Ethics past papers and mark scheme

Specimen paper 2002

1 a) Outline the reasons why some argue that morality is linked to religion [10]

Reasons e.g. beliefs such as ethical monotheism, ideas about conscience, views about objectivity of moral codes and relationship between virtue and happiness (Kant)


1 b) Examine and comment on the reasons for arguing that morality should not be linked to religion [10]

Reasons e.g. autonomy of ethics, logical independence of goodness from god, criticisms of links between religion and morality and objectivity in ethics.


2 a) Examine what is meant by situation ethics. [14]

Analysis e.g. view that ethical judgments are applicable to whole situations and not just abstractions from such events, danger of trying to apply same ethical criteria to range of situations, emphasis on love ethic, this theory in contrast to the formalism of ethics, its association with religious belief.


2 b) Consider the application of situation ethics to a moral dilemma related to sexual ethics. [6]

Evaluation requires understanding of this theory in relation to a dilemma i.e. not just a narrative account of the dilemma. Critical appraisal could include views for and against the usefulness of this theory.


3 a) What are the main features of Utilitarianism as an ethical theory? [10]

Definitions of good, greatest good for greatest number, ideas about pleasure and pain, distribution of happiness and emphasis on consequences.


3 b) Examine and consider criticisms which have been made against Utilitarianism. [10]

Problems of definitions of good, difficulties of key terms such as meaning of happiness, issues related to consequences as a criterion for morality, religious critiques, relationship between this theory and justice and distribution of happiness.


4 a) What are the main features of the ‘just war’ theory? [10]

Criteria such as self-defence, help another state from aggression, ways in which war can be conducted such as status of civilians. Could draw on classical exponents of such a theory, including its religious status.


4 b) Examine and comment on the reasons why some thinkers criticise this theory. [10]

Difficulties of interpreting self-defence and e.g. pre-emptive strikes, problems of what is understood be aggression and from which perspective, issue of distinction between civilians and state.


5 a) Examine the claim that conscience is the voice of God. [14]

Can draw on key thinkers such as Aquinas and Butler, definitions of conscience, views that it is sinful to act against conscience, beliefs about human beings created in the image of God, status of conscience, objective moral principles and how by means of conscience people can discern moral values.


5 b) Consider the reasons why conscience may not be considered to have supreme authority in moral decisions. [6]

Being mistaken by conscience, clashes between authority of conscience and other types of authority.



Summer 2002

1 a) Examine and comment on these TWO claims:

i) “Morality is derived from religion.” [10]

May include classic accents such as ethical monotheistic traditions, selected beliefs about the attributes of God, notions of a divine command theory, views about conscience, context of morality within religious traditions / dimensions AND candidates should comment on criticisms against these stances.


ii) “Morality is independent from religion.” [10]

Views about non-religious codes / systems, consideration of selected ethical theories which could be non-religious, issued about the perceived harm of the relationship between the tow AND candidates should comment on criticism of these views.


2 a) Outline Utilitarian ideas about consequences and happiness. [10]

provides a way of checking the moral worth or otherwise of an action, ideas of the consequences for the greatest number, may clarify happiness using synonym pleasure and antonym of pain and ideas about the quality of such happiness.


2 b) Examine and consider key criticisms raised against Utilitarianism. [10]

From a religious perspective could be seen as mere hedonism and an attempt to base ethics on a non-religious foundation, problems of consequences in this moral context e.g. these may be non-moral and outside our choice and control, consideration of the problems about the meaning of happiness and that this could likewise become a non-moral issue; a range of other difficulties could be considered such as the view that there is a contentious attempt to define ‘good’ and the relationship between Utilitarianism and other moral principles such as justice.


3 a) Identify the main characteristics of situation ethics [7]

Such as views about the nature of the situation, problems of abstractions in moral debates, views against the notion of absolute standards, complexities of the differences between different moral dilemmas, importance of interpreting events and decisions in their particular context, status of religious dimension in this theory including the love ethic as a major factor in moral decisions.


3 b) “Situation ethics is obviously limited as an ethical theory.” Examine and comment on this claim. [13]

such problems as what is meant by situation; issue spanning both private and public morality; interpretations of love; ideas of objectivity in morals; need to weigh up potential weaknesses and make an informed decision on the quotation.


4 a) Outline at least TWO religious teachings on war. [10]

Two teachings and which religious tradition; either two different religions or two different traditions from the same religion; indicate the influence of religious beliefs and teaching on the more specific ideas about war. Could include a justification of fighting as seen in the Bhagavad Gita; the pacifism of some forms of Buddhism rooted in the first precept; belief in a just war etc.


4 b) “An individual’s conscience is of little significance in the context of fighting to protect ones; country.” Examine and comment on this view. [10]

Explanation of some views about conscience with some attention to idea that conscience may attempt to override the norms of particular societies e.g. conscientious objector; may be contrasted with authoritarian conscience and the guilt of disobeying those in authority. This needs to be weighed up with a view of the justification of war such as the right to protect one’s own country compared to e.g. pacifism.


5 a) Examine at lest TWO religious perspectives on sexual ethics. [14]

Need to display understanding of identification of religious teachings concerned and the influence of religious beliefs and practices on sexual ethics…Christian evangelical beliefs in no sex outside marriage; need to bring out the distinctive religious dimension such as sex is natural and God-given and beneficial; or perhaps the teaching may include a more ascetic stance which stresses self-control and the view that the natural world is evil and unclean.


5 b) To what extent, if may, is it reasonable to claim that sexual ethics should be separated from religious beliefs? [6]

Consider whether religious teachings have any role in this sphere; may be some understanding of why some view the autonomy of morality from religion and an interpretation of the meaning of ‘religion’ in a civil and social sense and not as such, essential to private matters. These need to be weighed up with an informed opinion.



Summer 2003

1 a) See 2002 q1 (i) and (ii) [14]

Could include empirical data based on evidence of various religious traditions including their practices and beliefs; interpretations of selected theological beliefs; influence of religious thought on moral codes and its perceived benefits etc. or separation of the two based on evidence; characteristic features of non- and a-religious moral beliefs and codes; disadvantages of a relationship between religion and morality.


1 b) to what extent is one of these views stronger than the other? [6]

Which and why; reasons and evidence and a point of view.


2 a) What are the advantages of Utilitarianism? [10]

E.g. appropriate focus on role of consequences; the importance of the ‘greatest number’; the value given to happiness; a code applicable to both private and public morality; provides a test for ‘rightness’ of an action including ways of calculating degrees of happiness; places of individual morality in a broader perspective; could be compatible with religious beliefs.


2 b) Identify the main problems of Utilitarianism. To what extent do these make Utilitarianism unacceptable? [10]

problems of consequences and difficulties in determining results; whether a moral theory ought to be based on a non-moral feature; role of other ends besides happiness in moral decision making; relationship if any with justice including retributive justice; unrealistic demands of Utilitarianism such as problems of attaining happiness; could be seen as a form of expediency; tyranny of the majority; how much force do the criticisms have over the advantages?


3 a) For what reasons may situation ethics be regarded as a useful theory? [10]

focus on individual examples with their distinctive features which may be difficult to duplicate in similar cases; tends to emphasise consequences in the working out of appropriate actions; rejection of universal norms which can be superimposed in all cases although there is an emphasis on value of love; these features could be argued to be useful in a moral theory.


3 b) Outline the main weaknesses of situation ethics. To what extent do these undermine the theory? [10]

Weaknesses could include: problems of interpretation of ‘situation’ and leading themes such as ‘love’; alternative and conflicting approaches to moral theory such as ideas of intrinsic rights and wrongs; potential of immoral acts being interpreted in specific cases as justifiable. Do these weaknesses undermine it or does it continue to be a valid ethical theory?


4 a) What is meant by conscience? [4]

Moral knowledge and its application; God given principle of reflection; wrong to act against conscience; secular interpretations with psychological interpretations e.g. authoritarian…


4 b) Examine ONE moral dilemma associated with sexual ethics.[10]

Clarify key terms and expressions; clear understanding of the nature of the dilemma; attempt to understand any assumptions or premises; key points in any arguments used and an analysis of language used; awareness of any lines of reasoning leading to conclusions.


4 c) With reference to this dilemma, comment on the view that conscience allows people too much freedom. [6]

Could include conscience as having authority and influence on behaviour with sense that one can be law unto oneself; one of problems could be acknowledgement that conscience can be wrong; focus on individual freedom could mean that there is a lack of focus on the complexity of situations in terms of the personnel an factors involved.


5 a) Examine what is meant by:

i) ‘just war’

ii) pacifism [14]

Just cause; legitimate authority; right intention; proportionality; as a last resort; reasonable chance of success. Possible reference to ideas of permissible conduct in war; range of possible responses re pacifism such as criticism on religious or moral grounds; economic reasons for peace keeping; opposition to killing in principle as murder; types of pacifism as opposition to types of war; positive stance of arguing for peace.


b) To what extent is pacifism compatible with a ‘just war’? [6]

some type of compatibility nay be possible – e.g. concession that there may be exceptional circumstances to justify some type of war including where innocents have been killed or where there is a prohibition that innocents won’t be killed; notion of defensive wars and war as self-defence. Cases may be needed to demonstrate compatibility.


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