Study Guide for Exam 2

Here are some topics to study for the second exam in Introduction to Philosophy, Fall 2017. Students are responsible for knowing everything covered in lectures and readings, but the items on the following list will make up the bulk of the exam.

Material will be added to the list as it is discussed in class.

  1. Philosophical behaviorism
  2. The identity theory
  3. The multiple realizability thesis
  4. Functionalism
  5. Objections to functionalism (missing qualia and inverted spectrum)
  6. Computationalism
  7. Turing test
  8. The Chinese Room argument
  9. Problems for materialism
  10. Locke’s theory of personal identity
  11. Objections to Locke from Reid and Butler
  12. Problem with duplication and brain transplants
  13. Epicurean hedonism
  14. Act utilitarianism
  15. The utilitarian calculus
  16. Strengths of act utilitarianism
  17. Weaknesses of act utilitarianism
  18. Preference utilitarianism
  19. Ways of measuring preferences
  20. Rule utilitarianism
  21. General objections to utilitarianism
  22. Hume on morality
  23. Hypothetical vs. categorical imperatives
  24. Two formulations of the categorical imperative
  25. Perfect and imperfect duties
  26. Objections to deontology
  27. Aristotle’s analysis of the soul
  28. The ultimate good
  29. Four options for happiness
  30. The function argument
  31. Aristotle’s analysis of virtue
  32. Four types of moral personality
  33. Key concepts in virtue theory
    1. Imprecision
    2. Importance of experience
    3. Freedom
    4. Friendship
    5. Practical wisdom
    6. Virtue
    7. Eudaimonia
    8. Teleology
  34. Objections to virtue theory
  35. Nietzsche
    1. Meaning of “God is dead”
    2. Master and slave morality
    3. Ressentiment
    4. Will to Power
    5. Overman
  36. Argument for cultural relativism
  37. Consequences of relativism
  38. Punishment
    1. Utilitarian justifications
    2. Deontological justifications
    3. Virtue justifications
  39. Euthanasia
    1. Doctrine of Double Effect
    2. Involuntary, non-voluntary, voluntary
    3. Active and passive
  40. Abortion
    1. General attitudes of utilitarians, deontologists, and virtue ethicests

Voices of the Marginalized

I began teaching the thought of the 12th century philosopher Abelard in medieval philosophy today, and had to tell the story of his relationship with Heloise. Her letters reveal a deep intelligence, a quick wit, and brilliant insight.

How many other brilliant voices have been marginalized over the years?

What wisdom have we missed by silencing them?

Nietzsche on Military Buildup

And perhaps the great day will come when a people, distinguished by wars and victories and by the highest development of a military order and intelligence, and accustomed to make the heaviest sacrifices for these things, will exclaim of its own free will, “We break the sword,” and will smash its entire military establishment down to its lowest foundations. Rendering oneself unarmed when one has been the best-armed, out of a height of feeling—that is the means to real peace, which must always rest on a peace of mind; whereas the so-called armed peace, as it now exists in all countries, is the absence of peace of mind. One trusts neither oneself nor one’s neighbor and, half from hatred, half from fear, does not lay down arms. Rather perish than hate and fear, and twice rather perish than make oneself hated and feared—this must some day become the highest maxim for every single commonwealth, too.

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow, 284.

Ancient Philosophy Study Guide

  1. What is the reason for separating Plato’s dialogues into Socratic (early) and Platonic (middle) dialogues?
  2. Why is Socrates’ method primarily negative? Is there anything that Socrates does (at least implicitly) claim to know?
  3. Explain why the Meno is considered a transitional dialogue.
  4. Explain Meno’s Paradox. How does Plato respond?
  5. Although Socrates claims ignorance, he seems to hold some surprising philosophical positions. Explain.
  6. Why did Socrates not plead for his life?
  7. What are the characteristics of the Forms, according to Plato. Why does Plato think that the Forms are the keys to providing Socratic definitions?
  8. Compare and contrast the stories of the Sun, Line, and Cave in the Republic.
  9. Explain the problem of reconciling Plato’s Cave with the overall project in the Republic.
  10. Explain the various accounts of knowledge in the Theaetetus and the objections to those accounts.

Evil and Perception

Etgar Keret’s new book, The Seven Good Years is a collection of essays concerning the interval between the birth of his son and the death of his father. I was particularly intrigued by this statement from the story on NPR:

I’m pretty good at feeling sorry for myself, [but] … the fact that he survived the Holocaust always kind of seemed to him that something good had happened to him in life. And life since the Holocaust always seemed to surprise him for the better, and there was no bitterness in him. He said, “You know what? I’ve been smoking two packs a day since I was 14 years old for more than 65 years and if after that you get a cancer, it’s a fair deal,” he says. “It’s fair. I’ve got nothing to complain [about] and I’ve lived a full life, I want to live as much as I can, but when I die when I die, I won’t go out kicking and screaming.”

Could it be that the force of the problem of evil is a matter of one’s attitude? What is the difference between people who focus on their suffering and those who focus on their overcoming that suffering?

Stories and Community

Thanks to AJ Lopez for sharing this quote with me.

Instead of telling our vulnerable stories, we seek safety in abstractions, speaking to each other about our opinions, ideas and beliefs rather than about our lives. Academic culture blesses this practice by insisting that the more abstract our speech, the more likely we are to touch the universal truths that unite us. But what happens is exactly the reverse: as our discourse becomes more abstract, the less connected we feel. There is less sense community among intellectuals than in the most “primitive” society of storytellers.

Parker Palmer

Dostoevsky, Suffering, and the Prayer for the Week

This past weekend was a weekend of funerals — two very different people, both with lives that had been cut tragically short. Then, on Tuesday, I learned of two more tragedies involving families in the Army units that I serve. Coincidentally, all of this happens as one of my classes is studying one of the central works on the problem of suffering, the chapter titled in “Rebellion” in Dostoevsky’s masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov.1 In the novel, Ivan argued that moral decency and the love of humanity demand that we should refuse to live in what he thought to be a clearly unjust world. The only decent thing to do would be to, in his words, “return one’s ticket.”

Ivan makes two related mistakes here. First, he believes that he can judge the world from an objective position. This, though, ignores the fact that we are embedded and entangled, part of the world that we presume to judge. The second mistake is assuming that the world that we now experience is morally static, that is, assuming that the suffering of the innocent has always, and will always, occur, and if God created this world, he created it to be an unjust world.

As I said, these mistakes are related. I am not an innocent, objective judge. The level of justice or injustice in the world is, in an important way, partly a function of my action or inaction. The world that we experience, then, is one of our own creation; not one that we have created ex nihilo, but rather through our perversion of God’s good creation. God, though, can redeem even that which we have corrupted. So, instead of maintaining, like Ivan, that we cannot accept this world of God’s, we should instead strive, by God’s grace, to make his world into that which he always planned for it to be, and promised that it would in fact someday be. We do this, not by loving humanity, but by loving our neighbors, wherever and whoever they may be.


Grant us the faith to be
your redeemed people,
who announce to the world
by word and deed
the miracle of your
reconciling love.


  1. My favorite novel, in case there is still anyone who knows me that doesn’t realize it. [return]

The Duty of A Philosopher

Out of love for mankind, and out of despair at my embarrassing situation, seeing that I had accomplished nothing and was unable to make anything easier than it had already been made, and moved by a genuine interest in those who are dedicated to making everything easy, I conceived it as my task [the task of the philosopher] to create difficulties everywhere.

Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript