Home Page




Weekly Lessons


Class Sessions  


Text Reading | Topics | Text Discussion Questions

At the conclusion of this session please post your discussion questions for the text and as a single set of responses under the heading DQ2.


Session 2: Ethical Theory and the Environment. 

Reading Assignments:

Ethical Theory and the Environment   Ecological Ethics, Chapters 3 & 4; Adam Smith (1795) Theory of Moral Sentiments [Part II of Merit and Demerit (or, Of the Objects of Reward and Punishment), p. 61-91]

 Discussion Topics  

Theory of Ethics & Ecological Ethics; Ecological Vs. Religious Ethics; Managerialism, Humanism, Statism, Modernism, and Economism; Secular Vs. Religious Ethics; Aristotle and Kantian Philosophy; The Economics of Adam Smith.

Readings Discussion Questions: 

(Pick seven questions to answer between questions 1-19. Thereafter pick three more questions between questions 20-25. These ten questions, followed by your answers is your homework for this session and must be placed in Drop 2 prior to the beginning of class on Session 3. However, you are required to know the answers to each and every one of these questions for the Comprehensive Exam!)


  1. Patrick Curry identifies three key "points" regarding the Socratic question of how one should best live and do. Identify those three points and reflect upon them in terms of your own experiences.  

  1. What is ethics? What are "ecological ethics"?

  1. Distinguish between realism, relativism and subjectivism. What philosophers are associated with each of these concepts (you may have to go to the web and do some research to answer this question completely).

  1. Explain the naturalistic fallacy to me.

  1. What is the difference between ecological and religious ethics (Yeah! you might have to research this!). 

  1. Explain the dominion thesis and the stewardship thesis associated with the Judeo-Christian tradition. Are there any problems with these ethics from an ecological perspective? Are there any arguments to be made in their favor as ecological ethics (Go ahead, give it a shot!).

  1. Define managerialism, humanism, statism, modernism, and economism.

  1. What does the term "secularism" imply?

  1. What is secular humanism and what threat does it pose to religious communities (That's right, another one for you to research!).

  1. How do secular ethics differ from religious ethics?

  1. What are virtue ethics?

  1. What does the term "teleological" mean and what philosophers are associated with this term (more web research I think).

  1. What is involved in Kant's categorical imperative?

  1. Explain to me what is meant by the term deontological ethics and provide me an example.

  1. How could happiness ever be incommensurable?

  1. What does the term utlitarianism imply?

  1. What is the animal liberation movement and what philosophers are behind it (more web work)?

  1. Adam Smith asserts "We do not therefore thoroughly and heartily sympathize with the gratitude of one man towards another merely because this other has been the cause of his good fortune, unless he has been the cause of it from motives which we entirely go along with." What is Smith talking about in this case and who is the "benefactor" who engenders gratitude among those receiving the gifts of his/her largesse?

  1. Smith then goes on to say that "if in the conduct of the benefactor there appears to have been no propriety, now beneficial soever its effects, it does not seem to demand or necessarily to require any proportional recompense." What is Smith saying here? Please explain.

  1. Thereafter Smith asserts "In the same manner, we cannot at all sympathize with the resentment of one man against another, merely because this other has been the cause of his misfortune, unless he has been the cause of it from motives which we cannot enter into." Again, explain what Smith is talking about here and apply it to the situation of the BP Gulf Oil Spill off of the Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico.

  1. Explain what Smith means when he speaks of "merit" and "demerit."

  1. What is beneficence and what about it precludes it from being extorted by force?

  1. Explain what Adam Smith meant when he talked about "justice."

  1. In presenting his "theory of moral sentiments" Smith provides an illustration that suggests his philosophy regarding the place of animals in his ethical system. Accordingly he asserts "before any thing can be the proper object of gratitude or resentment, it must not only be the cause of pleasure or pain, it must likewise be capable of feeling them. Without this other quality, those passions cannot vent themselves with any sort of satisfaction upon it. As they are excited by the causes of pleasure and pain, so their gratification consists in retaliating those sensations upon what gave occasion to them; which it is to no purpose to attempt upon what has no sensibility. Animals, therefore, are less improper objects of gratitude and resentment than inanimated objects. The dog that bites, the ox that gores, are both of them punished. If they have been the causes of the death of any person, neither the public, nor the relations of the slain, can be satisfied, unless they are put to death in their turn: nor is this merely for the security of the living, but, in some measure, to revenge the injury of the dead. Those animals, on the contrary, that have been remarkably serviceable to their masters, become the objects of a very lively gratitude." Given this statement, how would you characterize the role of animals within Smith's model of capitalism.

  1. Adam Smith regards the moral sentiments as the sufficient basis of moral judgment. In this regard his “moral sentiments” serve as the foundation for his sense of ethics. What are the positives and negatives associated with this ethical foundation?  

Class Sessions