Summer2 2013 Ethics Course Study Questions

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Return to Ethics -- Benin

Unit 1

1. Describe Ariely's "matrix test" on cheating and discuss it's implications, in your view.

2. How did Jonathan Haidt challenge the consensus in moral psychology established by Piaget and Kohlberg?

3. What is the point of Haidt's "harmless taboo violations" research?

4. What is ethics for, according to Haidt? Why does he think this (bring later content to bear on this question as well)?

5. Reconstruct and evaluate Singer's analysis of relativism and subjectivism.

6. What does it mean to say that ethical reasoning must involve universalizability?

7. How do utilitarians think about "interests"?

Unit 2

1. Describe and evaluate historical (western) thought on the relationship between reason and emotion in Plato, Hume and Jefferson?

2. How does research in evolutionary pschology (Haidt's and others) change the "moralism" of earlier 19th and 20th century "nativism"?

3. Explain the "rider and elephant" metaphor in Haidt's work.

4. What is Haidt's "social intuitionist" model of cognition? How does it work? Evaluate and/or raise questions about it.


5. What evidence do we have that "intuitions come first"?

6. What are some critical limits and practical consequences of the claim that "intuitions come first"?

7. How does research on accountability, self-esteem, and confirmation bias support the claim that we engage in strategic reasoning to support our views and biases?

8. Why does Haidt think that good reasoning requires social relationships? Is he right?


Unit 3

1. What is WEIRD morality, accoding to Haidt?

2. What is Shweder's moral anthropology and how does Haidt think it helps explain harmless taboo violations?

3. How does Haidt think the Enlightenment went wrong in itself emphasis on reason or "systematizers" over nature?

4. How does the evolutionary psychology of moral values work according to Haidt? What are triggers? Identify and discuss some of the original and current triggers for some of the sources he discusses.


Unit 4

1. Why doesn't Haidt find "homo economicus" a persuasive model for values?

2. How do the five "moral foundations" of politics lead to diverse liberal and conservative political views?


3. Give a moral analysis of Truman's decision to drop the bomb, taking into account Anscombe's objections.

4. How does Kant distinguish categorical from hypothetical imperatives?

5. What is the Kantian analysis of what's wrong with lying and Anscombe's criticism?

6. In the Case of the Inquiring Murderer, how would Kant defend truth telling? Give two standard criticisms to Kant's view, along with your own analysis.

June 15

1. Compare and contrast utilitarian and traditional moral analyses of euthanasia, marijuana use, and animal rights.

2. What is Rawls basic theory of justice?

3. How would a Rawlsian look at common problems of distributive justice?

4. Reconstruct and evaluate Singer's criticisms of equality of opportunity as a social/political goal?

5. How is affirmative action in higher ed admissions justified? What is the current Supreme Court position on admissions policies designed to promote diversity?

Unit 5

1. What is the "hive switch," how is it activated and how is it related to fascism, according to Wilson?

2. What is Oxytocin and what effect does it have on people?


Unit 6

1. Reconstruct and evaluate Singer's argument that not aiding those in absolute poverty is the moral equivalent of killing them.

2. What is the obligation to alleviate absolute poverty according to Singer? What does it require of us in your opinion?

3. Is religion like sports? Evaluate.

4. How do new atheists, such as Dawkins and Dennett, and anthropologists, such as Haidt, Atran and Henrich, look at religion differently?

5. How does religion help us with morality, according to Haidt? Why isn't it a straightforward benefit?

6. Evaluate the follow two possibilities in terms of which is more likely and more preferable: a) religion can unite all human beings in a common community (syncretism); b) cooperation across group must be based on some non-religious normative ethics such as utility, social contracts, or duty (secularism).



Units 7-8

1. How can we disagree more constructively?