Environmental Ethics (Spring 2011) - Midterm Exam

*Before you begin writing, read this entire document.

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

Answer one question from 1-2. (Moral Nihilism)

1. 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?)

2. Explain the Argument from Weirdness (aka "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 someone might think that this is weird.)

Answer question 3. (Moral Realism)

3. Evaluate Bambrough's argument for moral realism. Does it beg the question?

(This question requires evaluation. You don't have much space, so you cannot do a thorough job. Simply present the argument as clearly as you can, present the charge, and give me some reason to think that it sticks or bounces.)

Answer one question from 4-5. (Normative Ethics)

4. Explain the Problem of the Mailman and the Lawn for the Principle of Universalizability.

(This question does not ask for evaluation. You should begin by explaining the principle. Then raise the problem. Show exactly how it is a problem.)

5. Evaluate the Problem of Praise and Blame for utilitarianism. Does the problem gives us good reason to reject the theory? Are the standard utilitarian replies satisfactory?

(This question requires evaluation. Explain utilitarianism. Then explain the problem. Suggest how the utilitarian might respond. Then evaluate the response.)

Answer one question from 7-8. (Animal Rights and Killing)

6. Evaluate Regan's argument for the Strong Animal Rights Position.

(This question requires evaluation. I want you to evaluate the argument for the position, not the implications of the position. Since you don't have much space, you'll have to limit the number of objections that you consider. You should probably just present one objection as clearly as you can within the allotted word limit.)

7. Evaluate Warren's reply to the What About The Retarded Objection to her explanation for why animals have weaker rights than humans.

(This question requires evaluation. You need to briefly explain Warren's theory of rights. Where do they come from? What's necessary for something to have rights? Explain why our treatment of infants and the retarded might be framed as an objection to her theory. Explain her reply. Do you find it convincing?)

Note: In order to evaluate a theory, you must first explain the theory. When explaining a counter-example 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. 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. The only quotations in your exam should be of formalizations.

Due Date

Thursday 3/31/2011


The complete exam should be no more than 2,400 words. This is approximately 8 pages double-spaced with 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 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.

*If you are unable to submit the paper to Safe Assign due to technical difficulties, you must send an email to the helpdesk <helpdesk@ric.edu> 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, 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."