Midterm Study Questions, Environmental Ethics, Fall 07, Hettinger


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


          In “Beyond the Limits,” Meadows et al. argue that we are in a situation of “overshoot.” What are their reasons for making this claim and what does it mean?

          What sort of policies do they recommend to avoid the consequences of overshoot? Do they think this is possible?

          Do they support technological development and industrial growth? (A trick question.)

          On their view what would a sustainable society look like? Define “sustainable.”


          Explain the concept of “ecological footprint” and how it is related to the notion of sustainability. If everyone in the world lived as North American’s do, what sort of ecological footprint would that involve?


          What are Julian Simon's reasons for (or against) thinking the supply of natural resources is infinite? Do you think he is right? Why or why not? According to Simon, what is the “ultimate resource?”

          As forcefully as you can, explain why Julian Simon believes that people are an asset and not a liability?

          Does Simon believe we need to plan for the future to have alternative resources available when our current resources become scarce? Why or why not?


          What is the wise use movement? What are its goals and its arguments in support of them?

          According to Ron Arnold, what are the three basic assumptions of the dominant Western worldview with which the "Wise Use" movement agrees? What are the three assumptions of the "environmentalist paradigm" that Arnold claims challenge 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?

          State and evaluate Arnold's argument for the claim that resources are not finite. What is the difference between a resource and a natural object?

          State Arnold’s criticisms of environmentalism. In what ways, if any do you agree with him? In what ways not? Why?



Moral Standing and Intrinsic Value


          What is meant by a "criterion of moral standing?" What is the purpose of specifying such a criterion?

          Give an uncontroversial example of something that virtually anyone would agree lacks moral standing and explain why it lacks moral standing.

          Explain how something that may not have moral standing can still be morally relevant in an indirect sense. What is the difference between something being morally relevant in an indirect sense and it having moral standing (having direct duties owed to it)?

          What is the difference between intrinsic and instrumental value? Give examples. Can something have both sorts of value?

          Explain the difference between anthropocentrism, sentiocentrism, biocentric individualism and ecocentric holism.


Anthropocentrism and Baxter


          Define and explain the anthropocentric criterion for moral standing.

          Describe two senses of "anthropocentric" (the strong and weak senses). Do you accept "anthropocentrism" in either sense? Why or why not?

          According to anthropocentrism in the strong sense is it wrong to dump toxic chemicals on a penguin? Why or why not? Do anthropocentrists like Baxter care about penguins? Explain.

          Can anthropocentrists be strong environmentalists (i.e., advocate strong measures to protect the environment)? Why or why not? How does the truth of "popular ecological ideas" (such as, “everything in nature is connected to everything else” and natural systems are delicately balanced and easily upset by human disturbance”) bear on this question?

          Are there any instances in which anthropocentrists and nonanthropocentrists are likely to differ over policy recommendations concerning the nonhuman environment? (Consider, preservation of “worthless species.”)

          What are some potential weaknesses (or weak points) in the anthropocentrist's position? What are its strong points?


          Explain William Baxter’s response to the claim that anthropocentrism will lead to destruction of the environment.

          What are Baxter’s arguments for thinking nonanthropocentric ethics are unworkable in practice. Is he right?

          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?

          Explain what Baxter thinks the optimal state of pollution is.


Peter Wenz and Environmental Justice


          What is environmental justice? What is environmental racism?

          What are the reasons for thinking it is true that nonwhites face a “disproportionate” amount of environmental hazards in this country? Do they?

          What is the doctrine of double effect and how does Wenz use it in his critique of environmental racism?

          Using examples, explain Wenz’s principle of commensurate burdens and benefits. How does he use this principle in his analysis of environmental justice?

          Why does Wenz discuss consumerism and how does it fit into his argument concerning environmental justice?

          Who does Wenz believe should receive the lion’s share of env. hazards and what is his argument for this conclusion?

          What is the free market approach to the distribution of environmental hazards? Why does Wenz reject this? Do you agree with his reasoning?

          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?


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.

          Does Singer believe killing a mouse is as bad as killing a typical human? Why or why not?



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.


The Use of Animals in Research and Carl Cohen


          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?



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?



Luke on Hunting


          Describe the hunter’s code and which parts of it are anthropocentric and which parts nonanthropocentric (and explain why). Do you agree with Luke’s views on this matter?

          Explain in detail why Luke believes the hunter’s code provides a strong case against hunting. Do you think he is right about this?

          What are the four arguments in favor of hunting that Luke considers and what response to each does he give? Do you think Luke’s responses are successful? 



Sagoff’s Animal Liberation and Environmental Ethics: Bad Marriage, Quick Divorce

          State and explain Mark Sagoff's criticism of animal activists (such as Peter Singer and Tom Regan).

          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.

          Discuss some of the potential differences between animal activists and environmentalists (and mention specific groups that fall into each camp).

          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?

          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?

          Does it make sense for a utilitarian like Singer to oppose human inflicted suffering of animals but not naturally occurring suffering of animals?

          Explain and evaluate the following response that Tom Regan 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.