Bioethics (Fall 2011) - Final Exam

Bioethics - Final Exam (Fall 2011)

Before you begin writing, read this entire document.

Answer five (5) questions.

I. Answer one question from 1-2. (The Genetic Basis of Full Moral Standing)

1. Explain the Kentucky Fried ET Argument against the genetic basis of full moral standing. What implications does this have for the permissibility of early term abortion?

2. Explain the Steamroller at the Beach Argument against the genetic basis of full moral standing. What implications does this have for the permissibility of early term abortion?

II. Answer one question from 3-4. (Contraception and Abortion)

3. Evaluate Thomson's People Seed Argument.

(This question requires evaluation. Explain Thomson's position. Then explain the People Seed Argument. What is it designed to show? What kinds of pregnancies is this scenario analogous to? Is the analogy good? Why or why not?)

4. Evaluate Marquis's reply to the Problem of Contraception.

(This question requires evaluation. Explain Marquis's argument against the permissibility of abortion. Say why he thinks that abortion is wrong. Then explain the Problem of Contraception. Make it clear how it is a problem for his position. Explain his reply. Is it satisfactory? )

III. Answer one question from 5-6. (Mental Disorders)

5. Explain Horwitz and Wakefield's argument against the DSM-IV's criteria for Major Depressive Disorder.

(This question does not ask for evaluation. You need to explain the proposed distinction between normal sadness and clinical depression. Explain the Harmful Dysfunction Account of mental disorders. Why is normal sadness not a disorder according to this theory?)

6. Evaluate the Harmful Dysfunction Account of mental disorders.

(This question requires evaluation. Explain the relevant notion of a dysfunction. Why is it important to keep in mind the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation [EEA]? Raise an objection to the account. You might ask if the theory does any important work. Why would the adaptive value in the EEA matter to us in the 21st century?)

IV. Answer one question from 7-9. (Psychotropics and Authenticity)

7. Evaluate Elliott's Authenticity Argument against some uses of psychotropics.

(This question requires evaluation. Explain Elliott's argument. Make his conclusion clear, or at least explain the plausible options. How sweeping is his conclusion? Then evaluate the argument. You can consider one of Levy's objections.)

8. Evaluate the Lovezac Objection to Levy's Self-Creation model of authenticity.

(This question requires evaluation. You should give some context.)

9. Evaluate Levy's Ruby and Elly Response to Elliott's worry about the authenticity of psychological changes brought on by psychotropics.

(This question requires evaluation. Does the argument hit the target? It's an argument by analogy. Assess the strength of the analogy.)

V. Answer one question from 10-11. (Transhumanism)

10. Evaluate Fukuyama's argument for the value of human weaknesses against transhumanism.

(This question requires evaluation. Focus on the argument from pp.171-4 in Our Posthuman Future and the second to last paragraph of "Transhumanism". Is it plausible that "If we weren't violent and aggressive, we wouldn't be able to defend ourselves; if we didn't have feelings of exclusivity, we wouldn't be loyal to those close to us; if we never felt jealously, we would also never feel love"? Is transhumanism a threat to the items on his list?)

11. Evaluate Bostrom's response to the worry that biotechnology poses a threat to human dignity.

(This question requires evaluation. Explain the worry. Explain Bostrom's reply. Then evaluate it.)


Note: All key terms, theories, and named objections must be explained. If it ends in "ism", explain it.

Note: When 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. Explain why someone might believe the premises. 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. All quotes must be explained in your own words.

Due Date

Saturday 12/17/2011


The complete exam should be no more than 2,400 words. This is approximately 8 pages double-spaced in Arial 12 point font.


The exam 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 short 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. Include the question number at the start of each answer. Do not copy the questions.


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 space. You'll have to use most of the space, and use it well.


I do not need a hard copy. Nor do I need an email copy. Simply submit the final exam 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.

*If you are unable to submit the paper to Safe Assign due to technical difficulties, you must send an email to the helpdesk <> explaining the problem. Make sure to CC me. If this happens, send me a copy of your paper as an attachment. Note: I will not accept your paper if you don't report the problem to the helpdesk.

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, and 3. Pryor's "Guidelines for Writing Philosophy Papers". The last document is the most important.