Section 1 Kantian
Chp 13/12 (4th/5th)
1.What is a “maxim” for Kant? What role do maxims play in Kant’s ethics? Provide an example of a maxim and explain how it would figure in the moral assessment of an action in Kant’s view.
2.Explain what Kant means when he says that the human being is an “end in itself.” What does this imply about how human beings are to be treated?
3.Is it ever morally acceptable to lie? What does Kant say? Do you agree with him? Why or why not?
4.Under what conditions does an act have moral worth, according to Kant? Give an example to illustrate this idea. Do you find Kant’s position plausible? What do you think is the strongest objection to it?
1.A number of popular TV shows and films in recent years (e.g., The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Da Ali G Show, Borat) have gotten big laughs by involving unsuspecting people in interviews, conversations, and other interactions that the shows’ producers and viewers know to be absurd hoaxes. What do you think Kant would make of this trend in comedy? If you are familiar with any shows of this type, it might be helpful to develop your answer with reference to specific examples.
2.Suppose if you tell one lie, (and thereby treat a rational agent as a mere means), you may prevent five other people from being used as mere means. Should you tell the lie? Would it violate the categorical imperative? Why or why not? How might this case be used as an objection to Kant?
3.You may either repay a debt you owe and your family will starve to death, or you may break your promise and feed your family. Which choice would you make? How would O’Neill evaluate your decision?
Section 2 Utilitarian Ethics
1. Mill mentions those who object to utilitarianism on the grounds that it holds humanity to an excessively high moral standard. Why might someone make this argument? How does Mill respond to it? What is your view: Are the requirements of utilitarianism excessively demanding? Why or why not?
2. Someone who saves a person from drowning in the hopes of being paid for it is acting morally according to Mill. Why does he say this? Would Kant agree? Do you? Why or why not?
3. What is the greatest happiness principle? On what does it make the rightness of our actions depend? Do you think it provides a reliable guide to our moral obligations? Why or why not?
4. What is the only thing that is desirable for its own sake according to Mill? How does he argue for this claim? Do you agree with him? Can you supply a counterexample?
1. With the cruise ship you’ve been traveling on sinking fast, you and several of your shipmates scramble toward one of the few available lifeboats. Eight of you manage to make on it board; the problem is, the boat can seat only six safely. If all eight remain on the boat, it will sink, and everyone will drown. No one volunteers to leave, but the man next to you recommends ganging up to throw overboard the two heaviest passengers, sacrificing their lives to spare the other six. Would a utilitarian agree to this plan? Why or why not? How about you? That is, would you help push two passengers into the sea?
2. Do you find utilitarianism’s moral standards too demanding? Why or why not?
3. Which of the objections Pojman/My PPT “Problems of Utilitarianism” discusses do you think is the most powerful challenge to utilitarianism? Can you provide a better reply than that offered by Pojman/My PPT?
Section 3 Virtue Ethics/Ethics of Care
1. Can you think of any examples of feelings or actions that might be morally right for one person but not for another? What would Aristotle say about this?
2. Aristotle claims that “virtue is a kind of mean.” What does he mean by this, and how does he argue for it? Is this an illuminating way of thinking about the virtues?
3. Do you have to be a virtuous person to perform a virtuous action? If you do, does this present a problem for Aristotle’s account of how virtue is acquired? If you do not, explain how it is possible for someone who lacks a particular virtue—courage, for example—to do something courageous.
4. What role does education play in the good life, according to Aristotle? What sorts of education and training does he think are required if we are to become virtuous? Do you agree?
1. Driver suggests that virtue ethics is intuitively appealing because we often deliberate about moral problems by reflecting on what admirable people would do. Do you agree that such reflection is useful when resolving moral dilemmas?
2. Driver considers the objection that virtue ethics is not action guiding. Present the objection and her reply. How compelling is the objection? Must a moral theory always give agents clear instruction on how to act?
3. What is the doctrine of the mean? Offer your own example of a virtue that can be modeled on this doctrine and an example of one that cannot be adequately modeled.
4. The virtuous person does the right thing and is happy to do so. It comes easily. The “continent” person does the right thing but it requires effort. Should we think more of the person that wants to be moral or the person who overcomes a desire not to be moral?
1. What makes the ethics of care different from other moral theories? Do you see it as an appropriate approach to moral problems? Why or why not?
2. What role does emotion play in the ethics of care? How does Held conceive its relation to reason in ethical deliberation?
3. According to Held, care ethics places significant weight on the emotions. Why does Held think the emotions are important to proper thinking about morality? Do you agree with her argument? Why or why not?
4. Held claims that, unlike dominant moral theories, care ethics does not try to abstract or universalize; rather, it focuses on attending to the needs of particular, dependent others. Do you think this is a virtue of the theory or a vice? Explain your answer.
Section 4 Social Contract Theory (Hobbes and Rawls)
1. What does Hobbes mean by the “war of every man against every man”? Is it possible to escape this condition? If so, how?
2. What is Hobbes’s conception of human nature? Given this account of human nature, what does he think life would be like in the absence of government? Do you agree with him about this? Why or why not?
3. Do you think everyone has a natural right to all things? Why or why not? What does Hobbes say about this?
1. Rawls states, “Injustice, then, is simply inequalities that are not to the benefit of all.” Do you agree with this claim? Why or why not? How does this conception of injustice manifest itself in Rawls’s theory?
2. Can you think of an example of a current social policy that people in the original position would not agree to adopt? How about one they would? In explaining your answer, be sure to make reference to Rawls’s two principles of justice.
3. Try to put on the veil of ignorance and imagine yourself in the original position. Are the principles Rawls identifies the same as those you would choose? Why or why not?
Section 5 Abortion
chp 24 – Thompson
1. Do laws prohibiting abortion require pregnant women to act as Good Samaritans? Why or why not? What does Thomson say?
2. Explain the purpose of Thomson’s violinist example. Is it an effective way to present her defense of abortion? Why or why not?
3. On what premise does most opposition to abortion rest, according to Thomson? What does Thomson think of this premise? What role does it play in her argument?
4. Explain the different accounts of the right to life that Thomson discusses. Which does she ultimately decide is correct? Do you find her account plausible? Why or why not?
chp 25 – Warren
1. Does the question of abortion’s moral status hinge on whether a fetus is considered a person? In your answer, be sure to explain what you mean by “person” and compare your view to those of Warren and Thomson.
2. What standard anti-abortion argument does Warren discuss? What is her objection to this argument? Do you think it is a good one?
3. What does Warren think Thomson’s violinist case is capable of proving? What criticisms does she raise for Thomson’s position? Do you agree with her assessment?
4. What is the moral community, and who does Warren think belongs to it? What reasons does she give for her view? Do you find her account compelling? Why or why not?
chp 26 – Marquis
1. Is it presumptively wrong to kill a fetus to save the life of the pregnant woman? What would Marquis say about this? Do you agree?
2. Do some fetuses have more valuable futures than others? Why or why not? What implications does your answer have for the abortion debate? In explaining your position, be sure to make reference to Marquis’s argument about the immorality of abortion.
3. What two considerations does Marquis argue support the claim that killing a being with a valuable future is wrong? How much support do these claims lend to Marquis’s central claim? What other considerations, if any, may lend additional support to Marquis’ conclusion?
4. Marquis argues that both the typical anti-abortion argument and the typical pro-choice argument feature a similar mistake. What is that mistake? What is Marquis’s argument for the wrongness of abortion? Does it avoid the mistake he claims is present in the other arguments?
Section 6 Animal Ethics
1. What is Speciesism? Why is it wrong according to Singer? What are reasons for thinking this is a kind of unjust discrimination?
2. Explain why Singer thinks it is impossible to justify the principle of equality among humans on the basis of an actual, factual equality between humans.
3. Where should we draw the line between the beings who are worth of moral consideration, and the ones who are not, according to Singer?
4. 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.
5. 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.
1. What makes a being sentient? Are there any living beings that are not sentient? What bearing does this have on the animal ethics debate?
2. What does Regan mean by “being a subject of a life?” What role does it play in his theory? Is a tree a subject of a life for Regan. Explain.
3. State, explain, and evaluate Tom Regan’s two criticisms of utilitarianism. Speak in terms of the animal ethics debate.
1.What are four ways of responding to Norcross’s analogical argument? Explain the and his responses.
1.On which notion of right does Machan base his claim that animals do not have rights? How does it relate to his argument about animal rights?
2.What is the fundamental difference between animals and humans according to Machan? How does it relate to his argument about animal rights?
3.What is the difference between a consequentialist moral theory like utilitarianism and a rights view like Machan’s? Which factors do they consider when determining if an action is right/wrong? What is Machan’s criterion of moral standing? Is a tree morally considerable for Regan? What about a fetus or 1 year-old baby? Explain.
4. Do animals possess rights? What about human beings who lack moral capacity (e.g., those with severe intellectual disabilities)? Do we have any obligations to beings that lack rights? Be sure to address Machan’s arguments in your answer.
General (not specific to the reading but involves having read more than one reading)
1. 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?
2. Does equal treatment require identical treatment? Why or why not? Give examples. What bearing does this have on the animal ethics debate?
3.Do you think there is a sharp line that can be drawn in which some animals having rights and some not? If so, how should we decide where to draw that line? If there is no sharp line, must we say that all animals have rights, or that none do?
Section 7 Sex Ethics or Immigration (same section)
Evaluate and outline (in your answer) McMurtry’s arguments against monogamous marriage. Examine the four principles that he attacks. Are his arguments convincing? Explain your answer.
What does Russell focus on in “Our Sexual Ethics” (don’t just say “how we sex”)? What are his criticisms of it (and reasons for)? What does he claim that we have to do to make it better? Do you agree with him? Why or Why not?
What makes a right basic, according to Miller? What kind of right does he contrast basic rights with? Does he believe that the right to migrate is basic? Why or why not?
What value does Miller assign to cultural and political self-determination? How does it shape his outlook on the ethics of migration and asylum?
Section 1 Kantian