Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics

  1. What does it means when one refers to Aristotle’s ethics as teleological?
  2. Explain why Aristotle calls happiness the ultimate good. What does happiness refer to in Aristotle? Distinguish Aristotle’s conception of happiness from the utilitarian conception of happiness. (Hint: Happiness is an activity of soul.)
  3. Aristotle contrasts three versions of the good life in book I of his Ethics. What are these three rival conceptions of the good life? Which one is superior to the others and why?
  4. Is happiness acquired by learning, habituation or both? Explain your response.
  5. Explain Aristotle’s distinction between intellectual virtues and moral virtue?
  6. Even though moral virtue is not innate, Aristotle still claims that it is natural to us. Explain his point.
  7. List the various kinds of virtues mentioned by Aristotle.
  8. What is Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean in ethics? Apply it to the cultivation of the virtue of courage?
  9. What role do pleasure and pain play in the cultivation of moral virtue? How does this differ from the utilitarian view of the role of pleasure and pain in ethics?
  10. Explain Aristotle’s view that moral virtue is a state of character. Why does he reject the view that virtue is a passion or a faculty in us?



John Harris: The Survival Lottery

  1. Explain the distinction between killing and letting die. Which one, killing or letting die, is considered to be morally worse, according to traditional morality,  and why?
  2. Why is it considered morally wrong to kill someone, when the intent is to save the lives of two or more people?
  3. In Harris’ essay, Y and Z are two people who need organ transplants. Y needs a heart and Z needs lungs. How do they respond to the traditional distinction between killing and letting die? Do they believe that letting die is better than killing from a moral point of view? Why or why not?
  4. Explain Harris’ survival lottery. Which ethical theory is it based on and why?
  5. List and explain the several objections to Harris’ survival lottery scheme.
  6. How does Harris respond to the objection that killing a healthy person for their organs is morally wrong because in doing so we would be killing an innocent person?
  7. What is the likelihood, under Harris’ proposal, that any particular individual would be required to sacrifice their life in order to save those who need organ transplants? Does this justify the lottery? Why or why not?
  8. Explain how Harris uncovers the complexity of the right to life. Does this mean that we have to change our views concerning the distinction between killing and letting die? Why or why not?

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