Answers to True-False and Identification Questions on the Midterm Examination


Please read all the directions carefully and be sure not to skip any of the parts of the examination. Please write legibly. Your answers to the essay questions should both respond specifically to the question and show your familiarity with relevant materials from the readings and the lectures.

Author key:

Since this is not a test of your memory for names, the following list associates names of authors with descriptions of the content of what they wrote:

Steven Pinker: discussed the evolutionary or biological foundations of our moral views

John Locke: wrote about the state of nature and the law of nature

Judge Sorkow: the original judge in the Baby-M case

Katha Pollitt: the author of an essay harshly critical of Sorkow's opinion

C.J. Wilentz: author of the opinion of the New Jersey Supreme Court

Immanuel Kant: concerned with the categorical imperative

Mary Anne Warren: discussed various criteria for moral personhood

Don Marquis: author of the pro-life article concerned with the value of a future

Judith Thomson: uses many hypothetical cases including the violinist case

Baruch Brody: gives the rowboat analogy and argues that intentional killing of innocent human beings is never permissible.

Part I: Circle T or F depending on whether the sentence following is true or false. (3 points each 54 points total)

F 1. According to Judge Sorkow, the contract between Mary Beth Whitehead and the Sterns should determine who has custody of Baby-M.

T 2. Judge Sorkow ruled that some of the terms in the contract between Mary Beth Whitehead and the Sterns were not legally enforceable.

F 3. The New Jersey Supreme court held that the contract between Mary Beth Whitehead and the Sterns was inconsistent with laws banning slavery.

F 4. According to Kant it is never morally permissible to do anything that you want to do.

F 5. In Kant's view, whether an action is morally permissible or not depends entirely on whether its consequences are good or bad.

T 6. In Kant's view, morality demands that we treat all rational agents as "ends in themselves."

T 7. Mary Anne Warren maintains that early in pregnancy fetuses do not count as persons.

F 8. In Warren's view, if anything cannot communicate, then it is morally permissible to kill it.

F 9. Don Marquis maintains that without exception, abortion is always wrong.

T 10. Don Marquis defends a sufficient condition for the wrongness of killing.

F 11. Don Marquis defends a necessary condition for the wrongness of killing.

T 12. In Marquis' view, abortion involves the same prima facie wrong whether or not the pregnancy results from rape.

F 13. Marquis maintains that contraception is just as bad as abortion.

F 14. Judith Thomson maintains that all fetuses have a right to life.

F 15. Thomson denies that the unconscious violinist has a right to life.

T 16. In Brody's view, if the only way that you can save your life is to kill an innocent person, you still may not do so.

F 17. Brody maintains that abortion is morally permissible and ought to be legal whenever the pregnant woman would die if no abortion were performed.

F 18. In Brody's view, provided that the pregnant woman's life is not at risk, abortion is never permissible.

Part II: In the blank in front of each of the following passages write the last name of the author. Do not assume that there will be no more than one quotation from a single author (2 points each, 26 points total)

Thomson 1. Again, suppose it were like this: people-seeds drift about in the air like pollen, and if you open your windows, one may drift in and take root in your carpets or upholstery. You don't want children, so you fix up your windows with fine mesh screens, the very best you can buy. As can happen, however, and on very, very rare occasions does happen, one of the screens is defective; and a seed drifts in and takes root. Does the person-plant who now develops have a right to the use of your house?

Brody 2. Let us now look at the following argument: (1) A functioning brain (or at least, a brain that, if not functioning, is susceptible of function) is a property that every human being must have because it is essential for being human. (2) By the time an entity acquires that property, it has all the other properties that are essential for being human. Therefore, when the fetus acquires that property it becomes a human being.

Sorkow 3. The third argument is that to produce or deal with a child for money denigrates human dignity. To that premise, this court urgently agrees. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is still valid law. The law of adoption in New Jersey does prohibit the exchange of any consideration for obtaining a child. The fact is, however, that the money to be paid to the surrogate is not being paid for the surrender of the child to the father.

Locke 4. The promises and bargains for truck, etc. between two men in Soldania, in or between a Swiss and an Indian, in the woods of America, are binding to them, though they are perfectly in a state of nature in reference to one another. For truth and keeping of faith belong to men as men, and not as members of society.

Thomson 5. I am inclined to agree, however, that the prospects for "drawing a line" in the development of the fetus look dim. I am inclined to think also that we shall probably have to agree that the fetus has already become a human person well before birth. Indeed, it comes as a surprise when one first leans how early in its life it begins to acquire human characteristics. By the tenth week, for example, it already has a face, arms and legs, fingers and toes; it has internal organs, and brain activity is detectable. On the other hand, I think that the premise is false, that the fetus is not a person from the moment of conception. A newly fertilized ovum, a newly implanted clump of cells, is no more a person than an acorn is an oak tree.

Kant 6. Nothing can possibly be conceived in the world, or even out of it, which can be called good, without qualification, except a good will. Intelligence, wit, judgment, and the other talents of the mind, however they may be named, or courage, resolution, perseverance, as qualities of temperament, are undoubtedly good and desirable in many respects; but these gifts of nature may also become extremely bad and mischievous if the will which is to make use of them, and which, therefore, constitutes what is called character, is not good.

Marquis 7. What primarily makes killing wrong is neither its effect on the murderer nor its effect on the victim's friends and relatives, but its effect on the victim. The loss of one's life is one of the greatest losses one can suffer. The loss of one's life deprives one of all the experiences, activities, projects, and enjoyments that would otherwise have constituted one's future. Therefore, killing someone is wrong, primarily because the killing inflicts (one of) the greatest possible losses on the victim. To describe this as the loss of life can be misleading, however. The change in my biological state does not by itself make killing me wrong.

Pollitt 8. Distinguished experts testified that Mrs. Whitehead, who has raised two healthy, normal kids, is a bad mother and emotionally unbalanced: she was "overenmeshed" with her kids, disputed the judgment of school officials, gave Baby M teddy bears to play with instead of pots and pans (pots and pans?) and said "hooray" instead of "patty-cake" when the tot clapped her hands. I know that, along with two-thirds of the adult female population of the United States, I will never feel quite the same about dyeing my hair now that Dr. Marshall Schechter, professor of child psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, has cited this little beauty secret as proof of Mrs. Whitehead's "narcissism" and "mixed personality disorder." Will I find myself in custody court someday, faced with the damning evidence of Exhibit A: a half-empty bottle of Clairol's Nice 'N' Easy?

Warren 9. Can it be established that genetic humanity is sufficient for moral humanity? I think that there are very good reasons for not defining the moral community in this way. I would like to suggest an alternative way of defining the moral community, which I will argue for only to the extent of explaining why it is, or should be self-evident. The suggestion is simply that the moral community consists of all and only people, rather than all and only human beings;

Pinker 10. Far from debunking morality, then, the science of the moral sense can advance it, by allowing us to see through the illusions that evolution and culture have saddled us with and to focus on goals we can share and defend.

Brody 11. It may also be useful to say a few words about the larger and less rigorous context of the argument that the woman has a right to her own body. It is surely true that one way in which women have been oppressed is by their being denied authority over their own bodies. But it seems to me that, as the struggle is carried on for meaningful amelioration of such oppression, it ought not to be carried so far that it violates the steady responsibilities all people have to one another.

Marquis 12. This way of dealing with the problem of abortion seems superior to the other approaches to the ethics of abortion, because it rests on an ethics of killing which is close to self-evident, because the crucial morally relevant property clearly applies to fetuses, and because the argument avoids the usual equivocations on 'human life', 'human being', or 'person'.

Pollitt 13. What William Stern wanted, however, was not just a perfect baby; the Sterns did not, in fact, seriously investigate adoption. He wanted a perfect baby with his genes and a medically vetted mother who would get out of his life immediately after giving birth. That's a tall order, and no one other class of father – natural, step-, adoptive – even claims to be entitled to. Why should the law bend itself into a pretzel to gratify it?