2013--2 - philosophy

PhD Qualifying Exam
Department of Philosophy
Answer three of the following questions, selecting at least one question from each
section. You have two hours to complete the exam so you should aim to spend
about 40 minutes on each answer.
Part I: History of Ethics
(1) How does Aristotle characterize eudaimonia in his Nicomachean Ethics? How
does this characterization relate to his function argument? What role does
eudaimonia play in Aristotle’s ethical theory? Be sure to discuss the relation
between eudaimonia and his account of the virtues.
(2) What, according to Kant, is the Good Will? How is it related to his concept of
morally worthy motivation? Critically evaluate Kant’s conception of moral
(3) Critically evaluate Kant’s first and second formulations of the Categorical
Imperative. Why, according to Kant, are they two versions of the same basic
idea (rather than two different principles)?
(4) Compare and contrast Kant and Aristotle on the roles of emotions in ethics.
Which position to find more plausible? Explain your answer.
(5) Explain Mill’s argument that it is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig
satisfied. Critically evaluate Mill’s claim within the context of his overall
(6) Mill argues that there should be a supreme principle of morality. What does
Mill mean by Utility and what is his argument for the supremacy of Utility in
morality? Critically assess this argument.
(7) There has been a considerable movement toward counting the moral theory
of the Analects a species of virtue ethics. Scholars proposing this alignment,
moreover, frequently discuss Confucius as close intellectual kin to Aristotle
and seek in the Analects a virtue ethic of the sort Aristotle proposes. Discuss
two significant objections to this view. Your responses may target either the
general identification of Confucius as a virtue ethicist or the more particular
association of him with Aristotle.
Part II: Contemporary Ethics
(1) What role does the Original Position play in Rawls’ derivation of his
contractarian theory of justice? Can appeal to the hypothetical veil of
ignorance help establish actual principles of justice?
(2) What is meant by moral luck? Critically discuss the challenges that moral
luck poses to moral judgment and practice.
(3) What is care ethics? What general objection does it raise against traditional
ethical theories? Critically evaluate that objection. Your discussion should
make specific reference to the views of at least two of the following: Annette
Baier, Virginia Held, Alison Jagger, Nel Noddings and Sara Ruddick.
(4) Explain the difference between act-utilitarianism and rule-utilitarianism.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of each view? Is one of these views
superior to the other? If so, which one? Defend your view.
(5) Explain and evaluate Bernard Williams’ objection that utilitarianism leads to
a violation of integrity.
(6) What relationship obtains between cultural relativism (the seemingly
commonsensical and merely descriptive observation that cultures do not
operate under a shared set of moral norms) and ethical relativism (the view
that there can be no objective, acultural standard of morality)? Does the first
inevitably produce the second?