Final Examination (Fall, 2011)


The final examination consists of three essays.  Devote a half hour to each of the first two (each of which will each count for one-quarter of your grade), and spend an hour on the third essay (which will count for half your grade).  In evaluating your essays we will be looking for three things:

  1. Have you read and thought about the question carefully?  Does your answer respond to what is asked precisely and in detail?
  2. Does your answer show familiarity with relevant arguments from the readings and the lecture?  If there are arguments in the readings and lectures that support or complement the arguments you are making, we would expect that you would refer to them; and it is especially important that you note arguments in the lectures and readings that challenge what you are writing and that you respond to those arguments. Irrelevant references to course readings diminish the quality of your answer.
  3. How skillfully and carefully are you able to develop your essays in answer to the questions?

So be sure to read the questions very carefully (probably more than once!) and to think about your answers before you begin to write.

1. (25 points, 30 minutes) Consider the following remarks, which suggest an argument for making abortions legal.
In ectopic pregnancies, the fertilized egg develops outside of the uterus, usually within one of the fallopian tubes (through which eggs journey from the ovaries to the uterus). There are probably many ectopic pregnancies that end spontaneously at a very early stage -- well before the woman knows she is pregnant. If an ectopic pregnancy is far along enough to be diagnosed, standard medical procedure is either to use chemical means to kill the developing embryo and placenta or surgically to remove the fallopian tube in which the embryo is developing. If one does not do either, then the death of both the woman and the embryo is virtually certain. (There is only a small chance that the ectopic pregnancy will end without killing the woman and an even smaller chance that a fetus could continue to develop outside of the uterus and be born alive via surgery.) Ectopic pregnancies are usually diagnosed before the 7th week of pregnancy, months before the embryo is capable of surviving on its own. Ectopic pregnancies are relatively common -- occurring in 1-2% of all pregnancies.

It seems obvious that a woman who is diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy should be treated chemically or surgically, even though doing so will kill the developing embryo. Not to treat women with ectopic pregnancies is to condemn thousands to almost certain agony and death, and the embryos are virtually certain to die anyway.

If treatment of ectopic pregnancies is morally permissible, then it must be morally permissible to kill embryos, at least under these special circumstances. If it is permissible to kill embryos, then either they do not have the same right to life as adult humans, or it is sometimes permissible to kill innocent entities with a right to life.  But in either case (embryos do not have a right to life or it is okay in some circumstances to kill them anyway), it is no longer possible to argue that abortion is morally impermissible simply because it involves killing an innocent entity with a right to life.

Your task is to write an essay that concedes that treatment of ectopic pregnancies that kills embryos is morally permissible but nevertheless responds to this argument and defends the view that abortion is morally impermissible and ought to be illegal.

2. (25 points, 30 minutes). Consider the following remarks of Barbara Bergmann’s from her book In Defense of Affirmative Action:

There has been some progress: since the 1960s, African Americans and women have been gaining representation in some occupations to which they rarely had access in the past. However, the presence of blacks and whites, and men and women, in the same occupational groups does not mean that they all are on an equal footing when they are being considered for vacancies. Even when men and women have very similar jobs, they seldom are coworkers. Men who wait on tables generally work in expensive restaurants where the tips are high and no women are hired. Women tend to work in the cheaper restaurants, with no male colleagues.

Thanks to the work of the sociologist Donald Tornaskovic Devey, we have systematic statistical information about the extent of segregation by sex and race among coworkers in the same job for the same employer. . . .[H]e asked a sample of North Carolina workers about the race and sex of their coworkers who did the same kind of work they did and had the same job title. He found that blacks and women were not excluded from any broad categories of work (see table 2.2). However, a considerable majority of people worked exclusively with people of their own sex. Jobs in which 100 percent of the incumbents were male or 100 percent were female together accounted for 70 percent of all jobs. In another 16 percent of all jobs, segregation by sex was not total but nearly so. Only 14 percent of the respondents held jobs in which males and females worked together in numbers approximating their share in the workforce.

The North Carolina survey found that segregation by race is less strict than segregation by sex. Still, a majority of the respondents (56 percent) worked in jobs that were totally segregated by race. Another 30 percent worked in jobs that were almost totally segregated. Only 15 percent of the jobs were shared by blacks and whites in numbers roughly proportional to their workforce presence.

The North Carolina survey results are broadly consistent with the findings of the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), the federal agency that visits govern­ment contractors to inquire about their compliance with nondiscrimination requirements. . . .

People of color and women have, of course, been subordinated groups for a long time; as a result, differences in education, abilities, skills, and attitudes between them and white males have developed. These differences, however, are not so stark as to justify "on account of merit" the extreme degree of segregation that the North Carolina survey reveals. The least capable white available is not inevitably going to be better in a certain job than the most capable black available. The least capable man available will not always do better than the most capable woman available.

Since differences in the qualifications of women and men, and of blacks and whites, cannot account for the extreme degree of segregation the surveys turn up, we have to conclude that those who make job assignments are paying a great deal of attention to race and sex when they decide who is allowed to have which job. Qualifications such as education and ability are not ignored, but if a worker is female, not a lot of attention is paid to her suitability for jobs traditionally assigned to males with her education and ability. If a worker is African American, his or her suitability for a job traditionally assigned to similarly educated and skilled whites may not be noticed.

The purpose of affirmative action is to reduce segregation by race and sex in the workplace. Obviously, much of the segregation that affirmative action was designed to eliminate is still present. The argument that affirmative action programs have already accomplished so much that we no longer need any programs of this (or any other) type in the workplace cannot seriously be made by anyone who has examined the evidence of what is currently going on in the workplace.

This argument does not cite any moral principles in making its case for affirmative action.  Your task is to formulate as precisely as you can the implicit moral argument that Bergmann is making and then to criticize it.

3 (50 points, 1 hour).  The brief article by Robert Moffit that is attached criticizes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) mainly from a constitutional perspective, but moral arguments are implicit in his critique.  Your task is to assess Moffit’s critique (and the PPACA) from a moral rather than a constitutional perspective.  Be sure that you read Moffit’s article very carefully and that you address his arguments, though your essay is not limited to a consideration of only his arguments.