Review Questions on Lectures
1. Surrogate Motherhood:
- What is the best formulation of the argument that surrogate motherhood contracts should
be binding because all contracts that satisfy certain conditions should be binding? (i.e.
what are those conditions?)
- I argued that there is a very powerful argument establishing that surrogate motherhood
contracts that specify custody should not be legally enforceable. What was that
argument? How might one criticize it?
- What's the main problem with the following argument? (1) It is morally
impermissible to kill innocent human beings, (2) All (human) fetuses and embryos are
innocent human beings, thus (3) It is morally impermissible to kill (human) fetuses and
- Why is it misleading to phrase the question concerning the moral status of fetuses and
embryos as "Are they human beings?"
- In virtue of what do adult human beings have a right to life? In virtue of what do
newborns have a right to life? How can one justify the claim that human newborns
have more rights than adult mice? What are the implications of the answers to these
questions for the permissibility of abortion?
- Don Marquis argues that what is wrong with killing adult humans is that one (typically)
deprives them of the valuable things that human futures contain. How does he argue
for this conclusion? What problems are there with his argument?
- What's the relevance of the hypothetical example of Michael Jordan, who seeks to destroy
the scab that has been placed in the cloning and gestation machine?
- Judith Thomson's violinist case apparently refutes a premise needed in one formulation
of the right-to-life anti-abortion argument. What is that formulation of the
argument, and what premise does she refute?
- Baruch Brody defends a different formulation of the anti-abortion argument. How
does it differ from the argument that Thomson apparently refutes? Why is he forced
to defend the doctrine of double effect in order to make his argument?
- Why would it be difficult for someone who makes Brody's version of the right-to-life
argument to condemn an abortion that is carried out by inducing labor? How could the
method of carrying out an abortion matter?
- I argued that the status of fetuses and embryos is something to be decided
rather than something to be discovered. Why? What factors should determine the
3. Capital punishment:
- What important truths are contained in a retributive theory of punishment?
- To what extent can utilitarians accept retributivist theses?
- Almost everybody agrees that the punishment for negligent homicide should be much less
than the punishment for first-degree homicide. What is the relevance of this
agreement to the lex talionis ("an eye for an eye")? Can one
accept the principle that the suffering a punishment causes to a criminal should equal the
suffering caused by the crime?
- What form of retributivism can be defended? Why is that form useless in arguing
for or against capital punishment?
- What's wrong with the following argument? "Even though there is no
statistical evidence showing that capital punishment is a better deterrent than
imprisonment, we can tell from our own reactions and from the efforts of convicted killers
to avoid execution that capital punishment must be a better deterrent."
- What's wrong with the following argument? "Since the statistical evidence
does not show that capital punishment is a better deterrent than imprisonment or that
imprisonment is a better deterrent than capital punishment, we are free to believe
anything we like."
4. Affirmative action:
- I argued that each of the arguments sketched (but not spelled out) below is unsound.
- Preferential treatment is unjust because it involves discrimination.
- Preferential treatment is unjust, because it involves taking into account factors other
- Preferential treatment is unjust, because it involves taking race into account in hiring
- Preferential treatment is obligatory to rectify past injustices.
- Preferential treatment is unjust, because it deprives whites of equal treatment.
- What does The Shape of the River establish concerning the consequences of
preferential admissions to selective schools?
- What are the main negative consequences of preferential hiring and admissions?
- What are the main positive consequences of preferential hiring and admissions?