Patrick Frierson’s Environmental Ethics Exam Study Sheet

The exam with consist in three sections: quotation identification and analysis, short answer, and essay.   I will include the timeline portion of the syllabus on the exam, so you will know the names and titles of all of the articles that we read.  You will have 4 hours to take the closed-book, closed-note exam.

For the Short Answer portion of the exam, you will be given FOUR short answer questions, of which you must answer TWO.  The answers should be approximately 1-2 pages.  The Short Answer Questions will look like the following, and at least three of these exact questions will be among the four you will choose from on the exam[1]:

1.           What is ethical egoism?  Give at least one argument (from the Rachels reading) in favor of it.  (If you give one argument perfectly, that’s better than two decently, but more arguments can make up for not fully getting any one.)

2.           What is ethical egoism?  Give at least one argument (from the Rachels reading) against it.  (If you give one argument perfectly, that’s better than two decently, but more arguments can make up for not fully getting any one.)

3.           What is ethical relativism? Give at least one argument (from the Benedict and/or Shafer-Landau reading) in favor of it.  (If you give one argument perfectly, that’s better than two decently, but more arguments can make up for not fully getting any one.)  Give at least one argument (from the reading or your own) against it.

4.           What is ethical relativism? Give at least one argument (from the Shafer-Landau reading) against it.  (If you give one argument perfectly, that’s better than two decently, but more arguments can make up for not fully getting any one.)  Give at least one argument (from the reading or your own) in favor of it.

5.           What moral principle does Singer defend in “Famine, Affluence and Morality”?  How does he defend it?

6.           In “Famine, Affluence and Morality,” Peter Singer defends the claim that we ought to give money for famine relief rather than to spend money for discretionary things, such as new clothes that are purchased merely for reasons of fashion.  Briefly lay out at least two objections that Singer considers against this view, and give Singer’s response.  (If you give objections from other readings and plausible Singerian responses, you will get partial credit.)

7.           What is Colin McGinn’s central objection to Singer’s “Famine” argument?  How does Singer respond to that objection?

8.           What moral principle does McGinn defend in his response to Singer?  What implications would this principle have for our responsibilities to the (distant) poor?

9.           How is “care ethics” (as described by Lisa Cassidy and Nell Noddings) different from utilitarianism?  What implications does Lisa Cassidy think that it has for global poverty?

10.        What is Lisa Cassidy’s care-based critique of Singer?

11.        What is Lisa Cassidy’s attitude towards Nell Nodding’s claim that “we are not obliged to care for starving children in Africa”?

12.        What is environmental justice (according to Figueroa and Mills)?  In your response, you should give at least one example of environmental injustice, explain what environmental justice is in general, and explain why it is important.

13.        What is “environmental privilege”?  Give at least one example from your readings.  (Likely, you’ll want to use Aspen as an example.)

14.        What is a “green missionary” (Guha)?

15.        What is Guha’s attitude towards contemporary conservation biologists?  Why does he have this attitude?

16.        In "Nuclear Energy and Obligations to the Future," Richard and Val Routley consider several arguments showing that we do not have to refrain from using nuclear power.  Briefly list at least three of these arguments.

17.        In "Nuclear Energy and Obligations to the Future," Richard and Val Routley consider several arguments showing that we do not have to refrain from using nuclear power.  Lay out one of these arguments, along with the Routleys’ response.

18.        What is a “discount rate”?  What’s the difference between discounting utility and discounting consumption?

19.        What is a “discount rate”?  O’Neill considers four justifications for discounting.  Give at least one of these justifications and explain why O’Neill rejects it.  (You can get full credit for covering one justification extremely well or 2-3 justifications well.)

20.        In "Energy Policy and the Further Future: The Identity Problem," Derek Parfit raises an important objection to most ways of taking into account future generations in ethical decision-making.  What is the “identity problem”?  Why is it a problem for the moral consideration of future people? 

21.        In "Energy Policy and the Further Future: The Identity Problem," Derek Parfit raises an important objection to most ways of taking into account future generations in ethical decision-making.  What is the “identity problem”?  Is it a more serious problem for consequentialist views (like utilitarianism) or rights-based views?  Why?

22.        Derek Parfit argued that utilitarianism gives rise to a “repugnant conclusion.”  What is the conclusion and why is it repugnant?

23.        Derek Parfit argued that utilitarianism gives rise to a “repugnant conclusion.”  What is the conclusion and why does utilitarianism imply it?

24.        Derek Parfit argued that utilitarianism gives rise to a “repugnant conclusion.”  Several philosophers have argued ways of responding to Parfit.  After briefly laying out how the conclusion is generated, offer at least one detailed response to it (from the reading).

25.        In an essay of the same name, Peter Singer argues that “All Animals Are Equal.”  What does he mean by this claim?  For example, does he mean that we should treat all animals in the same way?  If not, why not? 

26.        In an essay of the same name, Peter Singer argues that “All Animals Are Equal.”  Lay out, as clearly and completely as possible, Singer’s main line of argument for this claim.

27.        In “The Radical Egalitarian Case for Animal Rights,” Tom Regan objects to Singer’s approach to animal equality.  In what way does Regan’s view differ from Singer’s?  How does Regan defend this difference?

28.        In “The Radical Egalitarian Case for Animal Rights,” Tom Regan objects to those who limit rights to human beings.  What is his argument for extending rights to animals?

29.        In "Difficulties with the Strong Animal Rights Position," Mary Anne Warren raises several difficulties for strong animal rights views.  Lay out at least two substantially distinct problems for strong animal rights views.

30.        How does Schmidtz respond to the case of choosing between a chimpanzee and a (severely) brain-damaged infant (pp. 61-2)?

31.        How does Schmidtz respond to the charge that speciesism is like racism?

32.        (Option…If this is included, it will be as a 5th question.)  For Cora Diamond, what, if anything, is wrong with eating people?  What, if anything, is wrong with eating meat?

33.        Holmes Rolston III defends a biocentric concern for all life.  Lay out, as clearly as you can, his primary argument for this position.

34.        In the context of defending a biocentric concern for all life, Holmes Rolston III distinguishes between objective life and subjective life.  What is this distinction and what role does it play in his argument?

35.        In his defense of biocentrism, Holmes Rolston III raises several particular examples of cases where human interests conflict with the interests of other living things.  For example, he discusses the case of “_____.”  [Here I will feel free to insert any of the cases Rolston discusses on pp. 121-123.  Using the criteria laid out by Taylor (in “Competing Claims and Priority Principles”), what should one do?  Why?

36.        Briefly describe at least three key differences between the biocentrisms of Holmes Rolston III and Albert Schweitzer.

37.        What is the fundamental moral principle Leopold defends in his “Land Ethic”?  How does this principle differ from Rolston’s biocentrism?

38.        ** There may be one question on Janna Thompson’s “Refutation of Environmental Ethics,” but I haven’t yet developed that question. **

39.        Why does Callicott think that animal liberation is “a triangular affair”?  What are the three points of the triangle?  Why must animal liberation distinguish itself from both?

40.        What is the most serious conflict between animal rights and environmental ethics of the type Callicott defends?

41.        For Cahen, can ecosystems be directly morally considerable?  Why or why not?

42.        For Eric Katz, is there a place for animals in the moral consideration of nature?  Why or why not?

43.        For Gary Varner, can animal rights activists be environmentalists?  Why or why not?

44.        Why does Lilly-Marlene Russow think that species matter? 

45.        Lilly-Marlene Russow articulates several defenses of the value of species.  One of these is that “each species occupies a unique niche in a rich and complex, but delicately balanced, ecosystem.”  What does she think is wrong with this defense?

46.        Lilly-Marlene Russow articulates several defenses of the value of species.  Briefly lay out two of these defenses.

47.        Elliot Sober articulates several defenses of the value of species.  One of these is “the ignorance argument.”  What is that argument, and what is Sober’s response to it?

48.        Elliot Sober articulates several defenses of the value of species.  Briefly lay out two of these defenses.

49.        Stephen Jay Gould articulates and criticizes “two linked arguments” that “are often promoted as a basis for an environmental ethic.”  What are these linked arguments?

50.        Stephen Jay Gould articulates and criticizes “two linked arguments” that “are often promoted as a basis for an environmental ethic,” one of which is “that we live on a fragile planet now subject to permanent derailment and disruption by human intervention.”  What does Gould think is wrong with this argument?  What does he think the practical implications of its falsehood should be for our decision-making?

51.        Stephen Jay Gould articulates and criticizes “two linked arguments” that “are often promoted as a basis for an environmental ethic,” one of which is “that humans must learn to act as stewards for a threatened world.”  What does Gould think is wrong with this argument?  What does he think the practical implications of its falsehood should be for our decision-making?  Why?

52.        Why does Katie McShane think that “intrinsic value” matters for environmental ethics?

53.        Why does Andrew Light think that we should move past philosophical discussions of “intrinsic value”?

 

 

 

The Essay Question portion of the exam will include THREE essay questions, of which you must answer ONE.  Your answer should be 2-4 pages in length.  The essay questions will look like the ones below, and at least one of these questions will be among the three from which you may choose on the exam[2]:

1.           Within contemporary ethics, there is a distinction between consequentialist approaches (such as utilitarianism) and rights-based approaches.  As we have seen, this distinction cuts across debates about the status of future generations, animals, life, etc.  Write an essay in which you either defend one of these two ethical approaches (consequentialism or rights) or argue that both ethical approaches are fundamentally flawed.  Your argument should defend the approaches in their own terms (in terms of consonance with intuitions, internal consistency and coherence, etc), but you should also defend them in terms of the implications that they have for animal/environmental ethics.

2.           What is the best defense of the value of ecosystems?  In particular, is their value intrinsic or instrumental?  If intrinsic, why?  If instrumental, to whom?  (And why should we care about the good of whomever they have instrumental value for?)  In laying out your response, consider and respond to the best arguments against your position.

3.           What is the best defense of the value of non-sentient living things?  In particular, is their value intrinsic or instrumental?  If intrinsic, why?  If instrumental, to whom?  In laying out your response, consider and respond to the best arguments against your position.

4.           For whom or what would you be willing to make very significant sacrifices in your lifestyle?  First, and briefly, lay out the most severe sacrifices you can envision making, and then explain whether you would be willing to make those sacrifices for the sake of humans in poverty, animals, non-sentient living things, ecosystems, or endangered species.  Also specify whether you would limit the beneficiaries to those in the present or those in the future, and any other criteria that would be relevant to your decision of whether to take on those very significant sacrifices.

5.           Even with significant reductions in the use of energy, the world still needs a massive amount of energy.  The building of dams often serves to reduce dependence upon forms of energy production that contribute to global warming.  But building dams also harms animals and other living things and endangers certain species, local ecosystems, and the cultures of indigenous groups.  Assuming that you must choose between building dams with those negative effects and continuing to operate coal power plants which will contribute to the degradation of the global ecosystem, should we build more dams?  In your answer, consider the relative importance of present and future generations, and the degree and type of importance of each of the different parties affected by the building of the dam.

6.           Defend anthropocentrism.  In your argument, consider objections from those that see non-human individuals as having intrinsic value and also from those that see natural wholes (ecosystems, species, or both) as having intrinsic value.  You may articulate whatever form of anthropocentrism you choose, but it must be genuinely anthropocentrist.

7.           Assume the following scenario (based on fact, but not strictly factual):  Global warming is making it easier for black and grizzly bears to survive in habitats formerly inhabited solely by polar bears.  Competition with polar bears, as well as interbreeding, are drastically diminishing the numbers of “pure” polar bears, and such polar bears are likely to go extinct without human intervention.  Given differences in feeding and habitation patterns, it would be relatively easy to trap the non-polar bears.  Many would likely die due to the traps, but others could be relocated.  This would be an expensive project. Carefully regulated hunting focused exclusively on black and grizzly bears could also help shift the balance back in favor of the polar bears.  The extent and type of such hunting would be deeply insulting to certain indigenous peoples near the relevant ranges, but it would also bring in needed economic vitality to struggling rural communities.   What, if anything, should be done about the looming extinction of polar bears?  Does it matter whether global warming is caused by human activity?  Would it matter if the relevant species were variations of a kind of tree rather than variations of bears?



[1] I reserve the right to modify these questions in response to your suggestions before putting them on the exam, but I will notify you of any such changes.

[2] I reserve the right to modify these questions in response to your suggestions before putting them on the exam.