Practice Questions for the Midterm
1. Glaucon argues that justice is nothing more than a set of rules that constrain our
activities, which we accept because the rules impose similar constraints on other people’s
activities, and so protect us from harm.
1. How does Glaucon defend this conception of justice? What assumptions does he
make about human nature?
Glaucon defends his conceptions of justice by saying how to do injustice is
naturally good and to suffer injustice bad, but that the badness of suffering it so
far exceeds the goodness of doing it that those who have done and suffered
injustice and tasted both, but who lack the power to do it and avoid suffering it,
decide that it is profitable to come to an agreement with each other neither to do
injustice nor to suffer it. Justice is a mean between these two extremes. People
value it not because it is a good but because they are too weak to do injustice with
2. In “Psychological Egoism,” Feinberg advances several arguments that seem to
support that conclusion, which he labels (a), (b), (c), and (d). Describe arguments
(a) and (b).
• Psychological Egoism: All of our ultimate desires are egoistic.
• Psychological Altruism: Some of our ultimate desires are altruistic.
• One’s desire is egoistic if (and only if) it concerns (what one perceives to be) the benefit of
oneself and not anyone else.
• One’s desire is altruistic if (and only if) it concerns (what one perceives to be) the benefit of at
least someone other than oneself.
3. Feinberg critiques argument (b) in part by introducing the paradox of hedonism.
Describe the paradox, and explain why it puts pressure on argument (b).
The second argument for psychological egoism [getting what one wants and
receiving pleasure] is also flawed: from the fact that all our successful actions are
accompanied by pleasure (for us), it does not follow that the objective of these
acts is pleasure for oneself
4. How does Feinberg critique argument (a)?
The egoists’ first argument [about our only motives being our motives] is flawed:
“from this simple tautology [that all of my motives and desires
are my motives and desires] nothing whatever concerning the nature of my
motives or the objective of my desires can possibly follow.”
2. We have come to associate Epicurus’ name with the indulgence of our appetite for fine
foods. Countless restaurants go by the name “Epicurean.” A popular food website calls
itself “Epicurious.” The word “epicure” is a fancy way of saying “foodie.” But although
Epicurus celebrates pleasure as the only true good, he would not endorse indulgence of
any kind. Why not? Epicurus said we should avoid such things as gluttony, desire, and consumerism
3. Hedonists like Epicurus insist that we locate all value in our experiences: Pleasure is the
only thing that is good in itself, pain the only thing that is bad in itself. Describe Nozick’s
experience machine (both the “movie” version and the “game” version), and explain why
widespread reluctance to enter the machine would make no sense if hedonism is the
proper way to think about value. Suggest some other places we might locate value, if not
in our experiences.
In the movie version of the experience machine you select the experiences you want for
the next 2 years. Everything feels real and you feel like you are actually experiencing
these things. After the two years you have ten minutes or ten hours to select your next
experiences for the next two years.
In the video game version of the experience machine you experience all these things as if
they were real. However, you have the ability to make choices during these experiences.
We might locate value in our past, and the people we interact with.
4. Kant argues that the only thing that is good in itself is a good will.
a. We normally think of quite a few other things as good, including courage or happiness.
How does Kant argue that these kinds of things are not good in themselves, and how does
he argue that the good will is good in itself?
Kant says that happiness is not a good in itself because Happiness can lead to arrogance
without a good will. Only the Good Will is good without qualification, independently of
what it achieves. Gifts of nature such as intelligence, qualities of temperament like
courage or perseverance, are often good but may be used for evil ends unless directed by
a good will. Gifts of fortune which include riches and health can also be used for good or
ill. Even moderation and self-control are not good in themselves but require a good will
Happiness is not the Supreme Good
b. Kant’s arguments raise the question: What is the good will? Kant argues that we
distinguish the good will from the bad in terms of what they aim at. Kant provides several
arguments that purport to show that the good will does not aim at happiness, including a
version of the paradox of hedonism. Describe that argument.
Kant argues that moral philosophy should proceed in a completely a priori fashion, without
consulting experience. To develop a theory along these lines, Kant begins by examining the
moral concepts at the heart of ordinary moral thought. According to Kant, the only thing that can
be said to be good without qualification—that is, good in all circumstances—is the good will. To
have a good will requires that one act not in conformity with one's duty, but for the sake of duty.
Only when actions are performed for the sake of duty, Kant says, do they have any true moral
5. Who is more praiseworthy: Someone who makes charitable donations only out of a sense
of duty, and not our of care or compassion for those in need; or someone motivated to
give by the pain she experiences when she thinks about the suffering of those in need?
Kant and Foot give different answers. Describe and explain Kant’s, and explain Foot’s
response. According to Kant, my actions are morally good only if my motives or intentions
in so acting are for the sake of or because it is my duty to act in those ways.
According to Foot, my actions are morally good only if my actions are motivated by the
pain I experience when I think about the suffering of those in need.
6. Singer argues that we are duty-bound to devote as much of our time and resources as
possible (without suffering motivational burnout) to preventing starvation, up to the point
that any further devotion would make us worse off than the people we aid. How does he
advance this argument? Do you agree with his conclusion? Why or why not?
-Peter Singer argues that our ordinary patterns of spending money on ourselves are
immoral. Such spending involves the purchase of many things that are not essential to
preserving our lives or health
-Singer offers us a series of fascinating examples in which people have the opportunity to
prevent an innocent person's death but fail to do so. Singer believes World poverty could
largely be solved if we in the wealthier nations did our moral duty and gave much more
than we currently do to those in greatest need (A household only need 30k a year, the rest
should be donated)
Peter Singer thinks that everyone has an obligation to help alleviate the suffering caused
by global poverty
I disagree with singer. He says spending money on ourselves is immoral but if we work
hard enough I think it is okay to spend a little money on ourselves now and then.
Practice Questions for the Midterm
7. Wolf argues that meaning in life has a subjective component.