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Chapter 2: Introduction to ethics

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1 Chapter 2: Introduction to ethics
CSC Simmonds Brandon Hilton Jeffrey Raynor David Macurak

2 Outline Defining Terms General Scenarios Ethical Theories
Subjective Relativism Cultural Relativism Divine Command Theory Ethical Egoism Kantianism Act Utilitarianism Rule Utilitarianism Social Contract Theory Comparison of Workable Ethical Theories Summary

3 Defining terms Society – an association of people organized under a system of rules designed to advance the good of its members over time. Morality – rules of conduct describing what people ought and ought not to do in various situations. Ethics – the philosophical study of morality, a rational examination into people’s moral beliefs and behavior.

4 Ethics vs. Morality An analogy explaining the difference between ethics and morality. Imagine society as a town. Morality is the road network within the town. People doing ethics are in balloons floating above the town.

5 General scenarios Scenario 2 Questions:
Did the anti-spam organization do anything wrong? Did the ISPs that refused to accept the from the blacklisted ISPs do anything wrong? Who benefited from the organization’s action? Who was hurt by the organization’s action? Could the organization have achieved it’s goals through a better course of action? What additional information, if any, would help you answer the previous questions?

6 General Scenarios Scenario 4 Questions:
Should you recommend release of the product next week? Who will benefit if the company follows your recommendation? Who will be harmed if the company follows your recommendation? Do you have an obligation to any group of people that may be affected by your decision? What additional information, if any, would help you answer the previous questions?

7 Ethical Theories

8 Subjective relativism
Relativism – the theory that there are no universal moral norms of right and wrong Subjective Relativism – each person decides right and wrong for himself or herself “What’s right for you may not be right for me.”

9 Subjective relativism
The Case for Subjective Relativism Well-meaning and intelligent people can have totally opposite opinions about moral issues. Ethical debates are disagreeable and pointless. The Case against Subjective Relativism The line between doing what you think is right and doing what you want to do is not sharply drawn. Makes no moral distinction between the actions of different people Subjective relativism and tolerance are two different things. Allows people to make decisions based on something other than reason

10 Cultural Relativism Cultural Relativism – the ethical theory that meaning of “right” and “wrong” rests with a society’s actual moral guidelines The Case for Cultural Relativism Different social contexts demand different moral guidelines. It is arrogant for one society to judge another.

11 Cultural Relativism The Case against Cultural Relativism
Does not explain how an individual determines the moral guidelines of a particular society Does not explain how to determine right from wrong when there are no cultural norms Societies do, in fact, share certain core values. Cultural relativism is only indirectly based on reason.

12 Divine Command Theory The divine command theory of ethics is based on two premises: good actions are those actions aligned with the will of God, and God’s will has been revealed to us.

13 Divine command theory The Case for the Divine Command Theory
We owe obedience to our Creator. God is all-good and all-knowing. God is the ultimate authority. The Case against the Divine Command Theory There are many holy books, and some of their teachings disagree with each other. It is unrealistic to assume a multicultural society will adopt a religion-based morality. Some moral problems are not addressed directly in scripture. It is fallacious to equate “the good” with “God.” Based on obedience, not reason

14 Ethical Egoism Ethical Egoism – the philosophy that each person should focus exclusively on his or her self-interest Ethical Egoism does not prohibit acting to help someone else, but assisting another is the right thing to do if and only if it is in the helper’s own long-term best interest

15 Ethical egoism The Case for Ethical Egoism
Ethical Egoism is a practical moral philosophy. The community can benefit when individuals put their well-being first. Other moral principles are rooted in the principle of self-interest.

16 Ethical egoism The Case against Ethical Egoism
The premise that people naturally act in their own long-term self-interest is false. There are plenty of examples of injustices that have occurred when powerful individuals put their own interests above those of the community Other moral principles are superior to the principle of self-interest. Ethical egoism is a form of bigotry.

17 Kantianism Kantianism is the name given to the ethical theory of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant believed that people’s actions ought to be guided by moral laws, and that these moral laws were universal. Kantianism is based on the premise that rational beings can use logic to explain the why behind their solutions to ethical problems

18 Kantianism Kant proposes the Categorical Imperative: (1) Act only from moral rules that you can at the same time will to be universal moral laws. (2) Act so that you always treat both yourself and other people as ends in themselves, and never only as a means to an end.

19 Kantianism The Case for Kantianism The Case against Kantianism
It is rational Produces universal moral guidelines All persons are treated as moral equals. The Case against Kantianism Sometimes no single rule fully characterizes an action. Sometimes there is no way to resolve a conflict between rules. Allows no exceptions to perfect duties

20 Act utilitarianism Principal of Utility – An action is right (or wrong) to the extent that it increases (or decreases) the total happiness of the affected parties. Utility – the tendency of an object to produce happiness or prevent unhappiness for an individual or community. Act Utilitarianism – the ethical theory that an action is good if its net effect (over all affected beings) is to produce more happiness than unhappiness.

21 Act utilitarianism Attributes of Evaluation:
Intensity – magnitude of the experience Duration – how long the experience lasts Certainty – probability it will actually happen Propinquity – how close the experience is in space and time Fecundity- its ability to produce more experiences of the same kind Purity – extent to which pleasure is not diluted by pain, or vice-versa Extent – number of people affected

22 Act Utilitarianism The Case for Act Utilitarianism
It focuses on happiness. It is straightforward. It is comprehensive. The Case against Act Utilitarianism When evaluating, it is not clear where to draw the line. It is not practical to put so much energy into every moral decision. Ignores our innate sense of duty We cannot predict with certainty the consequences of an action. Susceptible to the problem of moral luck

23 Rule Utilitarianism Actions are moral when they conform to the rules that lead to the greatest good.

24 Rule Utilitarianism The Case for Rule Utilitarianism
Not every moral decision requires someone to weigh the positives and negatives of a situation. Solves the problem of moral luck. A rule utilitarian would say that sending flowers to people in the hospital is a good action. It appeals to a wide cross section of society. The Case against Rule Utilitarianism Forces us to use a single scale or measure to evaluate completely differently kinds of consequences. Ignores the problem of an unjust distribution of good consequences.

25 Social Contract Theory
Implies that people give up sovereignty to a government or other authority in order to receive or maintain social order through the rule of law.

26 Social Contract Theory
The Case for Social Contract Theory It is framed in the language of rights. Explains why rational people act out of self- interest in the absence of a common agreement. Provides a clear ethical analysis of some important moral issues regarding the relationship between people and government. The Case against Social Contract Theory None of us signed the social contract. Some actions can be characterized in multiple ways. May be unjust to those people who are incapable of upholding their side of the contract.

27 Comparing Workable Ethical Theories
The divine command theory, ethical egoism, Kantianism, act utilitarianism, rule utilitarianism, and social contract theory share the viewpoint that moral good and moral precepts are objective.

28 Comparing Workable Ethical Theories
Kantianism, utilitarianism, and social contract theory explicitly take other people into consideration when defining what makes an action morally correct, which sets these theories apart from ethical egoism. Kantianism, act utilitarianism, rule utilitarianism, and social contract theory are the most workable. Act utilitarian considers the consequences of the action, computing the total change in utility to determine if an action is right or wrong.

29 Summary Ethics is a rational examination into people's moral beliefs and behaviors. Divine Command Theory is based on the idea that God provided us with moral guidelines designed to promote our well-being. Ethical egoism is the belief that the right thing for a person to do in any situation is the action that will benefit him or her the most. Kantianism is based on the notion that people’s actions ought to be guided by universal moral laws.

30 Summary Act Utilitarianism is based upon the Principle of Utility, also called the Greatest Happiness Principle. Rule utilitarianism is when actions are moral when they conform to the rules that lead to the greatest good. Social Contract Theory implies that people give up sovereignty to a government or other authority in order to receive or maintain social order through the rule of law.

31 Questions?

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