Socratic Ethics (Plato)
1. What are the two main moral principles that Socrates upholds throughout his trial?
2. What is the Euthyphro Dilemma? Why is it important for ethics?
3. Explain the difference between “breaking a law” and “breaking the laws.”
4. Does Socrates place any value in good reputation? Explain how this is relevant to his decision in the Crito.
Defining Ethics. Object and Application. (Hume, Smith)
5. What does Hume mean when he says that “reason has no influence on our actions and passions”? How is this relevant to ethics?
6. What is Hume’s purpose in using the example of the adulterous neighbor? Explain.
7. Why, according to Smith, is it important to distinguish between reasons and motives?
8. What role does the ideal observer (cool, calm, and collected) play in Smith’s version of realism?
Moral Sentiment and Moral Knowledge (Bambrough)
9. What is Bambrough’s proof for the legitimacy of moral knowledge? Explain.
10. Identify at least one of the objections Bambrough sets out to refute. Do you think his counter-arguments are successful?
11. What similarities does Bambrough outline between scientific knowledge and moral knowledge?
Challenges to Ethics. Relativism and Skepticism. (Mackie, Midgley)
12. Why does Mackie believe that there are no objective values?
13. What is the argument from cultural relativity of moral values and how does Mackie go about supporting it?
14. What, according to Midgley, is wrong with the purported tolerance of relativists?
15. What is the example of trying one’s new sword used to illustrate?
16. How does Midgley go about her refutation of moral skepticism?
Ethical Categories. Pleasure, Happiness, Goodness, Justice. (Mill, Nozick)
17. What is Mill’s definition of pleasure? Why does pleasure matter for ethics?
18. What does Mill mean when he says that “it is better to be a human being dissatisfied, than a pig satisfied”?
19. What is the purpose of Nozick’s “experience machine” thought experiment?
20. What would be Nozick’s take on the popular maxim “ignorance is bliss”?
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