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Ethics—The Basics by John Mizzoni CHAPTER FOUR: SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS.

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Presentation on theme: "Ethics—The Basics by John Mizzoni CHAPTER FOUR: SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ethics—The Basics by John Mizzoni CHAPTER FOUR: SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS

2 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS Is it wrong to choose NOT to donate blood, which saves the lives of others?

3 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS According to Social Contract Ethics (SCE), the “laws of nature” demonstrate that human beings are naturally selfish. There seem to be major differences between SCE and Natural Law Ethics (NLE). WHAT IS SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS?

4 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS According to SCE, ethics is about participating in a “social contract.” Social Contract Theory was developed by Thomas Hobbes in the 17 th century. WHO IS THOMAS HOBBES?

5 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS Thomas Hobbes was the foremost British philosopher of the 17 th century Hobbes proposed a view of morality that was completely divorced from religion ( ) – There was a desire to appear separate and distinct from the Roman Catholic Church (Cf. “Of Religion” Ch. 12 of Hobbes’ Leviathan).“Of Religion” – Hobbes was influenced by modern scientific thought WHO IS THOMAS HOBBES?

6 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS THE SOCIAL CONTRACT TRADITION Thomas Hobbes was the “founder” of the Social Contract tradition in ethics, although Socratic roots can be found in Plato (Crito, The Republic)CritoThe Republic 17 th c. Thomas Hobbes ( ) British 18 th c. John Locke ( ) British, influenced USA Jean-Jacques Rousseau ( ) Swiss 20 th c. John Rawls ( ) American Jan Narveson (1936- ) American

7 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS NATURAL LAW ETHICS SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS Human reason is important Concern with human inclinations Life (self-preservation) + reproduction are natural inclinations God is the creator of our rationally ordered universe God is not considered; the universe is what it is Human nature is naturally goodHuman nature is nasty + brutish Based on AristotleRejects Aristotle Sociability + knowledge are natural inclinations Sociability + knowledge are ideal inclinations

8 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS Aquinas and Hobbes agreed on the importance of the human inclination to self-preservation, BUT they had very different views of human nature. Hobbes thought that Aquinas and Aristotle idealize human nature, rather than confront reality Hobbes thought that human lives are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (Leviathan, Ch. 13)Leviathan, Ch. 13 Hobbes thought that, in reality, all human nature IS motivated only by self-interest This theory, that all human nature is motivated only by self-interest, is called PSYCHOLOGICAL EGOISM

9 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS ETHICAL EGOISM, unlike PSYCHOLOGICAL EGOISM, states that human beings SHOULD BE motivated by the PRINCIPLE OF SELF-INTEREST. It states this is how people OUGHT to behave It states that this is the RIGHT way to behave THE PRINCIPLE OF SELF-INTEREST ( ETHICAL EGOISM ): One ought always to do whatever is in one’s best interest. ETHICAL EGOISM IS NOT PSYCHOLOGICAL EGOISM ETHICAL EGOISM IS NOT EGOTISM

10 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS Aquinas and Hobbes ALSO had very different views about the natural world. Hobbes’ thinking was based on the science of his day, and unlike that of Aquinas or Aristotle, it found NO PLAN or DESIGN for the natural world, and NO UNIQUE PURPOSE for man as a part of that world. Hobbes tried to explain the development of human institutions by imagining human life without them—in a “state of nature,” where people are free to do whatever they need to do in order to preserve themselves—without the rule of law.

11 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS Theological world view Usually emphasizes how human beings are distinct from the natural world Scientific world view Usually emphasizes how human beings are part of the natural world

12 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS Hobbes thought that in a state of nature there is NO NATURAL MORAL LAW. —If we accept the concept of Psychological Egoism, then every human being has the same tendency; we are equal, and we are equally vulnerable to each other. —The only laws are those we all agree to follow. Hobbes thought that in a state of nature there is NO NATURAL INCLINATION TO DEVELOP VIRTUE

13 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS Hobbes thought that A STATE OF NATURE IS REALLY A STATE OF WAR, when everyone is pursuing his or her own interests without regard for the needs or concerns of others. According to Hobbes, in the state of nature: There is no right or wrong, no just or unjust, so we cannot object to the choices of others. There is nothing wrong with psychological egoism or ethical egoism.

14 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS However, Hobbes realized that in a state of nature, in a state of war, no one can get what they really want— security, stability, and creature comforts. Because they are rational creatures, humans will invent ways to escape from the state of nature —They will enter into mutually beneficial contracts/alliances with others —They realize that through these contracts they have a better chance to get what they want.

15 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS For Hobbes, humans cooperate because they realize they have a better chance of getting what they want if they make agreements with each other—e.g., barter. For Hobbes, there are only two kinds of law– 1.Scientific laws of nature 2.Human-made laws

16 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS ETHICAL EGOISM RULE-EGOISM (SCE) I’m lookin’ out for #1!You scratch my back and I ‘ll scratch yours! Rational egoism Principle of Self-InterestPrinciple of the Social Contract Self-centerednessReciprocity Permits “evil” actionsLimits evil actions to a contract

17 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS For Hobbes, rationality is necessary for philosophical ethics: People can only make agreements with each other, not with animals People need rationality to understand the consequences of their actions

18 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS For Hobbes, words are not enough to enforce contracts; a “sword” is necessary as well: This is because even rational beings sometimes break contracts Laws, penalties, police—i.e., governments—are the “sword”

19 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS For an effective contract, it must 1.Be between rational individuals who understand the terms of the contract, and can agree to them 2.Have some mechanism in place to penalize violations of the contract

20 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS Social Contract Ethics endorses “common-sense morality”: Do not kill Do not break promises; do not deceive Do not steal WHY IS THIS “COMMON SENSE”? Hobbes sums this up in a “Principle of Reciprocity”

21 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS The “Principle of Reciprocity” is like the “Golden Rule”: “Do not that to another which thou wouldest not have done to thyselfe” (Leviathan, CH 15: “A Rule…”)Leviathan, CH 15: “A Rule…”) Contractarians claim that the reason for helping others is not altruism, but enlightened egoism

22 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS SCE, or rule-egoism, can be seen in most world religions: The covenants/contracts of God with man in Western religions (e.g. Judaism, Christianity, Islam) The concept of “karma” in many Eastern religions (e.g. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism)

23 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS However, since SCE is non-religious, it focuses on the present life, and on present society: “Do I want to live in a society where people do not get prosecuted for crimes?” “Suppose everybody did that…”

24 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS SCE claims to: Put common-sense morality on a solid footing Give the best explanation of why we follow the ethical rules we do Explain why we should follow ethical rules

25 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS SCE claims to be ethically universalist, not ethically relativist: Since the framework of SCE can fit a variety of different standards in a variety of different contracts in a variety of different cultures, it claims to be universally applied.

26 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS SCE does not argue for blind obedience to the rules and laws of a society. When the rules and laws of society are bad (unjust), civil disobedience and wars of independence can be justified, according to SCE.

27 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS Justice is an ethical concept that is used to explain whether a social contract is good or bad. —Managing the terms of a social contract is a balancing act, between obeying the contract, and modifying it to be just to all —We must follow the rules if they are reasonable rules for rational selfish beings to follow

28 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS SCE provides answers to the four philosophical problems of ethics: With regard to human nature, it accepts psychological egoism, and argues that all human beings are ultimately rational egoists It accepts cultural relativism and ethical universalism, but not ethical relativism

29 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS With regard to the origin of ethics, it theorizes that all ethical standards come from human beings, who created these standards by making contracts With regard to the problem of right and wrong, SCE holds that a rule for action (a contract) is right if it justly benefits you and others, and wrong if it is unjust

30 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS The Appeal of SCE: 1.Takes the mystery out of ethics, making it practical and down to earth 2.Makes it clear how morality can be rational and objective even if there are no moral facts 3.Explains why we should care about ethics 4.Gives us a sensible and mature way of determining our ethical duties 5.Assumes relatively little about human nature

31 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS The Advantages of SCE: Tells us what moral rules to follow, and how they are justified Tells us why it is reasonable for us to follow moral rules Tells us under what circumstances it is rational to break the moral rules (reciprocity is the key) Tells us how much morality can demand of us (we must be impartial)

32 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS The Disadvantages of SCE: It is anthropocentric—only “rational beings” (i.e. rational human beings) are considered… According to SCE, morality consists in the rules that rational people accept provided others accept them. WHAT HAPPENS IF OTHERS DO NOT ACCEPT THESE MORAL RULES? Although SCE appears to deny “moral facts,” it actually postulates them, i.e., defining “benefit.”

33 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS More Disadvantages of SCE: One common objection is that SCE is based on a historical fiction, i.e., the “state of nature.” What about duties toward beings who are not able to participate in the contract, such as babies, animals, persons in non-rational states? Since SCE is based on egoism, what about “free riders”— people who wish to benefit from the rules, but will violate them is they can get away with the violation (ethical egoism)?

34 Ethics—The Basics SOCIAL CONTRACT ETHICS Disadvantages of Ethical Egoism: Ethical Egoism violates the Principle of Impartiality, or Equal TreatmentPrinciple of Impartiality – The Principle of Impartiality is that we should regard all others as equals to ourselves. This means to treat all persons in the same way unless there is a relevant difference between them. – Ethical Egoism calls each of us to divide everything into two categories— myself and all the rest—and to treat the concerns of those in the first group as more important than the concerns of those in the second group. Ethical Egoism endorses wicked actions—as long as that those actions benefit the person who performs them.


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