of fiction passes the Bechdel test, that is no guarantee that it promotes gender equality.

6.      Miss Representation video:

         a.      How important is the media in shaping our values? Does media “create consciousness?”

         b.      Is one main message of our society and the media that what is most important for a woman is how she looks; that is, that a woman’s worth depends on looks and it doesn’t matter what her accomplishments are, she is judged on looks.

         c.      Is this concern equally true for men?

         d.      Does advertising make women self-conscious and insecure?

         e.      Does the media contribute to violence against women?

         f.      Does America lead the world in terms of women in national legislatures?

         g.      Discuss: “You can’t be what you can’t see”

         h.      Can the media be a powerful force for social change?


Rachels, Ch 12: The Ethics of Virtue

1.      Explain how virtue ethics is different from an ethics of duty or right action. What does virtue ethics focus on that is different from traditional ethics (e.g., utilitarianism and Kantian non-consequentialism)?

2.      Define what a virtue is and give examples of virtues (and opposing vices).

3.      Using courage as an example, explain what Aristotle means when he says virtue is a mean between two extremes which are vices.

4.      How might one answer the question, why be virtuous? How does Aristotle answer it?

5.      Does Rachels think the virtues are the same for everyone or does he think virtues are culturally or socially relative? Give examples.

6.      Using the example of visiting a friend in the hospital, explain why Rachels thinks that virtue ethics handles moral motivation better than does either utilitarian ethics or Kant’s universalizability ethics.

7.      How will a defender of virtue ethics answer the question about how we should act? In other word, for virtue ethics right action is__________________?

8.      What is “radical virtue ethics” and why does Rachels object to it? Does Rachels reject virtue ethics entirely?


Rachels, Ch 13: What Would A Satisfactory Moral Theory Be Like?

1.      Describe and explain Rachels' own moral theory (what he calls "Multiple-Strategies Utilitarianism"). How does it conceive of right action? In what way is it utilitarian? In what way does it involve Kantian respect for persons? In what way does it incorporate virtue ethics?

2.      Explain how Rachels “Multiple-Strategies Utilitarianism”–despite asking us to treat people as they deserve and acting virtuously–is really at bottom the utilitarian view that we ought to promote the general welfare. What are the “multiple strategies” for promoting the general welfare?

3.      Explain the notion of impartiality and some problems with impartiality as an ethical ideal. Does Rachels conception of right action insist on strict impartiality in all cases? For what reasons does Rachels allow a departure from strict impartiality?

4.      Explain what Rachels means when he says impartially promoting the interests of everyone rules out considerations of race, sex, species, location, time, and preference for oneself. Do you agree?

5.      Explain in what way Rachels’ view a “morality w/o hubris.”

6.      What is involved in treating 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, her own past behavior, luck.

7.      How does treating people as they deserve to be treated enhance their freedom?

8.      What are the “natural and social lotteries?” Give examples.

9.      Does our society reward people because of superior natural endowments that they possess and/or because they were born into a wealthy and well-educated family? Is this just? Fair? Is it treating people as they deserve to be treated?

10.    Should our society be based solely on what people deserve? That is, should wealth, power, employment, and status be based only on what people deserve? Why or why not?