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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 peoples activities,
and so protect us from harm.
a. How does Glaucon defend this conception of justice? What assumptions does he
make about human nature?
b. 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).
c. Feinberg critiques argument (b) in part by introducing the paradox of hedonism.
Describe the paradox, and explain why it puts pressure on argument (b).
d. How does Feinberg critique argument (a)?

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?

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 Nozicks
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.

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?
b. Kants 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.

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 Kants, and explain Foots response.

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?
Practice Questions for the Midterm

7. Wolf argues that meaning in life has a subjective component.


a. Describe that component.
b. Wolf denies that the subjective component on its own suffices to give a life meaning.
She does so in part by surveying a number of examples. Provide three of those
examples, including Sisyphus Fulfilled.
c. Wolf argues that experiences of fulfillment have a cognitive component. That is,
these experiences involve implicit judgments that the world is a particular way, and
this distinguishes these experiences from mere pleasures. What implicit judgments
does Wolf argue these experiences involve? How does this conception of fulfillment
affect Wolfs reading of Sisyphus fulfilled?

8. Wolf argues that meaning in life has an objective component.


a. Describe that component.
b. Wolf acknowledges that many will feel reluctant to accept any talk of objective
value. She argues that this reluctance stems from two main sources: in our moral
opposition to elitism and parochialism, and in metaphysical concerns. Describe anti-
elitism as a moral concern.
c. Wolf endorses anti-elitism as a moral concern, but denies that it should discourage us
from incorporating an objective component into our conception of meaning in life.
How?

9. Wolf argues that recognizing meaning in life as something valuable complicates the ways in
which we think both about our own self-interest, and about the place of morality in our
lives.
a. How does it complicate the way we think about self-interest? Connect Wolfs
conclusions with Foots discussion of the relationship between self-interest and
virtue.
b. How does it affect our attitudes toward those who act in ways that may not act in
ways that are morally best? Connect Wolfs conclusions with Foots discussion of the
various challenges that might tempt us away from virtue (see also question 5).