Meta-ethics (Fall 2011) - Final Exam

Metaethics - Final Exam (Fall 2011)

Before you begin writing, read this entire document.

Answer six (6) questions, one from each section.

I. Answer one question from 1-2. (Reductionism)

1. Evaluate Huemer's reply to the charge that the Open Question Argument begs the question against analytic reductionism.

2. Evaluate the Problem of Non-Self-Interested Desires for Railton's theory of "objectified subjective interest".

II. Answer one question from 3-5 (Intuitionism)

3. Evaluate Huemer's Moorean Argument for the implausibility of nihilism.

4. Evaluate the Unknown Reliability Objection to intuitionism.

5. Does the intuitionist have a good reply to the threat of a Pessimistic Induction about the reliability of moral intuitions?

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

6. Evaluate Huemer's objection to the claim that we can know moral facts through inference to the best explanation.

7. Evaluate Brink's explanation for why there might be more disagreement in ethics than in the natural sciences.

IV. Answer question 8. (Motivational Judgment Internalism)

8. Evaluate Smith's reply to the Amoralist's Challenge to motivational judgment internalism.

V. Answer question 9. (Reasons Internalism)

9. Evaluate Shafer-Landau's first reply to the Unfair Choices Argument for reasons internalism.

VI. Answer question 10. (Moral Rationalism)

10. Evaluate Shafer-Landau's objection to Foot's Analogical Argument against moral rationalism.

General Instructions

Tip: 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.

Tip: 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 many quotes.

Due Date

Monday 12/19/2011


The complete exam should be no more than 4,500 words. This is approximately 15 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 than the allocated space. You'll have to use most of the space, and use it well.


I do not need a hard copy. Nor do I want an email copy. Simply submit the final 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 unless you 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.