Midterm Study Questions, Environmental Ethics, Spring 05, Hettinger

Environmental Problems: How serious? Meadows, Ecological Footprint, Simon and Arnold

Moral Standing and Intrinsic Value

Anthropocentrism and Baxter

Peter Wenz and Environmental Justice

The Witness

  • How does Eddie Lama use our love of pets to make a case for abolishing fur farms and being vegetarian. Explain and evaluate his argument.
  • Why might someone argue that Lama has unrealistic views about animal psychology. Do you think he does?
  • Is wearing leather any different than wearing fur?
  • What does Edie Lama do to publicize the treatment of animals in fur farms? Is what he is doing morally praiseworthy? Why or why not?
  • Should one who believes that what others do is seriously wrong tolerate such behavior? Does tolerating it mean one does not really think it is seriously wrong? Discuss.


  • Define and explain utilitarianism. How does this moral theory determine what is right and wrong?
  • State and explain the utilitarian argument against eating meat.
  • What is the utilitarian criterion of moral standing? How does it follow from the definition of utilitarianism?
  • What makes a being sentient? Are there any living beings that are not sentient?
  • 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?
  • Define and explain the idea of speciesism. Is this a kind of unjust discrimination on your view?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Does equal treatment require identical treatment? Why or why not? Give examples.

Miscellaneous Issues about Animals

  • Are cattle killed humanely in our current system of animal agriculture? Why or why not?
  • Describe how goose liver is produced.
  • Who are "animal welfare's unexpected allies?" Describe what they are doing. Who is Temple Grandin?
  • What is the LD50 test?
  • 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?
  • Why does Ted Kerasote think hunting is better for animals than being a "supermarket vegetarian?"
  • What is one reason for thinking hunters are good environmentalists and one reason for thinking they are not?
  • What are some reasons for thinking circuses treat animals better than do zoos? What are reasons for thinking the reverse?

Regan and Animal Rights

  • 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?
  • State, explain, and evaluate Tom Regan's two criticisms of utilitarianism.
  • What is Regan's criterion of moral standing?
  • What does Regan mean by "being a subject of a life?" Is a tree a subject of a life for Regan? Explain.
  • 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?
  • Do you think it makes sense for two beings to have different amounts of inherent value (moral standing)?
  • 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?
  • Can one treat an individual with respect and still use it in a harmful way?
  • Explain the marginal case argument and how it is used in debates about our treatment of animals.
  • 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?
  • How might an advocate of "environmental ethics"criticize both Singer's and Regan's views of moral standing?

Michael Pollan

  • What is the basic reason Pollan thinks for why animals are treated so badly in modern factory farming operations? What solution to this problem does he offer?
  • Does Pollan believe it is morally permissible to eat animals? If not why not? If so, why and under what conditions?
  • Does Pollan think that animals can feel pain and/or suffer? Explain.
  • Explain Pollan's views on domestication of animals. Does he think of it as exploitation or enslavement? Why or why not? Explain his views on domestication of animals.
  • Have domesticated animals benefitted from their relationship with humans on Pollan's view? Why or why not? Assess his position from your own perspective.
  • Describe Pollan's ideal farm. Are animals happy on such a farm, according to Pollan? Why?
  • Explain Pollan's suggestion that vegetarians kill more animals than do meat eaters.
  • What is wrong with the following assessment 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.

Carl Cohen and The Use of Animals in Research

  • What is a moral agent? Is a rapist a moral agent? Are any nonhuman animals moral agents?
  • Explain and evaluate the following argument: Since animals are not moral agents, they can't have rights. Use the marginal case argument to criticize this argument.
  • 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. Does the conclusion follow?)
  • Does Cohen accept the anthropocentric criterion for moral standing? Does Cohen think we have direct duties to animals? Explain Cohen's position on this issue.
  • 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?
  • Does Cohen think we should reduce, increase, or eliminate animal experimentation? Explain.
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • What is a right? Explain the definition in detail.
  • 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?
  • 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)?
  • 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?
  • What is Cohen's response to this marginal case argument? Is this response a good one?
  • Is it wrong to treat an individual on the basis of typical characteristics of groups of which he/she is a member, 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) on the basis of characteristics normal for their species (even though they lack these characteristics)? Relate this principle to Cohen's attempt to answer the marginal case objection.
  • Why does Cohen think animals can't have rights? Why does Regan think animals do have rights? What is a right, according to each? Do you think any animals have any rights?

David DeGrazia on What Animals are Like and on Harming Animals

  • State DeGrazia's overall position on the mental lives of animals. Can animals feel pain? Can they suffer? Do they have emotions? Can they feel anxious? Are they self aware over time? Which animals?
  • Explain the difference between pain and nociception. Can one happen without the other? Give examples.
  • Identify and explain the four categories of evidence DeGrazia uses to support his views on what animals are like? Give examples of concrete evidence in each of these categories.
  • What are some reasons DeGrazia gives for why insects do (or do not?) feel pain.
  • Does DeGrazia think that human's mental lives are similar to or different from animals mental lives? What reasons does he give for his view on this matter?
  • State one of DeGrazia's reasons for thinking some animals have self-awareness over time.
  • Does DeGrazia think that painless death is a harm to animals? Why or why not?
  • Discuss the issue of whether it might be better for an animal to be wild and suffer more or confined and suffer less.
  • How does DeGrazia use the issue of "dog cast example" to argue that we do think death is a harm for animals.
  • According to DeGrazia, under what circumstances is death not a harm? Give examples.
  • Identify and describe the differences between the three accounts of the harm of death that DeGrazia discusses. Which one does DeGrazia accept and why? Which account (if any) do you think makes most sense and why?
  • Does DeGrazia think killing a human and an animal are comparable harms? Why or why not?

Jamieson on Zoos

  • According to Jamieson, how have the purposes of zoos changed over their history? How are the best zoos presenting themselves today?
  • Examine both sides of the educational argument for zoos. What does Jamieson argue is the fundamental thing zoos teach us?
  • Jamieson defends the "presumption against keeping animals in captivity." Do you accept such a presumption? What does it mean to say it is a "presumption?" Does Jamieson think this presumption can be overridden?
  • What are the arguments Jamieson considers against such a presumption and how does he respond to them? (E.g., His response to the claim that animals are not truly free in the wild and that they don't make their own choices because the lack the required mental abilities?)
  • Evaluate (examine both sides of) the claim that zoos are important in the preservation of species and wild nature. What are Jamieson's criticism of this argument?