Contemporary Ethical TheorySpring 1998

Third 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.

H-INNRWhat does Gilbert Harman (in "Moral Relativism Defended") mean by "inner judgments?" What does he think the "logical form" of such judgments is? What does Harman think is true of all inner judgments? Are all moral judgments inner judgments in Harman's sense? If not, explain why some moral judgments are not. If all are inner judgments, give examples of moral judgments Harman thinks not to be inner judgments and explain how they really are. Critically discuss.
H-PUZZIn "Moral Relativism Defended" Harman writes "I will argue ... that this hypothesis accounts for an otherwise puzzling aspect of our moral views that, as far as I know, there is no other way to account for." What hypothesis is he referring to? What is the "puzzling aspect" that he is referring to? How (according to Harman) does the hypothesis account for this puzzling aspect? Explain. Does his hypothesis account for it? Is there any other way to account for it? Critically discuss.
H-AGREWhat does Gilbert Harman (in "Moral Relativism Defended") mean by an "agreement?" What, according to Harman, do agreements (in this sense) have to do with morality? Explain at least two objections that have been brought against implicit agreement theories and explain how Harman's theory (in his view) avoids these objections. Critically discuss.
N-AGENExplain the distinction Thomas Nagel draws between "agent-relative" and "agent-neutral" reasons. Give examples of each sort of reason (or explain why there are no such examples). How, according to Nagel, does this distinction differ from that between "internal" and "external" reasons? Are there internal agent-neutral reasons? If so, give an example. If not, explain why not. Are there external agent-relative reasons? If so, give an example. If not, explain why not. Critically discuss.
N-PAINWhat reason do we have, according to Nagel, for wanting someone else not to be in pain? What kind of reason does Nagel think this is? Explain. Are Nagel's views of this correct? Why or why not?
SC-MATScanlon compares several views that might be held about the nature of mathematics with views that might be held about the nature of morality. Explain these views. Which view seems most plausible? Why? Critically discuss.
SC-UTIWhat does Scanlon mean by "Philosophical Utilitarianism?" How does it differ from normative utilitarianism? What is the relation between these views? Does Scanlon accept philosophical utilitarianism? Critically discuss philosophical utilitarianism.
SC-CONExplain in detail Scanlon's example of a contractualist account of the nature of moral wrongness which he states on page 653. Give examples of how this view would determine some action to be wrong. Critically discuss.
SC-MOTScanlon thinks that his account of contractualism provides "an extremely plausible account of moral motivation." What account of moral motivation does contractualism provide in his view? Is this plausible? Critically discuss.
R-PFDWhat does W. D. Ross mean by "prima facie duty?" Are all duties prima facie? Explain.
R-DUTYList and explain the kinds of prima facie duties Ross thinks we have. Is his list complete? Is there anything on his list that shouldn't be there? Is there any way to compress the list to include fewer divisions. Explain.
R-OBJNRoss imagines as an objection to his theory that "that there are these various and often conflicting types of prima facie duties leaves us with no principle upon which to discern what is our actual duty in particular circumstances." What is his response to this objection? Is it satisfactory?
R-INTUWhat views of Ross's make it appropriate to classify him as an intuitionist? Explain.
N-LUCKWhat does Thomas Nagel mean by "moral luck?" What kinds of "moral luck" does he identify? For each kind Nagel identifies, explain why he thinks it is a case of moral luck. Do you agree? Why or why not?
N-DRIVIn "Moral Luck" Thomas Nagel suggests that a driver who failed "to have his brakes checked recently" and whose negligence in this regard "contributes to the death of a child" (since he is unable to stop in time from hitting a child who ran into the street without warning) "will blame himself for the death" and yet "would have to blame himself only slightly for the negligence itself if no situation arose which required him to brake suddenly and [forcefully] to avoid hitting the child. Yet the negligence is the same in both cases, and the driver has no control over whether a child will run into his path." Is the driver (much) more to blame in the case in which he thus accidentally (although through some negligence) causes a child's death and the case in which he does not hit (and does not kill) a child? Why or why not? Critically discuss this question, taking into account what Nagel has to say about it.
N-RESPThomas Nagel argues "A person can be morally responsible only for what he does; but what he does results from a great deal that he does not do; therefore he is not responsible for what he is and is not responsible for." Explain what the conclusion of this argument says. Then explain how the argument is supposed to work. Is the argument a good one? If not, what is wrong with it? If so, what are the further consequences for claims about the moral responsibility of people?
D-AREWhat is a moral dilemma? Are there any moral dilemmas? Critically discuss.
D-ARGProvide a detailed valid argument for the conclusion that there can be no moral dilemmas. What principles does that argument appeal to? How might a defender of the possibility of moral dilemmas critique such an argument? Critically discuss.
D-PFWhat difference, if any, to the issue of the possibility of moral dilemmas does the proposed distinction between "prima facie" "ought" judgments and "all things considered" "ought" judgments make? Critically discuss.
D-AGGWhat is the "agglomeration" principle? What role does the principle play in the debate about the possibility of moral dilemmas? Is the principle true? Critically discuss.
D-OICWhat role does the principle that "ought" implies "can" play in the debate about the possibility of moral dilemmas? Is the principle true? Critically discuss.
M-EFMIRuth Barcan Marcus discusses two means of avoiding moral dilemmas, that provided by Ethical Formalism and that provided by Moral Intuitionism. Explain the moves that the ethical formalist and the moral intuitionist, according to Marcus, make in order to dispute the claim that there are moral dilemmas. What is Marcus's response to those moves? Critically discuss.
M-MULTSome people assume that moral dilemmas only arise because of a multiplicity of ultimate moral principles. Ruth Barcan Marcus disputes this. Explain her argument. Critically discuss.
M-GUILExplain the argument for the possibility of moral dilemmas based on the appropriateness of feelings of guilt or regret. How might someone who denies the possibility of moral dilemmas respond to that argument? How does Earl Conee, in particular, reply? Who is right? Critically discuss.
M-CARDWhat, according to Ruth Barcan Marcus, does it mean to say a set of ethical principles is consistent? What is the point of the "silly card game" she imagines? On Marcus's understanding of consistency of moral principles, does the fact that a set of moral principles allows for the possibility of moral dilemmas show that set of moral principles to be inconsistent? Critically discuss.
M-2NDState, explain, and critically discuss the second order moral principle Ruth Barcan Marcus proposes in response to the recognition that moral dilemmas are possible. What, if anything, does this principle do to ease the problems posed by the existence of moral dilemmas? Critically discuss.
M-SYMRuth Barcan Marcus offered as examples of moral dilemmas "symmetry" cases, in which one could help either of two identical twins but could not help both. Why does she think those cases pose moral dilemmas? What is Alan Donagan's response to such cases? Who is right? Critically discuss.

Richard Lee,, last modified: 30 April 1998