Sample philosophy textbook questions

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Core Questions in Philosophy: A text with readings

by Elliott Sober, Prentice Hall, Third Edition

PART V: ETHICS (LECTURES 27 - 33)

12 Questions

LECTURE 27 - NORMATIVE ETHICS & METAETHICS

[1] Metalinguistic statements are statements about language. Metamathematics involves theories that are about mathematical theories. Metaethics is concerned with questions about ethics, such as:

  • (a) Is murder right or wrong?

  • (b) Are there really any moral truths?

  • (c) Should an action be performed if it promotes the greatest happiness for the greatest number?

  • (d) Does a morally just action tend to promote happiness?

[2] Ethical subjectivism maintains that

  • (a) No statement that says an action is right (or wrong) is true. 

  • (b) There are no objective ethical truths.

  • (c) There are no true ought-propositions.

  • (d) All of the above.

LECTURE 28 - THE IS/OUGHT GAP & THE NATURALISTIC FALLACY

[3] Emotivism is an ethical theory that claims that:

  • (a) Ethics is an emotionally difficult subject.

  • (b) To be morally right, an action must make people have positive emotions, such as happiness.

  • (c) A moral statement expresses the speaker’s feelings and attitudes.

  • (d) The emotional impact of an action determines whether it is morally right or wrong.

[4] Hume claimed that a deductively valid argument with an ethical conclusion must have:

  • (a) A false premise.

  • (b) No ethical statements as premisses.

  • (c) At least one true premise.

  • (d) At least one ethical statement as a premise.

LECTURE 29 - OBSERVATION & EXPLANATION IN ETHICS

[5] What is a thought experiment?

  • (a) An imagined hypothetical situation, which we can use to decide whether a general principle is true in that situation.

  • (b) A psychology experiment, especially one that is crucial for us to understand ethical beliefs.

  • (c) Before a scientist performs a new experiment, they determine the hypothesis they will test and all the details they will attempt to observe. The proposed experiment is known as a “thought experiment” before it is actually performed.

  • (d) An experiment in which electrodes are attached to the scalp and brain activity is measured.

[6] What does it mean to say that an observation is “theory laden”? 

  • (a) That the observation is biased because it’s influenced by the theory the observer already holds.

  • (b) That the observation is, in part, determined by the theories the observer holds — including the concepts they have.

  • (c) That the observation is false, partly because it depends on a false theory.

  • (d) That the observation is subjective, because the theory it depends on is subjective.

LECTURE 30 - CONVENTIONALIST THEORIES

[7] Which of the following is true?:

  • (a) The Divine Command Theory says that an action that God says is wrong (adultery or murder, say) is wrong because God says it is wrong.

  • (b) If you reject the Divine Command Theory then, to have consistent beliefs, you must also be an atheist.

  • (c) The Divine Command Theory says that even if God didn’t exist, certain actions (adultery or murder, say) would still be wrong.

  • (d) If the Divine Command Theory is false, then God doesn’t exist.

[8] Which of these statements would be true if relativism were true:

  • (a) Even if our society considered murder to be ethically permissible, then it would still be wrong to commit murder.

  • (b) Whether or not murder is wrong depends on whether God says murder is wrong.

  • (c) If our society considered murder to be ethically permissible, then it would be ethically permissible for us to commit murder.

  • (d) The rightness or wrongness of murder is independent of a society’s beliefs about the rightness or wrongness of murder.

LECTURE 31 - UTILITARIANISM

[9] An act utilitarian will say that:

  • (a) The guilty should be punished and the innocent should not be punished.

  • (b) Whether the innocent should be punished depends on the benefits it would produce. 

  • (c) The punishment should fit the crime.

  • (d) Punishment causes unhappiness so people should not be punished.

[10] The problem of “personal loyalties” for the act utilitarian is that:

  • (a) Utilitarianism can’t explain why we have greater moral responsibilities to those we love, such as our children.

  • (b) Utilitarianism requires us to consider the happiness of all people impartially, including our nearest and dearest.

  • (c) Utilitarianism implies that we should be morally (not emotionally) indifferent between rescuing our own child from drowning and rescuing someone else’s child.

  • (d) All of the above.


LECTURE 32 - KANT’S MORAL THEORY

[11] Which one of these statements would Kant accept?:

  • (a) The moral value of an action depends entirely on its consequences.

  • (b) The balance of harms and benefits caused by an action are entirely irrelevant to that action’s moral value.

  • (c) Being honest is morally right because, in the end, being honest will maximize preference satisfaction.

  • (d) Both reason and desire determine what makes an action morally right or wrong.


LECTURE 33 - ARISTOTLE ON THE GOOD LIFE

[12] Human beings’ capacity to reason makes us different from other organisms. So, Aristotle thought, the good life for humans is one in which rational capacities are developed and exercised to a high degree. Sober criticises this view by pointing out that:

  • (a) Humans have other characteristics that are unique to our species, such as donating to charity. So there is no reason to single out rationality as uniquely important to a good life.

  • (b) Many humans are irrational, so there is no reason to single out rationality as uniquely important to a good life.

  • (c) Other animals, such as apes and dolphins, may have rational capacities, so there is no reason to single out rationality as uniquely important to a good life.

  • (d) Children are not rational beings, so there is no reason to single out rationality as uniquely important to a good life.