PHIL 440A:  Midterm Review Questions

 

                The Midterm Exam will take place in class on Wednesday Oct. 30 (THIS IS A CHANGE IN THE ORIGINAL DATE).  PLEASE BRING ONE OR MORE BLANK BLUE BOOKS (WITH NO PAGES MISSING) AND A PEN OR LEGIBLE PENCIL TO THE EXAM.  Please answer all questions completely, but concisely.  ANSWER IN COMPLETE SENTENCES.  The exam will consist of selections from the following questions.  You will have 90 minutes to complete the exam.  To complete the exam in 90 minutes, it will be important to have thought out your answers in advance.  In preparing for the exam, you are encouraged to discuss these questions with other members of the class, and to discuss what the relevant considerations would be in answering them.  However, each student is expected to develop his/her own answers to the questions.  You should not discuss the wording of an answer or attempt to come up with an agreed upon answer.  If you draft answers to the questions, you should not show your draft answers to others, nor should you read or copy someone else's draft answers. 

 

1.  Distinguish the items in the following groups of terms:

(a) Top-Down/Bottom-Up Reasoning in Moral Philosophy

(b) Moral Cognitivism/Non-Cognitivism

(c) Moral Realism/Anti-Realism

(d) Sensitivity/Responsiveness to Objective Reasons

(e) Moral Anti-Realism/Practical Reason Anti-Realism/Theoretical Reason Anti-Realism.

 

2.  (a) What claim does Moore call the "Naturalistic Fallacy"?  (b) What claim does Ruse call the "naturalistic fallacy"?  (c) What claim does Sober refer to as “Hume’s thesis”? 

 

3.  (a) What is Moore's Open Question Argument supposed to show about the concept good?  (b) Explain the argument. 

 

4.  What is Moore’s Supervenience Thesis about Good?  Explain it with an example.

 

5.  (a) Why is Mackie not a subjectivist about morality?  (b) Why is Mackie not a naturalist about morality?  (c) How does Mackie classify himself?  Explain.  (d) What does Mackie mean by "objective prescriptivity"?  (e) Explain his two reasons for thinking the idea is "queer" or weird.  (f) What is the "companions in guilt" response?  In your explanation, give two examples of other kinds of judgments that would seem to be weird by Mackie's standards.

 

6.  Hume is usually thought to be an instrumentalist about practical reason.  Why does Millgram believe that interpretation of Hume is a mistake? 

 

7.  (a) Hume believes that there are only two cases in which it makes sense to call a passion irrational.  What are they?  (b) In each case, according to Hume is it the passion that is truly irrational, or is it something else?  Explain. 

 

8.  Why is Hume so sure that moral distinctions are not based on reason?

 

9.  (a) What is the view that we have called classical internalism about practical reasons?  (b) What is Williams' conception of internal practical reasons?  Call that concept internalW.  (c) Let internalismW be the claim that all reasons for action are internalW.  Williams accepts internalismW about reasons for action.  Does he accept classical internalism?  Explain.  (d) Korsgaard also defines a version of internalism about reasons for action.  Call it internalismK.  Define internalismK.  (e) Korsgaard accepts internalismK.  Would she accept classical internalism?  Explain. (f) Would Korsgaard accept internalismW?  Explain.  (g) Would Williams accept internalismK?  Explain.

 

10.  (a) What does Korsgaard mean by true irrationality?  (b) As Korsgaard defines it, true irrationality could apply to both actions and beliefs.  Give an example of irrationality of action (or inaction) and explain why it is an example of what Korsgaard calls true irrationality.  (c) Give an example of irrationality of belief and explain why it is an example of what Korsgaard calls true irrationality. 

 

11. (a) What does Korsgaard mean when she says, "The necessity is in the law, not in us"?  (b) Your explanation should show that you understand why what she says implies that classical internalism is false. 

 

12. (a) What does Nagel mean by an "objective" reason?  (b) What does Nagel mean by an "agent-neutral" reason?  (c) Does Nagel believe there are any objective, internal, agent-neutral reasons for action?  Explain.

 

13.  Using Nagel's terminology, for each of the following claims, identify whether the relevant reasons would be agent-relative or agent-neutral (if they really were reasons).  Explain your classifications:

                (a) Everyone has a reason to be grateful to his or her own mother;

                (b) Everyone has a reason to be grateful to mothers;

                (c) Everyone has a reason to preserve beautiful objects.

                (d) Everyone has a reason to alleviate his or her own severe pain.

                (e) Everyone has a reason to alleviate severe pain in anyone.

                (f) Everyone has a reason to prolong human life, even if the person whose life it is would rather end it.

                (g) Everyone has a reason to maximize his own individual happiness.

                (h) Everyone has a reason to maximize overall happiness.

 

14.  (a) What do we mean by objective to-be-believedness/not-to-be-believedness (TBB/-TBB)? What do we mean by objective non-moral "to-be-pursuedness/not-to-be-pursuedness" (TBP/-TBP)?  (b) What do we mean by objective non-moral "to-be-doneness/not-to-be-doneness" (TBD/-TBD)?  (c) What do we mean by objective moral TBP/-TBP?  (d) What do we mean by objective moral TBD/-TBD? 

 

15. (a) State each of the following as a norm (i.e., a normative/evaluative statement); (b) Identify what kind of norm it is (i.e., a norm of TBB/-TBB, TBP/-TBP, or TBD/-TBD); (c) Do you believe that it is a norm that applies to all rational beings; (d) Explain your answer to (c).

(i) Ockham's Razor

(ii) Instrumentalist Norm

(iii) Strong Norm of Transitivity of Preferences

(iv) The Internal, Agent-Neutral Disvalue of Pain

 

16.  (a) Mackie refers to the "companions in guilt" strategy for responding to his arguments for moral anti-realism.  What is that strategy?  (b) How does Hampton's argument for objective norms of practical reason fit the companions in guilt strategy? 

 

17.  Hampton says "To be able to reason instrumentally, we must be able to reason non-instrumentally."  Explain what she means. 

 

18.  What is the point of Hampton’s example of the curmudgeon?

 

19.  (a) Why does Ruse believe that evolution provides us with an explanation of the belief in objective moral norms?  (b) Why does Ruse believe that the evolutionary explanation of our belief in objective moral norms supports the conclusion that there are no objective moral norms? [Hint:  What is the point of the Ouija board example?] (c) Why is it a mistake to label Ruse’s position “noncognitivism”?  How should it be labeled?  (d) Why does Ruse not expect us to accept the conclusion of his argument? 

 

20.  Ruse says, “There are very good reasons why we would believe in normative ethics whether it had independent existence or not.”  In class we discussed this as an example of Nozick’s tracking test for knowledge.  (a) What is Nozick’s tracking test? (b) Explain why Ruse’s argument is an argument that our moral beliefs fail Nozick’s tracking test (even if they are true).

 

21.  In class we distinguished two kinds of sensitivity, tracking sensitivity and probabilistic sensitivity.  Use the example of Ben and Cathy to explain probabilistic sensitivity. 

 

22. (a) What does Ruse mean by saying he is an "intergalactic relativist" about morality? 

 

23.  (a) What is the point that Sober makes with his example of the statistics professor?  (b) How does Harman’s argument raise a potential problem for Sober’s conclusion about that example? (c) How does Harman’s own argument generate a similar problem for itself? (Hint: Does Harman’s own argument depend on any objective norms?)

 

24.  (a) What are the two senses of "observation" that Harman distinguishes?  (b) What is the sensitivity test that Harman believes our moral "observations" fail to satisfy? 

 

25.  Classify the following authors by how they would answer the questions, and explain each of your answers:  (i) Is there an objective property of non-moral TBP/-TBP?  (ii) Is there an objective property of non-moral TBD/‑TBD? (iii) If so, is there a categorical objective property of TBD/-TBD, or are all such properties hypothetical? (iv) Is there an objective property of moral TBP/-TBP?  (v) Is there an objective property of moral TBD/-TBD?  [For each question, there are three possible categories:  Yes, No, and Indeterminate].  Your explanations should show that you are familiar with the authors' statement and defense of their positions.

(a) Moore

(b) Hume

(c) Mackie

(d) Williams ("Internal and External Reasons")

(e) Korsgaard

(f) Hampton

(g) Nagel

(h) Ruse

(i) Sober

(j) Harman