157 terms

Normative ethics

STUDY
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John Wesley -
- English religious thinker and founder of the Methodist Church
- Business on earth is to do good as much and as often as we can
- Efforts must extend beyond ourselves
- Leave behind good works and a life of altruism
Consequentialist outlook-
- Do as much good as you can
- Move beyond egoistic concerns, improve the lives of others/your own
- Make the world the best place it can be
- Look at the consequences of our actions or policies
G.E. Moore-
- Declared it plain that what is right is whatever produces the most good
- Acts are morally right just because they maximize the amount of goodness in the world
Capital punishment-
- Consequalist camp: people insist that such punishment is justified only if it improves our lives (decrease crime, increase security, expand respect for human life)
- Optimism: yields the greatest balance of benefits over drawbacks (is required by morality)
-Second group: asks not what the future will hold but rather what the past requires of us, do certain people deserve to be killed for the crimes they have committed
Consequentialism's structure-
1. Identify what is worth having for its own sake (happiness, knowledge, virtue and friendship), if it is valuable then it is intrinsically good
2. Identify what is intrinsically bad (bad by itself apart from any regrettable results it may cause) ex: physical pain, mental anguish, sadistic impulses and the betrayal of innocents
3. Determine your options. What choices do you have? What actions are open?
4. Ask of each option, what the value of its results would be. How much intrinsic value will be produced/determine bad results if any
5. Pick one that yields the best balance: the highest ratio of good to bad results, failing to big the greatest balance of good over bad is immoral
Utilitarianism-
- Endorse the idea that well-being is the only thing that is intrinsically valuable
- If an action is morally right if and only if it does more to improve overall well-being than any other action you could have done in the circumstances (principle of utility)
- really all it has to have is that an action's moral stance is determined by its consequence
Maximizing Goodness-
- John Stuart Mill- summarized it by saying create the greatest good for the greatest number, he was a hedonist who believed that only happiness was intrinsically valuable and only misery was intrinsically bad
- 1st misunderstanding- in choosing between acts that benefit people, who must benefit the greatest number of people (Mill rejects this because the benefit to the majority may be very small while the benefit to the minority may be very large)
- 2nd misunderstanding- we must always choose that action that creates the greatest amount of happiness (Mill rejects this because he says if we have to choose between two plans and the first creates more happiness than the second, we do not have to automatically favor the first plan because it may also create a huge amount of misery while the second creates very little)
Moral Knowledge-
- No statute of limitations on counting consequences
- Brings in question of if rightness of an action depends on all its results and these haven't occurred yet how can we know whether it is right or wrong: some think it depends on their actual results others think it depends on their expected results (in the second view: acts are morally required just because they are reasonably expected to be optimistic)
Actual vs Expected results-
- example of helping an old man across the street: in this case a car comes out of nowhere and kills him. If the man didn't offer to help him across the street he would still be at the curb waiting, unharmed. If one were to analyze the actual results then the man did something immoral, but if one were to look at their expected results he would be in the clear.
- some actions we expect to turn out well end up doing great harm
- some actions are expected to turn out badly but end up with good results
Assessing Actions and Intentions-
- Actions are right provided that they are optimistic
- Intentions are morally good provided that they are reasonably expected to yield good results
- In the example above they would say that the action was wrong but they would praise his intentions
- If you are trying to harm when you had the chance to do good then you are to blame even if your action manages to maximize well-being: if you intend a kindness then you are to be praised even if through no fault of your own, your action backfires
Impartiality-
- tells us that our well-being is just as serious a moral concern as anyone else's
- Jeremy Bentham: wrote Principles of Morals and Legislation which gave the first sophisticated defense of utilitarianism (big abolitionist), his godson was John Stuart MIll (wrote for female equality in: On the Subject of Women), Singer writes on ethical vegetarianism and against animal experimentation
Ability to Justify conventional moral wisdom-
- we clearly know: rape, slavery, killing innocent people = does more harm then good, utilitarianism condemns them
- we clearly know: happiness, truth, keeping promises = beneficial, utilitarianism commends them
- Greed, malice, vindictiveness, ingratitude = moral vices, people are motivated by these things and tend to harm others missing chances to improve people's happiness
Conflict resolution-
- honesty may be the best policy but that doesn't mean that full disclosure is always called for (telling the truth may not always increase the overall well-being)
- Mill said this works in cases of taxation (utilitarianism compared to its competitor ideas has direct advice: to measure happiness vs. misery)
Moral Flexibility-
- Donner Party story: passing through California's Sierra Nevada range when buried in heavy mountain snows, supplies ran out/over half of the 87 people died that winter, those who survived made the choice to eat the remains of their fellow travelers opposed to starving
- some may say the prohibition on eating human flesh is absolute- not to be violated under any conditions (even if it means you can lose your life)
- ^ utilitarians would disagree on general grounds, no moral rule other than the principle of utility is sacrosanct (or it is morally okay to violate any rule if doing so will raise overall well-being)
Scope of moral community-
- utilitarians argue that animals are members of the moral community (their life can go better or worse for them)
- to be a member is to have intrinsic moral importance, with duties
- cannot ignore the happiness and the suffering of any being who can experience such things (in case of experimentation on animals)
right/good
The right- how actions are classified
The good- when states of affairs are morally desirable or they are not
obligatory
merely permissible
wrong
superogratory
obligatory actions- if u do them u do the right thing if u don't you did something wrong

merely permissible actions- ex: scratching your head, can perform without moral implication

wrong actions- obligated not to do them, if you do them you do good

superogratory actions- if you do them you do something good but not obligated to do them, ex: give all of your money to charity
adopt the actual view-
say a positive implication is that we are not committed to saying action A is the right action
expected-
interprets that action B will have less badness even though action A seems to have the most goodness (look at net balance)
actual consequences
^ if actual consequences are what matter then you will not have any reason not to believe that the consequences extend to all of the consequences in the future
act consequentialism

rule utilitarianism
act consequentialism- for any action the right one is the one that produces the most good

rule utilitarianism- for any action the right thing to do is to follow the rule such that if everyone followed it it would produce the most good
Measuring well-being-
1) add up all the benefits it produces
2) add up all of the harm it causes
3) determine the balance
4) see whether the balance is greater than that of any other available action
Coming in quantities
- inplausible
Matter of the degree to which our desires were satisfied
- determine how well off someone was by noting what percentage of his desires were fulfilled
- but how do you measure degrees of friendship? love? virtue?
If autonomy and happiness conflict-
-Mill says maximize the quality of our pleasures, as well as their quality
- some pleasures are higher than others
- even if there is one single intrinsic value (happiness)
- because happiness comes in many different flavors: momentary elation, physical excitement, exhausted gratitude...etc
- may not be the same per person
Same thing for harms
- different degrees
Deliberation
-utilitarianism demands too much information and computational skills that no one could possibly possess
- Mills response to the above= Christians know what their religion requires of them without having to reread the entire Bible prior to each action (same thing as Utilitarianism- where you can rely on thousands of previous cases to know what is going to be beneficial or harmful)
- are exceptions: have to stop and puzzle out the pros and cons of a given action, it defeats the purpose of doing good if you spend so much time deliberating, the person likeliest to fulfill the utilitarian goal of improving the world is the one who knows when to stop and think about her choices and when not to (too much thinking can lead to wasted opportunities, act spontaneously in most cases)
Motivation
- it is too much to make morality the entire focus of our lives
- part of your life must be devoted to yourself and the things you are deeply interested in
- a moral theory can be disqualified if it sets the bar so high that no one but a saint can meet its standards
- people motivated to only improve the world, usually fail to achieve their goal (those who aim only for this tend to be busybodies, cranks and obsessives
Decision procedure
- a method for reliably guiding our decisions so that when we use it well we make decisions as we ought to
Standard of rightness
- statement of the conditions under which actions are morally right
Action
-we really must act so as achieve optimistic results
- whenever we fail we are violating our moral duty and so behaving immorally
- any time you can do more good for others than you can for yourself you are required to do so
- supererogation: action that is above and beyond the call of duty (behavior is admirable and praiseworthy but not required)
- bystander dashing into a burning building to save those trapped inside
Impartiality
- the happiness of a celebrity or billionaire is no more important than that of a sanitation worker or chambermaid
- everyone counts equally, and no one's interests are more important than anyone else's
- we often get better results when focusing on family, friends, and fellow citizens
- when minimizing harm means giving one's time or money to strangers, utilitarianism requires that we do so
No intrinsic wrongness or Rightness
- actions like torture, rape, enslavement are intrinsically wrong
- for utilitarians the morality of an action always depends on its results
- they reject any absolute ban on killing innocents (or torturing them, or stealing from them) -- that any action no matter how awful is permitted provided it is necessary to prevent an even worse outcome
- don't believe in actions that are intrinsically right/wrong but the merit of these actions depnds on their results
The problem of Injustice
- we must maximize well-being but doing so will sometimes come at the cost of injustice
- moral theories should not permit, much less require, that we act unjustly
- to do justice is to respect rights
- to commit injustice is to violate rights
Vicarious punishment
- targets innocents as a way to deter the guilty
- often backfires
- though the torture and deliberate killing of innocent civilians certainly infringes their rights, the utilitarian will require that it be done if it prevents even greater harm
Exemplary punishment
- is punishment that "makes an example" of someone
- ex: Sherman's 1864 march to the sea (Southern guerrillas captured, tortured, and killed some of Sherman's soldiers while his army was encamped), Sherman had the Southern prisoners of war in his camp brought before him, selected one at random and shot the man publicly, saying he would continue if guerrilla attacks happened again, the attacks stopped immediately
- his command saved more lives than it costs, so by utilitarian standards it was the right thing to do, but it came at the expense of the prisoner's moral rights, it stopped the attacks but it doesn't mean that the prisoner deserved to die

- in both punishment cases people deserve not to be harmed
Justice is also intrinsically valuable
- maximize well-being and maximize justice in the world
- or does this just open ourselves up to the problem aired earlier, in which consequentialism loses its ability to give guidance when promoting one value comes at the expense of another
- they say always give priority to justice (if the stakes are high and the injustice are very small, then it may be right to perpetrate injustice)
- he suggests that rather than always giving priority to justice, give priority to well-being
Injustice is never optimific
- some utilitarians deny that their theory ever requires us to commit injustice
- saying if we consider all the results of unfair actions we will see that those actions aren't really optimific after all
Justice must sometimes be sacrificed
- allows that well-being and justice sometimes conflict
- well-being > justice
- we are socialized to tell the truth, protect the weak, keep our promises etc. because doing so tends to be optimific
- say it can be sacrificed when the results would be optimific
Rule Consequentialism
- the view that an action is morally right just in case it is required by an optimific social rule
- meets the following condition: if nearly everyone in a society were to accept it, then the results would be optimific (as good as they could be)
- instead of asking about its results, we ask instead about whether the action conforms to a moral rule
To know if a rule is an optimific social rule
1. Carefully describe the rule
2. Imagine what a society would be like if just about everyone in it endorsed the rule
3. Ask: Will that society be better off with this rule than with any competing rule?
benefit to this rule vs. the others
- rather than predict the benefits and harms of each available action and then trying to balance them against one another we are instructed to follow simple rules
Torture
-immoral even if in unusual cases it yields real benefits
Impartiality objection
- implication, no special thing made if subjects implicated by the action have a relationship to you
- objection: don't have an obligation sometimes
- two kids drowning, one is your son, consequentialists would say don't favor your son
- opponents say this theory is too broad
Doesn't allow for intrinsic moral value
- Theory of R = pleasure
- if p then q, not q therefore not p
- ex: psycho likes killing babies, gets pleasure for murdering them, the pleasure he gets is greater than the pleasure parents would have had if they were alive
- if this theory was right then it would be okay for him to do that
- if C is true, then there are no intrinsic rt/wrong actions, there are right/wrong actions, therefore consequentialism theory is false
- defend p2, think of case that'd never be right/wrong to show if C is true then you get the wrong response
Objection to conseqentialism
- claim you can't measure the quantities to all things
- epistemic barrier (theory of R maximize happiness)
- happiness is quantifiable but we have no means to assess it
- or that sort of data doesn't exist (not quantifiable)
- but this may not be a problem because saying R action is the one that brings most happiness makes it hard to know what a right action is.
- if C is true, no way to know right action is, are cases where we know right action, therefore C is false
Obligatory & Superogratory
- over and beyond call of duty
- do good thing but not required to
A - 10 B- 9 C- 8 D- 6
(consequentialism says pick A)
A- 10 B-9 C-8 D- 7 E-10
(C says A/E are merely permissible actions, and in this case no room for superogratory actions, if you chose B,C,D then you did something wrong)
- if C is true, then there are no superogratory actions, there are superogratory actions, therefore Consequentialism is wrong
Consequentialism (examples: not all of them though!)
Pro-
1) maximizes the good
2) seems to capture much of folk morality
3) everyone's well-being is equal

Con-
1) No room for special duties (obligations you may bare because of special relationships people have to you)
2) The good can't be quantified
3) Action guiding is potentially vague
4) No room for superogratory actions (things you do that you are not asked to but still bring good)
5) Too demanding
6) deliberation is too time consuming
SHOULD WE BELIEVE THAT CONSEQUENTIALISM IS TRUE?
- this is an epistemic question
- do we have sufficient evidence to justify our belief in Consequentialism
- pros evidence it is true cons evidence that it is false
- think of C as a hypothesis
- evaluate evidence with a standard
- if we think we should always use the same standard to evaluate other theories, then one false implication is enough to prove the theory is false
the way we test normative assertions are by seeing what their implications are and seeing if they have the right results
- Foot's killing 1 worse than letting 5 die
- T says if you are right then the guy is obligated to flip the switch
- T says it seems wrong that he is obligated to flip the switch
- Therefore Foot is wrong
grants
falsify a theory by showing it has false implications
that intuitions are sources of data when testing a philosophical theory
disagree about-
where or not intuitions can be wrong
1) if general theory of morality but if anything is wrong it is a false theory
2) if you think intuitions are always factive then the theory would be correct
Think intuitions aren't always correct-
if your intuition changes

act A - giving present to little timmy
is act A morally impermissible?
most people say no
......then they read Singer and then you ask them again

some people are going to think about it and think that it is wrong to give him the present
- if intuition changes then it must be impossible for it to false
- if impossible than the fact that the theory creates this claim doesn't make the theory false

- now compare to truth of theory
- think reflective equilibrium
- decides if good enough evidence of theory makes it true
- tests evidence for vs against, if it gets almost all intuitions right and only a few wrong then since there is so much right and left out so little then we have reason to believe that those remaining intuitions are the false ones
see notes in gmail
- when evaluating a theory we are asking a question about the sufficient evidence we may have for it? for its truth/falsity
- appeal to intuitive statements (do you think they are factive or do you think they are false because they change over time: then you have to figure out which ones we are more committed to and more likely to be correct/cost benefit analysis on them)
The Kantian perspective:
- immorality: what they did was unfair, took advantage of the system, broke the rules that work to everyone's benefit, violated the rights of others
- Immanuel Kant: said that the ultimate point of morality is to improve well-being rather than do justice
- inconsistency: of playing by one set of rules while insisting that others obey a different set, treat similar cases differently
Made this theory:
because he thought consequentialists had acts that were assigning intrinsic value and that was wrong (because obvious that there are some things that are always right/wrong), needed theory to say that certain acts are intrinsically right/wrong

ex: if everyone chose to be homosexual then the human race will die out, but it seems immoral to not allow this (therefore Kant finds it wrong)
Tests for immorality:
1. What if everyone did that?
2. How would you like it if I did that to you?
- when we ask these questions we will be trying to get the person to see that he/she is acting unfairly, making an exception of himself, living by a set of rules that work only because others are not doing what he is doing.
Argument: if disastrous results would occur if everyone did X, then X is immoral.
- fails to determine if all actions are moral
- makes the morality of an action depend on how it is described
The golden rule:
- tells you to treat others as you would like to be treated
- consistent (if you wouldn't do things to yourself you shouldn't do it to them)
- if you act inconsistently then you are being unfair and therefore immoral
- Kant says: it makes morality depend on a person's desires
- BUT there are true believers out there that are willing to suffer any harm in the name of their chosen cause (Nazis)
- depend on what you want and what you are willing to put up with
Golden rule fails to give us guidance on self-regarding actions:
- those that concern only oneself
- Kant: self-regarding duties were widely endorsed and many still think there is something immoral about suicide or about letting one's talents go to waste even if no one else is harmed in the process
- the rule sometimes gives the wrong answer to moral questions so it cannot be the test of morality
- Kant thinks wrong because it is contingent on desires
Principle of Universalizability:
- an act is morally acceptable if and only if its maxim is universalizable
- maxim: the principle of action you give yourself when you are about to do something
-it states what you are about to do and why you are about to do it (constituted by this intention and reason why)
-if we lack a maxim we aren't really acting at all
- for Kant the morality of our actions has nothing to do with results but everything to do with our intentions and reasons for action (he said this way the morality of our actions depends entirely on our control)
- ex: two people doing the same thing for different reasons
- according to him, only intentional actions exist
- if everyone acted upon the maxim then it would be possible to achieve the goal/maximize the intention
- ex: robbing a bank moral? maxim = get the money by robbing the bank, Kant would say it is moral if you can universalize the maxim, if everyone wanted to rob the bank to get the money, response is no because if everyone took the money there would be none and banks would collapse so therefore it would be immoral
3 Part test:
1. Formulate your maxim clearly- state what you intend to do, and why you intend to do it
2. Imagine a world in which everyone supports and acts on your maxim
3. Can the goal of my action be achieved in such a world?
- if answer to 3 is yes then the maxim is universalizable and morally acceptable
Universal means:
- we are pursuing actions for reasons that everyone could stand behind
Morality and Rationality
- immoral conduct is irrational (the mistakes and the inconsistent, contradictory reasoning behind them is why)
- exception: killers who knows what he wants, how to get it and executes his plan without fail (knows what he is doing is immoral but that doesn't faze him) so then how is this immoral?
Amoralist Challenge
- amoralist is someone who believes in right and wrong but doesn't care about morality at all
- obedience to these rules is completely optional
1. People have a reason to do something only if doing it will get them what they care about
2. Doing their moral duty sometimes fails to get people what they care about
3. Therefore, people sometimes lack any reason to do their moral duty
4. If people lack any reason to do their moral duty, then violating their moral duty can be perfectly rational
5. Therefore, it can be perfectly rational for people to violate their moral duty
- Kant believers that you act irrationally when you act contrary to your strongest reasons
Hypothetical imperatives
- imperatives (commands) are commands of reason
- command us to do whatever is needed in order to get what we care about
- ex: trying to lose twenty pounds then that requires me to forgo icescream
Categorical imperative
- rational requirements that do not depend on what we care about
- requirements of reason that apply to everyone who possess reason (everyone everyone able to reflect on the wisdom of her actions/ use the reflects to guide her actions)
- command us to do things whether we want to or not
- Kant: thought that all moral duties are categorical imperatives (they apply to us just because we are rational beings)
- act such that your maxims are universiable
- we behave in a way that is fair if everyone could also do it
Argument for the Irrationality of Immorality:
1. If you are rational then you are consistent
2. If you are consistent, then you obey the principle of universalizability
3. If you obey the principle of universalizability then you act morally
4. Therefore, if you are rational, then you act morally
5. Therefore, if you act immorally, then you are irrational
Robbery
- Kant can show that when a thief robs a bank in order to gain riches, that it is immoral. Because if everyone acted on that maxim there would be no money in the bank to steal, and the thief's goal could not be achieved
Integrity
living in harmony with the principles you believe in
- problem is that people of integrity may still be doing wrong (refusing to make an exception of myself is no guarantee that my principles are morally acceptable) -- consistency is not worthless but it fails as a general test for the morality of the principles we live by
Absolute moral duties:
- Kant thought that certain sorts of actions are never permitted (lying)
- he never provides an argument for the claim that the moral rules that prohibit such as things as lying and killing are absolute (closest thing was that moral considerations are more important than anything else)
- ex: moral duty to avoid hurting peoples' feelings, duty to preserve national security etc. but sometimes you have to lie to do these duties and lying is not a moral duty
Moral duties can conflict with other moral duties
- if they do they can't all be absolute
- we can't decide whether an act is right or wrong until we know its maxim
Moral agents-
things we think are capable of performing moral actions
ex: we have no problem saying that of an adult human (Smith did a bad thing)
- of rational thought (believes morality is a kind of rationality)
Moral nonagents
- ex: chair, dog (can they really be capable of evil) babies
cannot do things that are good or bad, not capable of morally accessible behavior
^ he wants to know why moral agents are held to the same moral rules
- he says the easiest way to explain that is that morality is just an implication of rationality and so if you are a moral agent because you are rational then that explains why all moral agents are obligated to follow the same moral rules
- then any person who is immoral is then irrational
- objection of the immoralist: sociopath that wants to kill babies, knows its immoral, depends on execution on how they achieve their desires
- This is what it is to be rational: David Hume?
If some agent x desires y, and believes that y if and only if z, then, all things being equal, x wants z
- does what he thinks he has to do to achieve his conflicting desires
- Kant's response: these things in nature are hypothetical (hypothetical imperatives are brought in)
- why think rationality is more than this?
- it is impossible to find an agent that does not care about morality
Autonomy and Respect
- slavery: Hare suggests the utilitarian view that denied that anything is intrinsically wrong with slavery, but that what matters is the actual results of the slave system
Kant's principle of humanity:
- Always treat a human being (yourself included) as an end, and never as a mere means
- humanity: was not thinking of all members of the species homo sapiens but he was referring to all rational and autonomous beings
- treating someone as an end: treating her with the respect she deserves
- treating someone as a means: dealing with her so that she helps you achieve one of your goals
^ treating people as an end implies a degree of respect that is absent when treating people as a means
Being autonomous : means being a self-legislator
- decide for themselves which principles are going to govern their life
- can resist temptation, check animalistic urges and decide whether or not you want to indulge them
Human being's dignity: Kant
1. the immorality of a fanatic's actions (regard despised opponents as mere obstacles to the achievement of their goals)
2. importance of autonomy explains why slavery and rape are always immoral
- slavery treats the oppressed without regard for their goals and hopes
- rape is treating another human being as a source of one's own gratification as if the victim had no legitimate say in the matter
3. outrage at paternalism (to be paternalistic is to assume the rights and privileges of a parent toward another adult: to limit the liberty of others for their own good against their will)
- ex: roommate writes your boyfriend a nasty note and forges your signature because they think they are bad for you
4. autonomy justifies attitude of never abandoning hope in people
- changing your character is always a possibility because we are free to determine the principles that guide our lives
5. universal human rights: protect every human being from certain kinds of treatment and entitle each of us to a minimum of respect because we are human
- kant says we have these because of our rationality and autonomy (proves this by saying: imagine a live without them)
6. autonomy explains holding one another accountable for our deeds and misdeeds
7. most people believe that punishment rather than conditioning is the appropriate response to serious wrongdoers (because they could have chosen to act well)
Kant rejects happiness as the ultimate value
- he says it has no value if it is experienced as a result of wrongdoing
- but says that good will is the only thing that is valuable
Good will
1. the ability to reliably know what your duty is
2. steady commitment to doing your duty for its own sake
- we see what we are required to do and we do it for that very reason
- no calculations of costs/benefits, worry about impressions, enemies we may gain
- thought that acting from the good will is the only way that actions can be truly praiseworthy (those actions had "moral worth")
Reason
- can reveal your moral duty and motivate you to obey it
- if a specific emotional makeup is needed to gain moral wisdom, then such wisdom might be out of reach for many of us.
Downgrades desires/emotions for reasons
- denies the claim made by Hume that our motivations always depend on our desires
- Kant thought that we could do things even if we didn't want to do them and even if we didn't think they'd get us anything we wanted
- that dutiful actions motivated by emotions or desires lack any moral worth
- but cases in which the good will moves us to act, though helped along by an emotional push, can yet have moral worth
5 problems with the principle of humanity
1. The notion of treating someone as an end is vague, and so the principle is difficult to apply
2. The principle fails to give us good advice about how to determine what people deserve
3. The principle assumes that we are genuinely autonomous, but that assumption may be false
4. The principle assumes that the morality of our actions depends only on what we can autonomously control, but the existence of moral luck calls this into question
5. the principle cannot explain why those who lack rationality and autonomy are deserving of respect
Vagueness
- of the notion of treating someone as an end often makes it difficult to know whether our actions are morally acceptable
- need a better test of rationality and autonomy deamands
Determining Just Deserts
- is it always appropriate to give people what they deserve?
- kant thought so, even if it is not going to benefit anyone
- Kant's partial reply to the problem of vagueness
- LEX TALIONIS (an-eye-for-an-eye principle): law of retaliation, tells us to treat criminals as they have treated their victims, Kant claims this punishment treats them as they deserve (punishment is justified because the criminals chose their maxims)
- if the criminal is insane (therefore not rational) we are not permitted to turn his principles back on him
Fails of Lex Talionis
1. Lex cannot explain why criminals who intentionally hurt their victims should be punished more than those who accidentally cause the same harm
- suggestion: determine it by the moral corruption, but this would abandon lex
2. it cannot tell us what many criminals deserve
- most obvious in crimes that lack victims (like failing to kill a victim or someone drives home drunk without hurting someone)
- therefore it makes no sense to treat people just as they've treated their victims
3. the guidance that lex provides, when it does prescribe a punishment, is sometimes deeply immoral
- legal punishment is the state's business and we insist that the state meet certain minimum moral standards (a state that rapes its rapists is failing)
*** when lex gets it right: its recommendations agree with those given by some more basic principle of justice
Punishment in regards to moral concerns:
- practice of plea bargains, parole, executive clemency, suspended sentences and pardons
- all treat people more kindly than they deserve
Suppose:
1. maintaining a system of punishment required so much money that we had to sacrifice funds for schooling, health programs and national defense (therefore punish less so we have more resources for other needs)
2. punishing criminals this much were to increase the crime rate rather than lower it
Are we autonomous?
- that we are free to choose which principles to live by and able to govern our actions by our choices

1. either our choices are necessitated or they are not
2. if they are necessitated, then they are out of our control, and so we lack autonomy
3. If they are not necessitated, then they are random, and so we lack autonomy
4. Therefore we lack autonomy
- our choices can be traced back to things in which we have little control: genetic inheritance, parental upbringing, societal influences
Moral Luck
- Kant says that we are rightly praised or blamed only for what we can control
ex: missing a passing car in my side mirror, pure luck that my inattention didn't cause a (possibly fatal) accident, many people are not so lucky and their negligence results in someone's death and they are blamed far more than I have ever been yet they may be no worse a driver or person than I am
- cases in which the morality of an action or a decision depends on factors outside of our control
- if Kant is right then moral luck doesn't exist
Scope of the Moral Community
- those Kant does not include: infants, severely mentally ill, mentally retarded, nonhuman animals, plants, ecosystems = because they lack rationality and autonomy (Kant says they have no intrinsic moral importance so we owe them no moral concern)
principle of humanity standard form
1. If the principle of humanity is true, then animals have no rights
2. If animals lack rights then it is morally acceptable to torture them
3. Therefore, if the principle of humanity is true, then it is morally acceptable to torture animals
4. It isn't
5. Therefore, the principle of humanity is false.
(can easily apply this argument to infants)
- Kant accepts the fourth premise and the first premise, did not accept the second one because he claimed it will harden our hearts and make it likely that we will mistreat human beings (which is immoral) so we must not harm animals
- BUT: ruthless prison guards can be loving parents, abusive bosses often treat their superiors with respect--- so mistreating one group needn't lead to mistreating others, what about the rights of those he does not include in the moral community???
Kant's 3 formulations of categorical imperative-
^ he says they are all equivalent
the prevailing opinion is that they are not equivalent though
principle of humanity (part of comparative)- always treat a human being as an ends and not a means
- by human being Kant doesn't just mean genetic human being but an autonomous rational creature
- see difference between means and ends in above princ. definition
- ex: if you have a broken pipe in your house, and you call a plumber, you hit him over the head when he gets there, use his equipment to fix the pipes then when he wakes up you say he fell asleep on the job (just as a means)
- call him over he fixes the pipes and leaves after you pay him (Kant would say this would be using them as an ends because when you use him as a means in this case you give him respect/willing actions)
- objection to this principle is that it is vague
- does same kind of work that the universizability does
offshoot of principle of humanity
- Kant says what makes something a human being = self-determining autonomy and rationality
- uses this to explain why humans inherently value things better than other animals
- Kant says the kind of infants that Singer talks about don't have the value that they say they do (Singer says it is not okay to use infants in scientific testing but Kant says that there is nothing that really says that)
- Kant says that parents can do whatever they want to their kids (like babies are not humans because they don't have the autonomy and rationality) ---- this seems wrong so it is a problem with the principle of humanity
Normative theories need the theory of the good and the theory of the right
Normative theories need the theory of the good and the theory of the right
Kant's objection that happiness is the only thing that is inherently morally good.
- ex: if happiness or pleasure is what is inherently good then if a serial killer kills someone and is happy about it then it is better than when a serial killer kills someone and isn't happy about it (when you kill someone and are not happy about it it is actually better)
- if this is true then the argument that happiness is inherently morally good is wrong
- his theory is that the only good thing is the good will
- if you are able to know what your duty is and you are committed to doing your duty because it is your duty
If Kant is right,
Then you are only praiseworthy if you act from the goodwill
- do right thing no matter what your desires are
- "moral fetish"
- do your duty because you believe them to be your obligations
If beliefs sometimes make us do actions, why don't they all?
- Kant says that there is a special property about the moral content in a belief that motivates you
Kant's eye for an eye (theory for justice)
- rape a rapist example (problem for Kant's theory)
- not clear what to do for victimless crimes (like cheating on your taxes)
- relies upon the idea that in some sense we determine our own actions
- there are reasons to think that there are very obvious ways in which we are not autonomous (free-will debate) (limited autonomy)
moral luck- sometimes the morality of our actions is determined by something outside of our control
- both smith and brown go drinking and drive home. Smith makes it home okay but Brown hit a kid on the way home cause he was in the street, it seems like what Brown did was worse, but they did the same act (the one differentiating factor was the kid was there)
- Kant says morality of an action is determined by intention, so if he is right we have to throw away Moral Luck, but many people agree with moral luck (cause most people think hitting the kid is worse than not).
Proceduralism:
- the correct moral views are those that emerge from the correct procedure
- tells us that we should not begin moral inquiry by assuming (slavery is wrong or generosity is right), make no moral assumptions at this stage
- want to show us how to arrive at moral wisdom without first assuming the truth of our basic moral beliefs or principles
- ex: slavery
- try to explain and justify why it is immoral
1. show if we wouldn;t like it if we were enslaved
2. no optimific social rule would permit slavery
3. no universalizable maxim would allow slavery
** everything in the book so far has been a proceduralist theory (but not social contract!)
Contractarianism: the view that morality is based on a social contract
- laws are just if and only if they reflect the terms of a social contract that free, equal, and rational people would accept as the basis of a cooperative life together
- actions are morally right if and only if they are permitted by rules that free, equal and rational people would agree to live by, on the condition that others obey these rules as well
- if we are really rational we will each agree to curb our self-interest and cooperate with one another
- if we are motivated by self-interest and that is rational to be that way, we can do what is best for ourselves by agreeing to limit the direct pursuit of what is best for us, and accept a bargain that gets us a pretty decent life
- some what resembles Kant because he puts rationality and morality together
- don't say that all people are completely rational.. but what people would do if they were
see chart in gmail notes
The Prisoner's Dilemma:
- mounting competition over a scarce resource, many trying their best to increase their share of it, rational yet if everyone stopped being so selfish each person would be better off
- ex: fishermen over using lake
- better off by scaling back their pursuit of self-interest

# Years in prison.. dominating strategy... no matter what the person does you do what produces the best results for you. What is the rational thing to do?
- C = rats out B = doesn't say anything
- best case scenario is two years each
- how to get them to work together = rules that mandate their cooperation and someone to enforce those rules (governing body)
Thomas Hobbes- founder of modern contractarianism
- magnum opus: Leviathan, to imagine a situation in which there was no government, no central authority, no group with the exclusive power to enforce its will on others
- called this state of nature
- thought this was the worse place you could ever be
State of nature-
- "war of all against all, in which the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."
- cooperation is a sham and trust is non-existent
- the escape = beneficial rules that require cooperation and punish betrayal, and an enforcer who ensures that these rules are obeyed
- the problem with agreements though is that they can be broken, and without a strong incentive to keep promises people in prisoner's dilemmas will break them
- need a powerful person or group whose threats give them reason to keep their word (doesn't have to be government)
Advantages of Contractarianism: (1)
- morality is essentially a social phenomenon
- nothing other than special rules of cooperation (need at least two people for it)
- this is why we have no self-regarding moral duties (duties that apply only to oneself), when actions have no bearing on others then contractarians will deny that there is anything immoral about them
- explains and justifies the content of the basic moral rules
- according to contractarians the moral rules are ones that are meant to govern social cooperation
- often rules that people select to govern their lives are moral rules
- John Rawls- contract theorist, Theory of Justice, veil of ignorance- an imaginary device that eliminates all knowledge of our distinctive traits (religious identity, ethnicity, economic status, sex), rules will most likely include prohibiting killing, rape, theft, fraud etc.
- that cooperation must benefit everyone or only a few would rationally endorse them (mutual benefit) -- this is why slavery is immoral
- offers a method for justifying every moral rule
- show why immoral/moral
Advantages of Contractarianism: (2)
- explains objectivity of morality
- in this view, moral rules are objective so moral rules do not come from government/humans/god but they are the set of rules that would be agreed to by people who are very like us only more rational and wholly free and who are seeking to find terms of cooperation that will benefit each and every one of them
- that moral rules are the outcomes of rational choices tailored to human nature and typical situations that humans find themselves in
- Plato's thoughts: a backpack is a backpack because it resembles the form of a backpack, his forms = abstract non-material entities, morality works this way: acts are right if they resemble the form of the good, what reason do we have to believe these forms exist?
- why it is sometimes acceptable to break the moral rules (civil disobedience)
- when cooperation collapses the entire point of morality disappears
- every moral rules has a built-in escape clause (do not kill, cheat, intimidate... as long as others are obeying this rule as well)
- cooperation is built on trust so without trust you are back into the state of nature where moral rules do not apply
- when the government has rules that do not support everyone's self-interest but only their own (tyranny)
Morality and the Law:
- justifies a basic moral duty to obey the law: it enables us to escape from the state of nature and to gain from all of the good things that come from a stable/peaceful society (work in our own self-interest), our obedience to the law supports the institutions that make benefits possible
- justification of legal punishment: if punishment fails to deter crime then the state cannot effectively serve its enforcer role and so justification is undercut.
- punishment can restore the playing field by correcting the balance of benefits and burdens in society (sends message that everyone is equal before the law)
- justification for the state's role in criminal law
- says that the state's ultimate purpose is to aid our escape from the state of nature, giving it the ability to determine who is a posing threat to social stability
- actions that pose the greatest danger to society: treason, assassination, attacking the gov, are prohibited by criminal law
- civil law repairs personal harms and wrongs (which is why private citizens initiate criminal charges compared to a state rep)
Contractarianism and Civil Disobedience:
- governments must earn the allegiance of their citizens by making their lives better off than they would be in a state of nature
- some cases of civil disobedience involve doing illegal activities
- powerful because: protestors took the law into their own hands as a last resort after all feasible negotiations had failed, they act openly not secretly and were willing to pay the price by going to jail and suffering the beatings of police, they acted nonviolently in the face of physical violence, and they were motivated not by the promise of personal gain but by furthering justice
- ^ in acting as they do nonviolent protesters show respect for the rule of law
Social Contract problems and prospects
- situation : the Fool has made a deal with someone and the other person has already done what he's promised to do. Should the Fool keep his side of the bargain anyway?
- most say no (to take the money and run) but this is immoral...though people get away with it
- Hobbes says that people do sometimes get away with injustice but that doesn't make it rational to act unjustly, says the question is whether acting unjustly ever increases the likelihood of personal gain (and he says it doesn't) so unjust is never rational
- God: common thought that if you are immoral then God is going to punish you but the Fool he is considering is one who has said that there is no God so the threat of divine punishment doesn't work
Free-rider problem
when lots of people are cooperating in a way that brings some common good.
- so long as enough people are chippin in, this benefit can be enjoyed by all even those who refuse to help out (free-riders)
- get free ride by exploiting the efforts of others without making any sacrifices themselves
- ex: not voting but still getting benefits of the change
Hobbes and rationality
- all about how much gain you can reasonably expect from an action
- can be highly rational in some cases to break your promises or let others make all the sacrifices
Hobbes and a well-ordered society
- one that offers reliable threats against breaking mutually beneficial rules

1. No matter who you are, or what circumstances you find yourself in, it is always rational to act justly
2. It is always rational to be a just person- the sort of person who values fairness, approves of just policies, tries to live an upright life, and becomes upset when learning of injustice
therefore: for just people, it is always rational to act justly
The role of consent
- a contract is a commitment, a promise given in exchange for some expected benefit
- tacit consent (most of us have agreed to obey the law... not signing a contract or stating it out loud but we have offered this)
- expressed through silence and a lack of opposition to the government
Consent argument
1. We have a duty to obey the law only if we have consented to do so
2. Many have not given their consent to obey the law
3. Therefore, many people do not have a duty to obey the law
On behalf of premise 1:
- supporters say that governments can be abusive so their power can be justified if it respects the will of its citizens and that requires that they consent to being governed
- those against say: you hate your country and reject its basic laws, you only remain there because they refuse to allow you to leave or because better countries won't let you in, does that mean you have no duty to obey its rules because you renounce their social contract?
- contractarianism: doesn't say that we have to actually consent to these things, but that we would agree to if we were free and rational and seeking mutual beneficial cooperation
Disagreement among the contractors
- what if contractors can't reach a deal about the conditions under which a nation should go to war or the kind of aid we owe to the poor?
- Rawls said: make every contractor a clone of every other, behind the veil of ignorance all your distinguishing features go away
- Hobbes said: insist that moral rules are those that we would rationally agree too
- Rawls idea = fairer, since information that could prejudice our choices is kept from us as we select rules to live by
- Hobbes idea = why should I live according to the rules set by some person who isn't at all like the real me?
The Scope of the Moral Community
- Utilitarians say: anyone or animal who can suffer harm has rights and deserves respect
- Kantians say: anyone who is rational and autonomous (but kittens are not rational and cannot be rational.. seems wrong to torture a kitchen though)
- Contractarians say: anyone whose interests are protected by the rules that contractors will agree upon
- Self-interested is not being selfish
- it is having a strong concern for how well you are faring in life, being selfish puts too much importance on your own well-being relative to the interests of others
Contractors
1. Potential threats and potential benefactors
- They can return out good deeds, but also dish out nasty treatment in response to being harmed
2. They are our equals
- roughly the same powers as we do, including powers to help us and to hurt us
3. We must be unable to gain anything from them without their consent
- we must enter agreements with them in order to obtain benefits from and protection against them
Problems with the social contract theory:
- when you ask the question why be moral?
- you may think you always have some reason to be moral
- you may think you have an overriding reason, should always be moral
- show that reasons work because you have a moral reason to do y, epistemic reason to do z, practical reason to do x
-many think you have an all things considered reason to q, if you think this then you have to show that conceptually moral reasons have some factor in some way to your actions
- if it were true that we should be moral because it is rational.. then it wouldn't make sense that there are cases where it is rational to do something but immoral
- if rational to perform: the penalties? likelihood that you get caught? do not outweigh benefit you get from performing the act
Immoral or moral
- if people would agree to them or not
- is strange to say that because some people would follow these rules ... that you would be obligated to do things you didn't consent to do
- we don't think that we should have to obey contracts even if when we read them we would have agreed to them
- why social contract seems wrong. (need agreement of agents)
implicit consent
- to social contract may be enough to get some agreement
- kidnapped and stuck in a house in the woods (all of the doors are unlocked) and you don't leave (implicit consent)
- but lets say the reason why you don't leave is that there are wolves surrounding the house
If a theory has a false implication then it is wrong.
- the best we can do is see if we are justified in believing that it is false
- what is a false implication of a moral theory?
- test it by the intuitive merit of their implications
- are intuitions factive or not?
- if they aren't factive you have to ask if the theory is false or intuition is, which claim do you have greater evidence for? and what constitutes the evidence?
- ^^^ (reflective equilibrium)
Intuition defined
- nondeductive intellectual seeming that something is the case
Ethical Pluralism: Prima Facie Duties and Ethical Particularism
- monistic: defending the idea that there is just a single absolute moral rule
- pluralistic: defend the existence of at least two fundamental moral rules, and each is non-absolute (in some cases it is morally acceptable to break them)
- W.D. Ross: first developed pluralism
Prima facie duty
-an excellent, non-absolute, permanent reason to do or refrain from something
- to keep one's word, be grateful for kindness, avoid hurting others
- each duty may sometimes be overridden by other duties (example: sometimes need to break a promise to do what is moral)
- not really duties but rather permanent moral reasons that partly determine whether an action really is morally required

1. Fidelity: keeping our promises, being faithful to our word
2. Reparations: repairing harm that we have done
3. Gratitude: appropriately acknowledging benefits that others have given us
4. Justice: ensuring that virtue is rewarded and vice punished
5. Beneficence: enhancing the intelligence, virtue, or pleasure of others
6. Self-improvement: making oneself more intelligent or virtuous
7. Non-maleficence: preventing harm to others
To say that there is a prima facie duty of beneficence
1. There is always a strong reason to benefit others
2. This reason is fundamental, and cannot be derived from any more basic reason
3. This reason may sometimes be outweighed by competing reasons
4. If this reason is the only moral reason that applies in a given situation, then benefiting others becomes our all-things-considered duty (what we really, finally morally required to do in that situation)
The advantages of Ross's View on pluralism
- ability to accommodate our sense that there is more than just a single fundamental moral consideration
We are sometimes permitted to break the moral rules
- we all accept that there are circumstances in which it is morally acceptable to break a promise, allow harm to others etc.
Moral Conflict
- duties conflict when they can't all be fulfilled
- ex: duty to attend work but your daughter is sick and you have to stay home
- when they conflict we say in the end that you are absolutely required to show up at work and are also absolutely required to care for your child
- prima facie duty to obey the law and prima facie duty to prevent harm
Moral Regret
- when moral claims conflict and we can't honor them all we think that it is right to feel regret at having to give up something important
- when one takes priority over the other, the lesser duty doesn't just disappear it has some weight though it is not as morally powerful as the conflicting duty (regret acknowledges the forsaken duty)
Addressing the Anti-Absolutist Arguments
- Disaster prevention: claims that any moral rule may be broken if that is what it takes to prevent a catastrophe (therefore no moral rules are absolute) --- Ross agrees with this
- irrationality: charges that absolutism is inconsistent since the values at the heart of its rules can sometimes be better served by violating those rules --- Ross agrees (if we must break a promise in order to ensure that many more are kept he says that this promise ought to be broken)
- but Ross denies the push to consequentialism that lies within these 2 arguments (believed that moral rules are not absolute but he did not assume that our moral duty is to maximize the amount of good in the world)
A problem for Ross's view
- if there are no absolute moral rules then each moral rule may sometimes be broken
- but when?
- ex: sometimes it is morally more important to be honest with people than to spare them the hurt feelings that honest may cause (sometimes not.)
Knowing the Fundamental Moral Rules
1. Skepticism: no rule can stand alone, infinite regress (never-ending chain of questions and answers... since there is no stopping point none of the claims along the way can be justified)
2. Coherentism: we can justify any moral claim by showing that it receives support from, and lends support to, things we already believe then it is to that extent justified
- approves of circular reasoning: defending some belief by a set of other beliefs whose justification ultimately traces back to the original claim in question
3. Self-Evidence: those that are justified in believing on the basis of careful reflection alone
- ex: all bachelors are unmarried, the sum of any two odd numbers is even
Self-Evidence and the Testing of Moral Theories
- if Ross is right we use our deepest commonsense beliefs, some of which will be self-evident, as the way to test moral theories
Knowing the right thing to do
- Ross said that our actual, all-things-considered moral duty on any given occasion is not something that is self-evident
- things get tricky with more than one intrinsic value (you have to maximize goodness and minimize badness)
- the absence of a decision procedure for arriving at conclusions is actually the default situation across all areas of thinking
Ethical particularism
- they reject absolutism
- they reject monism
- deny the existence of any prima facie duties
- they say that something's moral importance depends entirely on context
- often use non-moral examples to soften us up to their core idea
Problems with Ethical Particularism
1. Its Lack of Unity: felt unsure of having several fundamental moral rules not just one
2. Accounting for Moral knowledge: provides no guidance for gaining moral knowledge, we lack rules to tell us how to figure out our moral duty in specific cases, which features are relevant in any given situation cannot be known in advance since no features possess permanent moral importance
Some things possess permanent moral importance
- seems that there is always some reason for regret when we commit injustice even if injustice really is the way to go in a given case
- claim that we can never know in advance, independently of context is false
Virtue Ethics
- focus on moral character
- what makes for a desirable human life?
The standard of Right Action
- An act is morally right just because it is one that a virtuous person, acting in character, would do in that situation
- actions are not right because of their results or because they follow the rules but because they are done by someone of true virtue
- moral exemplar: someone who sets a fine example and serves as a role model for the rest of us
Form of ethical pluralism
- single ultimate standard (do what the virtuous person would do) but there are many cases where this advice is too general to be of use
- When rules conflict we should follow the lead of the virtuous person
- room for critical discussion about who is virtuous and who isn't but we may have to agree to disagree because there is no way to convince someone whose moral outlook is opposed to our own
Moral Complexity
- virtue ethicists reject the idea that there is any simple formula for determining how to act
- they follow Aristotle in saying that ethics is a complex, messy area of decision-making and requires emotional maturity and sound judgment
- problem with the golden rule: even a child can use it with authority (Aristotle thinks even the most perceptive children are far short of true moral wisdom)
- do believe in objective standards of morality: those that are true independently of personal feelings or opinions
Moral Understanding
- species of practical wisdom
- examples of wisdom: being able to fix a car engine, play an instrument, ==
- requires training and experience
- know how to read people, be familiar with troubles people can go through, understand personality issues that prevent us from doing well, pick up on social cues
- emotions can help us to see what is morally relevant, by tipping us off to what matters in a given situation (no use knowing that you should help those in need if you are never aware of the struggles)
- emotions can also help to tell us what is right and wrong
- emotions help to motivate us to do the right thing
- support and reinforce our thoughts
- knowing what the right thing to do is one thing but doing it is another (strong will)
Moral Education
- gained through training, experience and pratice
- impulse is not enough (will only occasionally lead to the appropriate action)
- virtue is not inborn, takes time to acquire/right environment and teachers
- Aristotle said this happens the most in our youth, so that a person raised in vice could most likely not change his character significantly
- Trial and error
The Nature of Virtue
- goal of moral education is to make ourselves better people
- these people know what to do, when to do it, and why their actions are important
- this is a character trait not a habit or tendency to act in a certain way
- to have a virtue is to see things from a particular perspective, to want certain things and not others, to rule out various options, act in specific ways, and to have certain emotions and feelings
- continent: those who can keep it together, manage to do the right thing, but with little or no pleasure and only by suppressing very strong contrary desires
Virtue and the Good Life
- eudaimonia: translates as happiness or flourishing (Aristotle thought we all seek it)
- Aristotle argued that virtue is an essential element in a good life (agreeing with Plato)
- but unlike him he thought that virtue does not guarantee a good life, it is necessary but not sufficient for flourishing
- 3 part test by Aristotle to determine our ultimate good: to show that pleasure, wealth, power and fame are not what life is all about
- our ultimate good must not be something only instrumentally valuable (money and fame ruled out because they have no worth of their own)
- ultimate good must be self-sufficient (political power fails this test, having power over others is not what makes life valuable)
- ultimate good must involve something that is distinctive about us (uniquely human) (must take the form of exercising our rationality)
Objections
- Tragic dilemmas:
virtue ethicists say that actions that would be done by a virtuous agent, acting in character are morally right and such actions when motivated by virtue deserve our praise, tragic dilemmas are when a good person's life will be ruined no matter what she does (all options lead to disaster)
- ex: if virtue ethics is the correct account of morality, then Sophie's selection of one of her children to be murdered is morally right and morally praiseworthy... it is neither therefore virtue ethics is not the correct amount of morality (assumes there is a right and wrong way to do this)
- under the circumstances a virtuous person would try to minimize the number of innocent deaths, meaning they would have to make a tragic choice
Objections
- Does it offer adequate moral guidance?
- critics say it fails to provide enough help in solving moral puzzles
- ex: see your best friend's husband cozying up to another woman.. do you tell?
- honesty is a virtue, but being a busy-body and rushing into judgement are vices

- what about breaking the rules?
Objections
- Is it too demanding?
- what if a person sets a standard of excellence that is almost impossible to reach?
ex: Gandhi's hunger strike
- virtue ethicists say that you need to consider the circumstances..who argues for these extreme measures?
Objections
- who are the moral role models?
- who are the moral role models?
- we currently pick them based on how well they live up to our pre-existing assumptions about what is right and wrong
- solution - relativism, the idea that appropriate role models will differ from person to person or culture to culture
Conflict and Contradiction
- what if the virtuous people or role models disagree what to do in a situation? If one would act one way and the other another than both actions appear right
- solution= insist that there is only one virtuous person or insist that every virtuous person acting in character would do the same thing in every situation, or modify view of the right action to....
- an act in a given situation is morally required just because all virtuous people, acting in character, would perform it. An act in a given situation is morally permitted just because some but not all virtuous people, acting in character, would perform it. An act in a given situation is morally forbidden just because no virtuous person would perform it
The priority problem
-first figure out what our duty is, then define a virtue as a character trait that moves us to do our duty for the right reasons
- ex: to understand the nature of the virtue of generosity, we determine that giving to others in need is right and then define generosity as the character trait of giving to others in need for the right reasons
- virtue ethics rejects this because they deny that we can know our duty before knowing how virtuous people characteristically behave
- we must know what virtue is and how the virtuous would behave before knowing what we must do
- we explain why virtuous people don't rape others by showing why rape is wrong, we don't explain why rape is wrong by showing that good people will not rape others
Divine Command theory weakness
- virtuous people can either have or not have good reasons for their actions
- if they lack good reasons then their actions are arbitrary and can't possibly serve as the standard of morality
- if they do have good reasons to support their actions then these reasons and not the actions themselves determine what is right and wrong
- often thought that the second option is better
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