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Ethics Questions

Kant Questions

Write your answers in complete sentences, not fragments, not stray phrases.  If any of these questions is unclear, email me with a query and I will try to clarify it.

1.  Explain how the first paragraph of Kant’s Fundamental Principles of The Metaphysics of Morals  on page 78 contains a critique of virtue ethics. In your response, be sure to refer to the first sentence in which Kant says, “Nothing in the world can be considered good without qualification except a good will.” 

2.   Explain what Kant means when he says that “the moral worth of an action does not lie in the effect expected from it, nor in any principle of actions which requires to borrow its motive from this expected effect.”

3. Would the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs in athletic competition be in accord with or in violation of Kantian ethics?  Explain your answer in detail.  Be sure to refer both to the Categorical Imperative and the Practical Imperative in your response.

4.  Explain Kant’s use of the words “inclination” and “duty.”  What important distinction does he draw between them? 

5.  Read the article about Judge W. Arthur Garrity in the Web Links section.  Explain how his decision-making as a judge is an example of Kantian ethical reasoning.

6.  In his essay What Utilitarianism Is John Stuart Mill invokes two figures, Socrates and Jesus of Nazareth, at two critical junctures in his definition/defense. Explain why he refers to each.  What points about Utilitarianism is he emphasizing via these references?  What aspect of each person does he try to connect with Utilitarian thought?

7.  Read the article by Nancy Gertner in the Web Links section (“The problem of mass incarceration”) and explain how it is an example of Utilitarian ethical reasoning.

8.  Explain the significance of John Stuart Mill’s assertion that the higher quality pleasure can be determined by its selection by people who are “competently acquainted with both” sorts of pleasure.  Although Waller seems to think this might reduce pleasure to what the upper class might consider, how might we defend Mill’s idea?  Why is this phrase “competently acquainted with both” an important qualification? Why is his reference to “faculties more elevated” an important criterion?

9.  Explain the difference between Act and Rule Utilitarianism. Be thorough (this is not the easiest question).  Give two examples.

10. Explain the following passage from John Stuart Mill:

…utility would enjoin, first, that laws and social arrangements should place the

Utilitarianism Questions

Happiness, or (as speaking practically it may be called) the interest, of every individual, as nearly as possible in harmony with the interest of the whole;

and secondly, that education and opinion, which have so vast a power over

human character should so use that power as to establish in the mind of

every individual an indissoluble association between his own happiness

and the good of the whole.. so that he not only he may be unable to conceive the possibility of happiness to himself, consistently with conduct opposed to the general good, but also that direct impulse to promote the general good may be in every individual one of the habitual motives of action…”

11.  In What Utilitarianism Is, John Stuart Mill seeks to rebut the accusation that Utilitarianism is a “doctrine worthy only of swine.”  Explain the accusation and why it has been made, and then explain how he tries to refute it.

12. In Book Two of his Nichomachean Ethics Aristotle says that it is by playing the harp that men become both good and bad harp players.  In the same passage, he says “we become just by the practice of just actions, self-controlled by exercising self-control, and courageous by performing acts of courage.”  He also, on another topic, says, “a man who builds well will become a good builder, one who builds badly a bad one.  What connections is he making here?

13.  Explain Aristotle’s “doctrine of the mean” by citing at least two virtues and their potential vices in terms of defect and excess..  Explain what the two vices are and how it would be possible to fall for someone to fall into them instead of achieving the virtue

14.  Explain Aristotle’s concept of “practical wisdom” and how this concept relates to or is illustrated by his statement that a young person “can become a mathematician but not a philosopher.” 

15.   Waller quotes Aristotle’s noteworthy observation that “It is no easy task to be good.”   What does Aristotle mean here?

16.  It is sometimes said the “Virtue is its own reward.”  Explain that idea in relation to the notion of “human flourishing” or “true happiness” as discussed in the chapter. 

17.  Explain what Annette Baier means when she refers to the “justice perspective” and the “care perspective.”  What does she say should be their proper roles?

18.  Explain how care ethics could also be a concept associated with Christian ethics.  Give an example of how someone could take the same action whether justifying it under the banner of care ethics or Christian ethics.  Note the Christian ethical concept of agape and explain how it might be a concept that would be compatible with the theory of care ethics.

19.  Read the New York Times article in the Web Links section that deals with the male libido, which the author suggests is a volatile force.  If you think this article sheds some light upon the need and/or value of Care Ethics, explain how it does so.

20.  The philosopher Virginia Held, in an essay titled “The Ethics of Care” describes those who advocate this ethical perspective as follows:

“ They see it as a mosaic of insights and value the way it is sensitive to contextual nuance and particular narratives rather than making the abstract and universal claims of more familiar moral theories.”

She refers to traditions such as Kant’s ethics and the Utilitarians.  What is the essence of her criticism?

21. On p. 168 Waller uses an example to illustrate an advantage of care ethics over traditional Kantian ethics.  It has to do with someone who is hospitalized receiving a visit.  Explain Waller’s analysis here.

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