Essay Exam 1

Answer all the following questions in 1000 words (about 3 pages). Use 11-point Times New Roman font with double-spacing and 1-inch margins. Do not include the questions, an introduction, or any other information that is not relevant. Just include your answers. You may discuss the exam with your peers, but your answers must be your own work (if two or more exams resemble one another too closely, all the authors will lose points). 

1. Consider this passage: 

“One approach to morality is called cultural relativism. This idea was invented by some important people working in the disciplines of sociology and cultural anthropology. The way they see things, what makes an action morally right is that it is permitted by the moral code of the society in which it is performed. In other words, if a person is conforming to local moral standards, then they are acting rightly; if they are challenging or violating local moral standards, then they are acting wrongly. Well, this view has absolutely ridiculous implications about the words and actions of moral reformers — people who criticize the moral views of the majority and who urge societal change. Consider Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the famous feminist from the 19th Century who thought that it was morally wrong that women were not allowed to own land and inherit property, like men. Or consider Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist and social reformer who, during the Reconstruction Era, argued that it was morally wrong for blacks to be prohibited or restricted from voting for no good reason. If cultural relativism were really true, then all such moral reformers would necessarily be mistaken. Their moral opinions would be false, simply because they were moral reformers. For example, if cultural relativism were true, then when Stanton said, “It’s wrong that women can’t own land or inherit property,” her judgment was false. Similarly, when Douglass said, “It’s wrong for blacks to be excluded from the ballot box,” his judgment was false. For both of them were making judgments at odds with the moral codes of their societies. But it is implausible to think that all moral reformers are mistaken, simply because they think differently than the majority. What would such a view imply about other figures, such as Jesus of Nazareth, or Gandhi, or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Here, its implications would be impious, as well as outlandish. Cultural relativism might sound good at first, but it is a false account of the nature of morally right actions.” 

●This passage contains a two-premise argument against the moral theory called CR. Extract this argument from the text; write it down.

●Next, explain your extraction, going line-by-line. Provide the rationale for each of the two premises, one at a time. (If you don’t think a premise is true, save that for later; for now, just explain why the author – or anyone, for that matter – might justifiably believe each premise.) Do not get into the rationale for line 2 when discussing line 1, or vice versa. The first time “cultural relativism” or “CR” occurs in your extraction, carefully define this theory.

●Next, evaluate each line of your extraction. State whether you believe it is true or false and why. (Do not feel under pressure to agree or disagree with the premises; just state your real opinion.) Go line-by-line.

●Next, evaluate the argument as a whole. Is it valid? Is it factually correct? Is it sound? What conclusion should we draw from this case about the truth of CR? 


2. DC states that morally right actions are ones that do not violate any of God’s commands. Socrates pointed out that this does not really tell us what makes actions morally right. One way of interpreting DC so that it does tell us what makes actions morally right is theological voluntarism. Explain and evaluate this argument, going line-by-line, just as above. When explaining line 1, be sure to thoroughly explain theological voluntarism and the thinking behind it in your own words.

1.If theological voluntarism were true, then murder is wrong merely because God forbids it.

2.But what makes murder wrong is its actual effects, including how it causes unnecessary suffering and deprives its vicBm of a valuable future.

3.Therefore, theological voluntarism is false.

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