Ethical Theory Utilitarianism and John Stuart Mill’s Philosophy
Please choose any 2 questions from the different parts (1k word each).
Instructions are stated in the question document.
PHIL20008 Ethical Theory
Take Home Exam
1. Answer a total of TWO questions. Each question must be chosen from a different part.
2. The questions are equally weighted.
3. Your answers are not to exceed 1,100 words per answer, for a total of not more than 2,200 words per take-home exam submitted (excluding bibliography). There is no minimum word limit.
4. Topic overlap restrictions apply to PART A and PART B. These restrictions are clearly stated after the questions they govern. If you don’t respect a restriction, you will receive ZERO marks for that essay.
5. Take home exams are to be submitted on LMS. Check list for preparing and submitting your exam script:
1. Be sure that you have read the “Take Home Exam Rules and Regulations” document available under “Assessment” and that you have complied with them. Take special note of the rules concerning what sources may be used, referencing, and plagiarism.
2. Check you have not exceeded word limits. All text excluding only the list of references/bibliography count towards the word limit.
3. Upload just one document that contains your answers to the two questions you have chosen.
4. Use 12 point font and 1.5 or double spacing.
5. Make sure your student number is on the document you upload.
6. Make sure your name is NOT on the document you upload.
7. Upload your document under the “Assessment Submission” section of the LMS page.
8. Make sure you are uploading the right version: uploading is final!
1. John Stuart Mill’s “proof” of utilitarianism has been much criticized. Explain what you take to be the most plausible reconstruction of his “proof”. Critically evaluate it.
Topic overlap restriction: you may not attempt this question if you wrote your mid-semester essay on it (Q 1).
2. Is rule utilitarianism a better moral theory than act utilitarianism? Defend your view.
Topic overlap restriction: you may not attempt this question if you wrote your mid-semester essay on the best form of consequentialism (Q 5).
3. Both Peter Railton and John Stuart Mill defend act consequentialism against the charge that it is a cold and unfeeling doctrine. Briefly compare and contrast Railton’s and Mill’s response to this objection. Which response is strongest? Spend the bulk of your essay assessing whether your chosen response is adequate.
Topic overlap restriction: you may not attempt this question if you wrote your mid-semester essay on Railton (Q 3).
4. In the Groundwork, Kant says things that seem to disparage even pro-social emotions, such as sympathy. Briefly explain why Kant denies moral worth to action motivated by emotion. Does this pose a problem for his ethical theory? Defend your view.
Topic overlap restriction: you may not attempt this question if you wrote your mid-semester essay on the quotation from the Groundwork (Q 6).
5. Briefly explain Korsgaard’s “Practical Contradiction Interpretation” of Kant’s Formula of Universal Law (FUL) as it applies to cases involving a contradiction in conception. (For space reasons, do not discuss how Korsgaard extends the interpretation to apply to cases involving a contradiction in will.) Use the bulk of your essay to evaluate whether, on this interpretation, the FUL can provide an adequate test to identify immoral maxims of action.
Topic overlap restriction: you may not attempt this question if you wrote your mid-semester essay on Korsgaard’s interpretation of Kant (Q 7).
6. Kant’s second formulation of the categorical imperative (Formula of Humanity) is: “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.” How is this formulation to be interpreted and applied? Can it provide an adequate test to identify immoral maxims of action?
7. Are there any deontological restrictions? If there are, can Kantian ethics provide a satisfactory account of them? Defend your view. (Note: If you are arguing that there are no deontological restrictions, in the course of defending your view, you must consider how a Kantian would respond to your argument, as Kant is widely taken to offer the strongest defense of such restrictions.)
8. “Virtue is a kind of mean.” (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (II.6).) Explain and evaluate.
9. Does virtue ethics have a satisfactory account of right action? Defend your view.
10. Briefly explain what characterizes that family of approaches to ethics known as virtue ethics. Next, briefly state what you take to be the strongest objection to virtue ethics. Use the bulk of your essay to explore whether the virtue ethicist has a satisfactory reply.
11. Briefly explain what characterizes ethics of care theories. Next state what you take to be the strongest objection to the ethics of care approach. Spend the remainder of your essay exploring the potential of the ethics of care approach to develop an adequate response.
Overlap warning: In your answer to PART D be sure not to reproduce significant parts of your answers to any other question on this exam. However, if it helps your argument and you wish to do so, you may refer to points developed in your answer to a question in another section in your answer to a question in this section. (A note on the difference between a restriction and a warning: Restrictions are strict – violate them and your receive no marks. Warnings are loose – if you overlap too much you effectively submit a script that is short on words/content. There is no minimum word limit, but a script of 2,000 words with 500 words of similar content appearing twice is likely to do less well than a script of 2,000 non-repeated words/content.)
12. In this course, we have studied three families of normative ethical theories: consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics. Which do you think is the most promising and why? Defend your view.
13. What should we want from an ethical theory? Defend your view.
14. Virtue ethicists typically claim that virtue ethics does better than any rival approach in recognizing the role of emotions in our moral lives. Evaluate this claim.