Contemporary Ethical TheorySpring 1998

Second Examination: Questions

[Be sure you are familiar with the format and ground rules for this exam.]

Questions will be referred to by their "names," listed to their left.

A-CLASInto what four main classes does A.J. Ayer divide the pronouncements of ordinary systems of ethics? With which of these classes should ethical philosophers be concerned, according to Ayer? Is he right?
A-MEANExplain A.J. Ayer's account of the meaning of ethical statements. On Ayer's account what would it mean to say (i) "It was morally wrong of Geoffrey to tell the company that the computer was broken from the start when it really broke a week after it arrived," (ii) "Lying is morally wrong." Critically discuss the plausibility of Ayer's account.
A-SUBJA.J. Ayer considers an argument G.E. Moore offered against subjectivism. What is this argument? Does it, with suitable modification, apply to Ayer's own theory? What is Ayer's response to the modified argument?
A-DISPIn what way and to what extent do we dispute about matter of value according to A.J. Ayer? Critically discuss.
ST-CRIIn "The Emotive Meaning of Ethical Terms" C.L. Stevenson lays down three "requirements" on any "vital" sense of "good." What are these requirements and are they reasonable requirements? That is to say, must any account of goodness fulfill each of these criteria?
ST-EMOWhat does Stevenson mean by the "emotive" meaning of a term? Give his definition and examples. What is the relation between emotive meaning and what Stevenson calls "the dynamic use of words?"
ST-DISC.L. Stevenson claimed that "we must be able sensibly to disagree about whether something is `good.'" Explain how Stevenson saw his theory as meeting this requirement. How successful was his theory in this regard?
BL-ARGIn "The New Subjectivism in Ethics" Brand Blanchard five arguments (or "considerations" or "difficulties") against the view he calls "The new subjectivism." Carefully state one of these arguments, being sure to explain the view Blancard is arguing against. Critically dicuss the argument.
H-FEATWhat are the "two logical features" of the word "ought" that R. M. Hare thinks are essential to understanding moral argument? Carefully explain each of these features.
H-ABCSuppose Alice owes Brad money but Brad doesn't owe money to anyone. What argument, if any, would R.M. Hare offer to Brad to convince him not to accept the judgment that he morally may put Alice into prison for debt (allowing that this is legally possible and permissible)? Critically discuss.
H-A&FHow might "amoralists" and "fanatics" (as these terms are used by R.M. Hare) escape Hare's kind of moral argument? Explain and critically discuss.
H-UNPRExplain universal prescriptivism. On what basis does R. M. Hare think we can see universal prescriptivism to be correct. How does universal prescriptivism differ from emotivism? Critically discuss.
G-THEDavid Gauthier considers the claim that "Morality is a system of principles such that it is advantageous for everyone if everyone accepts and acts on it, yet acting on the system of principles requires that some persons perform disadvantageous acts." Give an example of a system of this sort, i.e., of the sort this thesis says morality is, (and show that it is of this sort), if it is possible for there to be one. If it is not possible for there to be a system of this sort, argue that it is not possible. Finally, is morality a system of this sort, i.e., is the claim that Gauthier considers true? Critically discuss.
G-PDCarefully explain the "Prisoners' Dilemma." What, if anything does this have to do with morality? In what way can the prisoners' dilemma be treated as a critique of a purely egoist account of practical reasons? Critically discuss.
G-PBTWhat does Gauthier mean by the "prudent but trustworthy man?" Does such a person differ from someone who is prudent? If so, how? Does such a person differ from someone who is trustworthy? If so, how? Does such a person differ from someone who is moral? If so, how? Explain (in all cases).
SE-IOHow does John Searle attempt to derive an "ought" judgment from an "is" judgment? Explain each move in the argument. Where, if anywhere, does it go wrong? Critically discuss.
SE-IFIn "How to Derive `Ought' from `Is'" John Searle introduces the notion of "institutional facts." What are institutional facts? How, on Searle's view, do these cause trouble for what he terms "the traditional empirical view" (or the "classical empiricist picture")? Attempt to defend this view against Searle's critique. That is, what would a "traditional empiricist" say about institutional facts? Critically discuss.
F-TWOExplain the "two different uses of words such as `should' and `ought'" that Philippa Foot finds in "Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives?" What, if anything, does this difference have to do with the nature of morality? Critically discuss.
F-ETIWhat similarities and differences does Philippa Foot find, in "Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives," between moral judgments and judgments in matters of etiquette? Critically discuss.
F-DESNear the end of "Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives" Philippa Foot considers an objection to her view that morality consists of hypothetical imperatives. She writes, "It will be said that this way of viewing moral considerations must be totally destructive of morality, because no one could ever act morally unless he accepted such considerations as in themselves sufficient reason for action." Explain this objection. Explain Foot's reply. Critically discuss.
F-VOLAt the end of "Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives" Philippa Foot speaks of "volunteers banded together to fight for liberty and justice ..." Explain her remark in light of the views expressed in that paper concerning the nature of morality. Critically discuss.
GW-ARGAlan Gewirth argues that rational agents are committed to principle of acting in accordance with the rights to freedom and well-being had by all prospective purposive agents. Explain the argument Gewirth offers for this conclusion. Critically discuss the argument.
GW-DNMAlan Gewirth describes his method of deriving an "ought" judgment from an "is" judgment the "dialectically necessary method." Explain this method and why it is called this. Is this a possible way of deriving such moral judgments? Is it the only possible way? Why or why not? Critically discuss.
GW-FORAlan Gewirth considers various prior attempts to derive "ought" from "is." He divides these into "formal" and "material" derivations. Carefully explain one of these formal derivations. Explain Gewirth's criticism of that derivation. Critically discuss.
GW-MATAlan Gewirth considers various prior attempts to derive "ought" from "is." He divides these into "formal" and "material" derivations. Carefully explain one of these material derivations. Explain Gewirth's criticism of that derivation. Critically discuss.

Richard Lee,, last modified: 29 July 1998