Moral Responsibility (Fall 2012) - Final Exam

Moral Responsibility (F12) - Final Exam

Before you begin writing, read this entire document.

Answer four (4) questions. All key terms, theories, and named objections must be explained. You have 3,600 words. (There is an 2,700 word minimum.)

I. Answer one question from 1-3. (Animals and Aretaic Appraisal)

1. In "Two Faces of Responsibility," Watson argues that "aretaic appraisal clearly requires some normative competence on the part of the subjects of that appraisal" (p.282). He goes on to claim that "one is open to appraisal as cruel only if one has the concept of cruelty" (p.282). Evaluate this passage. What is normative competence? Why does Watson thinks that normative competence is required for aretaic appraisals? Is his claim about cruelty plausible?

(Note: You should consider Appendix II in the article.)

2. In "Responsibility for Attitudes," A. Smith attempts to head off an objection that her view might imply that animals are morally responsible. Evaluate her claim that "to be attributable the state must be open in principle to revision or modification through that creature's own process of rational reflection" (p.256). Is this an ad hoc move designed merely to avoid a troublesome implication?

3. Evaluate Shoemaker's theory of attributability in "Attributability, Answerability, and Accountability." Explain how it differs from A. Smith's theory. Shoemaker argues that "cares and deep seated emotional commitments are often without or even contrary to reason" (p.610). If so, how can he exclude animals? Or should he? Address the more general worry that attributability is a shallow form of assessment.

(Note: Shoemaker discusses animals in note. 13 of "Caring, Identification, and Agency." He endorses Frankfurt's discussion of animals in section #4 in "On Caring," pp.157-8.)

II. Answer question 4. (Manipulation Worries)

4. Consider A. Smith's discussion of implanted attitudes in "Responsibility for Attitudes" (pp.261-3). Evaluate her argument. Is Smith's theory of responsibility open to manipulation objections, ala Pereboom's "Four Case Argument"? Why or why not?

III. Answer one question from 5-7. (Moral Luck)

5. Evaluate Nagel's argument: "A person can be morally responsible only for what he does; but what he does results from a great deal that he does not do; therefore he is not morally responsible for what he is and is not responsible for" ("Moral Luck", p.34).

6. When considering the "Broad View" in "Culpable Ignorance," H. Smith argues that "to hold [a inconsiderate camper] to blame for the fire is not merely to say that the fire resulted from a culpable action of his; it is to say that he is more culpable--a worse person--for it's occurrence" (p.568) Consider the last clause. Has she changed the subject? If so, is this a problem for her tentative defense of the Liberal View?

7. Consider Harman's "considered view" that one can be blameworthy for holding epistemically justified false moral beliefs (p.27). She says that it is a form of constitutive bad luck that people with false moral beliefs "are in some respects morally bad people" (p.28). If we agree, would this support the considered view? Would it show that those who hold false beliefs are culpable?

IV. Answer one question from 8-9. (Culpability and Ignorance)

8. Evaluate FitzPatrick's claim that "Ignorance, whether circumstantial or normative, is culpable if the agent could reasonably have been expected to take measures that would have corrected or avoided it, given his or her capabilities and the opportunities provided by the social context, but failed to do so either due to akrasia or due to culpable, nonakratic exercises of such vices as overconfidence, arrogance, dismissiveness, laziness, dogmatism, incuriousity, self-indulgence, contempt, and so on" (p.609). Why does the exercise of vice make one responsible? Evaluate FitzPatrick's argument. You should consider one or two of the vices on the list.

9. Consider the objection, much like the the Basic Argument, that Aristotle considers in NE III.5 (1114b): To be responsible for our evaluative judgments it seems that one must be 'born with an eye [. . .] by which to judge rightly and choose what is truly good." But no one can be responsible for the way they were born. Can Rosen appeal to such considerations in defense of his view against FitzPatrick? Why or why not?

(You should consult Fitzpatrick's discussion on p.608. You must explain Rosen's argument and FitzPatrick's principal objection.)

Note on Order: In order to evaluate an argument, you need to build up the argument before showing 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 on Quotations: Keep quotations to a minimum. Never use a quotation to speak for you. The only quotations in your exam should be of formalizations or for textual evidence to support an interpretation of a story or a complex argument.

Due Date

Monday 12/17/2012


The exam should be in total no more than 3,600 words. This is approximately 12 pages double-spaced with Arial 12 point font. The exam should be no less than 2,700 words. (I will deduct a letter grade for every 300 words shy of the minimum.)


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 answers. 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. And please do NOT email the exam to me. Instead, you should submit the exam through Safe Assign via Blackboard by 11:59 pm on the due date. (11:59 pm is the end of the day on the due date, not to be confused with the night before.) 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 on Plagiarism: 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 three documents under the writing section of Blackboard: 1. Writing Tip Sheet, 2. General Instructions, and 3. Pryor's "How to Write a Philosophy Paper."