University of Kansas, Fall 2003
Philosophy 160: Introduction to Ethics

Meta-ethics test questions

The test will be given in class on Monday, September 22, and will consist of 100 points’ worth of questions.

  1. There will be eight questions, worth 5 points each, requiring you to select quotations that answer certain questions. For example, a question might be “What thesis is characteristic of simple subjectivism?” or “What is one claim that is used in an objection to psychological egoism?” and you would have to select the quotation that best answers the question. (There will be perhaps three times as many answers as questions, so this part of the test will not be as simple as one-to-one matching. But the answers will be grouped into several reasonably-sized answer banks instead of all being in one huge answer bank.)
  2. There will be four short-answer questions from the following list—two 10-point questions and two 20-point questions.
    1. (20 points:) What is meta-ethics? What is an example of something that a meta-ethicist might say, and what is an example of something about ethics that someone might say, but that doesn’t have anything to do with meta-ethics?
    2. (10 points:) What is the cultural-differences argument? What is one of Rachels’s objections to this argument?
    3. (20 points:) If the cultural differences argument is unsound, does that mean that its conclusion is false? Why or why not?
    4. (10 points:) What are two implications of cultural relativism that Rachels mentions as an objection to that view?
    5. (20 points:) What is simple subjectivism, and what is emotivism? What is the main difference between them?
    6. (10 points:) What is meant by the claim that simple subjectivism fails to account for moral disagreement?
    7. (20 points:) What are two independent interpretations of the concepts of the natural and the unnatural that might be used to try to derive moral principles from statements about what is natural and what is unnatural? What criticisms can be offered against attempts to derive morality from nature that are based on these two interpretations of these concepts?
    8. (10 points:) What point is Hume making in the passage in which he writes, “I am surpriz’d to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not”?
    9. (20 points:) What is the main point of Stevenson’s paper “The Emotive Meaning of Ethical Terms”? What would Stevenson say to someone who says, “You promised to mow my lawn; now you are just being irrational if you fail to see that it would be wrong for you not to mow my lawn”?
    10. (10 points:) What are the two standard interpretations of the divine-command theory?
    11. (20 points:) What two objections to the first interpretation of the divine-command theory does Rachels offer?
    12. (10 points:) What is psychological egoism? What is one statement or belief that people might associate with psychological egoism, but that is not actually equivalent to that view?
    13. (20 points:) Suppose someone were to say that psychological egoism is true because people don’t do things they don’t want to do, and wanting is an inherently self-interested state of mind. What can be said against this argument for psychological egoism?
    14. (10 points:) What is the relevance, to psychological egoism, of the notion of a theory’s being verifiable?