Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Philosophical Ethics Midterm Review

For the midterm examination tomorrow, Thursday, October 15, 2009.

Mill, Utilitarianism
*Does Mill believe that an action is good or bad (1) depending on the nature of the action itself, or (2) depending on the results the actions produces? Explain. An action is good if it produces happiness (for the greatest number of people).
*What is the Principle of Utilitarianism? We should always perform the action, out of those actions available, that will bring the most happiness (or the least unhappiness), to the greatest number of people, keeping in mind that some forms of happiness/pleasure are more valuable/"higher" than others.
*What does Mill mean when he says that pleasure is the only thing desirable as an end?
*What does he mean when he says everything else is desirable as a means to this end?
*When Mill says that all human beings desire pleasure above all else, does he mean that we only desire "animalistic" pleasures? Why or why not?
*How do we determine which are "higher" and which are "lower" pleasures, according to Mill?
*What is the difference between happiness and contentment? Contentment (satisfaction) means having all desires fulfilled.
*Why do human beings sometimes choose lower pleasures over the higher ones?
*Does Mill think it is okay to lie, if this will bring about the most happiness for the liar and the person being lied to? Why or why not?
*Does Mill think that we need to know the precise outcome of each of our actions (e.g. exactly how much happiness will be produced, both now and in the future) if we are to correctly decide how to act?
*According to Mill, what are some of the "external sanctions" that make us feel obligated to promote the happiness of others? Rewards & punishments bestowed by others.
*How does Mill describe our "internal sanctions," duty and the conscience? Feeling of pain that would happen from the failure to fulfill duty.
*Does Mill think our feelings of right and wrong are innate? No.
*Where do such feelings come from, according to Mill? Mill thinks that conscience is acquired via education, upbringing, & habits.
*What feeling does Mill think leads us to form a society? The natural desire to be in unity with fellow humans.
*How does living in a society with others serve to reinforce this feeling?
*Explain what Mill means when he says that the will is born out of desire.

Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
*Be able to define: a priori, a posteriori, laws of nature, laws of freedom, maxim, universal law, imperative, hypothetical, and categorical. A priori = learned without/apart from experience. A posteriori = learned from experience. Laws of nature = laws of physics, biological-chemical laws, emotions, desires, instincts, any way in which a human is "programmed," any way in which we are conditioned by our upbringing/society/habits. We have control over none of these actions, so none of them are moral actions. Laws of freedom = laws that we impose on ourselves through our reasoning. Maxim = personal rule that I use to guide my own actions. Universal law = rule that applies to everybody. Imperative = A duty, a command statement. Hypothetical = if-then statement. Categorical = not an if-then statement.
*Does Kant believe that an action is good or bad (1) depending on the nature of the action itself, or (2) depending on the results the actions produces? Explain. Depending on the nature of the action itself.
*Why must a person's will be governed by reason if it is to be good?
*Why couldn't a will governed by emotion or instinct be good, according to Kant?
*Be able to explain his "merchant" example. Merchant with a blind customer
-Overcharges the person/desires more money
-does not overcharge/fear of getting caught
-does not overcharge/loves his customers & enjoys being honest
-does not overcharge/rationally recognizes that he has a duty to be fair
*How do we know if we are being purely motivated by duty?
*Be able to state Kant's Categorical Imperative. Never act except in such a way that you could will that your maxim become a universal law.
*Why does Kant think that the moral principle guiding our actions must be an imperative?
*Why does he think that is must be categorical? Hypothetical imperatives cannot be universal (they can't apply to everyone). Actions motivated by hypothetical imperatives fall into the laws of nature, so they are not free and thus have no moral value.
*Be able to explain each step in the process of using the Categorical Imperative, and be able to go through this process using Kant's examples of (1) making a false promise and (2) helping another human being in need. Step 1. Formulate your maxim. Ex. 1: "I will make a false promise to get some cash." Ex. 2: "It is permissible to ignore someone in dire need." Step 2. Formulate the universal law. Ex. 1: "Everyone will make a false promise when they need cash." Ex. 2: "I will ignore someone in need." Step 3: Imagine a world where everyone acted according to this law, everybody must act according to this law. Step 4: Ask, does a contradiction arise?
*What is the difference between a logical contradiction and a contradiction in the will? A contradiction of the will is a world that I cannot will to live in.
*Be able to state and explain Kant's second version of the Categorical Imperative. So act that you use humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end, never merely as a means (treating someone as a "thing").
*Why does Kant think that human beings are unconditionally valuable? We are valuable not just for our use, but for our own sake. We are valuable because we are the source of values; we deem what is valuable and what is not.
*What does he mean when he describes human beings as "ends in themselves"?
*What does it mean to say that a human being is both subject and sovereign in a Kingdom of Ends?

Singer, Famine, Affluence, and Morality
*If someone can use his $$$ to reduce suffering without significantly decreasing his own quality of life or other people's quality of life, it is immoral not to use the $$$ to reduce suffering.
*Doesn't matter if the person in need is a few yards away or all the way across the world – the obligation is just as urgent in both cases
*Analogy: rich people not donating excess $$$ to famine relief is like when someone sees a child drowning in a shallow pond and can save the child but chooses not to.
*This ethical principle doesn't distinguish between cases where you are the only person who can help and cases when you are one of millions of people who can help.

Hobbes, Hobbes' Moral and Political Philosophy
*desire for self-preservation (& fear of death) – We ask, "What do I need to survive?" → food, shelter, money, etc. → How much of these do I need? (Hobbes: we will not answer this question impartially); we think "I have a right to all things" – this leads to violent competition, every-man-for-himself b/c there are no laws: a state of war with all against all
*How do I get out of the state of war? → Social contract: I will give up my "right to all things" in exchange for protection from an authority.
*Hobbes believes in absolutism – always obey the one ruler
*Prisoner's Dilemma [police interviewing two criminals in separate rooms]: (1) Confess to having trying to rob the bank: You go free but your accomplice gets a heavy sentence. (2) Remain silent and accomplice confesses: Accomplice goes free but you get a heavy sentence. (3) Both remain silent: both get a small sentence since the lack of confession prevents a conviction of a more serious offense. (4) Both confess: both get heavy sentences.
* (1) is in individual's best interest; (2)

O'Neill, A Simplified Version of Kant's Ethics

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