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Religious Ethics Elliott Wright. FREE WILL AND DETERMINISM.

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Presentation on theme: "Religious Ethics Elliott Wright. FREE WILL AND DETERMINISM."— Presentation transcript:

1 Religious Ethics Elliott Wright


3 Free will connotes moral responsibility and accountability Hard Determinism: All our actions are absolutely controlled by external causation Soft Determinism: Human actions are determined by values, desires and prior choices, yet we are still free to make a moral choice at the moment of decision Libertarianism: Humans are self-determining, with complete free will and moral accountability Theological determinism – All events are divinely predestined by God to occur; fatalism – God’s eternal decree determines who will receive salvation (Calvin) Biological determinism: Acts are predetermined based on biological, anthropological factors Physical determinism: Acts are predetermined by the physical laws of our universe

4 Darrow – Psychological Determinism: Our actions are determined by our characteristics, which are in turn determined by our experiences – Leopold and Leobb case; Darrow succeeded in sparing the lives of the teenage murderers by pointing to factors such as their spoilt upbringing, wealth, influence of Nietzsche; the Übermensch Honderich – Scientific Determinism: Physical events are a result of a physical cause. Our thoughts and desires come from material activity in the brain Locke – Philosophical Determinism: The illusion of free will is a result of ignorance of our true condition, as dictated by prior factors – Tabula rasa: we are born a blank slate; external causes form us Hume – We are free insofar as we are not affected by the casual determinants which affect human will – It is nonsensical to ignore the impact of either internal or external causes; reality involves compromises


6 Religious Views on Conscience Augustine – Conscience is the voice of God, a reverberation of his divine love – Allows us to observe the law of God; ‘written on their hearts’ – Humans require God’s grace to fully utilise conscience (The Fall) Aquinas – Synderesis: the use of reason to understand that we should be moral – Conscientia: the decision that people make informed by this which leads them to act; but not always the right choice Butler – Conscience, the faculty of reflection, distinguishes us from animals – A god-given guide to right conduct which should always be followed, regardless of the consequences Newman – We feel responsibility to our conscience, and consequently we fear God; if conscience was not the voice of God’s judgement, we would have no reason to feel guilty as we do

7 Secular Views on Conscience Freud – The superego; externally imposed moral code, the conscience – The ego; the conscious self seen by the outside world – The id; the unconscious self of repressed desires; amoral – Conscience is simply a construct of the mind; a response to the internalised disapproval of external authority (guilty conscience) Piaget – Heteronomous morality (5-10yrs); immature conscience, understands only that breaking rules lead to punishments – Autonomous morality (develops after 10yrs); as we grow less dependent on others for moral authority, we create our own rules Kohlberg – Moral development is sequential; We go from seeking the approval of authority, to keeping the law, to respecting both individuals and law Fromm – Authoritarian conscience; the internalised rules of external authority – Humanistic conscience; assesses our behaviour based on our experience and the experience of others

8 APPLIED ISSUES Business Ethics Environment Ethics Sexual Ethics

9 Environment Ethics Environmental issues – Air Pollution Harmful amounts of gases in the air caused by human activity; automobiles, aerosols, industry Focus now is on how to survive, not prevent – Water Pollution Can be improved if companies install water treatment units – Resource depletion Local communities prevent progress in alternative forms of energy (e.g. Complaints about wind farms) – Deforestation Highly profitable business, so difficult to deter ‘Slash and burn’; farmers use wood to heat their houses Millions of species die out as a result

10 Religious approach – Dominion God-given control over the natural world Implies anthropocentricism: human interests above those of other species – Creation God has continuing concern about all his creation However, humans have special status of imagio dei; being in the image of God – Stewardship In addition to the power of dominion we have the responsibility of caretaking- co-creators of God’s world – Rapture/end-time theology Man is superior and has unchecked authority over the environment No concern for the environment as there is no future to hold concern for- destruction is a sign of the apocalypse

11 Secular approach – Shallow ecology The environment’s importance lies chiefly in its usefulness for humans; its instrumental value in ensuring our survival Michael La Bossiere justified anthropocentricism as a part of the natural Darwinian order – Deep ecology Arne Naess – All living things have equal rights (ecosophy) – Nature does not exist to serve humans – We must reduce population (by withholding medical treatment) and live in small, self-reliant communities James Lovelock and the Gaia Hypothesis – Insists that the earth is a self-regulating entity, and global warming will destroy most of us by the end of the century

12 Business Ethics Businesses and their relationship with employees/consumers – Child-labour sweatshops, equal pay, the minimum wage, community action, media representation, tax evasion, consumer culture, animal testing, environmental initiatives, working conditions, nepotism – The Bible condemns lending money for interest; the ‘root of all evil’. Archbishop Welby attacks Wonga for this reason Whistleblowing – The leak of classified information by an individual within a corporation due to their belief that the corporation’s behaviour is unethical – Originally they appeal internally, before turning to media – Whistleblowers find it near-impossible to find another job, facing financial difficulties or even criminal convictions (Espionage Act 1917 in the U.S)

13 Environment and Business – Environmental responsibility is a business strategy which gains the respect of consumers, communities and the government – Supermarkets must respond to consumer concerns of ‘food miles’ and recyclable packaging Globalisation – Due to advances in technology and economic deregulation, many businesses are now run in a worldwide context + Creates cultural unity; allies countries through trade interests + Spread of western values promote higher standards of life for consumers and workers – Western dominance usurps indigenous cultures; e.g. proliferation of McDonalds, Starbucks – Destroys small and local businesses – Exploitation of foreign workers (e.g. Primark)

14 Sexual Ethics Premarital Sex – Generally acceptable today, but there remains stigma around female promiscuity – First time for sex is approximately 16 for males and 17 for females. Less teenagers are losing their virginity, but those who are do it younger – Pope Francis has softened the catholic view on abstinence Contraception – Little stigma in today’s society – Some outcry over free contraception for minors (promoting the illegal act of underage sex) – Abortion as means of contraception remains very controversial

15 Extramarital Sex – Condemned widely for its consequences on the cheated partner, any children involved – Birth of ‘open relationships’ as the institution of marriage breaks down Homosexuality – Gay marriage now ‘legal’ in the UK, backed by all three party leaders, but the major denominations will not conduct ceremonies; reluctant to redefine marriage in such a way – Russia has passed a bill criminalising ‘the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations’, effectively stigmatising the gay community


17 Bentham’s ‘Act’ Utilitarianism – Teleological; Bentham places moral value in the measure of happiness (the greatest amount of pleasure, the least amount of pain) an action will produce, calculated using the hedonic calculus; D; Duration of the pleasure R; Remoteness, how immediate the pleasure is P; Purity of the pleasure, to what extent it is tainted by pain R; Richness; to an extent, the quality of the pleasure I; Intensity of the pleasure; the amount of pleasure produced within a given timeframe C; Certainty of the pleasure, how likely it is to occur E; Extent of the pleasure, how many experience it

18 Mill’s ‘Rule’ Utilitarianism – Regarded pleasure not quantitatively, but qualitatively, and distinguished between ‘higher pleasures’ that stimulated the mind and lower sensory pleasures, and that for those competently acquainted with both types, the latter is more satisfying – Said to be a rule utilitarian, as he began to argue a universalisability to the principle of utility; happiness is the only desirable end as we all desire it, so everyone must act in a way that promotes the communal happiness of everyone in society – Strong Rule utilitarianism is deontological, as it claims an act is only right if it abides by the rules which, if followed, will generally lead to the most happiness; no exceptions. Mill, a weak Rule Utilitarian, viewed such rules as helpful guidance, not obligations. Singer’s ‘Preference’ Utilitarianism – Defines the best consequences as not pleasure, but the satisfaction of the preferences of all sentient beings; including certain animals (that can experience suffering) and children (upon reaching self- consciousness); chiefly, the preference to live

19 Applied to Environment Ethics – With environmental exploitation Utilitarians will compare the long-term harm with the short-term gain – Consider the pleasure of all involved; e.g., the immediate happiness of the community who will see their landscape obstructed vs. the benefit to the wider public – Mill puts nature at the top of his higher pleasures Applied to Business Ethics – Happiness of shareholders, workers and consumers equal – Corruption or deception is wrong ONLY if it causes pain Applied to Sexual Ethics – Mill would be reluctant to endorse the ‘lower pleasure’ of recreational sex – Bentham has no issue with sexual pleasure – Singer would take issue with the violation of the preferences of those affected by adultery

20 Strengths of Utilitarianism – Attractive aims (happiness, avoidance of pain) – Reflects prominence of hedonism in human behaviour – Straightforward to apply in most situations – Regards consequences; to just look at intention seems impersonal – Considers others, including the wider community Weaknesses of Utilitarianism – Ignores motive and the means by which the ‘greatest good’ is achieved; lead to injustice – Rejects individual rights in favour of the majority’s interests (solved by Mill’s Harm Principle) – Hedonic Calculus is impractical, cannot truly measure ‘happiness’; it is impossible to quantify and compare, for instance, the intensity and duration of the pleasure – Deeper human dimension than happiness – Instances where pain is a good thing – Outcomes are not entirely predictable – Too demanding; we ought to always do what generates the GGGN – Weak Rule Utilitarianism easily dissolves into Act Utilitarianism – Feinberg’s paradox of hedonism; happiness is required indirectly, as we fail to attain pleasure if we deliberately seek it


22 Deontological (moral acts are determined by fundamental principles, double effect accounts for the precedence of intention, consequences irrelevant) and absolutist (identify right actions by the universal standard of the primary precepts) Aristotelian Influence – Our final cause is our purpose or end, while efficient causes allow us to achieve this – The result of following one’s purpose well is eudaimonia, a fulfilment or contentment. Aquinas – Human purpose is achieving perfection in the image of God; it is unique – Eternal Law: The principles by which God governs the universe; only accessible by him – Divine Law: Scripture; a reflection of Eternal Law, but only accessible to those with interest. Revelation can supplement the discovery of… – Natural Law: Accessible to everyone through God-given reason; the moral code humans are naturally inclined to follow. Following it enables us to achieve our ultimate purpose – Human Law: Our society’s laws which should reflect the above

23 – Primary precepts are the ends we must strive for to lead us to our purpose; teleological Defend Innocent (Human) Life Learn Reproduce Have Ordered Society Worship God – Deduced from these are secondary precepts, the deontological aspect; actual instruction to achieve these ends. Not strictly universal as they may not hold in all circumstances. – Actions that are not in the pursuit of our purpose are seeking an ‘apparent good’. Reason must be used to distinguish between real and apparent goods, which can be developed through the cultivation of natural virtues (prudence, temperance, fortitude, justice) and revealed teleological virtues (faith, hope, charity) – The doctrine of double effect allows for exceptions to the secondary precepts where there is an intended outcome and another significant, but unintended outcome. Four conditions; We do not wish the evil effects and attempt to avoid them The immediate effect should itself be good Evil should not be made a means to achieving the good The good effect should be equally or more significant to the evil effect

24 Applied to Environment Ethics – (see Religious Approach on Environment Ethics) Applied to Business Ethics – Ordered Society precept suggests that businesses should be regulated by the state – Nurture of the Young precept would oppose child labour – Money is not a sufficient final cause; God is Applied to Sexual Ethics – In extramarital sex, adulterers believe that their love for the third party justifies their actions; this is only an apparent good, as only real goods fit the human ideal – Contraception violates the precept of reproduction – Using reason we discover that premarital sex is rarely open to the possibility of procreation. It is the ideal of marriage we should choose, as it provides the ideal conditions for the formation of the family unit (the only reason for sex)

25 Strengths of Natural Law – Acknowledges and preserves the special status of human beings – Primary precepts are common to all cultures – Clear application and basis with authority and justification – Double effect solves conflict of primary precepts, that would otherwise produce greater evil – Considers motive Weaknesses of Natural Law – Human reason is not perfect, yet Natural Law requires perfect reason to decipher the precepts/act morally – There is no indication which precepts are more important; e.g, ‘learn’ and ‘reproduce’ in the case of teenage pregnancy – Assuming that human nature has moral authority is unreasonable for someone without belief in God – What is does not imply what ought to be; naturalistic fallacy – Doubts over the notion of a common human nature


27 Deontological (moral value is placed in the act itself) and Absolutist (there exists an objective moral law, binding on all humans, which can be discovered through reason) The categories by which we understand the world are imposed upon by the mind upon its experiences; thus, moral obligation comes within ourselves, manifesting itself as the categorical imperative The human will is free and independent, motivated by three things; inclination, concern for self, and duty. To act with a good will, to act out of a desire to be moral, is to do our duty; the only acceptable motivation. For moral decisions to be meaningful, they must be done out of free choice; to do our duty we must be autonomous The inner motive, the intention, is vital; outward behaviour does not necessarily reveal good will. People are not intrinsically good, as ‘good’ characteristics may be used for evil; e.g. intelligence

28 Hypothetical imperatives informs us of a factual relation between a particular goal and how to achieve it. Categorical imperatives have binding force on people, irrespective of their interests; obligatory moral commands. The formulations of the CI act as rules to gauge whether an act is moral – Universal Law; act only according to a maxim which could be universalised – Treat human beings as ends in themselves, not a means to an end – Act as if you were ‘a legislator in the kingdom of ends’; assume all will act in the same way In the pursuit of goodness, we are motivated by the assumption that it shall be rewarded by happiness. However, virtuous people are often unhappy or in pain. The summum bonum, the state in which humans are both virtuous and happy, must exist as for Kant ought implies can. God must exist to initiate this harmony in an afterlife, as this reward cannot possibly be experienced before death.

29 Applied to Environment Ethics – Anthropocentric; only human rationality has absolute value – Kant argues that mistreating the natural world is bad not because it has intrinsic value, but because it makes us more likely to mistreat humans Applied to Business Ethics – Businesses have a duty to not treat humans as a means, respecting the autonomy of employees and consumers – Kant’s example of the honest shopkeeper; duty Applied to Sexual Ethics – Contraception and homosexuality cannot be feasibly universalised; sex is only dutiful when for reproduction – Outside the sacred bond of marriage, sex uses the other person as a means to sexual pleasure

30 Strengths of Kantian Ethics – Clear rules, universal – Emphasises the importance of each person and their autonomy; everyone is equally valued – Treats people as ends, against exploitation – Emphasises motive and intention rather than outward behaviour, which may be deceiving Weaknesses of Kantian Ethics – It is not clear why the motive of obligation is superior to motives such as love and compassion – Kant claimed there was only one categorical imperative (to follow the three formulations), yet there is dispute over whether which of the three forms takes precedence if they were to conflict – Fundamental to Kantian ethics is free will, the nature of which has been challenged by scientific reasoning for our actions – Applying reason may promote self-interest – Universalisability may not be feasible


32 The middle path between excess and deficiency Agent centred; unique to each individual Aretological; pursuit of excellence, virtue of character Plato introduced the concept of eudaimonia (the achievement of man’s highest good) to be achieved through cultivation of the cardinal virtues; Temperance, Courage, Prudence, Justice Aristotle developed Plato’s ideas Intellectual Virtues; come from instruction – Techne (practical skill), Nous (intuition), Sophia (wisdom) – Phronesis (practical wisdom) the most important virtue, as it enables us to comprehend all the other virtues Moral Virtues; come from habit – Courage, prudence, temperance, modesty, good temper, etc

33 Instrumental goods are good as a means to another Intrinsic goods are good in themselves; eudaimonia/ happiness is the only intrinsic good, as all other goods appear to act towards this end Living virtuously is about living life in harmony and co- operation with others as well as using reason; influence of the Greek polis community (social/rational) Following the example of virtuous people enables sufficient foundational experience; we must have experience of good in our early lives to conceive ethics Modern Virtue Ethics – Anscombe: Modern ethics are legalistic yet dispose of the rational authority of God, diluting engagement with ‘ought’ – Foot: Stresses benefit of the wider community; philanthropy – MacIntyre: Envisions a democratic and moral society in which virtues are commonly agreed upon and rectified over time

34 Applied to Environment Ethics – Promotion of lasting habits correlates with the gradual change required for environmental solutions – How best we should live in relation to the natural world Applied to Business Ethics – Oikonomikos: household trading. Individuals should embrace their own personal area of expertise – Chrematisike: trade for profit. ‘Wholly devoid of virtue’ – True wealth is ‘the stock of all things that are useful in the community’ Applied to Sexual Ethics – The application of virtues such as justice and fairness would promote the dignity of people; against the commercialisation of sex, pornography and prostitution

35 Strengths of Virtue Ethics – Answers increasing dissatisfaction with rule-based ethics in a world where the rational authority of a deity is questioned – Allows the integrity of autonomy across individuals and cultures, allowing moral decisions in accordance with our personal characteristics; the best for you Weaknesses of Virtue Ethics – Does not provide enough tangible guidance or instruction on how to act – Although the middle path is unique, the virtues are the same; rejects the notion that virtue is a relative concept – Concept of foundational experience ignores the impact of secondary socialisers in ethical rehabilitation

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