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Egoism And Moral Scepticism Analysis Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 5416 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Review Questions: Explain the Legend of Gyges. What questions about morality are raised by the story? The Legend of Gyges is a story of a shepherd who happens to have found a magic ring that would make its wearer invisible. Gyges used the power of the ring to gain entry to the Royal Palace where he seduced the Queen, murdered the King and subsequently seized the throne. Is Gyges selfish? Are his actions right or wrong? Does he have the right to do the things he is capable of by the power of the ring?

Distinguish between psychological and ethical egoism.

Psychological egoism is the view that all men are selfish in everything that they do, that is, that the only motive from which anyone ever acts is self-interest. Ethical egoism is, by contrast, a normative view about how men ought to act.

Rachels discusses two arguments for psychological egoism. What are these arguments, and how does he reply to them?

A. First argument: If we describe one person’s action as selfish, and another person’s action as unselfish, we are overlooking the crucial fact that in both cases, assuming that the action is done voluntarily, the agent is merely doing what he most wants to do. People never voluntarily do anything except what they want to do. Rachels said that: “The mere fact that I am acting on my wants does not mean that I am acting selfishly; that depends on what it is that I want.”

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B. Second argument: Since so-called unselfish actions always produce a sense of self-satisfaction in the agent, and since this sense of self-satisfaction is a pleasant state of consciousness, it follows that the point of the action is really to achieve a pleasant state of consciousness, rather than to bring about any good for others. Therefore, the action is “unselfish” only at superficial level of analysis. Rachels said that: “if someone desires the welfare and happiness of another person, he will derive satisfaction from that; but this does not mean that this satisfaction is the object of his desire, or he is in any way selfish on account of it.”

What three commonplace confusions does Rachels detect in the thesis of psychological egoism?

A. Confusion of selfishness with self-interest

B. Assumption that every action is done either from self-interest or from other-regarding motives

C. Common but false assumption that a concern for one’s own welfare is incompatible with any genuine concern for the welfare of others.

State the argument for saying that ethical egoism is inconsistent. Why doesn’t Rachels accept this argument?

To say that any action or policy is right (or that it ought to be adopted) entails that it is right for anyone in the same sort of circumstances. Rachels does not accept this argument because he thinks that: “contrary to the previous argument, there is nothing inconsistent in the ethical egoist’s view. He cannot be refuted by the claim that he contradicts himself.”

According to Rachels, why shouldn’t we hurt others, and why should we help others? How can the egoist reply?

According to Rachels, we shouldn’t hurt others because other people would be hurt and we should help others because other people would be benefited. The egoist will not be happy, and he will protest that we may accept this as a reason, but he does not.

Discussion Questions:

Has Rachels answered the question raised by Glaucon, namely, “Why be moral?” If so, what exactly is his answer?

Yes. Rachels answer is: “the virtue of beneficence does, and indeed should, occupy an important place in “the moral institution of life”; and yet we may make constant and miserable errors when it comes to judging when and in what ways this virtue is to be exercised.”

Are genuine egoist rare, as Rachels claims? Is it a fact that most people care about others, even people they don’t know?

Yes. Yes, I believe that most people have sympathy even for people they do not know.

Suppose we define ethical altruism as the view that one should always act for the benefit of others and never in one’s own self-interest. Is such a view immoral or not?

I consider this as a moral act. Just as Rachels said, “if someone desires the welfare and happiness of another person, he will derive satisfaction from that; but this does not mean that this satisfaction is the object of his desire, or he is in any way selfish on account of it.”

Religion, Morality, and Conscience

John Arthur

Review Questions:

According to Arthur, how are morality and religion different?

Morality or to have a moral code, then, is to tend to evaluate (perhaps without even expressing it) the behaviors of others and to feel guilt at certain actions when we perform them. Religion, on the other hand, involves beliefs in supernatural power(s) that created and perhaps also control nature, the tendency to worship and pray to those supernatural forces or beings, and the presence of organizational structures and authoritative texts.

Why isn’t religion necessary for moral motivation?

Religion is not necessary for moral motivation because religious motives are far from the only ones people have. Many motives for doing the right thing have nothing whatsoever to do with religion.

Why isn’t religion necessary as a source of moral knowledge?

Religion is not necessary as a source of moral knowledge because first, we must consider how much we would to know about religion and revelation in order for religion to provide moral guidance.

What is the divine command theory? Why does Arthur reject this theory?

The divine command theory is: God has the same sort of relation to moral law as the legislature has to statutes it enacts: without God’s commands there would be no moral rules, just as without a legislature there would be no statutes. Arthur rejects this theory because to adopt the divine command theory therefore commits its advocate to the seemingly absurd position that even the greatest atrocities might be not only acceptable but morally required if God were to command them.

According to Arthur, how are morality and religion connected?

Morality and religion are connected historically and extending to the personal level – to their understanding of moral obligations as well as their sense of who they are and their vision of who they wish to be.

Dewey says that morality is social. What does this mean, according to Arthur?

Only through the powers of imagination can we exercise our moral powers, envisioning with the powers of judgement what conscience requires.

Discussion Questions:

Has Arthur refuted the divine command theory? If not, how can it be defended?


If morality is social, as Dewey says, then how can we have any obligations to nonhuman animals? (Arthur mentions this problem and some possible solutions to it in footnote 6.)

We have obligations to nonhuman animals by our conscience would almost certainly include the imagined reaction of God along with the reactions of others who might be affected by the action.

What does Dewey mean by moral education? Does a college ethics class count as moral education?

Dewey wanted to say that moral education is listening to others, reading about what others think and do, and reflecting within ourselves about our actions and whether we could defend them to others are part of the practice of morality itself. Yes, college ethics class counts as moral education.

Master- and Slave-Morality

Friedrich Nietzsche

Review Questions:

How does Nietzsche characterize a good and healthy society?

An aristocratic society – a society believing in a long scale of gradations of rank and differences of worth among human beings, and requiring slavery in some form or other.

What is Nietzsche’s view of injury, violence and exploitation?

Nietzsche’s view of injury, violence and exploitation are part of life. They are generally, and if possible even as the fundamental principle of society, disclosing a Will to the denial of life, a principle of dissolution and decay.

Distinguish between master-morality and slave-morality.

According to slave-morality, the “evil” man arouses fear; according to master-morality, it is precisely the “good” man who arouses fear and seeks to arouse it, while the bad man is regarded as the despicable being.

Explain the Will to Power.

The Will to Power is the Will to Life. The will to grow, to gain ground,attract to itself and acquire ascendency.

Discussion Questions:

Some people view Nietzsche’s writings as harmful and even dangerous. For example, some of have charged Nietzsche with inspiring Nazism. Are these charges justified or not? Why or why not?

Yes. I think Nietzsche’s views are bold views. They are views on who are the strong over the weak. It is possible to inspire Nazism for Nazism believes that they are the superior class of human beings and Jews are the inferiors. Resulting to enslaving the Jews and executing them.

What does it mean to be “a creator of values?”

To be “a creator of values” means to be a hypothetical god. A perfect man.

Trying Out One’s New Sword

Mark Midgley

Review Questions:

What is “moral isolationism”?

Moral isolationism is the view of anthropologists and others that we cannot criticize cultures that we do not understand.

Explain the Japanese custom of tsujigiri. What questions does Midgley ask about this custom?

Tsujigiri is a Japanese custom where a samurai sword had to be tried out because, if it was to work properly, it had to slice through someone at a single blow, from the shoulder to the opposite flank. Otherwise, his honor will be injured, offend his ancestors and let down his emperor. Does the isolating barrier work both ways? Are people in other cultures equally unable to criticize us? Does the isolationg barriers between cultures block praise as well as blame? What is involved in judging? If we can’t judge other cultures, can we really judge our own?

What is wrong with moral isolationism, according to Midgley?

According to Midgley, “moral isolationism would lay down a general ban on moral reasoning. Essentially, this is the programme of immoralism, and it carries a distressing logical difficulty.”

What does Midgley think is the basis for criticizing other cultures?

The basis for criticizing other cultures is from an acute concern about human hypocrisy and other forms of wickedness.

Discussion Questions:

Midgley says that Nietzsche is an immoralist. Is that an accurate and fair assessment of Nietzsche? Why or why not?

Midgley considered Nietzsche as an immoralist and I think she is did a quite accurate and fair assessment of Nietzsche. She compared an immoralist to a smugler which an immoralist can no more afford to put moralizing out of business and Nietzsche bold views are quite off the track about morality.

Do you agree with Midgley’s claim that the idea of separate and unmixed cultures is unreal? Explain your answer.

Yes. I believe with what Midgley have said that, “all have the choice of learning something from this challenge, or alternatively, of refusing to learn, and fighting it mindlessly instead.”


John Stuart Mill

Review Questions:

State and explain the Principle of Utility. Show how it could be used to justify actions that are conventionally viewed as wrong, such as lying and stealing.

The Principle of Utility holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness pain, and the privation of pleasure. Lying and stealing can be justified by this principle for this principle supposes that life has (as they express it) no higher end than pleasure – no better and nobler object of desire and pursuit – they designate as utterly mean and groveling.

How does Mill reply to the objection that epicureanism is a doctrine worthy only of swine?

The Principle of Utility holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness pain, and the privation of pleasure. Lying and stealing can be justified by this principle for this principle supposes that life has (as they express it) no higher end than pleasure – no better and nobler object of desire and pursuit – they designate as utterly mean and groveling.

How does Mill distinguish between higher and lower pleasures?

Mill have presumably distinguished higher pleasures as the generally more intellectual pleasures and lower pleasures as the more sensual pleasures.

According to Mill, whose happiness must be considered?

According to Mill, the happiness of the majority should be considered.

Carefully reconstruct Mill’s proof of the Principle of Utility.

Mill assumes that whatever turns out to be of value is such that we ought to maximize it, and assumes too that the value to be maximized is additive.

Discussion Questions:

Is happiness more than pleasure, and the absence of pain? What do you think?

I think happiness is more than pleasure, and the absence of pain. Happiness is relative to what concept of happiness is to a person. Happiness for me is being content with what you have. Acceptance of everything that you are creates happiness.

Does Mill convince you that the so-called higher pleasures are better than lower ones? What about the person of experience who prefers the lower pleasures over the higher ones?

Yes. I believe higher pleasures can last for a longer time than lower pleasures. I am also convinced by the person of experience who prefers the lower pleasures over the higher ones because I also believe that experience is the best teacher.

Mill says, “In the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth, we read the complete spirit of ethics of utility.” Is this true or not?

I believe that this is true. The golden rule is the spirit of ethics of utility.

Many commentators have thought that Mill’s proof of the Principle of Utility is defective. Do you agree? If so, then what mistake or mistakes dies he make? Is there any way to reformulate the proof so that it is not defective?

I do not agree with the commentators that Mill’s proof of the Principle of Utility is defective. I believe what matters in his argument is what people desire, not merely what they might be motivated to do.

The Debate over Utilitarianism

James Rachels

Review Questions:

Rachels says that classical utilitarianism can be summed up in three propositions. What are they?

A. First, actions are to be judged right or wrong solely in virtues of their consequences. Nothing else matters. Right actions are, simply, those that have the best consequences.

B. Second, in assessing consequences, the only thing that matters is the amount of happiness or unhappiness that is cause. Everything else is irrelevant. Thus right actions are those that produce the greatest balance of happiness over unhappiness.

C. Third, in calculating the happiness or unhappiness that will be caused, no one’s happiness is to be counted as more important than anyone else’s. Each person’s welfare is equally important. As Mill put it in his Utilitarianism, the happiness which forms the utilitarian standard of what is right in conduct, is not the agent’s own happiness, but that of all concerned. As between his own happiness and that of others, utilitarianism requires him to be as strictly as a disinterested and benevolent spectator. Thus right actions are those that produce the greatest possible balance of happiness over unhappiness, with each person’s happiness counted as equally important.

Explain the problem with hedonism. How do defenders of utilitarianism respond to this problem?

Hedonism “gets things the wrong way around”; it misunderstands the nature of happiness. Defenders of utilitarianism responded to this by suggesting that there are 3 obvious intrinsic goods – pleasure, friendship, and aesthetic enjoyment – and that right actions are those that increase the world’s supply of such things. Some responded the Ideal Utilitarianism, and Preference Utilitarianism.

What are the objections about justice, rights and promises?

A. The objection about justice is that the demands of justice and the demands of utility can come into conflict.

B. The objection about rights is that the notion of a personal right is not a utilitarian notion.

C. The objection about promises is that Utilitarianism makes the past irrelevant, and so it seems deficient for just that reason.

Distinguish between rule- and act-utilitarianism. How does rule-utilitarianism reply to the objections?

The rule-utilitarianism gives rules a greater important than they merit; it would seek first what general rules of conduct tend to promote the greatest happiness before action. An act-utilitarianism does what good philosophy always does – it challenges us to rethink matters that we have heretofore taken for granted; it would act because the consequences of that particular act would be good. Rule-utilitarianism reply to the objections that in shifting emphasis from the justification of acts to the justification of rules, the theory has been brought into line with our intuitive judgments to a remarkable degree.

What is the third line of defense?

The third line of defense is that our moral common sense is, after all, not necessarily reliable. It may incorporate various irrational elements, including prejudices absorbed from our parents, our religion, and the general culture.

Discussion Question:

Smart’s defense of utilitarianism is to reject common moral beliefs when they conflict with utilitarianism. Is this acceptable to you or not? Explain your answer.

Smart’s defense of utilitarianism is not acceptable for me. I think that rejecting one’s common moral beliefs is fooling one’s self. We should be our own selves and should accept our own beliefs.

A utilitarian is supposed to give moral consideration to all concerned. Who must be considered? What about nonhuman animals? How about lakes and streams?

Everything must be considered to be given moral consideration. Nonhuman animals deserve moral consideration for they are also living things. The lakes and streams are all part of us human beings. If not for the lakes and streams what then could be its purpose here on earth. Everything is beneficial and everything deserves to be given moral consideration.

Rachels claims that merit should be given moral consideration independent of utility. Do you agree?

I agree to Rachels claim that merit should be given moral consideration independent of utility.

The Categorical Imperative

Immanuel Kant

Review Questions:

Explain Kant’s account of the good will.

Kant’s account for good will is a will whose decisions are wholly defined by moral demands or as he often refers to this, by the Moral Law.

Distinguish between hypothetical and categorical imperatives.

A hypothetical imperative is a command where we are clueless of what will happen – until its condition is given. A categorical imperative is a command we already know what contains the command once it is given.

State the formulation of the categorical imperative (using the notion of a universal law), and explain how Kant uses this rule to derive some specific duties toward self and others.

“Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.” Kant uses this rule to derive some specific duties toward self and others by recognizing four categories of duties: perfect duties toward ourselves, perfect duties toward others, imperfect duties toward ourselves and imperfect duties toward others.

State the second version of the categorical imperative (using the language of means and end), and explain it.

“Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end. . . .” This second version of categorical imperative states that humanity deserves to be treated as “human persons”. We are not existing to be used as a means. We, persons are an end in ourselves; there is no other way that we are just means.

Discussion Questions:

Are the two versions of the categorical imperative just different expressions of one basic rule, or are they two different rules? Defend your view.

The two versions of the categorical imperative are just different expressions of one basic rule – respect for humanity. Both versions are talking about the treatment of human beings to oneself and to others.

Kant claims that an action that is not done from the motive of duty has no moral worth. Do you agree or not? If not, give some counterexamples.

I agree.

Some commentators think that the categorical imperative (particularly the first formulation) can be used to justify nonmoral or immoral actions. Is this a good criticism?

I believe it is not a good criticism.

Happiness and Virtue


Review Questions:

What is happiness, according to Aristotle? How is it related to virtue? How is it related to pleasure?

Aristotle defines happiness as not pleasure, honor, or wealth, but an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue. Happiness is related to virtue as happiness is achieved provided by true values from human virtues and not just amusement. Happiness is related to pleasure as worthwhile activities we engage in are often associated with pleasure.

How does Aristotle explain moral virtue? Give some examples.

Aristotle explained moral virtue as a mean. That it is a mean between two vices, the one involving excess, the other deficiency, and that it is such because its character is to aim at what is intermediate in passions and in actions, has been sufficiently stated. For example: to find the middle of a circle is not for every one but for him who knows.

Is it possible for everyone in our society to be happy, as Aristotle explains it? If not, who cannot be happy?

Yes, I do believe that Aristotle’s explanation of the possibility for every one in our society to be happy is possible.

Discussion Questions:

Aristotle characterizes a life of pleasure as suitable for beasts. But what, if anything, is wrong with a life of pleasure?

Pleasure is not good. As Aristotle argued that pleasure is by its nature incomplete. A life of pleasure would be like living an incomplete life. There is no contentment and will just lead to unhappiness and sin. Happiness cannot be found if you live a life of pleasure.

Aristotle claims that the philosopher will be happier than anyone else. Why is this? Do you agree or not?

I think philosophers are involved in intellectual activities and as Aristotle claims that intellectual virtues produces the most perfect happiness, philosophers could be happier than anyone else.

The Nature and Value of Rights

Joel Feinberg

Review Questions:

Describe Nowheresville. How is this world different from our world?

Nowheresville is a world like our own except that people do not have rights. As a result, people in this world cannot make moral claims when they are treated unjustly. They cannot demand and claim just treatment, and so they are deprived of self-respect and human dignity.

Explain the doctrine of the logical correlativity of rights and duties. What is Feiberg’s position on this doctrine?

This is the doctrine that (i) all duties entail other people’s rights and (ii) all rights entail other people’s duties. Feiberg’s position on this is: “In a sense yes and in a sens no.”

How does Feinberg explain the concept of personal desert? How would personal desert work in Nowheresville?

Feinberg explained the concept of personal desert by comparing it to a weaker kind of propriety; a kind of fittingness between humor and laughter, or good performance and applause. Personal desert would work in Nowheresville by only the original weak kind of desert.

Explain the notion of a sovereign right-monopoly. How would this work in Nowheresville according to Feinberg?

Sovereign right-monopoly, if applied, will make people incur genuine obligations toward one another; but the obligations (here’s the twist) will not be owed directly to promises, creditors, parents, and the like, but rather to God alone, or to the members of some elite, or to a single sovereign under God. Sovereign right-monopoly would work in Nowheresville by having delegated authorities empowered to give commands to their underlings and to punish them for their disobedience.

What are claim-rights? Why does Feinberg think they are morally important?

Claim-rights are the conceptual linkage between personal rights and claiming. Feinberg think that they are morally important because claim-rights tells about what it is to be a human being.

Discussion Questions:

Does Feinberg make a convincing case for the importance of rights? Why or why not?

Yes. Feinberg made a convincing case for the importance of right because he have stated facts that would explain what is wrong with Nowheresville: a world where people do not have rights.

Can you give a noncircular definition of claim-right?

Claim-right is the claiming for right.

Taking Rights Seriously

Ronald Dworkin

Review Questions:

What does Dworkin mean by right in the strong sense? What rights in this sense are protected by the U.S. Constitution?

Dworkin meant by the right in the strong sense is that in most cases when we say that someone has “right” to do something, we imply that it would be wrong to interfere with his doing it, or at least that some special grounds are needed for justifying an interference. Fusion of legal and moral rights are protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Distinguish between legal and moral rights. Give some examples of legal rights that are not moral rights, and moral rights that are not legal rights.

Legal rights are rights provided by the Constitution while moral rights are the fundamental rights of a person. Example of a legal right that is not a moral right is the right to vote for a Congressman. An example of a moral right that is not a legal right is the freedom of speech.

What are the two models of how a government might define the rights of its citizens? Which does Dworkin find more attractive?

The first model recommends striking a balance between the rights of the individual and the demands of society at large. The second model supposes that the weaker members of a political community are entitled to the same concern and respect of their government as the more powerful members have secured for themselves, so that if some men have freedom of decision whatever the effect on the general good, then all men must have the same freedom. Dworkin finds the second model more attractive.

According to Dworkin, what two important ideas are behind the institution of rights?

Complex and troublesome practice.

Discussion Questions:

Does a person have a right to break the law? Why or why not?

Yes. Not all laws are the same for every country or state. It is not for the government to decide what laws are for you and not. You have the right to choose whether a law is just or unjust.

Are rights in the strong sense compatible with Mill’s utilitarianism? (see the footnote about institutional utilitarianism.)

Yes, Mill’s utilitarianism is compatible with the rights in the strong sense.

Do you think that Kant would accept rights in the strong sense or not?

I think Kant would deny the rights in the strong sense.

A Theory of Justice

John Rawls

Review Questions:

Carefully explain Rawls’s conception of the original position.

Rawls’s conception of the original position is the appropriate initial status quo, and thus the fundamental agreements reach in it are fair. This explains the propriety of the name “justice as fairness”: it conveys the idea that the principles of justice are agreed to in an initial situation that is fair.

State and explain Rawls’s first principle of justice.

Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others. The basic liberties of citizens are all required to be equal by the first principle, since citizens of a just society are to have the same basic rights.

State and explain the second principle. Which principle has priority such that it cannot be sacrificed

Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both (a) reasonably expected to be to everyone’s advantage, and (b) attached to positions and offices open to all. . . . The second principle applies, in the first approximation, to the distribution of income and wealth and to the design of organizations that make use of differences in authority and responsibility, or chains of command.

Discussion Questions:

On the first principle, each person has an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty as long as this does not interfere with a similar liberty for others. What does this allow people to do? Does it mean, for example, that people have a right to engage in homosexual activities as long as they don’t interfere with others? Can people produce and view pornography if it does not restrict anyone’s freedom? Are people allowed to take drugs in the privacy of their homes?

The first principle allow people to act more expressively and behave in such a manner that there is nothing to be ashamed of doing what is right. Yes, people can engage in homosexual activities, engage in porn and take drugs privately and it is happening now.

Is it possible for free and rational persons in the original position to agree upon different principles than those given by Rawls? For example, why wouldn’t they agree to an equal distribution of wealth and income rather than an unequal distribution? That is, why wouldn’t they adopt socialism rather than capitalism? Isn’t socialism just as rational as capitalism?

No, there is no possibility for different principles in the original position. With people as rational beings, we treat fairness as to what we think people deserves to get. That is what fairness is all about.

The Need for More Than Justice

Annette Baier

Review Questions:

Distinguish between the justice and care perspectives. According to Gilligan, how do these perspectives develop?

Justice perspective by itself is inadequate as a moral theory. It overlooks inequalities between people (as in parent-child relationships), it has an unrealistic view of freedom of choice, and it ignores the importance of moral emotions such as love. Care perspective is a less authoritarian humanitarian supplement, a felt concern for the good of oth


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