The Good Life (Spring 2011) - 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 2,100 words.

Answer one question from 1-2. (Desire Satisfactionism)

1. Explain Parfit's suggestion, in response to the "Stranger on the Train" objection, for how desire-satisfactionism should restrict the desires that count toward our welfare.

(This question does not ask for evaluation. Suggested plan: Explain desire-satisfactionism. Explain the Stranger on the Train objection. Make it clear how it's an objection. Then explain Parfit's solution to the problem. Give some examples.)

2. Explain Sumner's argument for the claim that "If an information requirement has any genuine work to do within a desire theory, therefore, it will be inconsistent with the basic rational of the theory." (p.132)

(This question does not ask for evaluation. Suggested plan: Explain desire-satisfactionism and why some think that it is superior to mental statism. Explain "satisfaction in the logician's sense." Then, explain the problem that prompts an information requirement on the desires that count. Finally, explain why this might be inconsistent with the rational of the theory.)

Answer one question from 3-4. (Whole Life Satisfaction)

3. Explain Feldman's Timmy and Tammy objections to hypotheticalist versions of whole life satisfaction theories of happiness.

(This question does not require evaluation. Suggested plan: Explain whole life satisfactionism. Explain the difference between actualist and hypotheticalist versions of the theory. Then, explain Feldman's objections to the hypotheticalist version. Show exactly how they are objections to the theory.)

4. Sumner argues that well-being is authentic happiness. By happiness he means life-satisfaction. What is this? Is it summative or global? Evaluate the happiness component of Sumner's theory of well-being. For instance, you might ask if it gives too much weight to retrospective evaluation? Don't worry about the authenticity component of the theory.

(This question requires evaluation.)

Answer one question from 5-6. (Limits of Well-being)

5. Explain Kagan's argument for the claim that what is of ultimate benefit for a person must involve changes in the intrinsic properties of that person.

(This question does not ask for evaluation.)

6. The deceived businessman looks like a counter-example to mental statism. Explain Kagan's solution. You need to explain his key distinction.

(This question does not ask for evaluation.)

Answer one question from 7-9. (Meaning of Life)

7. Evaluate Wolf's claim that meaning arises when "subjective attraction meets objective attractiveness." Why does she think that fulfillment through active engagement is enough? Why do we have to be actively engaged in projects of objective worth? Why isn't merely thinking that our project are of worth sufficient? Alternatively, you might ask if Wolf's theory is vulnerable to objections from Absurdity?

(This question requires evaluation.)

8. Evaluate Wielenberg's theory of the meaning of life.

(This question requires evaluation. Explain Wielenberg's theory. You should say why it is superior to subjective theories. Explain his test for what makes an activity intrinsically valuable. Do the things on his list pass? If not, is this a problem? You might ask if the items on his list open his theory up to experience machine style objections?)

9. Evaluate Frankl's suggestion that we can discover meaning through the way in which we respond to suffering. What king of meaning is he talking about? Does Frankl offer a version of the Pointless Existence Argument in regard to unavoidable suffering? Is he right? Does his solution work? What is the role of super-meaning? You might want to discuss the example of the medical ape.

(This question requires evaluation.)

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

5/13/2011 (Friday)


The exam should be in total no more than 2,100 words. This is approximately 7 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.


I do not need a hard copy. 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 <> 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 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."