Senior Seminar, Comprehensive Exam Questions

Value Studies / Moral Theories

  • VS1: Explain how a common law system, like that of the United States, relies more on inductive reasoning than civil law systems like that of France.
  • VS2: Why is public documentation of legal arguments so critical in the legal system of the United States?
  • VS3: Pick three philosophers and explain how they understand the idea of “the feminine.”
  • VS4: State W.D. Ross' theory of prima facie duties and give examples of some of these duties. Explain how this theory addresses important problems of Kantian and utilitarian ethics.
  • VS5: Distinguish active from passive, and voluntary from non-voluntary euthanasia. State two arguments for euthanasia and two against, carefully describing the circumstances in which euthanasia is being considered.
  • VS6: What factors must be present for people to agree on John Rawls' two principles of distributive justice (don't forget the veil of ignorance)? State the two principles, and illustrate how the maximum principle yields a distribution different from the utilitarian.
  • VS7: Is morality an outdated, metaphysical concept in postmodern times? Why or why not?
  • VS8: What is the relationship between the individual and the community, between desire and the law? Is desire inevitably in conflict with moral behavior?
  • VS9: Define the concepts of autonomy, beneficence, and paternalism. Discuss the role these concepts play in questions of medical ethics; develop your ideas in the context of a specific decision scenario.
  • VS10: Discuss several of the ethical implications of reproductive technology. Be sure to present pro and contra viewpoints, as well to give voice to feminist concerns.
  • VS11: Explain the moral stance that agreement provides the source of morals, and some consequences of that stance (as pointed out by Hobbes). Argue whether or not you believe that morality has such a source.
  • VS12: Compare and contrast Plato’s and Aristotle’s conceptions of the connection between the condition of "happiness" and the practice of "virtue." How do they each use these principles to separate right from wrong acts?
  • VS13: Using a figure from each of three eras, discuss philosophy's understanding of eros.
  • VS14: Compare and contrast the use of moral reasoning in Aristotle and Kant.
  • VS15: Explain the different formulations of the Categorical Imperative, defended by Kant. Does 'universalizability' provide a good criterion for moral rules? Argue for your stance on this issue.
  • VS16: Explain Mill's moral stance that consequences provide the criteria of moral behavior, and the controversy which such a view answers. Argue whether or not you believe that morality has such a justification. Is Utilitarianism the best answer for how morality is created?
  • VS17: Is rationality a necessary and / or a sufficient condition for moral action? for consideration as being worthy of moral consideration? Why or why not?  Draw upon and explain the theories of at least two philosophers in your answer.
  • VS18: Is "mental illness" a disease or a societal value judgment?  Defend your answer.
  • VS19: Do human beings have free will, or are our actions determined? Are we responsible for our actions if we are not free to choose them?
  • VS20: How is technology increasingly challenging our Enlightenment ideals of: who is a person with moral value and obligation? what is a good quality of life for the moral person? what is the person's place within the social world? what is the person's place within the natural world?

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