Bioethics (Fall 2010) - Midterm Exam

Bioethics - Midterm Exam (Fall 2010)

Before you begin writing, read this entire document.

Answer four (4) questions. All key terms, theories, and named objections must be explained.

I. Answer one question from 1-2. (Moral Relativism)

1. Explain the Problem of Universal Moral Equivalence (UME) for cultural relativism.

(This question does not ask for evaluation. Explain cultural relativism. Then show how it implies Universal Moral Equivalence. You might want to use Female Genital Mutilation to show that UME is absurd.)

2. Explain the Problem of the Impossibility of Disagreement for subjectivism.

(This question does not ask for evaluation. Explain subjectivism. Then present the objection that it makes disagreement impossible. Show why. Make the objection as clear as you can.)

II. Answer one question from 3-4. (Moral Nihilism)

3. Evaluate the Argument from Disagreement for moral nihilism.

(This question requires evaluation. Clearly present the argument. Make it convincing. Then evaluate it. Is it good? Why or why not.)

4. Explain the Argument from Queerness for moral nihilism.

(This question does not ask for evaluation. Do not copy the formalization. You might build your answer around an explanation of how a bull's desire to charge upon seeing red is different from the way motivation is built into moral judgments. Explain why this is queer.)

III. Answer one question from 6-7. (Moral Realism)

6. Explain Bambrough's argument for moral realism.

(This question does not ask for evaluation.)

7. Evaluate the claim that moral objectivism requires moral absolutism.

(This question requires evaluation. Explain and assess the claim. Say how the claim might be a problem for moral objectivism if it were true. Then explain why it is or isn't true.)

IV. Answer question 8. (Jenner)

8. Would an IRB operating on the principles developed in the Belmont Report have allowed Jenner to conduct his experiments? Why or why not?

Note: In order to evaluate a theory, you must first explain the theory. When explaining a counterexample to a definition, you need to specify whether the example shows that a proposed condition is not necessary, not sufficient, or neither. If you are evaluating an argument, you need to build up the argument and then show where it might go wrong. To build up an argument, you must do more than merely offer a formalization. You must explain the argument. Typically, showing where an argument goes wrong will require arguing that one of the premises is false. When providing your own evaluations, be sure to consider obvious, compelling replies to your objections. If you think an argument is good, then you will need to defend it against the strongest objections that you can think of.

Note: Keep quotations to an absolute minimum. Never use a quotation to speak for you. I can't think of a good reason why you would need to use a single quote in the entire exam.

Due Date

Tuesday 10/19/2010


The complete midterm should be no more than 1,800 words. This is approximately 6 pages double-spaced in Arial 12 point font.


The midterm must be typed. It should be double spaced. It should have one inch margins. You should use a 12 point font. I prefer Arial, since it is easy to read. Please follow the general paper and exam instructions under the "course documents / writing" section on Blackboard.

Write a separate essay for each answer. Do not try to answer all the questions in a single essay. Formal introductions and conclusions are unnecessary, though you must use paragraphs.

Please skip a line or two between your answers. You do not need to start a new page. Include the number of the question at the start of each answer. Do not copy the questions.

If you have citations, include a reference list on the final page. You can use whatever citation format you prefer.


You don't have much space, so you will need to be clear and to the point. Clarity should be your chief goal in writing the midterm. Pick your words carefully. Write to be understood. Assume that you are writing the paper to be read by someone completely unfamiliar with the issues.

I want you to explain the theories and objections as clearly as you can within the space allotted. I do not want papers that are longer than the word limit. The space limitation is designed to force you to practice verbal economy. That said, it is impossible to write a set of adequate answers in much less than the allocated space. You'll have to use most of the space, and use it well.


You are required to hand in a paper copy at the start of class on the due date. In addition you must submit the midterm through Safe Assign via Blackboard by 11:59 pm on the due date. Safe Assign is a plagiarism detection tool. It will compare your paper against others available online, in journals, submitted in this class, RIC, and from all other universities that use the software.

Note: Plagiarism will result in a failing grade in the class, not just on this assignment.


Your paper should be clearly written, well-structured, and free of grammatical and spelling errors. It is practically impossible to get higher than a C if you start writing the night before the paper is due. The grading scale is as follows:

A = excellent

B = good

C = meets minimal expectations

D = bad

F = awful


Before writing this paper you must read several documents under the writing section of Blackboard. Read the following: 1. Writing Tip Sheet, 2. General Instructions, 3. Kagan's "How to Write a Philosophy Paper", 3. Pryor's "Guidelines for Writing Philosophy Papers", and 4. Pryor's "Glossary of Philosophical Terms."