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Unformatted text preview: Phil 2010 Fall 2010 Rand Final Exam Study Questions The exam will consist of two of the following questions. Read them carefully and think about your responses to all four prior to the exam date. Re-read the texts assigned, and write outlines of those texts. Then write out practice answers to these questions. The exam will be open-book and open-note, but you will be required to write your answers out by hand into blue books. Be sure to remember to bring your own blue books to the exam. I will have only a very limited number of extra blue books. If you fail to bring them and I do not have enough extras, you will not be able to take the exam. 1. In the Crito, Socrates argues that he would be acting wrongly if he were to accept Crito's offer to break him out of jail. More generally, Socrates says, "[y]ou must either persuade [your country] or obey its orders, and endure in silence whatever it instructs you to endure, whether blows or bonds" (p. 627, right column). Martin Luther King, in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," explains the justification for his non-violent direct action protests -- protests explicitly designed to break the law -- in the following way: "[T]here are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws" (near bottom of p. 3 in PDF version). At first glance, it looks like Socrates and King do not agree on the question of whether it is ever right to break a law. Yet King refers to Socrates as a kindred spirit twice in the course of his "Letter." What is Socrates' argument in support of the claim given above? What is King's point about just and unjust laws? Is Socrates' position compatible with King's position on non-violent civil disobedience? If these two positions are compatible, why can't Socrates use King's arguments to justify escaping from jail? If they are not compatible, is one of them right and the other wrong? That is, if they are not compatible, should Socrates have escaped, or should King have not protested as he did? Or are they both wrong? Are there cases that neither King nor Socrates considers, in which breaking the law is right? In answering this question, make sure to not only state the conclusions reached by Socrates and King, but also to state and consider their arguments for those conclusions. What I am interested in hearing about are the relative merits of Socrates' arguments and King's arguments. 2. In the excerpt entitled "Master and Slave Morality," Nietzsche argues that "life itself is essentially a process of appropriating, injuring, overpowering the alien and the weaker, oppressing, being harsh, imposing your own form, incorporating, and at least, the very least, exploiting" and that any living body "will have to be the embodiment of will to power, it will want to grow, spread, grab, win dominance,-- not out of any morality or immorality, but because it is alive, and because life is precisely will to power" (259, p. 535 left column). He makes this claim in the course of arguing that the establishment of any set of values is itself part of such an activity of life. His point seems to be that setting up value systems is just another way that living things actualize the (or their) will to power. In Lindemann's "What is Feminist Ethics?" she argues that feminism "isn't... about equality, and it isn't about women, and it isn't about difference. It's about power. Specifically, it's about the social pattern, widespread across cultures and history, that distributes power asymmetrically to favor men over women" (p. 618, right column). She argues that the gender distinction between men and women isn't a natural fact, but rather a "norm," a "prescription for how people are supposed to act," and more importantly "a power relation" (p. 618, right column). That is, gender is the basic conceptual distinction operating in the social pattern that feminist ethics is designed to criticize and reform. Are Lindemann and Nietzsche talking about the same thing when they talk about "power"? If they are, does this mean that Nietzsche is a feminist? If they are not, what is the difference between their conceptions of power? Does feminism, according to Lindemann, agree with Nietzsche about moral values and their relation to some supposed vital or biological will to power? Or does feminism rely on a conception of good and evil that disagrees with Nietzsche's idea about values as means to power? 3. In "Famine, Affluence, and Morality," Peter Singer makes the argument that almost everyone in a rich country such as ours is acting immorally almost all the time, insofar as we are making basically no efforts to alleviate famine, desperate poverty, disease, and other basic forms of human suffering around the world. What are the basic assumptions on which he establishes his argument? What are the objections to those points that he considers? What responses does he offer to those objections? Are they good responses? If they are not, say why they are not. If they are good responses, can you think of any other real problems for his position? If you cannot think of any real problems for Singer's position, do you plan to give away 25% of your money every year to famine relief or a similar cause? If not, why not? 4. In "Judging Other Cultures: The Case of Genital Mutilation," Martha Nussbaum argues that we are right to criticize practices of female genital mutilation in other cultures. She considers a number of possible objections to such criticism, and responds to those objections in detail. First, outline briefly the objections to such criticism Nussbaum lists and give a brief summary of her responses to each of them. Then say which one of the objections you think is the strongest (even if you think her response to it is also strong). Next, say which of her responses you think is the weakest, and why it is the weakest (even if you think she's right in the end). Finally, say something about how far we should go in our criticism of these kinds of practices. What should we do to stop them? Should we sponsor public relations campaigns against them? Should we give money for law enforcement against genital mutilation? Should we invade countries in which genital mutilation is practiced on a large scale? When you say where you think the line is between appropriate and inappropriate intervention here, say why you think that's the right place to draw that line. Then compare female genital mutilation to two other practices (you choose which ones), one of which you think is not as bad, one of which you think is much worse. Where should we draw the line for intervention in these other cases? ...
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This note was uploaded on 01/19/2011 for the course PHIL 84601 taught by Professor Sebastianrand during the Fall '10 term at Georgia State University, Atlanta.
- Fall '10