PHIL 440:  Study Questions on Ruse, Sober, and Harman.

 

Questions on Ruse:

 

1.  According to Ruse, what is the main mistake that the Social Darwinists and other advocates of "traditional" evolutionary ethics made?

 

2.  What does Ruse mean by "metaethics"?

 

3.  Why is it incorrect for Ruse to categorize himself as an ethical non-cognitivist?

 

4.  What is the point of Ruse's spiritualism example (p. 659)?

 

5.  Why does Ruse have to liken morality to the spiritualism example and not to the train example?

 

6.  What is the Dulles moral principle?

 

7.  What is "intergalactic relativism"?

 

8.  What does Ruse mean when he says, "Your genes are a lot stronger than my words."

 

 

Questions on Sober (Note that the diagram on page 661 of Sober's article is mixed up.  I will correct it in lecture):

 

1.  What is Sober's distinction between explanation and justification?

 

2.  What is the difference between explanation and justification?

 

3.  What is the example of the avunculate intended to show?

 

4.  What is the example of the decline in birth rates in Italy intended to show?

 

5.  What does Sober mean by "subjectivism", "objectivism", "conventionalism", and "realism"?

 

6.  What does Sober call "Hume's Thesis"?  What are the two additions that Sober makes to Hume's Thesis?

 

7.  It is important to realize that Sober's use of "genetic" in "Genetic arguments" and "genetic fallacy" does not refer to genes.  It comes from "genesis", which means source or cause.

 

8.  What are the examples of Ben and Cathy show supposed to show?

 

9.  What is the example of the statistics professor supposed to show?

 

 

Study Questions on Harman, "Moral Nihilism"

 

1.  According to Harman, what is the analogy between testing scientific theories and testing moral theories?

 

2.  According to Harman, what is the disanalogy?  [Hint:  Think of Ruse's claim that objective morality is redundant.] 

 

3.  What are the two senses in which Harman thinks a theory can explain an observation?  Explain.  Which is the sense in which Harman thinks that moral theories can explain observations and which is the sense in which Harman thinks that they cannot?

 

4.  What does Harman mean by moral nihilism?  What is our term for that position?  What is Harman's "more moderate nihilism"?

 

5.  Recall Moore's analogy between "good" and "yellow".  What does Harman think is the important disanalogy between them?

 

6.  Why does Harman think that ethics is problematic?