The Good Life (Fall 2012) - Final Exam

The Good Life - 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 2,400 words. (There is a 1,800 word minimum.)

Answer one question from 1 and 2. (Wolf)

1. Is the life of George Bailey, the protagonist of "It's a Wonderful Life" (Capra, 1946), a problem for Wolf's theory of what makes a life meaningful?

(This question requires evaluation. You should begin by explaining Wolf's theory of the meaning of life. Make sure to explain both parts of her theory. Then present the objection. What part of her theory does the example threaten? Be specific. Explain why. Make the objection clear. Then consider whether she can respond to the objection.)

2. Early in Meaning and Life and Why it Matters, Wolf argues that playing sudoku and video games does not make a life meaningful. But later in her response to critics, Wolf argues that playing some kinds of games can make one's life more meaningful. Is the latter claim consistent with her theory of meaning?

(This question requires evaluation. You should explain Wolf's theory of meaning in life. In the process, you should explain why she thinks that playing video games is not a meaningful activity. Then explain what kinds of games might be meaningful and why. Assess her argument. Can her theory account for what makes some kinds of games meaningful?)

Answer one question from 3 and 4. (Hedonism)

3. Evaluate the Deceived Businessman objection to hedonism about welfare.

(This question requires evaluation. You should explain hedonism about welfare. What is welfare? What is hedonism? Then present the objection. Finally consider how a hedonist might reply to the objection. You might want to consider Kagan's suggestion.)

4. Evaluate Mill's "Swine Transformation Argument" for qualitative hedonism about welfare.

(This question requires evaluation. You'll need to explain the difference between quantitative and qualitative hedonism. Then explain Mill's argument for qualitative hedonism. Finally, evaluate the argument. How might the defender of quantitative hedonism reply.)

Answer one question from 5 and 6. (Pleasure and Knowledge)

5. Evaluate Hurka's two arguments for the claim that pain is worse than pleasure is good.

(This question requires evaluation. Explain Hurka's two related arguments for the claim. Then evaluate each. Might there be another way to account for our intuitions? Are there any important differences between pleasure and pain that support a different conclusion?)

6. Evaluate Hurka's argument that some kinds of false beliefs are worse than true belief is good.

(This question requires evaluation. Explain Hurka's argument. What kinds of false beliefs are putatively worse than true beliefs are good? Evaluate the argument. Might we be able to account for our intuitions by appealing to other factors? Is the great evil in the scenario he offers due to false belief or something else?)

Answer question 7. (Virtue and Love)

7. Hurka argues that it is virtuous to love your children more than other people's children. Does Hurka give us good reason to think that this isn't a Vice of Disproportion? Can we reconcile the apparent appropriateness of partiality with his theory of virtue and vice?

(This question requires evaluation. Explain Hurka's theory of virtue and vice. Explain the notion of a Vice of Disproportion. Give an example of such a vice. Then explain his argument for the claim that loving one's own children more than other people's children is virtuous. Evaluate his argument.)

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

Saturday 12/15/2012


The exam should be in total no more than 2,400 words. This is approximately 8 pages double-spaced with Arial 12 point font. The exam should be no less than 1,800 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."