Study Guide to Final Examination
The final examination will consist of three 40-minute essays. You are responsible for all this semester's material, but the emphasis will be on issues treated since the midterm. The answers to the essays should demonstrate both your knowledge of the readings and lectures and your ability to write well-organized essays. Neither a fine essay that shows little knowledge of the lectures and readings nor a set of scattered remarks showing your knowledge constitutes "A" work.
In preparing for the examination, you should review the readings and especially your lecture notes. The questions are reasonably general, so you don't have to worry about memorizing minor details, but good answers (of course) will show your mastery of details that are important for the particular arguments you will be making. Here are some questions you might think about to prepare for the examination
1. Locke and rights: What is the essence of his view? What are rights? What's the difference between saying "A has a right to X" and "It is is right for A to X?" How are rights and duties related? Where do rights come from? Do they depend on society? What are, from Locke's view the morally relevant facts about, for example, abortion?
2. Kant: What are the two formulations of the categorical imperative? Why do we need it? What does it mean to treat people as ends in themselves? Why does a benevolent action caused by someone's desire to help another person have (in Kant's view) no true moral worth?
3. Utilitarianism: When is an action or policy right? How do right and wrong depend on the circumstances? Does utilitarianism make right and wrong relative? Should utilitarians constantly be calculating the consequences of each of their actions? How should one apply utilitarianism to policy questions?
4. Surrogate motherhood: Give the main "Lockean" argument why surrogate motherhood contracts should be permitted and enforced. Give two criticisms that might be made of this argument. What should a Kantian or a utilitarian say about surrogate motherhood?
5. Abortion: State the standard anti-abortion argument made by those who stress the right to life. Explain how Thomson criticizes that argument in the essay discussed in lecture. What exactly is the relevance of the violinist example? Explain why it does not apply only to the case of rape. Explain what the slippery slope argument is and why it is not a good one. Why does Warren think that abortion is morally permissible? Why does Brody think that abortion is morally impermissible even when the mother will die if no abortion is performed? Discuss his lifeboat analogy and why our intuitions in that case are so different than in Thomson's violinist case. Explain how and why Marquis shifts the question from a concern with the right to life and how Marquis would respond to Warren. Does Marquis have an answer to Thomson? What would a utilitarian say about abortion? What would a utilitarian say about Marquis' essay?
6. Affirmative action: Are you prepared to defend the claim that it is morally impermissible to hire individuals on any basis except their qualifications? What's the big problem with this blanket claim? How exactly is the compensation argument supposed to work? Does it work? What are the most serious objections to it? What are the main "forward-looking" considerations in support of affirmative action and against it? What is the relevance of Bowen and Bok's data? Could someone who accepted the "principle of non-discrimination (which I criticized at length) nevertheless defend preferential admissions policies at elite universities?
7. Capital punishment: What is a retributivist theory of punishment? What ambiguities are there in saying that individuals should receive the punishment they deserve? Would a utilitarian defend the view that in sentencing P for a crime, the judge should consider what punishment given to P would maximize total happiness? How could a utilitarian defend the claim that criminals should receive the punishments they deserve, or would a utilitarian have to reject this claim? How could a utilitarian argue in favor of capital punishment (c.f. Mill and van den Haag)? How could a utilitarian argue against capital punishment?
8. School choice: What are main moral questions raised by the political issue of whether to institute a voucher system? Why doesn't the moral preferability of school choice systems follow immediately from the importance of individual liberty? What do we owe to children as a matter of justice? Is it unjust to provide more educational resources to children from wealthier neighborhoods? Why or why not? What is an "equal education"? What are the main moral arguments for or against a school choice system?
9. Make sure that you understand what a valid, sound, and rationally persuasive argument is!