University of Kansas, Fall 2004
Philosophy 160: Introduction to Ethics

Preview of test on meta-ethics

The test will be given in class on Tuesday, September 28. The tasks of writing your name and identifying your discussion section will earn you 2 points each; then there will be twenty-four multiple choice questions worth 4 points each.

Most of the questions on the test will be of the following kinds:

  1. First, there may be a few quiz questions. So, you should be sure you can answer any of those.
  2. Second, there may be questions that are derived from quiz questions. For example, the first question on the quiz on chapter 2 is

What is the conclusion of the cultural-differences argument?

and the right answer is

that cultural relativism is correct

A question derived from this one might rephrase the question as

What do proponents of the cultural-differences argument use it to try to establish?

and/or rephrase the correct answer as

that morality is culturally relative instead of being universal

I might also make more mundane changes such as re-ordering the answers and introducing new wrong answers. All this, of course, would be intended to make sure you know the substance of the quiz questions, instead of having just learned the initial question itself with its particular wording and order of answers and so on.

  1. There may be questions that are derived from the explanations of why certain answers to quiz questions are right or wrong answers. For example, the second question on the quiz on chapter 2 is

What is Rachels's objection to the cultural-differences argument?

and one of the wrong answers is

“The premise is false”

I might ask you to indicate why this is wrong.

  1. There may be questions that ask you to detect statements that are implied by certain views, or that are incompatible with certain views. For example, I might ask you to indicate which of several statements is implied by cultural relativism. Or I might present a dialogue between two people, and ask you to indicate which of the statements shows that the speaker rejects cultural relativism—even if the speaker does not come out and say, “I reject cultural relativism.” This rewards you for really knowing the content of a view rather than just memorizing the words that are used to state it.
  1. There may be questions that ask you to detect statements or structures of reasoning that are analogous, in certain respects, to ones that you should know and understand. For example, I might allude to a particular objection to cultural relativism, and then I might present four other theories that are different from cultural relativism and ask you to select the one that would be vulnerable to that same objection. This rewards you for knowing how a particular objection works rather than just memorizing that a particular objection is associated with a particular theory.
The upshot of these first five points, then, is that you should be familiar with not only the quiz questions, their right answers, and the reasoning behind them, but also the substance of the views they cover. To accomplish this, I would recommend that you not only review the quiz questions and answers, but also closely re-read the specific passages of the textbook that the quiz questions are based on. You have probably noticed, in taking the quizzes, that I tend to emphasize certain parts of each chapter and de-emphasize others; and that same emphasis will be reflected on the test. So, you should re-read the parts I have emphasized. You will find that the passages that you need to re-read are a very manageable fraction of what you’ve already read. And you’ll find re-reading those passages to be a lot easier than reading them the first time was.

There will also be questions that are based on the lectures rather than the textbook. For example, I might ask you what it means for one statement to be an implication of another, or why we spend so much time figuring out what the implications of the theories we study are.

Now let me mention some specific bits content that you do and do not need to know. The main thing I have in mind not to ask you about is chapter 1. As for what I probably will ask you, following are some things you should definitely know. (This is just what you would expect, given how we've spent our time so far, so there is nothing in this list that will come as news to you. And there is no guarantee that topics not mentioned on this sheet won’t be covered on the test. But I’ll mention some things anyway.)

  1. cultural relativism
    1. what it says
    2. the cultural differences argument
    3. cultural relativism’s three problematic implications
  2. simple subjectivism
    1. what it says
    2. its two problematic implications
  3. emotivism
    1. what it says
    2. how it differs from simple subjectivism
    3. basic concepts from Stevenson paper
  4. deriving morality from nature
    1. what that phrase means
    2. how arguments attempting to derive morality from nature can go wrong
  5. divine-command theory: first version
    1. what is says
    2. its two problematic implications
  6. divine-command theory: second version
    1. what it says
    2. its problematic implication
  7. psychological egoism
    1. what it says
    2. its relevance to ethics
    3. the strategy of reinterpreting motives
    4. the untestability of psychological egoism when defended with the strategy of reinterpreting motives