Philosophy

Your final examination consists of a series of short answer questions and essays.  Like all of your written assignments this semester, your answers should be typed in 12 point font and double spaced.  Be sure to answer the questions concisely and carefully.

Your exam is out of 120 possible points and is due on May 31st by 5 pm through the Safe Assign link in Blackboard Learn (under the content area entitled “Final Examination”).

This is an examination, and so is no different from an exam that would be given in class.  You are to work on these questions on your own, though you may consult your texts and class notes.  Please be careful not to include any material that is not your own without proper citation.  Any plagiarism, even accidental, will devastate your grade.

Though I know you will all perform admirably, nonetheless, good luck!

I. Short answers, to be answered in about a paragraph (worth 12 points each – 60 points total)

1. Socrates claims to be a gadfly, which is a pretty unflattering image.  Why does Socrates describe his role in Athens this way?  How might it make sense in light of Socrates’ claim that the unexamined life is not worth living?

2. Aristotle’s ethics makes virtue central.  First explain what the two types of virtue are and how they are acquired.  What, for Aristotle, does a virtuous soul look like?  How might this (i.e., the way in which virtues are acquired) open up the possibility of moral failing?

3. What is the primary principle of Mill’s moral philosophy?  How does Mill arrive at this principle?  How should happiness be defined?  (Hint: do not neglect a discussion of the role of pleasure and pain in Mill’s determination of morality.)

4. Kant explains an ultimate moral principle which he calls the categorical imperative.  Please explain what the categorical imperative is.  What does it mean that it is ‘categorical’ and why is it imperative?  Next, give one formulation of it.  Finally, can the act of lying be justified under this imperative?  Very briefly say why or why not.

5. Explain the three human emotions that Sartre thinks emerge from existentialism. What is ‘bad faith’?  What is the relationship between bad faith and the existential emotions (especially the first one)?  Finally, how does this connect to Sartre’s claim that existentialism offers an ‘optimistic toughness’?

II. Short essay questions, to be answered in about a page (worth 20 points each – 60 points total)

1. For Aristotle happiness (eudaimonia) is the chief good or final end.  For Kant, by contrast, the only unconditional good is a good will.  Thus, while for Aristotle happiness is central for understanding morality, for Kant the pursuit of happiness could not provide a moral motive.  First, describe the role of happiness in Aristotle’s and Kant’s theories.  Next, say why they disagree on happiness’ moral importance.  Finally, briefly state your position on this matter.

2. Can one ever be justified in resisting a given law if one determines that such a law is immoral?  Martin Luther King, Jr. answers this question in “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” but Plato seems to suggest that there might be good reason for obeying a law even when its application is unjust.  Briefly explain King’s argument in his “Letter.”  Why does King argue for so strong a distinction between legality and morality?  Next, what problem(s) might arise as a result of a successful justification of civil disobedience?  Are these the same problems which worried Socrates in Plato’s Crito?  Given the arguments forwarded by Socrates and King, which do you find more compelling and why?

3. To a certain extent, ethics depends upon the notion of freedom.  Why is this so?  What is lost if human freedom is discounted?  Kant and Sartre are two thinkers who offer us very different accounts of human freedom.  First, how does Kant think of autonomy and what does it entail?  If Kant’s conception of autonomy is correct, what does this mean for responsibility?  How does autonomy relate to Kant’s categorical imperative?  Next, how does Sartre view human freedom and from where does it arise?  Why is Sartre’s conception of freedom so central to an existentialist ethics?  What does Sartre mean when he says that human beings are condemned to be free?  If Sartre’s conception of free will is correct, what becomes of responsibility?  How does Sartre’s notion of freedom relate to the universalizability of choice?  With which of these two thinkers do you find yourself agreeing with regard to freedom?  Why?

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