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Ethics Exam 2
Terms in this set (69)
What is a moral theory?
A moral theory is an explanation of what makes an action right or what makes a person or thing good.
What does a moral theory focus on?
Its focus is not the rightness or goodness of specific actions or persons, but the very nature of rightness or goodness itself.
What does a moral theory do?
A moral theory provides us with very general norms, or standards, that can help us make sense of our moral experiences and judgments.
The standards that a moral theory provides are meant to be substantial enough to inform our moral reasoning (three things):
--to help us assess the worth of less-general principles, and to generate new ones, if need be
--to shed light on our moral judgments
--to corroborate or challenge aspects of our moral experience
What does a moral theory NOT do?
A moral theory does not, by itself, give us precisely tailored answers to questions about the rightness or wrongness of specific actions, or the goodness or badness of a specific person or thing.
Define: Considered moral judgments
Judgments formed after careful deliberation that is as free of bias as possible - moral theories need to be weighted against this
Theories and judgments should fit together as closely as possible
Consequentialist theories say that what makes an action right is its consequences.
Specifically, the rightness of an action depends on the amount of good it produces.
Consequentialist Theories: Utilitarianism
Says that the morally right action is the one that produces the most favorable balance of good over evil, everyone considered
3 important things about utilitarianism
1. Consequences matter when making moral decisions
2. Good moral theory incorporates principle of impartiality
3. Any good moral theory incorporates principle of benevolence (promote human welfare)
Says that the morally right action is the one that directly produces the greatest overall good, everyone considered
It is built on the principle of utility
It relies on the notion of the "greatest happiness for the greatest number"
It considers the immediate consequences of a particular action
Says that the morally right action is the one that, if followed as a general rule, would produce the greatest overall good, all instances and everyone considered.
It is also built on the principle of utility
It also relies on the notion of the "greatest happiness for the greatest number"
It focuses not on individual actions per se, but instead on the rule that a particular action implies.
If the rule implied by an action is one that, if followed in all cases, produces the greatest balance of happiness over unhappiness for everyone concerned, then it is morally right.
Evaluating Utilitarianism: Criterion #1: Consistency with our considered moral judgments
-Perhaps the most serious problem with utilitarianism is its conflict with commonsense views about justice.
-When pursuing the "greatest happiness" goal, it is sometimes necessary to harm a minority to benefit a majority, to act unjustly against one in order to secure the happiness of many.
-Justice, on the other hand, requires equal treatment of persons
Evaluating Utilitarianism: Criterion #2: Consistency with our moral experience
Utilitarianism seems consistent with our moral experience.
Evaluating Utilitarianism: Criterion #3: Usefulness in moral problem solving
Act-utilitarianism has a "no rest" problem. It requires that in our actions we always try to maximize utility, everyone considered. This may be asking too much of us. If it is asking too much of us, utilitarianism's usefulness as a guide to the moral life may be suspect.
To address "no rest" problem...
To address the "no rest" problem, some philosophers have turned to rule-utilitarianism, which posits general rules that maximize overall utility. If a specific act can be seen as consistent with a general rule that maximizes utility, then that act can be considered morally right.
Consequentialist Theories: Ethical Egoism
Says that the morally right action is the one that produces the most favorable balance of good over evil for oneself. Each person ought to pursue his/her own self-interest exclusively.
To determine right action, you must apply the egoistic principle to individual acts.
To determine right action, you must see if an act falls under a rule that, if consistently followed, would maximize your self-interest.
The notion, common in the social and biological sciences, that the ultimate motive for our actions is self-interest. Important to distinguish between these two ideas.
In actual life, we only pursue our own self-interests exclusively and cannot do otherwise—it is simply how we are wired. Most philosophers reject psychological egoism, but even so ethical egoism might still be true.
At least most of the time, ethical egoists are likely better off cooperating with others, developing reciprocal relationships, and avoiding actions that antagonize other people in their community and society.
Ethical egoism is not the same as doing whatever one desires or whatever gives the most pleasure. Even ethical egoists must consider the long-range effects of their actions.
Evaluating Ethical Egoism: Arguments for: Altruism is self-defeating
(1) We cannot know someone else's needs better than they do themselves.
(2) Helping others fosters dependency and prevents people from becoming self-reliant.
(3) It also breeds resentment because altruistic acts intrude on people's privacy and robs them of their dignity and self-respect. Consequently, when we try to help we often do more harm than good.
Evaluating Ethical Egoism: Arguments for: Ayn Rand's Argument
Each person only has one life to live and this life is of supreme importance. Altruism views the individual's life as something to be sacrificed for the good of others. Since altruism does not allow us to value our lives properly we should reject it. (Problem: false dichotomy between egoism and altruism)
Evaluating Ethical Egoism: Criterion #1: Consistency with our considered moral judgments
A major criticism of ethical egoism is that it is NOT consistent with our considered moral judgments. There are many actions that we can imagine that in our considered moral judgment are wrong but that the theory of ethical egoism would say are morally acceptable.
Evaluating Ethical Egoism: Criterion #2: Consistency with our moral experience
The major element of our moral experience that is clearly violated by the theory of ethical egoism is the notion of moral impartiality--treating equals equally. Ethical egoism obviously doesn't advocate impartiality; instead, it advocates thinking about one's own interests foremost.
Evaluating Ethical Egoism: Criterion #3: Usefulness in moral problem solving
The arguments regarding the usefulness of ethical egoism in solving everyday moral dilemmas don't suggest definitively either way whether the theory is useful or not.
Our judgment regarding the first two criteria should be sufficient to raise doubts about the adequacy of ethical egoism as a moral theory.
Nonconsequentialist Theories: Kant's theory
-An action is right if it is conducted in accordance with the categorical imperative.
-Reason alone, according to Kant, can inform us of moral law, the source of our moral duties.
-Right actions have moral value only if they are done with a "good will"--a will to do your duty for duty's sake.
-To do right, therefore, we must do it for duty's sake, motivated by respect for the moral law.
A hypothetical imperative tells us......
What we should do if we have certain desires. For example, "If you need money, work for it."
A categorical imperative tells us....
That we should do a thing in all situations regardless of our wants and needs. For example, "Do not steal."
Kant says that the moral law consists entirely of..
categorical imperatives. These are the authoritative expression of our moral duties.
THE categorical imperative says that.....
An action is morally right if and only if you could rationally will the rule implied by the action to be universal--that is, if you could rationally argue that everyone in similar circumstances should act according to that rule
The categorical imperative says to act only on....
"Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become universal law."
An action is permissible if..
(1) its maxim can be universalized (if everyone can consistently act on the maxim in similar situations) and (2) you would be willing to let that happen.
(3) you would want that to happen
Perfect duties are those that must be followed without exception. According to Kant, such duties include the duty not to lie, not to break a promise, and not to commit suicide.
Imperfect duties are those that can have exceptions, or that are not always to be followed. These include duties to develop your talents, or help others in need.
The "Means-End" Principle
This rule states that we must treat people (including ourselves) as ends in themselves, rather than as things with instrumental value to be used for someone else's purpose.
Evaluating Kant's Ethics: Criterion 1: Consistency with our considered moral judgments (perfect duties)
Contrary to Kant's view, there appears to be no good example of an absolute, exceptionless, moral duty. We can imagine many scenarios in which each of Kant's perfect duties should be violated in order to do the "right thing."
We can also imagine situations in which we must choose between two allegedly perfect duties that directly contradict each other.
Such conflicts provide plausible evidence against the notion that there are exceptionless moral duties.
Evaluating Kant's Ethics: Criterion 3: Usefulness in moral problem solving
The conflicts between perfect duties also raise questions about the usefulness of Kant's moral theory to solve specific moral dilemmas.
Another possible problem with Kant's theory is that the means-ends principle is sometimes impossible to implement. In some situations, in order to treat some persons as ends rather than means, it is necessary to treat other persons as means.
Other: Evaluating Kant's Ethics
Kant's moral theory meets the minimum requirement of coherence.
It is also generally consistent with our moral experience (Criterion 2).
Learning from Kant's Ethics
Despite its possible shortcomings, Kant's theory has been among the most influential moral theories, mainly because it embodies a good part of what our considered judgments lead us to embrace, namely:
--respect for persons
The Appeal of Consequentialist Theories
The notion that right actions are the ones that produce the greatest balance of good over evil has a certain appeal to our common sense.
Nonconsequentialist Theories: Natural law theory
As expressed by Thomas Aquinas, at the heart of natural law theory is the notion that right actions are those that accord with the moral principles that we can "read" clearly in the very structure of nature itself.
Traditional natural law theorists draw the conclusion that..
how nature is reveals how it should be
According to Aquinas, human nature aims at a number of good things:
--preservation of human life
--avoidance of harm
--reproduction and care of kind
--the search for truth
--the nurturing of social ties
Natural Law and Human Nature
-Our duty, therefore, is to achieve the good, to fully realize the goals toward which our nature is already inclined.
-Reason, which allows us to discern the natural laws that can be derived from our natures, is the foundation of morality.
-Judging the rightness or wrongness of an action is a matter of consulting reason.
-Like Kant's perfect duties, the laws of natural law theory are both objective and universal.
-Also like Kant's categorical imperative, traditional natural law theory is strongly absolutist.
Evaluating Natural Law Theory: Criterion 1: Consistency with considered moral judgments
Natural law theory, like Kant's moral theory, contains absolute moral laws that admit no exceptions (e.g., the taking of an innocent life, impeding procreation). But these absolutes can result in specific moral judgments that diverge from common moral sense.
Evaluating Natural Law Theory: Criterion 3: Usefulness in moral problem solving
Natural law theory's usefulness is undermined by the conflict between its assumptions about the teleological character of nature and the scientific sense of nature as non-teleological.
It is problematic, to say the least, to try to find your way from what is in nature to what should be.
The doctrine of double effect pertains to situations in which...
An action has both good and bad effects. It says that performing a good action may be permissible even if it has bad effects, but performing a bad action for the purpose of achieving good effects is never permissible.
The doctrine of double effect: An action is permissible if four requirements are met:
1. The action is inherently (without reference to consequences) either morally good or morally neutral.
2. The bad effect is not used to produce the good effect (although the bad may be a side effect of the good).
3. The intention must always be to bring about the good effect.
4. The good effect must be at least as important as the bad effect.
The Moral Criteria of Adequacy
1. Consistency with Considered Judgments
2. Consistency with Our Moral Experiences
3. Usefulness in Moral Problem Solving
What are considered moral judgments?
Considered moral judgments are views that we form about the rightness and wrongness of specific actions.
They are formed only after careful deliberation.
A moral theory that is inconsistent with our considered moral judgments is likely to be false, in need of drastic overhaul or rejection.
A plausible moral theory should be consistent with the fundamental facts of our moral experience, namely:
--We sometimes make moral judgments.
--We often give reasons for particular moral beliefs.
--We are sometimes mistaken in our moral beliefs.
--We occasionally have moral disagreements.
--We occasionally commit wrongful acts.
Consistency with Our Moral Experiences
A moral theory that doesn't acknowledge, or that is inconsistent with, the fundamental facts of our moral experience is likely to be false.
Usefulness in Moral Problem Solving
A good moral theory must be useful; it must help us solve moral problems in real-life situations.
Usefulness is a necessary, but not sufficient, characteristic of a good moral theory. All good theories are useful, but usefulness alone doesn't make a good theory.
Both consequentialist and nonconsequentialist moral theories are concerned with action, and attempt to answer the question, "What should I do?"
Virtue ethics, by contrast, attempts to answer the question, "What should I be?"
For Aristotle, every living thing has an end toward which it naturally aims, the thing that represents its greatest good.
Comes from REASON
The greatest good for humans, their true goal, is eudaimonia, which means "happiness" and "flourishing."
To achieve eudaimonia, human beings must fulfill the function that is natural and distinctive to them: living fully in accordance with reason.
The life of reason entails a life of virtue because the virtues themselves are rational modes of being.
-To Aristotle, a virtue is a stable disposition to act and feel according to some ideal or model of excellence.
-It is a deeply embedded character trait that can affect actions in countless situations.
Learn in the classroom
Learned through habitual practice
Acquiring Moral Virtues
Aristotle believes that, while intellectual virtues can be taught, moral virtues come about only as a result of habitual practice.
The Golden Mean's fundamental truth
For Aristotle, the Golden Mean expresses a fundamental truth: the virtuous--and happy--life is a life of moderation in all things.
Modern Virtue Ethics
Contemporary virtue ethicists agree with Aristotle on these points:
--The cultivation of virtues is a way to ensure human flourishing and a good life.
--A full-blown ethics must take into account motives, feelings, intentions, and moral wisdom
---Acting only out of duty is a barren and one-dimensional approach to living a virtuous life.
Evaluating Virtue Ethics
Virtue ethics seems to meet the minimum requirements of coherence.
It also seems consistent with our considered moral judgments and with our moral experience.
The main critique of virtue ethics centers on the last criterion, the usefulness of the theory in moral problem solving.
"What does God require to be a good person?"
Truth, love, wisdom, justice, knowledge, ect..
Comes from revelation*
Secularized christianity. Moral law determines what is required to be a good person
Maximize please, minimize pain
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