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164 terms

A2 Ethics

Ethics - consistent with OCR A2 Level Religious Ethics
actions are right and wrong in themselves
actions need to be judged by their consequences ('end justifies the means')
Three examples of deontological ethics
Natural Law, Kantian, Divine Command
Two examples of teleological ethics
Utilitarianism, situation ethics
Investigation of the language and meaning of ethics, and the value of truth
Normative ethics
Deriving practical moral standards, good habits and rules to live by
Applied ethics
Ethics' application to specific issues
Subjectivist, c. 450 BC, said 'Man is the measure of all things'
No universally valid moral principles: truth is dependent on point of view, and all moral positions are equivalent
Cultural relativism
Ethics constructed on the basis of fitness for a particular society
Diversity thesis
Different rules of conduct apply in different societies
Dependency thesis
Right and wrong depend on the nature of society; judging objectively is impossible as all judgement frames depend on a certain, socially inscribed, way of looking at things
Five reasons for rise of relativism
decline of religious authority
exposure to, and increased understanding of, other cultures
unacceptable effect of interfering with other cultures
influence of meta-ethics, problematising notions of right/wrong
development of competing theories
Weaknesses of relativism
objective critique of atrocities is impossible
societies do not grow and progress - stifles change by acquiescing to the status quo
privileges social acceptability over moral behaviour
only a step away from subjectivism
Normative relativism
relativism which is assessed according to ethical theories and is therefore not culturally dependent
rightness/wrongness of an act judged by its consequences
situationism (Fletcher)
individual situations differ, only basis for making decisions is agape love
four working principles of Fletcher's situationism
pragmatism - must be practicable
relativism - no absolutes, judge each situation on its merits
positivism - make a value judgement which gives primacy to love
personalism - identify what is best for each individual
six fundamental principles of Fletcher's situationism
only absolute is agape
self-giving love
justice follows from agape
love has no favourites: strangers are as important as friends or family
love is the final end, not a means to an end
the situation will show what is the loving thing to do
founder of theory of Forms
Aristotle's 'living well'
natural law
eternal, absolute moral law, discoverable by reason
Aquinas's primary precepts
preserve life
learn (educate children)
peaceful living in society
doctrine of double effect
always WRONG to commit a bad act intentionally in order to bring about good consequences
sometimes RIGHT to a good act even though its consequences are bad (these consequences must be unintended, if they are foreseen)
naturalistic fallacy (G E Moore)
goodness is not natural so cannot be defined by reference to nature
strengths of Natural Law morality
easy to apply primary precepts
consistent with 'human nature' - fulfils human nature
clear rules, so easy to understand by all in society
flexibility in applying secondary precepts - applying wisdom
considers importance of both the intention and the act
criticisms of Natural Law
perhaps too simplistic a view of human nature and culture
divine telos: but what if there is no god?
eternal, absolute laws - but different cultures may have different laws
naturalistic fallacy (Moore)
predicated on human reason rather than God (Barth)
a posteriori
statement knowable only through experience
a priori
statement knowable without experience
single starting point for Kant's morality
good will
Kant's 'good will' finds its expression in acting according to ...
hypothetical imperative
an action that achieves some goal or end, ie. 'if I want to achieve x, then I should do y'
categorical imperative
moral commands, independent of everything but pure reason, and applicable to everyone
Kant's tests for whether action is consistent with pure practical reason
1) universalise principles without contradiction (Formula of Law of Nature)
2) treat humanity, including oneself, as an end (Formula of End in Itself)
3) act as if a legislator in universal Kingdom of Ends
Kingdom of Ends
Each person is free, automous, and thus has the ability to apply principles of pure practical reason
summum bonum
supreme good pursued by moral acts
strengths of Kant's theory of ethics
simple, based on reason and applicable by all
clear criteria to assess moral acts
moral value of an action comes from the action itself
categorial imperative provides rules for all
respect for human life: no treating others as means
observe duty rather than feelings
aims to treat all well (i.e. not utilitarian)
weaknesses of Kant's theory of ethics
universalisability: if act is right or wrong it applies to all regardless of situation
theory is abstract and does not tell you how to act in particular situations
(Macintyre) universability principle can be used to justify anything
clinical, cold notion of duty - devoid of compassion
does not consider consequences - but this may be an important part of ethical decision making
requires agreement about what pure reason actually is
does not show how to deal with potential conflicts, (e.g. stealing to preserve life is wrong???)
Ross's prima facie duties
1) fidelity, keeping promises
2) reparation for harm done
3) gratitude
4) justice
5) beneficence
6) self-improvement
7) non-maleficence
literal meaning of 'prima facie'
'at first glance'
characteristics of utilitarianism
principle of utility
consequentialist: measure consequences of action before deciding on act
(quantitative - Bentham)
(qualitative - Mill)
hedonic calculus (Bentham)
quantitative means of determining right thing to do in each situation
Greek philosopher associated with hedonism
Act utilitarianism
actions judged as means to an end
guided by principle of utility, not by a set of rules
relative - no notion of absolute right/wrong
main differences between Bentham's and Mill's utilitarianism
Bentham: quantitative, using hedonic calculus to judge how to act in each situation; 'act utilitarian'
Mill: qualitative (some forms of pleasure are superior to others), decision-making grounded in certain social rules; 'rule utilitarian'; universalisability
Rule utilitarianism
rules should be formed on the basis of utilitarian principles which can be applied to the benefit of society
strong rule utilitarians - principles should always be obeyed
weak rule utilitarians - act on principles, but disregard them when better consquences may result from doing so
weaknesses of act utilitarianism
difficult to predict consequences of actions, even by applying the hedonic calculus
any act potentially can be justified through the calculus
difficulty in defining what pleasure is
minorities have no defence
impractical/impracticable to apply the hedonic calculus to every choice
weaknesses of rule utilitarianism
difficult to predict consequences of actions
minorities have no defence
invoking rules means the process becomes deontological
strict rule following can lead to irrational decisions
weak rule following is more or less identical to act utilitarianism
philosophers associated with preference utilitarianism
R M Hare
Peter Singer
Richard Brandt
preference utilitarianism
moral actions are judged by how they fit in with the preferences of people involved
Hare's preference utilitarianism
need to consider our own preferences as well as others
everyone should be treated impartially
Singer's preference utilitarianism
take account of all people affected by actions
actions must reflect 'best interests' of all concerned
'best interests' is not necessarily the same as greatest pleasure - so is at variance with earlier utilitarians
Brandt's utilitarianism
preferences should be made free from psychological blocks, as if one had undergone cognitive psychotherapy
this would allow informed decisions, not prone to undue influences/desires (such as promoted through advertising)
criticisms of utilitarianism
consequences of actions are difficult to predict
ignores duty - ie. should promises be upheld and truth told?
can lead to injustice - ie victimising a minority for good of a majority
problems of measuring pleasure/happiness
ignores integrity - completely pragmatic (Bernard Williams - 'Jim and the Indians' scenario)
too impersonal, needs to consider individual rights (John Rawls)
central tenet of Paul's christianity
love thy neighbour
difference in Catholic and Protestant attitude to the Bible
Catholic: scripture cannot be your guide on every matter, so tradition is also important
Protestant: Bible is sole authority
Euthyphro dilemma (Plato)
Is something good because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good?
Problems for religion with accepting that God commands something because it is good ...
(1) seems to place limits on God's sovereignty (ie moral laws which God is bound by)
(2) seems to place limits on God's omnipotence: God cannot command us to do what is wrong
(3) seems to place limits on God's freedom of will - cannot violate moral requirements and so is not limitlessly free
(4) God is unnecessary - i.e. moral standards exist independently of God, so he is not a 'law giver' but only, at most, a communicator of laws
Problems for religion with accepting that something is good because God commands it ... (ie. divine command theory or voluntarism)
(1) no moral standards without God's commands - thus God could, in principle, command us to disregard God
(2) God's justice could be reduced (Thomas Hobbes) to irresistible power
(3) (William Paley) all moral actions predicated on self-interested urge to avoid hell and enter heaven
Divine command theory
actions are right or wrong depending on whether they follow God's commands or not; moral rules are true because God commands them
sense of right and wrong; way of recognising moral law; way of using reason to make decisions on how to act
key difference between Natural Law and utilitarianism
under utilitarianism it is possible to sacrifice a single person for the good of the many; natural law and christian ethics do not permit evil acts even if they lead to good ends
Jesus's Golden Rule
Do unto others ...
cognitivist position
moral statements describe the world and are objectively falsifiable
non-cognitivist position
moral statements are not descriptive, but expressions of feelings or opinions and so are essentially subjective
ethical naturalism/ethical cognitivism
theory that moral values can be derived from sense experience
ethical non-naturalism/ethical non-cognitivism
theory that ethical statements cannot be derived from sense experience
characteristics of ethical naturalism
cognitive and objective
ethical and non-ethical statements are the same
ethical statements can be falsified (tested against reality)
Moore's critique of ethical naturalism
goodness cannot be identified with a natural quality (to do so is to commit the naturalistic fallacy)
Moore's 'open question' argument
attempts to identify morality with observable properties of the world are always an open question: we can ask 'is it good?' of any action, and thus we cannot move from a factual objective statement 'Androcles saved the lion' to an irrefutable ethical statement of values
Moore's intutionism
good is a simple, unanalysable property, as fundamental and as elusive of description as a primary colour
we have a moral intuition about what is good, but we cannot define it (try defining 'yellow')
there are objective moral truths, but we only know these by intuition and cannot describe them
Prichard's intuitionism
moral obligations are obvious, but these obligations are as indefinable as 'good'
reason tells us the facts of a situation
intuition tells us how to decide what our moral obligation is
some people have 'better' intuition than others
Ross's intuitionism
agrees with Moore and Prichard over indefinability of 'good' and 'ought'
judgement must be used to decide what to do in a situation
one duty can be rejected in favour of another
deontologist who proposes seven 'prima facie' duties
criticisms of intuitionism
goodness unknowable except by 'intuition' which itself is undefined, so intutionism is obfuscating rather than precise
intuitionism is by definition unempirical, cannot have recourse to sense experience, so what happens if one person's 'intuition' conflicts with another's? who is right?
does 'intuition' arise from social and cultural conditioning?
emotivism (Ayer)
words like 'good' are meaningless
ethical judgements are not meaningful statements - they have no truth value
boo/hurrah: ethical statements are just emotional states of approval or disapproval
logical positivism
all truth claims must be tested by sense experience (verification principle)
Ayer's two types of meaningful statements
analytic: truth or falsity determined by the terms occurring in them (all bachelors are unmarried); logical and mathematical statements
synthetic: truth or falsity determined by checking facts (Socrates was Greek); scientific, historical statements, for example
emotivism (Stevenson)
ethical statements are based on emotions, but these are not arbitrary - they are shaped by our experience of the world and how we want it to be
ethical statements are subjective
ethical statements are attempts to influence others
criticisms of emotivism
by ascribing ethical statements to emotion alone, emotivism fails to recognise that they also appeal to reason and are thus not arbitrary
emotivism may be seen to allow everyone to have complete freedom of act on the grounds that all moral opinions are equally valid
prescriptivism (Hare)
ethical statements are not intended to be descriptive, but prescriptive - as such they say what OUGHT to be done
ethical statements are not statements of fact and are not true or false, but they are expressions of will
ethical statements are IMPERATIVES
'good', 'ought', 'right' are universalisable and prescriptive
boo/hurrah is added to - we are not simply saying boo to stealing, we are saying stealing is wrong and neither we, nor anyone else, OUGHT to steal
criticisms of prescriptivism
no way of judging the validity of one person's prescriptions over another's
because different opinions exist, prescriptions are not universalisable
prescriptions are not statements of fact, but then how account for the fact that most people feel that certain actions are wrong?
virtue ethics - agent centred or act centred?
agent centred
Plato's cardinal virtues
theological virtues
final end of virtuous person
another name for virtue ethics
aretaic ethics (arete = excellence, Gr.)
Aristotle's two types of virtue
intellectual: qualities connected to thought and reason, skill, intelligence
moral: qualities connected to character like courage, truthfulness
how to acquire virtue according to Aristotle
practice; especially use practical reason (phronesis)
Golden Mean (Doctrine of the Mean)
virtuous mean (VM) always found between two vices - a deficiency on one side and an excess on the other
D: Cowardice - VM: Courage - E: Rashness
D: Shamelessness - VM: Modesty - E: Shyness
D: Servility - VM: Proper Self-Love - E: Arrogance
Aristotle's practical reason
phronesis - the primary virtue that needs to be acquired so that one can get the balance right (i.e. achieve the virtuous mean) in all other respects
reasons for modern virtue ethics
Anscombe: act-based ethics ignore the agent (the person carrying out the act); deontological ethics have stopped making sense because fewer people believe in God
many modern proponents of virtue ethics agree broadly with Anscombe's argument
Philippa Foot's virtue ethics
individual reasoning is important in exercise of virtue: thus a virtue does not operate if it is turned to a bad end (e.g. courage may be needed to murder someone, but the end itself is not good)
the wise person directs their will to what is good
virtues are 'correctives' - if wood is left out to season it warps and needs straightening; virtues continually straighten human character
by constant exercise we can acquire virtue and straighten our character
Alisdair MacIntyre's virtue ethics
since the Enlightenment (17-18th century), rationalistic cause for morality had been sought by philosophers (eg. Kant, Hume) - however, theory had departed from reality

most moral statements nowadays are based in emotivism

meanwhile virtuous people remain in every day life, regardless of arguments of philosophers

virtuous life: developing moral habits to achieve virtue

moral goods are more important than moral ideas - moral goods include giving to charity

possible to have some virtues but still be prone to vices

three most important virtues: justice, courage, honesty - without them society's institutions become corrupted
Rosalind Hursthouse's virtue ethics
virtues shape virtuous person's reasoning in characteristic ways

being virtuous is most reliable path to flourishing

virtue ethics does not tell us how a virtuous person would ACT confronted by a moral dilemma, but about how they would THINK
Slote's virtue ethics
common-sense ideas and intuitions about virtues

prefers 'admirable/deplorable' rather than 'good/bad' to describe behaviours as these latter terms need explaining

virtue is inner trait of individual

agent-focused theories: moral life understood in terms of what it is like to be a virtuous person

agent-based theories: evaluate actions according to the inner life and motives of people doing such actions
feminism and vitue ethics (Annette Baier)
there are distinctly feminine virtues (caring, nurturing, self-sacrifice)
strengths of virtue ethics
- avoids need for formula to work out what to do in situation, but focuses on personal qualities to achieve
- distinguishes between good people and legalists (following the law does not make one a good person)
- stresses importance of motivating people to be good; imitating virtue
- enables integration of life (emotions, commitments, friends, social responsibility) with individual ethical reflection (ie. is holistic)
- teleological
- allows for learning for mistakes and personal development
- flexible, not absolutist
- allows for differing concepts of 'virtue' to be applied across different cultures
criticisms of virtue ethics
- no clear rules on how to act in particular situations
- (Robert Louden) VE cannot resolve moral dilemmas - though Rosalind Hursthouse contests this in an essay on abortion debate
- (Louden) may be difficult to decide/agree on who is virtuous, as those who appear good may not have good intentions
- what about people who think they are acting virtuously but are doing bad things?
- focuses too much on who we are rather than what we do
hard determininism
notion that all events have a prior cause - thus no body has any real choice in how they act, only the illusion of choice (cf. fatalism)
predestination (Augustine, John Calvin)
God has decided in advance who is saved and who is not, and our actions in the world are irrelevant. Everyone is sinful apart from those who God has chosen to do good in the world. We have neither control over, nor responsibility for our actions.
examples of hard determinism
Hospers - 'all a matter of luck'
Clarence Darrow (1924): punishment inadmissible unless the offender has free will
behaviours can be predicted and controlled as the universe is deterministic (Watson)
operant conditioning
form of learning in which individual modifies his/her behaviour based on the consequences of that behaviour
Pinker's determinism
all moral reasoning is result of natural selection; however, this is not the limit of moral responsibility - moral sense is innate
Locke's analogy on (lack of) freedom of choice
sleeping man in locked room - decides not open the door, not knowing that the door is locked anyway
Pavlov analogy of freedom
fly at front of heavy carriage, thinking he directed it
Honderich's determininism
the mind is an epiphenomenon, a bi-product of neural activity, so there is not even any 'self' to ascribe responsibility to
libertarianism (incompatibilism)
everyone has freedom to act and is morally responsible for his/her actions
soft determinism (compatibilism)
some of our actions are determined, but we are morally responsible for our actions
'ought implies can'
someone cannot be blamed for what he could not do, but only for what he was capable of doing but did not do
four influences
social pressure
synderesis (Aquinas)
repeated use of 'right' reason by which one acquires knowledge of moral principles
actual ethical judgement or decision made
Aquinas' decision making process
accept general principles - apply them, with the help of conscience, to particular situation
Butler's view of conscience
separates humans from animals
conscience has final moral authority in all decisions
hierarchy of impulses: basic drive for survival, self-love, benevolence, conscience
purpose of conscience (Butler)
guide one to happiness
harmonise self-love and benevolence
control human nature
Newman's/Augustine's view of conscience
conscience is 'divine law' - messenger from God
Freud's three drives
Piaget's view of conscience
morality develops through cognitive development

- heteronomous morality (5-10 years old): rules are not broken and punishment expected if they are; consequences show whether action right or wrong

- autonomous morality (> 10 years) autonomous moral sense develops
Kohlberg's view of conscience
influenced by Piaget
people move from conforming to authority to caring to others and finally to respect for universal principles
Fromm's authoritarian conscience
humans are influenced by authority - rules are internalised
guilty conscience is a result of displeasing authority
disobedience produces guilt which makes us more submissive to authority
can be manipulated (as Nazi government manipulated attitude to Jews)
Fromm's humanistic conscience
draw on our own experience, and teachings and examples of others
conscience is expression of authentic self
Macnamara's conscience
conscience is not a voice, but an attitude or awareness
conscience is what I am rather than some special attribute I can apply
Richard Gula's conscience
(following Macnamara) conscience is a way of seeing (vision) and making choices of action (choice)
Vernon Ruland's conscience
conscience is not necessarily the voice of a single God, but the individual's interpretation of religious or mystical wisdom
Timothy O'Connell's conscience
three levels:
1) personal responsibility for who we are
2) sense of obligation to seek out the good
3) concrete judgement we make in order to do good
Daniel Maguire's view of conscience
as Timothy O'Connell's
however, in making choices we need to consider the place of imagination, humour and tragic experiences of life as these enrich our perceptions of value
problems with conscience
if voice of God is conscience then why do people make mistakes by following their conscience?
if voice of God is conscience they why do we disagree over what is the right thing to do (for example, Christians disagree over abortion, women priests, etc)
Judaeo-Christian anthropocentric/'dominion' view of environment (Aristotle, Aquinas)
natural world is for benefit of human beings and has no intrinsic value (justified by, inter alia, Genesis 1:26)
Judaeo-Christian 'stewardship' view of environment (Assisi)
Humans have special role of caretakers of creation - and a duty of care
All creatures have the ability to worship God so no creatures should be harmed (Assisi)
Treating the world badly harms our relationship with God and each other
End-time (rapture) view of environment
Destruction of environment signals the beginning of the end times (Apocalypse) and second coming of Christ
Destruction of environment should therefore be welcomed
Three main (secular) approaches to environmental ethics (as set out by Alan Marshall)
deep ecology
ecologic extension or eco-holism (including Gaia)
shallow ecology (conservation ethics)
principles of deep ecology (Naess and George Sessions)
natural diversity has intrinsic value
species should be saved for their intrinsic value
prioritise decrease in pollution over economic growth
reduce population
resources are for all living things
decreate in quality of life is intolerable
principles of shallow ecology
natural diversity is a valuable resource
species should be saved as a resource for humans
pollution should be decreased if it threatens growth
population growth threatens ecological equilibrium
resources are for humans
decrease in standard of living is intolerable
philosophy (such as deep ecology) which has ecocentric or biocentric perspective
main principle: all beings have equal right to live and blossom (Naess)
emphasis on interdependence - the environment is a whole entity in itself
Gaia (Lovelock)
earth as living being
Gaia is regulated by the living organisms in it (much as a body is regulated by cells, bacteria, etc.)
survival of the fittest is NOT the determining principle - species are selected which suit the environment
life is indestructible - but human life is not
revenge of Gaia
Lovelock's later position: planet may not be able to self-regulate out of human change to environment
humans need to take action now to reduce global warning
nuclear power needs to be adopted on global scale
instrumental value
something has value only in that it is useful for others
variety of living things
Singer's humanistic view of environment
moral criteria based on sentience: should not cause pain to other species
as a preference utilitarian, Singer advocates that animals should receive equal preference
set up 'world heritage sites' to preserve environmental heritage and leave future generations the choice between unspoilt country and urban landscape
applying utilitarianism to environmental decisions
destruction of environment will result in harm to all species, so utilitarians will weigh up long-term harm against short-term benefits of environmental impact
quantitative utilitarianism will use cost-benefit measures, weighing economic benefits against cost (eg. is tranquillity of value?)
Mill - enjoyment and study of nature is one of higher pleasures, thus environmental preservation is imperative
preference utilitarian - maximise preference satisfaction for current generation
applying Kantian ethics to environmental decisions
rational nature alone has absolute value
however, domestic animals should not be treated only as tools
animals can be killed for food but not for sport (Kant)
we have moral duties to the natural world (treating animals badly makes us cruel and we will thus fail in our duties toward rational beings)
categorical imperative forbids exploitation and pollution of natural world (illogical to universalise this)
respect for nature is universal law for all rational beings (Paul Taylor), animals and plants should have legal rights (though not moral rights)
environmental virtue ethics
central question is what makes an environmentally good person
virtuous life in nature is essential to eudaimonia
examples of consumer impact on business ethics
Shell - Brent Spar
Nike - child labour
Monsanto - GM food
role of UCAS (1978)
to promote good and harmonious working relationships between employers and employees by negotiating in disputes
balance of interests between employer/employee
employer - profit, sustainability of business, productive employees
employee - good working conditions and good pay
reduction of difference between national economies so trade within and between different countries becomes increasingly similar
reasons for increase in pace of globalisation
technology change - especially ICT
transport faster and cheaper
deregulation (privaisation of nationalised businesses)
removal of capital exchange controls
free trade
consumer tastes
emerging markets in developing countries
negative aspects of globalisation
tends to favour rich countries (like US) with strong trade barriers
shareholder interests are more protected than those of workers or consumers
benefits of ethics for business
consumer preference leading to greater profit
less likely to have public relations disasters
more likely to attract and retain skilled and motivated staff
disadvantage of ethics for business
costs - wages and supply chain
christian approach to business ethics
Old Testament guidelines on not stealing and giving full amount for fair payment
New Testament - sharing with those in need, not amassing wealth for sake of it
applying utilitarianism to business ethics
general good of organisation more important than that of individuals
utilitarianism's cost benefit decisions can be very vexed - eg. close a polluting factory in interest of wider environment, or leave it open in interest of local community's jobs?
applying Kantian ethics to business
employees and consumers cannot be treated as ends
moral behaviour is deontological (business should not behave ethically just to impress consumers)
universalisation of business laws (e.g. no bribery)
business can bring people together and support chances for peace among nations (Bowie)
applying virtue ethics to business ethics
business is inseparable from society - all are part of the wider community (Aristotle)
employers as well as employees must be virtuous
traits that make for good business will be the same as those make for a good society (ie good businessman = good citizen)
profit is a means - not an end
Aquinas's attitude to sex
sex is for procreation only
some acts of procreation - incest, rape, adultery also wrong
categorical imperative applied to adultery and homosexuality
adultery - wrong, since the committer cannot want it universalised
homosexuality - wrong since universalisation would lead to extinction of the human race
Kantian approach to sex
wrong to treat others as means to an end - thus use of prostitutes immoral
sex within marriage morally acceptable, since each grants the other reciprocal rights
utilitarian attitude to sex
sex an important part of human pleasure so a libertarian approach
Bentham's approach to contractual sex
mutual consent for pleasure always right
however, Bentham did ask whether such a relationship harms society by undermining marriage, fidelity, family life
Mill's approach to sex
libertarian, but
one should really focus on higher pleasures
queer theory
one is free to define oneself according to one's own nature
virtue ethics approach to sex
sex that uses others as objects less conducive to virtue than sex which emphasises intimacy between and care for others