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Why be ethical? The guiding question of Chapter 1.

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Presentation on theme: "Why be ethical? The guiding question of Chapter 1."— Presentation transcript:

1 Why be ethical? The guiding question of Chapter 1

2 Four examples of the ethical The experience of personal response (you hear a scream crying for help…) The experience of the other (A person in need asks for help of some kind) The experience of obligation (Following a rule, law,; obeying one in authority over you) The experience of contrast (THIS IS NOT FAIR! Response to intolerable treatment of people – death camps, abuse of people…)

3 Aristotle ( B.C.) Teleological Ethics Teleological: having to do with the design or purpose of something Telos: Greek for “end” or “goal” What is the end to which humans aspire? HAPPINESS

4 For Aristotle, the “end” “Happiness is an activity (of the soul) proper to the human person, in accordance with virtue in a complete life.” (Book 1: Ch. 7 The Nichomachean Ethics)

5 Aristotle continued

6 Happiness for Aristotle The enduring state of one who does well the tasks typical of a human being The condition of the good person who succeeds in living & acting well The activity of happiness must occupy an entire lifetime; for one swallow does not a summer make

7 According to Aristotle, we’re happy: If and only if, over some considerable period of time we perform with some success the most perfect of typically human tasks Responsible / active citizen in community Lifestyle fosters good health

8 Aim of Ethics for Aristotle, to discover what: Is good for us as human beings, Permits us to reach our full potential, Is our internal compass, We are intended to be.

9 Aristotle on teleology: “Every art and scientific inquiry, and similarly every action and purpose, may be said to aim at some good. Hence the good has been well defined as that at which all things aim.” “…knowledge of this supreme good is of great importance for the conduct of life… if we know it, we shall be like archers who have a mark at which to aim…” (no identifying target, any shot is a good shot; SIN = missing the mark, i.e., off target) Above all: we are RATIONAL, our intelligence is our greatest capacity

10 Humans are rational animals Our actions as much as possible must be based on reason. TO ACT ETHICALLY IS TO ENGAGE OUR CAPACITY TO REASON AS WE DEVELOP GOOD CHARACTER.

11 Aristotle on Human Excellence Developing habits  the best of what it means to be human VIRTUES, the result of habit, “the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

12 The Mean being moderate, between the vices of excess and lack. courage the mid way between fearing all dangers (cowardice) and fearing none (recklessness) generosity: between extravagance and stinginess

13 Immanuel Kant (1724 to 1804 ) : Deontological Ethics Theoretical Reason How we come to know things Role of experience in coming to know things Can we know things beyond immediate experience? Cause and effect? The area of reasoning to help us know how laws of nature, cause & effect, govern human behaviour Freedom of choice is not an issue Practical Reason Helps us understand how we make choices Moves beyond scientific and empirical knowledge Looks at human acts, as impulses from laws of nature & as conscious choices based on principles

14 Examples of theoretical & practical reason Theoretical reason tells us: Consuming alcohol has an effect on one’s body Practical reason tells us: We ought not drink alcohol and drive

15 Both Kant & Aristotle believe The good is the aim of a moral life Kant’s focus: the certainty of principles of ethical reasoning (which aren’t of the same certainty as those in math & science) Ethical principles have PRACTICAL not RATIONAL / COGNITIVE certainty

16 3 practical principles God: we cannot on our own achieve the supreme good. God helps us to achieve the supreme good. Freedom: if the supreme good is to be, then what we ought to do, we can do. To have a duty to do something means that we must be able to do it. Kant argues that humans are therefore free. Immortality: achieving the supreme good is an immense task, impossible to complete in this life. That is why there is immortality, a life beyond for us to achieve the supreme good.

17 The Good Will Kant’s ethics is more individual than Aristotle’s One’s inner convictions  autonomy “It is impossible to conceive anything at all in the world, or even out of it, which can be taken as good without qualification, except a good will.” A GOOD WILL IS OUR MOST PRIZED POSSESSION A good will is to do our duty for no other reason than it is our duty

18 Kant’s Ethics: DEONTOLOGICAL “deon” Greek for duty Doing one’s duty isn’t easy, our impulses & desires lead us away from our duty Morally good acts are done out of duty (not for praise, not out of inclination) His language is full of “shoulds” or “oughts” You are your own legislator, your AUTONOMY is your decision to act in accordance with your good will

19 Kant’s MAXIMS (principles) i.e., every rational person would necessarily act on if reason were fully in charge Tell us how we ought to (should) act reason determines how the duty is universally applicable THE CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE (2 versions) 1.“I ought never to act except in such a way that I can also will that my maxim should become a universal law.” i.e., I WOULD WANT EVERYONE TO MAKE THIS SAME CHOICE. 2.“Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, never simply as a means but always at the same time as an end.”

20 Kant was a utopian thinker his “kingdom of ends” had all participants following the second maxim. believed that people would always act out of respect for the other, acting out of rational will, always acting on principles that could be made universal He valued the autonomy of the good will He challenged people to not act like children “Dare to know!”

21 Emmanuel Levinas ( ) An Ethics of the face Levinas believed that Western Philosophy tried to deal with questions of difference & diversity by grouping everything, under an all encompassing unity, “Being” Ultimately, everything is the same, West. Phil. thinks away difference Difference becomes “accidental” (i.e., not essential) Levinas’ Hebrew tradition gloried in the singular The singularity of a thing  its unity He found nothing to hold these singularities in unity Contrasts: Western “totality” with Hebrew “infinity”

22 The “Good” The central question for all of Philosophy for Levinas Western Philosophies  Being Levinas  The Good, which goes beyond Being Being names what things have in common when you take away the differences For Levinas that’s a problem: It takes away the most fascinating quality: each person is incredibly unique The Good  what is absolutely unique about each person

23 Unique things: “traces of the Good (God) everything we encounter is finite Not a faint presence of God Says, “God was there, but is no longer there” i.e., God (the Infinite One) always one step ahead

24 The face as witness of the Good Face, most naked part of the body Make-up an attempt to hide, put on a mask “thrill of astonishment”, most original moment of meaning The “stranger” who is “Other” (not you) Face: an authority, “highness, holiness, divinity” The “Other” not your equal, your superior

25 The face as ethical Deuteronomy tells the Israelites to love the stranger as themselves (the LORD watches over the stranger) The face of the stranger: demands that we recognize it and offer it hospitality. Makes the absolute demand as petition “please” Appeals to me with its destitution (hunger, nudity) Promotes my freedom by arousing my goodness Makes me responsible (I’m not as innocent as I thought I was) Calls one’s self-centredness into question The Other rules (humbly, revealing itself as if afraid to speak) How God Speaks to us, God is the goodness who never seduces The face is a trace of God who has already passed by.

26 The human is ethical The ethical is indispensible for human life The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is not true freedom except in the service of what is good and just.”


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