PHIL 440A: Study Questions on Williams, Dworkin, and Talbott
Questions on Williams, “Knowledge, Science, Convergence”:
1. What does Williams mean by "convergence"? What does Williams believe would be the best explanation of convergence in science? Why does he not believe there could be any such explanation of convergence in ethics?
2. What does Williams mean by the "absolute conception" of the world?
3. What is a thick ethical concept? What does Williams mean by saying they are "action guiding" and "guided by the world"?
4. What is the example of the hypertraditional society? What is the "objectivist" model of such a society? What is the "nonobjectivist" model?
5. What is the distinction between practice and reflection?
6. What does Williams mean when he says that in ethics reflection can destroy knowledge?
7. According to Williams, what is the analogy between belief in magic and ethical statements? What is the disanalogy?
8. What does Williams believe is the only intelligible form of ethical objectivity at the reflective level?
Questions on Ronald Dworkin's "Objectivity and Truth"
1. What does Dworkin mean by archimedeanism that stands outside all evaluative domains?
2. Why does Dworkin believe that this kind of archimedeanism is not possible? How does his position resemble Sober's second extension of Hume's thesis?
3. What does Dworkin mean by "internal moral skepticism"? What does he mean by archimedean or external moral skepticism?
4. What does it mean to say that archimedean moral skepticism is austere and neutral?
5. What is the distinction between I-propositions and E-propositions?
6. What does Dworkin mean by the "moral field thesis" and by "morons"? Explain how Dworkin could use this example to respond to Williams' claim about moral convergence and moral objectivity?
7. What is Dworkin's response to Wright? How could it be used to turn Williams's argument into a general argument against all philosophical knowledge?
8. Ultimately, Dworkin argues that we have to decide which of two propositions is more convincing? Why is this a reflective equilibrium test? What are the two propositions? Which does he find more convincing? Which do you find more convincing?
9. What is the Super-Duper Companions in Guilt Argument? (You probably won’t be able to answer this question until after we discuss Dworkin in class.)
Study Questions on Talbott
NOTE: There is an error in the Talbott text. The formula on page 149 of the reader should be:
(MR) EmpProb(x is true//x is a substantive moral proposition about a particular case believed as a result of causal history BE&SE) > ½.
1. What does Talbott mean by the moral sensitivity? (If we have moral sensitivity, what is sensitive to what?)
2. Explain the difference between tracking sensitivity and probabilistic sensitivity.
3. What is the naturalist’s challenge? Why is it a challenge to moral realism?
4. How does Talbott think that our moral beliefs could be probabilistically sensitive to objective moral standards if we have no way of causally interacting with such standards?
5. According to Talbott, what are objective moral truths truths about?
6. What is the parsimony objection to moral realism? How does Talbott respond to it?