Questions for Discussions and Oral Exam in Ethics

The following are some questions and topics which can be used for essay questions, during discussions, and for oral examinations in Ethics (Moral Philosophy):
Ethics: A Primer
1. Relate ‘morality’ and ‘ethics.’
2. Why is the subject Ethics important?
3. Why is it significant to know the correct foundation of morality?
4. Which is more sensible: moral supernaturalism or moral secularism? Defend your answer.
5. “Secularism or Enlightenment thinking is not the answer to the question on what should be the foundation of morality.” Agree or disagree. Explain your answer.
6. “Atheism inevitably leads to violence and hedonism.” Agree or disagree. Prove.
7. Differentiate moral supernaturalism and moral secularism.
Ethics: General Subject Areas and Fundamental Concepts
1. Differentiate deontology and teleology.
2. Contrast meta-ethics with normative ethics.
3. Why is applied ethics important?
4. Agree or disagree: “Moral universalism is more plausible than moral relativism.” Defend your answer.
5. “Moral cognitivism is more sensible than moral non-cognitivism.” Justify/criticize.
6. “Empiricism, rationalism, and intuitionism are sensible theories in Ethics.” Justify/criticize.
Moral Relativism and Cultural Relativism
1.  Relate moral relativism and cultural relativism.
2.  “It’s wrong to conclude that there is a disagreement about values and morality just because customs differ.” Expound.
3.  Is Cultural Relativism a plausible way of explaining morality? Why or why not?
4. What are the negative consequences in taking Cultural Relativism seriously?
5. What are the strengths of Cultural Relativism as a theory in Ethics?
6. Explain the flaw in Cultural Relativists’ reasoning (The Cultural Differences Argument)?
Ethical Subjectivism
1. What is ethical subjectivism’s dangerous implication in moral education? Explain.
2. What is the theory’simplication that is contrary to what we believe about the nature of moral judgments?
3. Comment on this: “Ethical subjectivism implies that each of us is infallible so long as we are honestly expressing our respective feelings about moral issues.”
4. Expound: “Subjectivism cannot account for the fact of disagreement in Ethics.”
5. Define ethical subjectivism.
6. What is the nature of moral judgment in subjectivism?
7. What are the implications of this theory in ethics?
8. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this theory?
1. Compare and contrast simple subjectivism and emotivism.
2. Is emotivism tenable? Defend your stand.
3. Is reason important in ethical judgment? Why?
4. Explain: “The rightful moral decision involves selecting the option that has the power of reason on its side.”
5. Refute: “Moral judgments cannot be authentic truth claims but can only express feelings.”
6. “Logical positivism is self-refuting.” Explain.
7. Differentiate moral judgments from expressions of personal preference.
8. “A moral judgment is true if it is espoused by better reasons than the alternatives.” Expound.
Moral Realism and Objectivism
1. Moral obligations have “binding force” and “overriding character.” Prove.
2. “Virtues are not mere hollow abstractions.” Justify/criticize.
3. “There is an objective moral law.” Agree or disagree. Defend your answer.
4. Agree or disagree: Moral realism and objectivism are sensible and highly defensible. Defend your stand.
5. “There is a real right and real wrong that is universally and immutably true, independent of whether anyone believes it or not.” Prove/disprove.
6. “Generally speaking, people have the knowledge of the moral law.” Explain.
7. Differentiate between a “mere convention” and a “real truth.” Give an example of each.
Socrates and Plato
1. The ethical theory of Socrates and Plato advocates a positive view of man. Explain
2. In Socrates and Plato’s theory, how is morality related to happiness.
3. What are the weaknesses of the ethical theory of Socrates and Plato? Explain.
4. In Plato’s theory, how does one become moral?
5. Define virtue in Plato’s ethics.
6. Explain the ‘theory of Forms’ in relation to ethics.
7. Plato advocates moral objectivism. Justify.
1. Explain ‘human nature’ in Aristotle’s philosophy.
2. Expound: “Ethics is the inquiry into the human good.”
3. Relate virtues and the golden mean
4. What is the role of ‘practical wisdom’ and ‘practice’ in Aristotle’s ethics?
5. What is Aristotle’s complete picture of a morally virtuous man?
6. In Aristotle’s ethics, what is acting according to reason?
7. What is happiness in Aristotle’s ethical view?
8. Using Aristotle’s doctrine of virtues, explain why we should be moral.
9. Explain: “Self-realization entails living consistently with human nature.”
1. “True happiness consists in finding, possessing, knowing, and loving the Supreme being, God.” Expound.
2. “The disordered and improper loves result in despair and sorrow.” Prove.
3. Explain: “To live morally is to love God with all the heart, with all the soul, with the entire mind.”
4. “Love of God thus entails charity.” Justify.
5. What’s Augustine’s understanding of the Summum Bonum? How is it significant in his moral theory?
6. Explain Augustine’s concept of virtues.
7. Relate love of God and moral living in Augustine’s philosophy.
8. Explain Augustine’s view of sin.
Thomas Aquinas
1. Differentiate acquired and infused habits.
2. Compare and contrast the moral and the theological virtues.
3. In Thomism, who is a virtuous man?
4. Whatis the role of synderesis in moral living?
5. For Aquinas, how is true happiness attained?
6. What is natural law? What is its significance in ethics?
7. Explain Aquinas’ philosophy of man.
Immanuel Kant
1. Explain Kant’s categorical imperative.
2. What is the role of reason in living morally?
3. Relate good will and acting from a sense of beauty.
4. Explain Kant’s ‘acting on maxims’.
5. Compare and contrast hypothetical and categorical imperatives.
6. For Kant, what is an authentically moral act?
7. Relate reason and good will in Kantian philosophy.
8. Who is a person of good will for Kant?
9. Contrast inclination and duty.
10. React on this: “Actions determined by wishes, passions, appetites, desires, and the like have no moral worth.”
11. Differentiate acts done “from the motive of duty” from those that are “in accordance with duty”.
12. What is the difference between ‘actions on maxim’ from ‘actions on impulse’?
Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill
1. Differentiate higher and lower pleasures.
2. “The end justifies the means”. Agree or disagree. Support your answer.
3. Explain Bentham’s ‘hedonic calculus.’
4. Explain Mill’s ‘secondary principles’.
5. Explain the nature of moral judgments in utilitarianism.
6. Differentiate Bentham’s and Mill’s utilitarianism.
7. What are the advantages in subscribing to utilitarianism?
8. What are the weaknesses of utilitarian theory in ethics?
9. Contrast consequentialist ethics with absolutist ethical theory.
Secularism and Humanism
1. What is the nature of moral judgment in secular humanism?
2. Define morality in secular humanist point of view.
3. Evaluate secular humanism as an ethical foundation.
4.  What are the strengths and weaknesses of secular humanism as ethical foundations?
5.  In ethics, is it plausible to remove God in accounting for moral rules and obligations?
6. Explain: “To suppose that human reason is never God-given and that it exists with no non-natural property would give us no reason to trust our own reason.”
Atheism, Naturalism, and Materialism
1. Explain: “When there is no fixed moral code to be guided by, what follows is a self-chosen, flexible morality that one can adjust at will.”
2. Agree or disagree: “A universe without moral accountability and devoid of value is unimaginably terrible.” Support your answer.
3. “Unless I believe in God, I can't believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.” Explain.
4. The atheistic-naturalistic-materialistic worldview cannot truly account for morality. Agree or disagree. Defend your stand.
5. What’s atheism’s problem in explaining ‘the compassionate tear’ and self-sacrifice?
6. Comment on this: ‘Richness’ of life in atheistic-naturalistic-materialistic worldview is superficial.’
7. “It is inevitable to accept the non-material aspects of the world.” Justify/criticize.
8. Agree or disagree: “Feelings, emotions, reason, thought, dreams, wishes, desire, and even morality will ultimately be explained as physical functions”. Defend your stand.
Darwinism and Evolutionism
1. Do you agree that Darwinism cannot account for morality? Explain your answer.
2. Explain: “The probability of life originating by accident is comparable to the probability of the unabridged dictionary originating from an explosion in a print shop.”
3. Justify: “Evolution’s implicit reasoning is flawed.”
4. Would you be an advocate of Darwinist-evolutionistic worldview, or be one of its critics? Support your stand.
5. Refute: “To be scientific is to be an evolutionist.”
6. Do you think evolution is a plausible worldview? Explain your answer.
1. Do you agree that morality is outside the realm of science? Why or why not?
2. What are the implications of ‘scientism’?
3. Evaluate scientism as an epistemological and ethical foundation.
4. What are the defects of the science-explains-everything-theory?
5. Refute: “Science is the only valid tool in acquiring knowledge.”
6. “There are many things that science cannot explain.” Justify.
Social Convention and Social Conditioning
1. Are moral laws mere social convention? Defend your answer.
2. Explain and evaluate the theory that morality is just an effect of social conditioning.
3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of ‘ethics is social convention’ theory?
4. “The sense of moral obligation cannot be explained sufficiently by social conditioning.” Explain.
5. Refute: “Sense of moral obligation is just the effect of social conditioning.”
6. Agree or disagree: “The original conscience is a set of taboos and compulsions acquired from associates.” Support your answer.
7. “Moral law belongs to the same class as mathematics.” Expound.
Herd Instinct, ‘What We Actually Do,’ and Beneficial Behaviors
1. Prove that the Moral Law is not one of our herd instincts.
2. What is the so-called “is-ought” fallacy?
3. Why is it wrong to equate being moral to convenience?
4. “It is a mistake to think that some of our impulses—say, mother love or patriotism—are automatically good.” Explain.
5. “Simply because someone is doing something does not mean that one ought to do so.” Expound.
6. “Someone is doing ‘immoral’” means that “what he is doing happens to be inconvenient to us.” Agree or disagree. Support your answer.
1. What is the cut-flower thesis? What are the indications that it is highly probable?
2. Compare and contrast theism and non-theism in terms of moral accountability.
3. Theistic ethics can satisfactorily explain objective moral values. Explain.
4. Explain the nature of moral judgments in theism.
5. “Generally, all men have the moral experience of feeling obligated.” Justify.
6. “The ‘binding force’ and ‘overriding character’ of the moral obligation are attributed to God who is man’s creator and thus the cause of man’s moral dimension.” Agree or disagree. Support your Answer.
7. “There is a bond that exists between man and his Creator such as the feeling of being morally obligated to live up to some moral law.” Expound.
8. Explain: “When we admit a moral law, we also affirm a moral lawgiver.”
About the Contributor:
Jensen DG. Mañebog, the contributor, is a book author and professorial lecturer in the graduate school of a university in Metro Manila. His unique e-books in Ethics (available online), comprehensively introduce and critically analyse various ethical theories and worldviews (e-mail:
Tags: Moral Philosophy, Ethics, Critical Thinking, e-learning, blended learning
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