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Philosophical Foundations Three different domains of Morality Character Action Consequences Different ethical theories focus on the moral appraisal of.

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Presentation on theme: "Philosophical Foundations Three different domains of Morality Character Action Consequences Different ethical theories focus on the moral appraisal of."— Presentation transcript:


2 Philosophical Foundations Three different domains of Morality Character Action Consequences Different ethical theories focus on the moral appraisal of one of these domains Character Virtue Ethics Aristotle

3 Philosophical Foundations Two ways to evaluate action Deontological – Ethical decisions and actions are based on Rational appraisal Sentimentalism – Ethical decisions and actions are based on emotional appraisal Evaluating Consequences Utilitarianism – ends justifies the means Jeremy Bentham John Stuart Mill

4 David Hume (1711-1776) Sentimentalism Moral distinctions are not derived from reason, but from Emotion Our emotions enable us to evaluate the difference between virtue and vice Emotions provide an objective measure for morality based on a common sentiment towards humanity Although moral virtue is rare, persons do not act purely out of self-interest

5 Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) Moral principles are based on a rational appraisal Morality is based on duty Categorical Imperative Universal Principles of Conduct Moral laws are based on rational principles that are universally binding Deontological Ethics

6 Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) Utilitarianism says that the Result or the Consequence of an Act is the real measure of whether it is good or bad. Utilitarian Calculus In determining the quantity that may be produced by an action, we evaluate the possible consequences Those consequences that lead to a greater amount of happiness are good

7 Jonathon Haidt Julie and Mark are brother and sister. They are traveling together in France on summer vacation from college. One night they are staying alone in a cabin near the beach. They decide that it would be interesting and fun if they tried making love. At the very least it would be a new experience for each of them. Julie was already taking birth control pills, but Mark uses a condom too, just to be safe. They both enjoy making love, but they decide not to do it again. They keep that night as a special secret, which makes them feel even closer to each other. What do you think about that? Was it OK for them to make love? Morality Story

8 Jonathon Haidt Social Intuitionist Model Emotion serves as an intuition that directs our assessment of a moral situation Moral reasoning follows based on the intuition Ad hoc explanation based on defending our intuitions Used to influence the intuitions of others Thus, one feels revulsion at the idea of incest in the story Then, seeks to find a way to rationally defend the intuition

9 Trolley Problem


11 Joshua Greene Competing Processes Theory Cognitive and emotional processes compete in moral decision-making Impersonal Cognitive (Rational) Processes used in appraisal Thought of pulling a lever does not activate emotional centers of brain Personal Emotional process used in appraisal Thought of pushing someone more emotionally engaging

12 Marc Hauser Moral Decision-making based on Moral Module Similar to Chomsky and Pinker’s view of language module Instinctive Moral Grammar directs analysis of perceived actions Most cognitive processes are unconscious and implicit Moral cognition is largely unconscious Not developed through instruction Not dependent upon religious institutions

13 Marc Hauser Prior to emotional and cognitive moral appraisals Evaluate actions based on three categories Permissible Obligatory Forbidden Color our perceptions Constrain options for moral decision Moral appraisal occurs within specific cultures, but follows the grammar set by the moral module

14 Exemplars Wesley Autry Put his life in jeopardy to save a stranger Jumped onto subway train tracks to cover a person in danger Later replied, “I don’t feel like I did something spectacular; I just saw someone who needed help. I did what I felt was right.”

15 Exemplars The Story of Wesley Autry

16 Exemplars Holocaust Rescuers Risked their own life to save Jewish persons during the holocaust. When asked, many rescuers didn’t feel like they did anything extraordinary They could not of imagined doing anything different

17 What is a Exemplar? Common definitions Someone who embodies certain admirable traits Serves as a point of reference By observing an exemplary person, one learns how to exercise a particular trait For Virtuous exemplars These persons have characteristics that are essential for the moral life These persons are examples for how to behave morally

18 Aristotle and Virtue Ethics Eudaimonia – happiness or the good life Virtues are those those aspects of character that lead to a good life Virtues flow naturally from the character of moral exemplars Exemplars are persons who have developed certain habits that embody moral virtues

19 Aristotle and Virtue Ethics Acquiring virtue is not like other intellectual pursuits Requires “phronesis” or practical wisdom Virtues are acquired like the skills of a master craftsman More of an unconscious process

20 Contemporary Virtue Ethics: Linda Zagzebski Exemplars are the starting point for virtue ethics Concrete example of virtue to begin the development of conceptual definitions Exemplars are distinguished by their exercise of practical reason or phronesis Exemplars have the right motive, at the right time

21 Contemporary Virtue Ethics: Linda Zagzebski Motives are emotional states that lead to correct moral actions Each emotion has a thick concept that represents the intentional object of the emotional state Emotions enable a person to see a situation from a particular moral perspective Their emotions ready them for action

22 Contemporary Virtue Ethics: Linda Zagzebski Emotions form the basic dispositions of a person’s character Enduring moral traits Produces reliability and consistency in moral character despite the context Developmental perspective on acquiring virtue

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