REVIEW STUDY QUESTIONS: PART IV: ETHICAL THEORIES



 
 

General Questions About Ethical Theories:
Questions on Epicureanism:
Questions on Stoicism:
Questions on Kantian Ethical Theory:
Questions on Utilitarianism:

 
 

General Questions About Ethical Theories:

1. Explain the distinction between teleological (consequentialist) and deontological (duty/motive) ethical theories.
    (difference over what gives an action its ethical value)

2. What are eudaemonistic ethical theories?
    (make the consequence of a tendency to promote happiness that which gives an action its ethical value)

3. How are egoistic theories distinguished from altruistic theories?
    (whose happiness gives the action its moral value)

4. What is the relation between hedonism and eudaemonism?
    (hedonism a specific form of eudaemnonism: happiness = max pleasure + min pains)

5. What is the distinction between making normative claims and making descriptive claims?
    (what ought to be the case vs. what is the case)

6. What is difference between ethical eudaemonism as an ethical belief and psychological eudaemonism as a theory of human motivation?
    (former is a normative claim about what we ought to do, latter a descriptive claim about what human beings actually do)

7. What is the difficulty with making normative ethical claims when one accepts a deterministic metaphysics?
    (normative discourse assumes free will)
 

Questions on Epicureanism:

8. What is the Epicurean position in metaphysics?
    (materialistic atomism)

9. How does this position lead to their hedonism?
    (all we can know are our sensations, pleasure and pain are sensations)

10. What is the cause of pleasure/pain?
    (satisfaction/dissatisfaction of desire)

11. What did Epicurus deduce from his view about human beings about the sort of pleasures we ought to pursue?
    (those arising from natural, necessary desires)

12. How does Epicurus' actual position differ from that often associated with the word "epicurean"?
    (pursue only simple natural pleasures, not "wine, women, and song")

13. What is the ideal state for the believer in Epicurean ethics?
    (ataraxia)

14. What is the Epicurean doctrine on the minimization of pain?
    (primary sources are fear of death and of the gods' anger)

15. Why need we not fear death?
    (all evil is sensation; after death there is no sensation)

16. Why need we not fear divine intervention in our lives?
    (it would disturb divine ataraxia)

17. Why is Epicurean metaphysics inconsistent with its ethical theory?
    (atomism is deterministic, ethics is normative)

18. What is the Epicurean attitude towards involvement with public affairs?
    (disrupts ataraxia)
 

Questions on Stoicism:

19. What is the stoic position in metaphysics?
    (cosmos a living, material organism)

20. Explain the Stoic macro/micro cosmic analogy.
    (what is true of humans as small organisms is true also of the universe as a whole)

21. What did they deduce by reasoning from this analogy?
    (universe has a body (nature) and a mind (the Logos) which directs it)

22. Why does the Logos order the world the way it does?
    (for the best)

23. What does the Stoic deduce from this about the consequences of our actions?
    (out of our control, so they cannot be the grounds of moral value)

24. What does give an action its moral value if not its consequences?
    (the attitude with which it is done)

25. What sort of attitude must one have to live virtuously?
    (apathia, emotionally neutral acceptance of one's role)

26. How does the Stoic reach the conclusion that we have a duty to do what it is our lot in life to do? What does this duty imply?
    (every action is part of the Divine Logos' ordering of the universe for the best, so we must do that action as conscientiously as possible;
    we have a duty to accept our role in "accord with nature")

27. How does the Stoic reach the conclusion that all persons are fellow citizens in a universal city-state (cosmopolis)?
    (we are all part of the same divine plan)

28. How did Stoic philosophy reflect values useful to the Roman empire?
    (emphasis on acceptance, doing one's duty, universality of a single law for all people)

29. What inconsistency is involved in the Stoic doctrine concerning our attitudes and hence the moral status of our actions?
    (assumption that attitudes are under our control is inconsistent with their universal determinism)
 

Questions on Kantian Ethical Theory:

30. What is Kant's task in his ethical theory?
    (deduce by a priori reasoning the grounds of ethical obligation from human beings as essentially and uniquely rational)

31. What does Kant believe the fact that all persons are essentially rational beings imply?
    (ethical obligation is the same for all agents in a given situation, it is "universalizable")

32. What does Kant mean by saying an action is motivated by a "good will"?
    (the agent does it solely because it is the morally right thing to do, not for the sake of its consequences)

33. Why is a good will the only absolute unconditional good?
    (all other so-called "goods" are really only means to further ends, any of which when joined with an evil will could have bad consequences)

34. When do we act with a good will?
    (when we freely choose to act the way we do by applying a general principle to a specific case;
    i.e. we use our faculty of "practical reason" to determine our motive for acting the way we do)

35. When do we act out of a sense of moral "duty" or "obligation"?
    (when we act on a morally correct principle)

36. What is the difference for Kant between acting on inclination and acting on principle?
    (we act on inclination when we act out of desire for consequences of action;
    we act on principle when our motive is determined by a principle which governs this particular action)

37. When are decisions to act made on "prudential grounds" rather than on "moral grounds"?
    (when we act on a "calculation" of what will produce greatest happiness rather than on principle)

38. What is the difference between hypothetical imperatives and categorical imperatives?
    (hypothetical are "if...then..." connections between ends and means: if you desire a certain end then do a certain action;
    categorical imperatives are direct commands, not "if...then..." statements)

39. Why must moral decisions be based on categorical rather than hypothetical imperatives?
    (moral duties must be same for all rational beings; but we can imagine a rational being not desiring any particular "end";
    and so not being obligated to do any action which is done merely as a means to that end)

40. Why is happiness not a universal end for all beings?
    (it is too indefinite (different for different rational beings) and too empirical (we only know what brings happiness after experience of it))

41. Why does Kant hold that the function of practical reason is not to enable us to achieve the goal of happiness?
    (Kant believes faculties must be well-suited for the ends they serve,
    but if happiness were the goal of human existence, nature would have equipped us with an instinct to choose that which maximizes happiness
    (like animals) rather than a faculty of practical reason which (unlike animals) we uniquely and essentially possess)

42. What is the function of practical reason?
    (to allow us to understand that a particular case of making a moral decision falls under a particular principle or "maxim";
    to allow us to understand why we must do the morally right action; we can understand our moral duties)

43. What is The Categorical Imperative?
    (the principle which governs the principles which determine the morally right action;
    it is a "second order" principle which determines the form of all moral commandments (first order principles))

44. What does the first formulation of The Categorical Imperative tell us about the morally right action?
    (act only on the basis of a principle (maxim) which can be consistently universalized)

45. What principles must be rejected as determining the moral agent's motive?
    (those which when universalized involve the agent in an "inconsistency"
    or in other words when you act on principles which you would not want others to act on in their conduct towards you)

46. What is the problem with Kant's use of The Categorical Imperative to determine which principles we should act on?
    (the only way we can tell what principles cannot be consistently universalized is to consider the consequences of their universalization,
    but consequences are not supposed to enter into the determination of moral duties)

47. What is the "second formulation" of The Categorical Imperative?
    (never act on a principle which reduces a rational agent to a means to your ends; treat others as "ends" in themselves, never "use" people)

48. What is the third formulation of The Categorical Imperative?
    (the principles on which each individual acts are freely legislated by reason on oneself)

49. What is Kant's conception of a "kingdom of ends"?
    (since all rational agents must legislate the same principles, all will be bound by a common universal "law" freely chosen by "self- legislating" rational beings)
 

Questions on Utilitarianism:

50. What is the principle of utility?
    (an action is right in proportion to its tendency to produce the greatest happiness)

51. What is meant by the greatest happiness?
    (that of all affected by the action; utilitarians are altruistic hedonists)

52. What do utilitarians mean by happiness?
    (they're hedonists)

53. What was the purpose for which Bentham first formulated utilitarian ethical doctrine?
    (legislative and judicial reform)

54. What was Bentham's position on determining the utility of an action?
    (only the quantity of pleasure and the quantity of pain matter; develop the "hedonic calculus")

55. What are the problems with a purely quantitative scale of pleasures?
    (the life of the "pig" becomes preferable to the life of the "Socrates")

56. How does Mill seek to improve upon Bentham's version of utilitarianism?
    (adds a scale of qualitative distinctions among pleasures; some are "better" than others)

57. How does Mill propose to determine which pleasures are of "better" quality?
    (the vote of the majority of all who have had competent experience of both)

58. How does Mill explain why the great majority of people pursue what Mill would consider low quality pleasures?
    (poor education and wretched social circumstances have killed their ability to enjoy the higher pleasures, thus making them incompetent to judge)

59. What's the problem with this?
    (Mill begs the question in assuming he knows which pleasures are highest by assuming he knows who is competent to judge)

60. What is the problem with trying to defend hedonism and also to rank different qualities of pleasures?
    (it sets up another standard other than pleasure, in order to rank pleasures,
    and that standard then becomes the grounds for determining the moral worth of an action rather than pleasure)

61. How does Mill reply to the challenge that utilitarianism makes people selfish?
    (not the agent's own, but the pleasures of all affected)

62. Why is altruistic behavior good according to utilitarianism?
    (it maximizes happiness for greatest number)

63. Why is the "sacrifice" of the noble character (altruistic agent) justified on utilitarian grounds?
    (by sacrificing his/her own pleasures, greatest happiness of all is maximized)

63. How does Mill reply to the criticism that there is not enough time or experience to calculate the consequences of an action?
    (we apply utilitarian calculations to rules beforehand, then act on the rules; there is the experience of the whole human race)

64. How does Mill reply to the challenge that utilitarianism is a godless doctrine?
    (if God desires human happiness, God is a utilitarian)

65. Why does Mill believe each agent ought to work for the maximum pleasure of all affected?
    (each agent desires his/her own pleasure, therefore the highest pleasure of all is a good to all persons)

66.What's wrong with this argument?
    (fallacy of composition; what is true of the parts of a whole need not be true of the whole)