Spring 2014 Ethics Course Study Questions

From Alfino
Jump to navigationJump to search

Return to Ethics

JAN 14

1st class

JAN 16

  1. What were Ariely's findings on honesty?
  2. What is the possible significance of his research for understanding the nature of ethics?

JAN 21

  1. How do we use metaphors to think about the psyche, soul, and human identity?
  2. What organic features of consciousness does Haidt think we need to consider when doing ethics? How might they be usefull?
  3. What picture of the mind does Haidt leave us with?
  4. What is the the significance of defining ethics in terms of settling value conflict?
  5. What, if anything, does the Zimbardo Experiment tell us about the nature of ethics?

JAN 23

  1. Describe Haidt's research on disgust. What is its possible significance for understanding the nature of ethics.
  2. What is Haidt's criticism of developmental psychology's past approach to understanding the nature of ethics?
  3. Why does Haidt think that Turiel's and Schweder's research represent an improvement over the nature/nuture debate?

JAN 28

  1. Present and evaluate Piaget's and Kohlberg's theories of development.
  2. What is the problem of relativism (include forms of relativism and subjectivism) and what is Singer's argument against them?
  3. What kinds of reason-giving "count" as ethical for Singer?

JAN 30

  1. How does Aristotle frame (structure and establish conditions for arguments) the discussion of happiness and the good life?
  2. How does Aristotle evaluate various candidate answers for the good life?
  3. What is Aristotle's view of the nature of the soul and why is that important for understanding the good life?


  1. How does Haidt criticize philosophers on the topic of the relationship between reason and emotion?
  2. How do evolutionary psychologists help us see the elephant talking? (And what does that even mean?)
  3. What is the social intuitionist model of moral judgement? (Start comparing to other theories, like virtue ethics.)


  1. Do we have an inner lawyer?
  2. Does it operate the way Haidt thinks?
  3. How do you get the elephant to listen?

FEB 11

  1. What is virtue, according to Aristotle?
  2. How do we know when we are achieving it?
  3. What is involved in deliberate choice for Aristotle?

FEB 13

  1. What evidence does Haidt provide for the claim that we are constantly concerned with our status and that we tend to conserve our views even at the expense of good reasoning?
  2. How does Haidt think this evidence ought to influence our view of politics?
  3. Compare Haidt's view of social deliberation with Aristotle's view of deliberate choice.

FEB 18

  1. What is Veneer Theory? Who believes it and why?
  2. How does our "sociality" bear on the question of whether morality evolved from nature?
  3. What evidence do Darwin, Smith, and Westermark cite for the naturalness of moral values?

FEB 20

  1. What is empathy? What is sympathy?
  2. Distinguish relatively simple forms of empathy from more complex ones using examples from de Waal.
  3. What are some of the apparent prerequisites for cognitive empathy?

FEB 25

  1. Present and assess the evidence on monkey fairness.
  2. What is de Waal's meta-ethical theory? (49-58)

FEB 27

  1. Why isn't Korsgaard impressed with Veneer Theory?
  2. How does she argue against de Waal's gradualism (or continuity thesis)?
  3. How might Haidt respond?


  1. What is Singer's view of Veneer Theory and de Waal's relationship to it?
  2. How does Singer argue against gradualism? Is he successful? What view does that lead us to?


MAR 18

1. What is WEIRD morality and what use does Haidt make of it?

2. Should we all try to be WEIRD about our morality?

3. What does Haidt mean by saying "the righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors"? What evolutionary account does he offer for this claim?

4. What is Haidt's critique of philosophical ethics?

MAR 20

Haidt, Ch. 7

  1. What does it mean to say that culture creates its own "triggers" for our evolved psychology? To what extent can these diverge from the original triggers?
  2. Describe each moral foundation, including the speculative or theoretical claims advances for its reality.
  3. How do conservatives and liberals participate differently in each of the moral foundations?
  4. Does Haidt's theory of "Moral Foundations" explain key aspects of our moral and political experience?

MAR 25

  1. Describe the relevance of the Moral Foundations research conducted by Haidt and Graham.
  2. What is the difference between a Millian and Durkheimian society and how does it relate to MF?
  3. What is the Liberty/Oppression foundation and what is the basis for distinguishing it as a sixth foundation?
  4. How do Public Goods games help us think about the Moral Foundations?
  5. How do Libertarians approach justice?

MAR 27

Sandel, Utilitarianism

  1. Develop a succinct summary of the main approaches and problem utilitarian theory takes on both as an ethical theory and a theory of justice.
  2. What is the basis for Mill's defense of liberty. Is it consistent for him to make this defense as a utilitarian?
  3. Can we distinguish higher and lower pleasures. Should society invest more in higher pleasures?


  1. How does Kant think about the value of reason in us and it's implications for freedom and responsibility toward others?
  2. What is the categorical imperative, why does it have to be categorical to have moral value, and what does it direct us to do or not do?


  1. What is the theoretical basis for choosing principles from behind a "veil of ignorance"?
  2. What makes a contract fair? How does particular cases test the fairness of a contract?
  3. Explain the rationale behind the difference principle and offer an assessment of it.


Singer, One World, Ch. 1

  1. Are we at a point in history where our political and moral values will need to adjust to a different horizon than the nation state?
  2. How would competing moral theories assess our obligations to those in absolute poverty or engaged in slave or forced labor?

APR 10

  1. What are the primary arguments of social justice in the climate change issue?
  2. What considerations go into a "fair distribution" of burdens on climate change?
  3. What are some approaches to addressing climate change and how do they vary in relation to diverse views of justice?

APR 15

APR 17

Haidt, Ch. 9

  1. How does an account of our "groupishness" provide a more complete picture of our moral life?
  2. What is the evidence for group selection of cooperation and other traits related to moral life?

APR 22

Haidt, Ch. 10

  1. What is Haidt's hyposthesis about the "hive switch" and how does he support it?
  2. Should we be trying to cultivate experiences of the hive switch in our lives? How?

APR 24

APR 29