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Philosophical Ethics Johnson Ch 2 and Baase Ch 1.4.

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Presentation on theme: "Philosophical Ethics Johnson Ch 2 and Baase Ch 1.4."— Presentation transcript:

1 Philosophical Ethics Johnson Ch 2 and Baase Ch 1.4

2 Overall Goal Decide which actions are “acceptable” and which are not Based upon two tenents: People are rational People make free choices Why is this not a trivial task?

3 Categories of Situations It is dangerous to view ethical situations merely as right and wrong, rather: Ethically Obligatory Ethically Prohibited Ethically Acceptable (neither of above)

4 Notion of Harm Relatively simple: If someone is harmed, action is ethically prohibited What are limitations with this notion?

5 Dialectic Process Put forth a claim of rightness/wrongness to see how well it holds up Suppose you claim that human life has value and should never be intentionally ended Conscious and suffering? Unconscious and brain damaged? Terminally ill? Young vs. old? Capital punishment?

6 Descriptive vs. Normative Claims What are each? What are the limits of each?

7 Negative vs. Positive Rights What are they? What different requirements are imposed? Consider one’s “right to life” What does each right mean in this context? Can we have both? At the same time?

8 Ethical Relativism What is the basic idea being expressed here? Fairly well supported: Cultures vary in what is considered right/wrong Same culture varies over time Upbringing: parents, schools, peers, work What are problems with this perspective?

9 Closer analysis… Moral beliefs are shaped by society Says nothing of their right/wrongness Self contradictory: By stating that there is no universal right/wrong, you are asserting one… Case: Selling computer to Hitler What is the value of Relativism?

10 Divine Command Theory “Good” actions are those aligned with the will of God, “Bad” actions are contrary to will of God

11 Catching Up Where have we been and were are we going? Notion of Harm Descriptive Claims Normative Claims Ethical Relativism

12 Utilitarianism (Bentham, Mill) Focus on outcomes, not on motivations What is the metric or goal here? Need an important distinction! Instrumental vs. Intrinsic goods Many laws are utilitarian based…

13 Act-Utilitarianism Emphasis on act and its net impact No concern for “rules” Example: State wants to replace a curvy stretch of highway along the outskirts of town with a new, more straight roadway Is building the highway a good action? Benefit (happiness) Costs (unhappiness)

14 Highway Analysis Costs: $31M Eminent Domain on 150 homes $20M Construction Costs $10M Loss of Habitat $1M Benefits: $39M 15,000 cars save 1 mile ($0.40/mile) $6,000 daily Highway expected to last 25 years

15 Rule-Utilitarianism Still focused on consequences: Adopt moral rules that when followed by everyone, lead to greatest happiness Certain actions (murder, theft) decrease happiness, so we devise rules against them More strict than act-util An example

16 Worm Virus Example Blaster Worm: Aug 2003 Infected millions of PCs worldwide Reboot every few minutes Nachi Worm: spread the same way Located and destroyed Blaster Automatically downloaded MS patch Continued to spread

17 Worm Analysis If I can create a helpful worm that destroys harmful worm, will people be happier? Benefits? Drawbacks? Conclusions: For the virus situation? For Rule-Utilitarianism?

18 Utilitarianism Summary What are some overall problems? What are some overall benefits?

19 Deontological Theories (Kant) Actions are guided by moral laws Morality must be based upon reason Can explain why an action is right or wrong Places emphasis on duty and rules that should be followed, ignores consequences

20 Kantian Origins What is always good without qualification? How about “intelligence” or “courage” ? In what ways might these be “not good” ? Only answer to “what is always good” is good will Even if good will leads to unintended outcomes…

21 Dutifulness Familiar struggle between what we want to do and what we ought to do What we want is irrelevant A dutiful person is compelled to act out of respect for some moral rule What then, is a moral rule?

22 Kant’s Moral Rules Universality, duty (not relativism) Actions are intrinsically good because they follow from logic Categorical Imperative Kantian Example: Carla, unmarried working mother, completing college degree

23 Kantian Example Full time job, taking 2 evening courses Upon graduation, she will have more time for her child and a better job One course require 4 long reports Carla earns A’s on the first 3 But now has overtime at work, no time to complete last report Purchases a report on WWW and turns it in

24 Kantian Summary Advantages: It is rational Produces universal moral guidelines: rules Everyone is to be treated as morally equal Disadvantages: No single rule characterizes all actions No way to resolve conflicts among rules No exceptions to moral laws

25 Social Contract Theory (Hobbes, Rawls) 2003 coalition forces removed the government of Saddam Hussein Police disappeared Residents looted Store merchants sold AK-47s to citizens Is this reaction typical or atypical? Why or why not?

26 Social Contract Theory It is right for me to act according to a moral rule if rational people would collectively accept it as binding because of its benefit to the community. Need to establish a set of moral rules Need a government capable of enforcing rules

27 Social Contract Solves Anarchy People agree to cooperation We all agree to follow guidelines Moral Rules: rules that are necessary if we are to gain the benefit of social living Revolves around a set of Moral Rights: Life, liberty, property (lately, privacy) Do these sound familiar to anyone??

28 Social Contract Example DVD rental chain uses computers to track rentals by each customer. Customer that rents large number of Disney titles is likely to have children Sells cust profiles to mail order companies Customers receive unsolicited catalogs Some customers happy, other unhappy

29 Social Contract Benefits Framed in the language of individual rights Explains why people act out of self-interest in absence of common agreement. Do I ride the bus or drive my car in a gas shortage? Provides a clear ethical analysis of issues regarding relationships between people and government (crime and punishment)

30 Social Contract Drawbacks No one has signed the contract Actions can be characterized multiple ways (shared with Deontological) No guidance when analysis reveals conflicting rights (abortion) Unjust to those who cannot maintain their part of the contract

31 Overall Ethics Summary We have several workable theories: Share concept that moral good is objective Derived through logical reasoning based on fact Important issues and distinctions What is the motivation for a particular action? What criteria do we use to determine ethicality? Do we focus on the individual or the group?

32 Comparison of Workable Theories TheoryMotivationCriteriaFocus KantianismDutifulnessRulesIndividual Act-UtilityConsequencesActionsGroup Rule-UtilityConseq/DutyRulesGroup Soc ContractRightsRulesIndividual

33 Looking Forward We have four workable ethical theories We discover morality through rational process None is perfect, each has flaws We need to decide when to apply each as we attempt to fill policy vacuums Technology is the single greatest force behind creating policy vacuums today!

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