Rachels – The Elements of Moral Philosophy, 4th ed.

Answer ALL of the following questions with clear, detailed essays.
All answers are to be typed (12 pt. font, double-spaced), with a proper heading at the top of your submission (name, student ID, semester and year, subject and section).
All answers are to be restricted to the assigned readings and corresponding lectures. Outside sources are not permitted in your submissions.
Proper reference to the reading material and corresponding lectures should be given throughout.

Be thorough. Be detailed. Ensure that your essays are well-written, and well-referenced.
At completion, you will have produced a moderately-long paper comprised of a series of essays.
The Minimum Conception of Morality
1) What is the “minimum conception of morality”, and what support can be given for it?

Cultural Relativism

2) Discuss Cultural Relativism (CR) – what is it, how is it argued for, and what are the weaknesses of these arguments? What are the consequences of taking CR seriously? How does Rachels argue that there is less disagreement than it seems, and that all cultures have some values in common?


3) What is the basic idea behind Subjectivism? Provide an account of Simple Subjectivism, and state 2 of the most prominent objections to Simple Subjectivism.

4) How does Emotivism differ from Simple Subjectivism? How does Emotivism avoid the difficulties facing Simple Subjectivism?

5) Discuss how Emotivism is flawed with respect to its account of moral reasons / judgment.

Divine Command Theory and Natural Law Theory

6) Discuss “Divine Command Theory”. What is it? How is it supported/argued for? What are DCT’s advantages/disadvantages? What are the difficulties with this view?

7) Discuss “Natural Law Theory”. What is it? How is it supported/argued for?

8) How does the Theory of Natural Selection constitute a criticism of NLT?

9) Hume observed a logical difference between sentences that contain the word “is” and sentences that contain the word “ought”. What is this difference, and how does it constitute a criticism of Natural Law Theory?


10) Compare and contrast Psychological Egoism with Ethical Egoism. What is the key difference between the two theories?

11) State 2 arguments in favor of Psychological Egoism.

12) What confusions are generally involved in thinking about Psychological Egoism? What is Psychological Egoism’s deepest error?

13) Summarize 3 arguments in favor of Ethical Egoism, 3 arguments against Ethical Egoism, and Rachels’ critical evaluation of all 6 arguments.


14) What is the principle of utility? Provide an example of its application.

15) Compare and contrast Bentham and Mill on the principle of utility. How does Bentham formulate it? How does Mill’s approach differ from Bentham’s? What is Mill hoping to accomplish by changing the conception of the principle of utility?

16) Discuss the difficulties with: the idea that happiness is all that matters; the idea that consequences are all that matter; the requirement of strict impartiality.

17) Discuss the three lines of defense open to the Utilitarian, as considered by Rachels.


18) What are the key differences between hypothetical and categorical imperatives? What, according to Kant, is the Categorical Imperative?

19) What is a “maxim”, and what role does it play in Kant’s moral theory? Demonstrate the role of maxims and the first formulation of the Categorical Imperative in Kant’s reasoning that we should never lie.

20) What, according to Anscombe, is wrong with Kant’s reasoning that we should never lie? What is the principle argument against absolute moral rules?

Social Contract Theory

21) Discuss Social Contract Theory. What is it? How does Hobbes “state of nature” argument provide support for this view?

22) What is the “Prisoner’s Dilemma”, and how does it provide support for SCT?

23) What, according to Rachels, are SCT’s advantages and disadvantages?

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