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1 02/05/12Lawrence M. Hinman Ethical Theories: A Very Brief Overview Phil. 334-04: the Frontiers of Science & Technology Spring, 2012 Lawrence.

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Presentation on theme: "1 02/05/12Lawrence M. Hinman Ethical Theories: A Very Brief Overview Phil. 334-04: the Frontiers of Science & Technology Spring, 2012 Lawrence."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 02/05/12Lawrence M. Hinman Ethical Theories: A Very Brief Overview Phil : the Frontiers of Science & Technology Spring, 2012 Lawrence M. Hinman Professor of Philosophy University of San Diego 1

2 2 02/05/12© Lawrence M. Hinman Table of Contents The Basic Question of Ethics Three Approaches Act-oriented Theories Consequentialist Approaches Rule-based Approaches Character-based Theories Aristotle on Character and Virtue Religion Conclusion 2

3 3 02/05/12© Lawrence M. Hinman Three Approaches There are three main approaches to ethics: Consequence-based approaches Rule-based approaches Character-based approaches The first two approaches address the question of how we ought to act, the third approach responds to the question of what kind of person we should be. 3

4 4 02/05/12© Lawrence M. Hinman The Basic Question of Ethics Historically, philosophers have disagreed about what the basic question of ethics is. They fall into two camps: What kind of person ought I to try to be? Fundamental Question How ought I to act?...on the basis of consequences....by following rules and thus doing our duty....develop character and virtues.

5 5 02/05/12© Lawrence M. Hinman Act-oriented Approaches There are two basic ways of answer the question, “How should I act?” 5 ConsequentialismConsequentialism: Look at the consequences and choose the action that has the best consequences DeontologyDeontology: Look at the rules and follow the rules (ten commandments, duty, human rights, justice). Act-oriented approaches

6 6 02/05/12© Lawrence M. Hinman Consequentialist Approaches Issues for consequentialist approaches: Consequences for whom? Yardstick for measuring consequences Act or rule consequentialism 6

7 7 02/05/12© Lawrence M. Hinman Consequences for whom? Just for meEgoism My groupGroup Conse For whom?Name of Position Just for meEgoism Just for my group Family Country Religion Group consequentialism For everyone All human beings All sentient beings Utilitarianism

8 8 02/05/12© Lawrence M. Hinman What yardstick do we use for measuring consequences? Pleasure/pain (Bentham) Happiness (John Stuart Mill) Ideals (G. E. Moore) Preference satisfaction (Kenneth Arrow) What yardstick or standard of utility do we use when we measure consequences?

9 9 02/05/12© Lawrence M. Hinman Do we try to measure the consequences of each individual decision? By definition, consequentialism –not surprisingly--considers consequences, but do we look at the consequences of? 9 Consequences Each individual actEveryone following a general rule

10 10 02/05/12© Lawrence M. Hinman Act Consequentialism Some consequentialist approaches maintain that we should calculate the relevant consequences on an act-by-act basis. Objections and replies Objection #1 Time consuming to compute each act Reply: use rules of thumb unless problems arise Objection #2 Can permit small number of morally outrageous cases (torture, deception, etc.) Reply: Perhaps it’s justified. Anything less is rule worship. 10

11 11 02/05/12© Lawrence M. Hinman Rule-oriented Approaches Numerous approaches have one thing in common: rules trump consequences. No matter how much good might be accomplished, you cannot break the rules Ticking bomb example Examples of rule-oriented approaches: The Golden Rule Human Rights Justice Kant & Deontology Ten Commandments

12 12 02/05/12© Lawrence M. Hinman Character-oriented Approaches Fundamental Question: What kind of person do I want to be? Emphasizes strengths of character necessary to human flourishing Example: courage Emphasizes flexibility of rules for new situations

13 13 02/05/12© Lawrence M. Hinman Religion and Ethical Theories Religious Rule-oriented Approaches 10 Commandments Islamic Sharia Religious Consequentialism Possible consequences to maximize -Increase chances of salvation -Maximize influence of church Karmic consequentialism Character-based traditions Central to most religious traditions: the formation of character 13

14 14 02/05/12© Lawrence M. Hinman Pluralism How do these approaches relate to one another? Possible answers: 1. One is right, others are wrong 2. Each tells part of the story, none tells the whole story 3. It is helpful to have a diversity of opinion, including those who hold alternative positions. 14


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