Possible Essay Questions for the Final Exam
Great Questions of Philosophy, Spring 2009

Here are the essays which might appear on the final exam. Out of the following essays, you will have to write on two. The final exam will be held on Tuesday April 28 2:45 p.m. Please bring a blue book.

Each of these essays is designed to give you the opportunity to demonstrate to me how well you understand the class material. In order to do this, imagine that you are trying to explain the subject to your intelligent, but ignorant, roommate. That is, state things clearly enough, explaining any technical terminology, offering examples where they are needed for illustration, and expanding on any cryptic or compressed remarks, so that a person not already familiar with the material would understand what you mean. By doing this, you'll show me that you understand what you're talking about. However, don't go off into irrelevant areas or offer information that is not needed to answer the question; don't pad.

In each of the essays below, I give a number of points that I want you to touch upon. However, please do not simply answer them one-by-one, in a disconnected, "bullet-point," manner. Incorporate your discussion of each of the points within a continuous, coherent, flowing essay on the topic. The parts of the essay do not necessarily need to be treated in order in which I mention them.

To prepare for the exam, work through the answers to the following essay questions. A good way to do philosophy is to talk about it with other people, so studying with others in the class may be useful.

  1. Invasion of the Body-Snatchers. I'm a doctor in a hospital, with 5 patients in my care, each of whom are deathly ill, and each of whom needs a single organ to survive. In walks the Domino's pizza delivery guy. I know he's a match for all of my patients, and I think it's very likely that I can chloroform him and cut him up for parts, saving the lives of my five patients. (I also think that I can dispose of the remains of the body without getting caught.) What would Kant tell me to do, and why? What would Mill tell me to do, and why? (Be clear about which of the specific doctrines of each philosopher would lead him to answer as he does.) How would Kant criticize Mill, and how would Mill criticize Kant? Evaluate the cogency of one of these two criticisms.

  2. Utilitarianism. Explain what utilitarianism is. In deciding a course of action, what procedure should a utilitarian follow? How does Mill's utilitarianism differ from Bentham's? What reasons does Mill give for acting in accordance with utilitarianism? Then, explain how you think Kant would criticize Mill's reasons for acting as a utilitarian. Finally, evaluate the cogency of this criticism.

  3. Proof of utilitarianism. Mill advances proof of the principle of utilitarianism, that the general happiness is desirable. Explain the proof. Then explain how Epicurus and how Kant would criticize the proof. Then evaluate the cogency of these criticisms.

  4. Eating Factory-Farm-Raised Meat. Explain Alasdair Norcross's main argument for why it's morally wrong to eat meat that's from a factory farm. Then explain on what basis Kant would object to this argument, on what basis Epicurus would object to this argument, and how Norcross would reply to them. Then evaluate: which of them (if any) would you agree with, and why? Do you think it's morally acceptable to eat factory-farm-raised meat?

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