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Final Exam Study Guide

Course Code
Jennifer Hawkins
Study Guide

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Philosophy Finals
1)Thrasymachus begins his conversation with Socrates by offering a
definition of justice. What is this definition? How does Socrates ultimately
get Thrasymachus to abandon this definition? What does Thrasymachus
try next, i.e. what is his second claim about justice? Could anyone other
than an ethical egoist accept this claim? Would an ethical egoist
necessarily accept it? What might Hobbes have to say in response to this
claim? What does Plato say about it later on?
Thrasymachus defines justice as the advantage of the stronger or more powerful. Justice is
what benefits the ruler. This is a highly skeptical view of morality and justice for 2 reasons:
The claim that justice refers to a set of arbitrary man-made rules that a ruler has
made-up and that others must follow.
The claim that these rules were designed merely with the aim of the rulers
advantage in mind.
Socrates uses analogy to argue against Thrasymachus definition. An analogy is a
comparison of 2 similar objects, suggesting that if they are alike in certain respects, they
will be like in other ways as well. The analogy used by Socrates is of a physician. A
physician does many things such as healing wounds and asking patients for money. But,
asking for money is not what being a physician is about. It is not part of the art of medicine.
The role of the doctor is the role of a healer. So, by analogy a ruler does many things but,
the art of governing or the role of a governor is essentially about promoting the interests of
the governed (the people). This analogy trips up Thrasymachus’ skeptic as he develops the
following argument, which is the opposite of Thrasymachus original position:
(1) A good ruler is a just ruler.
(2) A good ruler is one who looks after the interests of the ones he rules.
(C)Therefore, a just ruler is one who looks after the interests of the ones he rules.
Thrasymachus second claim about justice is that it is better to be unjust.
Psychological egoism is where people always act in ways that they believe will further their
own self-interest. All actions are fundamentally selfish actions i.e. motivated primarily by
self-concern. A psychological egoist would agree with Thrasymachuss definition as the
individual would always be unjust in order to fulfill their own self-interest.

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Ethical egoism is where a person always ought to do what will benefit him or herself.
Referring to Glaucons example about the ring of Gyges, we have seen that under special
circumstances would an ethical egoist accept this definition. An ethical egoist would
perform an unjust act when they are certain about no consequences for that action and
therefore agree to Tharsymachus definition to the extent of getting away with it.
Hobbes would then suggest that if Thrasymachus claim was true, then no one would obey
the social contract between human beings and the sovereign power would be unable to bring
any stability i.e. due to the violent nature of men and everyone looking out for themselves,
this society would be a complete mess as everyone will want something and will go to any
extent to achieve it. So, he would disagree with Thrasymachus claim as being unjust would
overall depreciate a societys value.
Plato believed that despite the situation like Hobbes describes, one must always stay true
to onself i.e. be just at all times. As unjust actions will always corrupt the soul and this is
bad in itself. To achieve harmony of the soul one must act justly and this is true even if
others are not acting justly.
4) It is sometimes said that utilitarianism is too demanding as a moral theory.
Name at least two different things someone might have in mind when making this
claim. Are these really problems to worry about? Does it make sense to say that a
moral theory that asks us to do the best we can is asking us to do too much? Explain
your answer. Would this objection have any force against a rule utilitarian?
Utilitarianism is a moral theory that says we always ought to do the act that will produce
the most happiness. 2 objections that come to mind when calling utilitarianism as too
demanding for a moral theory are:
Rights of the innocent, where objectors of utilitarianism argue as follows:
(1) Utilitarianism has the implication that sometimes the morally correct thing to do is to
harm or even kill an innocent person.
(2) It can never be morally correct to harm or kill an innocent person.
(C) Therefore, utilitarianism is a flawed moral theory and should be rejected.
This is where Kai Neilson provides his fat man and innocent man cases which reflect the
idea of where the utilitarian should bite the bullet or admit that utilitarianism is wrong
and where it is better to follow it. The case of the fat man provides a great example of
where his rights are violated. Rights are minimal but highly significant protections of
individuals against the intrusions of others. Rights violations create a problem where it

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seems that sometimes the act that will produce the best consequences is one that we
normally assume to be bad or immoral.
Rule-based practices are similar to rights violations as sometimes the act that will produce
the best consequences is one that requires deviating from these practices (voting,
promising). Individual deviations are fine (depending on those odd scenarios) but multiple
deviations would undermine the practice and that would be bad.
The rule-based practices would have a force against rule utilitarianism as it could cause the
same deviations or breaking rules for good consequences on give situations. But, the same
problem is faced and that is the undermining of this rule, which defies the fact that it is a
complex rule.
What is the purpose of punishment according to utilitarians?
The utilitarian must look to the consequences or outcome of possible punishment to
determine when punishment should be applied. As utilitarianism aims at maximizing
utility (or happiness), it follows that punishment should be applied when it leads to an
improved situation. Even though punishment decreases the happiness of the person being
punished (by depriving him of rights, money, time, etc.) utilitarians claim that punishment,
and/or the threat of punishment, often increases the happiness of the society as a whole.
What features of this approach to punishment have most often been criticized?
As said before, a utilitarian focuses on the effects of punishment; consequences or outcomes.
Like the effect on the criminal, the effect on the victim and/or the victims family and the
effect on the population through deterrence. It is difficult if not impossible to accurately
gage the outcome of happiness of the society as a whole receives in relation to the
punishment the criminal deserves. So, the utilitarian approach may lead to punishments
that are either too harsh or too lenient. To say that a punishment is too harsh is to say that
the criminal receives a more severe punishment than he or she deserves. While being too
lenient is to say that the criminal receives a less severe punishment than he or she
What sorts of considerations would a utilitarian take into account in deciding
about Katherine Ann Powers case? What answer would a utilitarian reach?
Katherine Ann Powers case is difficult because it is plausible to think that very
little utility will come from punishing her severely. It raises, in a particularly strong way,
the issue of what punishment is for. It is important to recognize that not all utilitarians will
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