Midterm Study Questions, Environmental Ethics, Fall 08, Hettinger


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


1.         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?

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

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

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

5.         What is the difference between the problem of ozone depletion and the problem of global warming?

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

7.         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?”

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

9.         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?

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

11.       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?

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

Al Gore's film Inconvenient Truth

13.       What is the major greenhouse gas? Why do CO2 levels dip each year when the northern hemisphere tilts toward the sun? How do we know that CO2 levels are the highest they have been for many, many years? Why would melting of the polar ice caps contribute to further increases in global warming? What is the connection between hurricanes and global warming? What point was Gore trying to make with his picture of a weighing scale with gold bars on one side and the earth on the other side?

Jamieson: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Justice

14.       There are only two major industrial countries that are not signatories to the Kyoto protocol; name one. For how many years has the international community been working on getting agreements on global warming? Has the average temperature on earth ever risen over 10 degrees in 10 years?

15.       What are the three responses to global warming that Jamieson addresses? Explain the difference between adaptation and mitigation.

16.       Why does Jamieson argue that an adaptation only policy toward global warming is a polluted pays (rather than a polluter pays) strategy?

17.       Explain how a market in the right to emit greenhouse gases could lessen the societal cost of controlling greenhouse gases.

Moral Standing and Intrinsic Value

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

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

20.       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)?

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

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

Anthropocentrism and Baxter on Optimal Pollution

23.       Define and explain the anthropocentric criterion for moral standing.

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

25.       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.

26.       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?

27.       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.”)

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

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

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

31.       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?

32.       Explain what Baxter thinks the optimal state of pollution is.

Wenz and Environmental Justice

33.       What is environmental justice? What is environmental racism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

40.       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

41.       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.

42.       Why might someone argue that Lama has unrealistic views about animal psychology. Do you think he does?

43.       Is wearing leather morally any different than wearing fur?

44.       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?

45.       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.

Singer on Equality for Animals

46.       Define and explain utilitarianism. How does this moral theory determine what is right and wrong?

47.       State and explain the utilitarian argument against eating meat.

48.       What is the utilitarian criterion of moral standing? How does it follow from the definition of utilitarianism?

49.       What makes a being sentient? Are there any living beings that are not sentient?

50.       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?

51.       Define and explain the idea of speciesism. Is this a kind of unjust discrimination on your view?

52.       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.)

53.       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.

54.       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.

55.       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.

56.       Does equal treatment require identical treatment? Why or why not? Give examples.

Articles on Human Uses of Animals (for oral presentations)

57.       Are cattle treated and killed humanely in our current system of animal agriculture? Why or why not? Give some examples from the articles we read.

58.       Describe how goose liver is produced. What is forced molting of chickens? How are pregnant sows and egg laying chickens confined?

59.       Are there any federal regulations about how farm animals are treated before they are slaughtered? Does the federal humane slaughter act apply to poultry (95% of the land animals we kill for food)?

60.       Describe some of the steps that some in the meat-food industry are taking to improve conditions for animals raised for food.

61.       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?

62.       What is the LD50 test?

63.       What is one reason for thinking hunters are good environmentalists and one reason for thinking they are not?

64.       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?

Nussbaum on Facing Animal Complexity

65.       Describe the elephant mirror experiments and what it is suppose to show about elephant minds

66.       Describe the experiment with mice and explain what it shows about mice’s social, cognitive and moral abilities.

67.       What are “adaptive preferences” and why does Nussbaum believe utilitarianism can’t adequately respond to them?

68.       What examples does Nussbaum use to try to show that pleasure and pain are not the only important things in animals’ lives

69.       Explain the criticism of utilitarianism that claims that because it focuses on consequences, it allows individuals to be used as mere means to the ends of others.

70.       According to Nussbaum’s alternative to utilitarianism, what we do owe each sentient creature?

71.       Sentient creatures differ in complexity. Does this difference have any moral relevance, according to Nussbaum? Does it justify a judgment of higher and lower animals? Does it justify difference in treatment?

Pollan on An Animal's Place

72.       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?

73.       Does Pollan believe it is morally permissible to eat animals? If not why not? If so, why and under what conditions?

74.       Does Pollan think that animals can feel pain and/or suffer? Explain.

75.       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.

76.       Have domesticated animals benefitted from their relationship with humans on Pollan’s view? Why or why not? Assess his position from your own perspective.

77.       Evaluate the claim that we should look to nature (to how nature treats animals) as a guide for how we should treat them.

78.       Describe Pollan’s ideal farm. Are animals happy/fulfilled on such a farm, according to Pollan? Why? Do you think such a farm treats animals in the way Nussbaum believes we should treat them?

79.       Explain (and evaluate) Pollan’s suggestion that vegetarians kill more animals than do meat eaters. Explain and evaluate Kerasote suggestion that hunting is better for animals than being a “supermarket vegetarian.”

80.       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.”

Carl Cohen and The Use of Animals in Research

81.       What is a moral agent? Is a rapist a moral agent? Are any nonhuman animals moral agents?

82.       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.

83.       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?)

84.       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.

85.       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?

86.       Does Cohen think we should reduce, increase, or eliminate animal experimentation? Explain.

87.       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?

88.       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?

89.       Define the notion of a right and explain it in detail.

90.       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?

91.       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)?

92.       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?

93.       What is Cohen's response to this marginal case argument? Is this response a good one?

94.       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.

95.       Why does Cohen think animals can't have rights? Do you think any animals have any rights?

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

****Sagoff material will not be on this exam, but on the final exam.