PHI 2010 Final Exam Study Guide
PHI 2010 Final Exam Study Guide PHI 2010
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This 5 page Study Guide was uploaded by Annette Marin on Wednesday December 2, 2015. The Study Guide belongs to PHI 2010 at Florida State University taught by Randolph Clarke in Fall 2015. Since its upload, it has received 881 views. For similar materials see Intro to Philosophy in PHIL-Philosophy at Florida State University.
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Date Created: 12/02/15
PHI 2010 Fall 2015 Study Questions for the Third Exam Part I: Three of these questions will be on the exam; you will need to answer two of those. Each answer should be about one and one-half pages long. Each will count 30% of the exam grade. 1. What is moral nativism? What is it for a trait to be an adaptation, and what is it for a belief-forming capacity to be truth-tracking? Explain the argument from evolution that aims to debunk the justification of moral beliefs. ~ Moral nativism is the thesis that the capacity to make moral judgments is a human adaptation. The reason we classify the world in moral terms (good, bad, right, wrong, etc.) is that doing do helped our ancestors make more babies than those competitors lacking the moralizing trait. Traits are genetically determined characteristics of an organism. If a trait is native, then it is an adaptation. To be truth-tracking is to produce some kind of judgment that does have something to do with truth. Gall bladders, kidneys, fingernails, and most biological traits have nothing to do with truth. Presumably, our moral faculty governs judgments that have to do with truth. We call such judgments truth-evaluable judgments because we can evaluate whether or not they are true (correspond to reality). It seems that moral judgments really are truth-evaluable, but this is not enough to show that our moral judgments are truth-tracking. There is an argument from evolution brought about by Richard Joyce that aims to debunk, or show the falseness/lack of justification of, the justification of moral beliefs. Imagine that when you were a child, a scientist gave you a pill that caused you to believe that Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo. Imagine also that this pill caused you to forget you ever took such a pill. Finally, imagine that the same scientist finds you again late in life and confesses to you that you were part of this experiment of which you were unaware. He tells you that your belief that Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo was solely the product of a pill, If you had never researched the topic for yourself, would you still be justified in believing that Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo? You only hold that belief because the pill was given to you. But now that you have knowledge about the pill, you cannot honestly say that you have good grounds for believing what you believe. This is the strongest version of the evolutionary debunking argument because it makes the most conservative claim of the three arguments we have seen. In the same way that we do not have good grounds (good reasons) for continuing to believe what we believe about Napoleon because the belief is solely the product of a pill, so too do we not have good grounds for believing that our moral beliefs are true because they are solely the product of blind, evolutionary pressures. The evolutionary debunking argument for morality seeks to inject suspicion into the confidence we have for our moral beliefs. According to Joyce, if our moral beliefs are the product of mechanisms and pressures that are not necessarily truth-tracking, then a question mark hovers over whether or not our moral beliefs are justified. 2. State what Mill calls the Greatest Happiness Principle. Explain his argument that happiness, and only happiness, is a good in itself. Describe one objection to Mill’s Greatest Happiness Principle. ~ The Greatest Happiness Principle states that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. Mill argues that happiness, and only happiness, is a good in itself. What is a good in itself is what is desirable as an end, and not merely as a means to something else. People desire happiness, and only happiness, as an end, and not merely as a means to something else. What people desire as an end is the best evidence available to us about what is desirable as an end. Therefore, on the best evidence available to us, happiness, and only happiness, is a good in itself. Most importantly, it is not the agent’s own happiness that matters, but the greatest amount of happiness altogether. Utilitarianism, therefore, can only attain its goal of greater happiness by cultivating the nobleness of individuals so that all can benefit from the honor of others. In fact, notes Mill, Utilitarianism is actually a “standard of morality” which uses happiness of the greater number of people as its ultimate goal. The Greatest Happiness Principle deals with doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people. One need not be personally satisfied with one’s life to be able to contribute to the total sum happiness of a society. There is a criticism, or an objection, to Mill’s Greatest Happiness Principle that says that utilitarianism doesn’t account for the higher values of life, things like virtue and knowledge that are more important than pleasure. It is a doctrine “fit for swine” because it claims that the only thing that is valuable is crude physical pleasure. To this, Mill responds that pleasures differ not just in quantity, but also in quality. Mill states, “Of two pleasures, if there be one to which all or almost all who have experience of both give a decided preference, irrespective of any feeling of moral obligation to prefer it, that is the more desirable pleasure.” With the famous words “it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied,” Mill touts the importance of being well brought up and knowledgeably curious about the world, and understanding higher pleasures such as art and music, than to be uneducated and complacent. 3. Explain Kant’s distinction between a hypothetical imperative and a categorical imperative. State and explain Kant’s first formulation of what he calls the categorical imperative. Describe one of his illustrations of that first formulation. ~ Imperatives are instructions; they tell us what to do. Kant distinguished between two types of imperative: hypothetical and categorical. The hypothetical imperative says that an action is good as a means to something else. Hypothetical imperatives tell you what to do in order to achieve a particular goal: “If you want to have enough money to buy a new phone, then get a job.” Hypothetical imperatives only apply to people who want to achieve the goal to which they refer. Morality, according to Kant, isn’t like this. Morality doesn’t tell us what to do on the assumption that we want to achieve a particular goal, or being well liked. Moral behavior isn’t about being well liked. Morality consists of categorical imperatives. The categorical imperative says that an action is represented as in itself good. Categorical imperatives, unlike hypothetical imperatives, tell us what to do irrespective to our desires. Morality doesn’t say, “If you want to stay out of prison, then don’t steal cars”; it says, “Don’t steal cars!” We ought not to steal cars whether we want to stay out of prison or not. Kant’s first formulation of the categorical imperative states: Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law. A maxim is the rule or principle on which you act. For example I might make it my maxim to give at least as much to charity each year as I spend on eating out, or I might make it my maxim only to do what will benefit some member of my family. One of Kant’s illustrations for this first formulation is as follows: Someone feels sick of life because of a series of troubles that has grown to the point of despair, but is still so far in possession of his reason that he can ask himself whether it would not be contrary to his duty to himself to take his own life. Now he inquires whether the maxim of his action could indeed become a universal law of nature. His maxim, however, is: from self-love I make it my principle to shorten my life when its longer duration threatens more troubles than it promises agreeableness. The only further question is whether this principle of self-love could become a universal law of nature. It is then seen at once that a nature who’s law it would be to destroy life itself by means of the same feeling whose destination is to impel toward the furtherance of life would contradict itself and would therefore not subsist as nature; thus that maxim could not possibly be a law of nature and, accordingly, altogether opposes the supreme principle of all duty. 4. What, according to Wielenberg, are three kinds of meaning that a human life can have? (Give the names and briefly explain what each kind is.) Describe briefly the proposals drawn from Taylor, Singer, and Aristotle concerning how one’s life can have meaning even if God does not exist. ~ According to Wielenberg, there are three kinds of meaning that a human life can have. The first is called Supernatural Meaning, which states that for a human life to have supernatural meaning is for it to have a purpose that is assigned by a supernatural being. The second is called External Meaning, which states that for a human life to have external meaning is for it to bring goodness into the universe. The third and last one is called Internal Meaning, which states that for a human life to have internal meaning is for it to be good for the person who lives it and for it to include activity that is worthwhile. There are three arguments against internal meaning without God: The Final Outcome Argument, The Pointless Existence Argument, and The Nobody of Significance Cares Argument. Proposals drawn from Taylor, Singer, and Aristotle all state that life CAN have meaning even it God does not exist. Taylor says that a life acquires internal meaning when one engages in some activity because one desires to do so. Internal meaning doesn’t depend on the value of the final outcome of one’s life. We ourselves are qualified to assign a purpose to our lives. What is important is not that some supernatural being cares about your life, but that you do. Singer states that one lives a meaningful life by working toward a goal that is worthwhile (and having some degree of success in one’s efforts). The best way to provide internal meaning in one’s life is to live “the ethical life.” The ethical life is a life committed to reducing suffering as much as possible while allowing for or promoting happiness. By reducing suffering, we make lives better than they would otherwise be, and that is good even if the final outcome of each life is death. We don’t need a supernaturally imposed purpose for our lives to have internal meaning. Preventing suffering is worthwhile regardless of whether there is a supernatural being who cares about our lives. Aristotle states how some activities are good in themselves, that is, they are worth engaging in even if they lead to nothing else of value. If we engage in such activities, our lives have internal meaning even if God doesn’t exist. A life of worthwhile activity can have internal meaning even if the final outcome of that life is death. Such internal meaning doesn’t depend on our being assigned a purpose by a supernatural being. Internal meaning of this kind doesn’t depend on there existing a supernatural being who cares about our lives. Part II: The following question will be on the exam, and you will need to answer it. Your answer should be about two pages long. It will count 40% of the exam. 1. Explain Singer’s argument by analogy for his claim that if you have more than what is needed for the necessities of life, then you morally ought to prevent some of the deaths of people who live in extreme poverty. Discuss one objection to Singer’s argument. Take a stand on whether the objection undermines his argument, and defend your position. ~ There are about seven billion people living today. Nearly 900 million – about one in eight – live in what is called “extreme poverty.” Every day 22,000 children die due to extreme poverty. Peter Singer thinks that these facts indicate a problem. He thinks the problem is a moral problem and he argues that the problem is a moral problem for us, or at least those of us who have more than what is needed for the necessities of life. According to Singer, if you have more than what is needed for the necessities, then you morally ought to prevent some of the deaths of people who live in extreme poverty. This is Singer’s Argument by Analogy: Bob ought to sacrifice something of value to him in order to prevent a child’s death. Bob parks his car on a train track with a switch. On one of the tracks there is a child tied down to the tracks, screaming for his life. On the other track, is Bob’s car. Bob sees a train approaching and it is headed straight for the child on the tracks. Bob has the option to manipulate the switch to hit his car instead of the child and save the child’s life or for the train to hit the child and kill him and in turn save his expensive car from being demolished from the train. Bob doesn’t want his expensive car to get demolished, but he also doesn’t want the child to die. He does not know what to do. For those of us who have more than what is needed for the necessities of life, our situation is analogous to Bob’s. Therefore we, like Bob, ought to sacrifice something of value to us in order to prevent deaths. Bob morally ought to throw the switch and save the child, at the cost of his expensive car. If you can afford the necessities of life, while spending $200 less on clothes, coffee, music downloads, movies, etc., then your position is analogous to Bob’s. You morally ought to sacrifice these things of value to donate money to an organization in order to save a child who will otherwise die. It would be morally wrong for you not to do so. If you send $200 dollars to save a child, Singer thinks you’ve done something you ought to have done. But now, he says, you ought to do it again and you ought to go on doing so until you can’t do more without a sacrifice that is very serious indeed. There is an objection to Singer’s position: Rather than simply focusing on helping those who live in extreme poverty, we ought to change the practices that create extreme poverty in the first place. I think that this objection certainly undermines Singer’s argument and it weakens his position on poverty. I believe this is so because while Singer says that the world should do something to help out those in extreme poverty by donating when we can, but he doesn’t say anything about us as humans changing the way we live to prevent poverty from even existing in the first place. The objection makes Singer’s argument to seem like one who is only trying to make up for a problem (poverty) rather than prevent the problem (poverty) from even happening. The objection acknowledges that there is a problem with how humans live and that in turn causes poverty while Singer merely ignores the cause to the problem.
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