Philosophy 341, Fall 2009

Final Study Guide

You are responsible for all this semester's material, but there will be more questions on material since the midterms. There may be some true-false or short-answer questions, but there will also definitely be one or more essay questions.  The answers to the essay questions 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 both the readings and your lecture notes. The essay 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. 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?

3. 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? How is Kant relevant to the abortion controversy?

4. Abortion: State the two versions of the standard anti-abortion argument made by those who stress the right to life. Explain how Thomson criticizes one version of 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 and why it is better not to see it as an analogy to abortion. Explain what the slippery slope argument is and why it is fallacious. What is the difference between the slippery slope argument and the no relevant difference argument? 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. Does Brody believe that abortion is always morally impermissible? 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?

5. 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?

6. 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?

7. Affirmative action: What are the main arguments on both sides. What is wrong with the argument that affirmative action commits the same wrongs that racial discrimination against African Americans committed. What problems does the compensation argument in defense of affirmative action face. What is the difference between the compensation and reparations arguments? How is the reparations argument often misunderstood? How should it be understood? What's the difference between the compensation argument and an equal opportunity argument in defense of affirmative action? What are the main positive and negative effects of affirmative action? What is the strongest argument in defense and the strongest argument opposing affirmative action?

8. Make sure that you understand what a valid, sound, and rationally persuasive argument is and that you understand what necessary and sufficient conditions are!