Sample Midterm Questions PHI 3601 Ethics Fall 2013 Dr. Hauptli

Copyright 2013 Bruce W. Hauptli

The following sample questions are examples of the kinds of questions I will be asking.  The list is far longer than a reasonable examination could be, and I will ask several such questions on the examination itself.  You will be asked to be as complete as you can in writing essays in answer such questions.  While there is no "length requirement" for the examination, the questions and exam will be designed so that the average student in this class should need to spend most of the allowed time actively writing.  Short answers are unlikely to be sufficiently detailed to earn high grades, and mere outlines or lists (of terms, principles, theories, etc.) do not provide sufficient explanation--they will not convince me that you understand the relevant material.  As the questions clearly indicate, I expect you to explain specific points in answering the questions, and an essay which does not address these points is inadequate.  The exam will be a closed-book, closed-notes exam, and you will not be allowed to consult dictionaries or other reference texts. Please review the following link on the Course Web-Site for additional guidelines regarding my expectations for exam answers: Writing Essay Exams for Professor Hauptli. 

The exam will be on Friday, October 11.

1. Explain why Hobbes believes we should not want to live in a state of nature. Indicate what our alternative is and what we gain (and surrender) in order to avoid this "state." In answering this question explain what Hobbes thinks our nature is, what sorts of relationships there are between agreements and force, and why he believes that the sovereign of a civil state must be an absolute one.

2. Explain why Hobbes maintains we should be willing to submit ourselves to an absolute sovereign. In answering this question explain what our options are according to Hobbes, why we are supposed to be willing to give up the extensive liberty we have in a state of nature, clarify the relationship between agreements and force, and explain whether there are any restraints placed upon the power of the sovereign (and why).

3. Explain what Feinberg thinks is wrong with arguments for egoism. In answering this question explain clearly what he takes to be the central mistake of the egoists in regard to human motivation. In answering this question you should clarify the type of egoism he is attacking, compare and contrast ethical and psychological egoism, clarify Feinberg's point regarding motivation, and explain what he says about both an all-consuming passion for happiness and the "paradox of hedonism."

4. What does Feinberg mean when he claims that an all-consuming and exclusive desire for happiness is self-defeating? Why does he believe that this point shows that there is something fundamentally wrong with psychological egoism? In answering this question clarify what psychological egoism is.

5. How does Feinberg use his "Lincoln and the pig" case to question of the adequacy of psychological egoism? In answering this question clarify what psychological egoists maintain and how Feinberg's example is supposed to show that these egoists have a problem.

6. Clarify Mill's utilitarian morality. What determines whether an act is morally correct on this view, explain what sort of "spectators" he contends we should be, how does he "prove" his view, and what problems are there with his proof? In answering this question clarify what consequentialism" is, and what Mill means by his discussion of "kinds of pleasure."

7. Explain what Bernard Williams finds wrong with the Utilitarian orientation in morality. In answering this question you will need to clarify the central aspects of Mill's moral theory and indicate what problems Williams finds with this orientation. Use William's discussion of George or Jim to clarify the main problem which Williams believes utilitarians confront. In answering the question clarify what he means by "negative responsibility," "one's projects," and "alienation."

8. Explain how Nozick's "experience machine" (and the related machines he postulate) is supposed to constitute an objection to utilitarianism.

9. In no more than five sentences, identify one "moral" which I have "drawn" from our discussion of one or another of the moral theorists we have studied.

Return to PHI 3601 Home-page  

Last revised: 09/28/13.