Answers to Midterm Examination, November 13, 2002

 

Part I: Circle T or F depending on whether the statement that follows is true or false (50 points)

False 1. Kant defends an explicitly pro-life position by arguing that someone considering having an abortion cannot will the maxim of her action as a universal law.

False 2. Kant's central message is that all and only members of our species possesses dignity and the right to life.

False 3. Mary Anne Warren establishes a sufficient condition for something to have a right to life and argues that fetuses do not have a right to life because they do not satisfy this sufficient condition.

False 4. Mary Anne Warren argues that abortion is permissible because fetuses are not persons and are not potential persons either.

True 5. According to Don Marquis, killing anything that has a future like the future that adult humans typically have constitutes the same sort of wrong as killing an adult human.

True 6. Marquis argues that his account does not imply that euthanasia is always morally wrong.

False 7. According to Marquis, contraception is seriously morally wrong, because it deprives someone of a future like ours.

False 8. Marquis argues against Thomson that the right to life of a fetus always outweighs the pregnant woman's right to life.

False 9. Thomson's violinist story is only relevant to the question of whether abortion is permissible when a woman is pregnant as the result of rape.

False 10. Thomson believes that all fetuses are persons with a right to life.

True 11. Thomson believes that sometimes it is morally wrong to get an abortion.

False 12. Thomson believes that there is nothing morally wrong about disconnecting oneself from the violinist even if he would be cured if one stayed connected for just a minute or two.

False 13. According to Thomson, if a woman has sex voluntarily, then she waives her right to have an abortion.

False 14. Brody's lifeboat example is designed to show that just as someone has a right to remove a person who threatens your life from a lifeboat, so a woman whose life is in danger should be allowed to have an abortion.

False 15. Brody believes that all embryos and fetuses have a right to life from the moment of conception.

False 16. One of the main objections to utilitarianism is that it is a selfish doctrine that mistakenly equates what is right with whatever maximizes the agent's happiness.

True 17. Unless the alternatives affect the number of people, whatever maximizes total happiness must maximize average happiness.

False 18. In his introductory discussion of capital punishment, Fieser argues that capital punishment is morally permissible, because it is a form of self defense, and killing in self-defense is morally permissible.

True 19. According to Rawls, utilitarians can agree that criminals should get the punishment they deserve.

False 20. Rawls maintains that the main task for the criminal law is to match sanctions to the extent of the moral "turpitude" (imperfection or evil) shown by the criminal.

True 21. Reiman defends a retributive theory of punishment.

False 22. Reiman criticizes our penal system for the extent to which penalties differ from the crimes they are designed to penalize.

False 23. Proportional retributivism implies that punishments and crimes are equal.

False 24. The most important way that a deterrent discourages crime is by making those considering committing a crime recognize that they face a higher "cost" or a larger risk if they carry out the crime.

True 25. Mill argues that utilitarians should be in favor of capital punishment, because criminals think that it is worse than it is in fact.

 

Part II: Write a short essay in your blue book in response to one of the following questions (25 points)

1. Explain how the cloning-scab example given in lecture challenges Marquis' view on abortion and sketch out what seems to you to be the best response. Does the example pose a problem only for Marquis, or is it a difficulty for the pro-life position in general? What should one conclude?

Crucial points: 

a. According to Marquis, if you kill anything that has a future like ours, then you commit a wrong like murder.

b.  The cloning scab example involves someone placing or about to place a scab containing living cells into a solution that will change the cells so that they could be implanted and develop.  In addition, there are women willing to have the cells implanted.  (The story was that the scab was from Michael Jordan.)  Marquis' theory apparently implies that discarding the scab would be murder (indeed multiple murder).  Since it is very hard to accept this implication, it is very hard to accept Marquis' theory.

c.  This objection is a serious one for every account that links the right to life of a fetus to its potential or future.

d.  Marquis has two possible lines of response: to dig in and accept the implication or to try to distinguish  the scab case somehow from the case of an ordinary fertilized egg.

e.  Other pro-life positions can respond by giving an account of the moral status of the fetus that does not depend only on its possible future.

An "A" answer did not have to do all of this.  Answers without a and b typically got D's or worse.

2. There are two ways of getting from the premise that all fetuses are innocent persons with a right to life to the conclusion that abortion ought to be illegal. One of these is criticized by Thomson, and the other is defended by Brody. Explain what these two ways are and how Thomson criticizes one and how Brody defends the other. Which of these do you think is the best way to argue for the conclusion that abortion should be illegal. What do you think is the best way to formulate this argument to meet possible objections. How successful do you think this part of the pro-life argument is?

Route 1 relies on (a) the principle that it is impermissible to kill an innocent human being unless there are overriding moral circumstances and (b) the assumption that the woman's right to freedom and bodily control cannot override the fetus' right to life.   Thomson's violinist example challenges the assumption (b).

Route 2 relies on the principle that it is absolutely impermissible ever intentionally to kill an innocent human being -- no exceptions.  This is the principle that Brody relies on, and it requires in addition that one endorse the doctrine of double effect -- that intentional killing is killing as a means or as your goal, not killing as a side effect, even a foreseen side effect. Otherwise the principle that it is always impermissible to kill intentionally is obviously false. So you cannot push the person out of the rowboat -- that would be intentional killing. 

You could argue either way concerning which is the better route to follow.  What was crucial was that you distinguish the two routes and how Thomson's and Brody's arguments bear on them.

Part III: Write an essay in response to one of the following two questions. (25 points)

3. People often argue that capital punishment is the right punishment for first degree murder, because murderers deserve to be executed. What are the two meanings of the claim, "Murderers deserve to be executed"? Sketch an argument in favor of capital punishment that relies on the claim that murderers deserve to be executed and appraise that argument.

The two MEANINGS of the claim about desert are the law-relative meaning (given that the law specifies that execution is the proper punishment for murder, that is the punishment murderers deserve) and the intrinsic-merit meaning (execution is in some sense the punishment equivalent to the intrinsic wrongness of the crime -- it is what this sort of evil deserves in response).  Only the latter can be used in an argument in defense of capital punishment.  That argument is problematic, however, because it is hard to make sense of the notion of an equality or equivalence between a crime and a punishment.   The notion that the crime and the punishment should be the same is inconsistent with our law and with most people's intuition, except in this one case.  The notion that one should equate the suffering involved in the crime and in the punishment means that the intentions of the perpetrator should make no difference to the severity of the punishment.  The two crucial things we were looking for were the distinction between the two meanings of desert and an awareness of the difficulties of equating crimes and punishments.

4. Although van den Haag recognizes that the statistical evidence does not support the claim that capital punishment deters people from committing murder more successfully than alternative punishments, he still argues for capital punishment on grounds of deterrence as follows: "Still, I believe the death penalty, because of its finality, is more feared than imprisonment, and deters some prospective murderers not deterred by the thought of imprisonment. Sparing the lives of even a few prospective victims by deterring their murderers is more important than preserving the lives of convicted murderers because of the possibility, or even the probability, that executing them would not deter others. . . . Surely the criminal law is meant to protect the lives of potential victims in preference to those of actual murderers." Clarify and appraise his argument or arguments here.

van den Haag argues that because death is more feared it has to be at least a little better as a deterrent, or at least no worse than life in prison.

Given this, execution is the "safer" thing to do.  It cannot be a worse deterrent and it might be better.  The fact that it causes death should not prevent our imposing it, because the deaths we cause in our efforts to prevent murders are the deaths of people convicted of murder.

In this argument, van den Haag forgets his own point that the more important deterrent effect of a punishment for murder is to make murder "unthinkable" rather than to frighten those who are contemplating murder.  That means that one CANNOT infer from the fact that execution is more frightening that it cannot be a WORSE deterrent.  The only thing we know is that execution is not a much better or a much worse deterrent than life in prison.  That means that we cannot conclude that execution is the "safer" thing to do.  It might lead to a few fewer murders or it might lead to a few more murders.

What was crucial in this answer was some awareness of the complexities of the notion of deterrence and of the fallacy involved in inferring that execution must be the better deterrent because those contemplating murder are more frightened of being executed.