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

Preview of test on meta-ethics

The test will be given in class on Wednesday, March 10. There will be sixteen multiple-choice questions worth 4 points each, three short-answer questions worth 4 points each, and four short-answer questions worth 6 points each.

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

  1. First, there may be 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 3 is

According to simple subjectivism, when a person says “Lying is wrong,” it is just as if the person had said which of the following instead?

and one of the wrong answers is

“I feel that lying is wrong”

I might ask you, either in a multiple-choice question or a short-answer question, to say why this is wrong, as explained in the online quiz. 

The upshot of these first three points, then, is that you should be familiar with the quiz questions, their right answers, and the reasoning behind them. 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, so 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 the quiz questions, so there is nothing in this list that will come as news to you. And you should not take what I list below to override what I said above about knowing the content of the quiz questions. 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
  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