Ethics and Morality Theory Part 2 11 September 2006.
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Ethics and Morality Theory Part 2 11 September 2006
Ethical Dilemma Apparent conflict between moral imperatives Does everyone come up with the same answer? If ethics is based on reason, how can this happen? Different ethical theories
Studying Ethics Three Approaches Descriptive ethics: what people believe to be right and wrong Normative ethics: what people should believe is right and wrong Philosophical ethics (meta-ethics): looks at the logic behind the decisions Relationship between normative and philosophical ethics? Examples where descriptive and normative ethics differ?
Theories that we will look at Ethical relativism Individual (or subjective) Cultural Normative ethical theories Deontological Kantianism Contractualism Teleological Utilitarianism Are there other broad categories that you can think of?
Ethical Relativism Is there anything universally right or wrong? How is right or wrong decided?
Individual Relativism For Well-meaning, intelligent people can disagree Against Does not provide moral distinction Not based on reason
Cultural Relativism Consider Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars work For Different social contexts Arrogance to judge Against Evolution of practices Societies do share core values
Normative Ethical Theories Deontological: based on the sense of duty Right because of the act Teleological: based on the result Right because of the result
Deontological Theory What is it? Based on our duties and responsibilities Actions are fundamentally right or wrong Examples Contractualism (Hobbes) Kantianism (Kant) 1588-1679 1724-1804
Kantianism: Ethics of Duty Duty as freely imposing obligation on one’s own self Duty is internal We impose duty on ourselves
Universalizability What is fair for one is fair for all Living by rules Most of us live by rules much of the time Imperatives Hypothetical: conditional commands that are applicable in certain conditions (if …then) Categorical: unconditional commands that are binding on everyone at all times
Maxims Subjective rules that guide actions Relevant act description Sufficient generality All actions have maxims Examples of maxims (not necessarily good) Never lie to your friends Never act in a way that would make your parents ashamed of you It’s ok to cheat if you need to
Kant’s Categorical Imperatives Universality: “Always act in such a way that the maxim of your action can be willed as a universal law of humanity.” Respect: “Always treat humanity, whether in yourself or in other people, as an end in itself and never as a mere means.” Are these the same? Which do you prefer?
Strengths of Kantianism Rational Produces universal moral guidelines Treats all people as moral equals
Criticisms Philosophical Moral minimalism: requirements are not heartfelt Moral alienation: alienated from feelings Practical Actions may need to be characterized by multiple rules and there is no way to resolve a conflict between rules Allows no exceptions
Contractualism Social Contract Theory Morality consists in the set of rules, governing how people are to treat one another, that rational people will agree to accept, for their mutual benefit, on the condition that others follow those rules as well. James Rachel, The Elements of Moral Philosophy
Rights and Duties Duty not to interfere with others rights Negative and positive rights Negative right: duty is to not interfere Positive right: duty is to provide Absolute and limited rights Typically, negative rights are absolute and positive are limited
Rawls’s Principles of Justice Each person may claim basic rights and liberties as long as these claims are consistent with everyone else having a claim to the same rights Social and economic inequalities must Be associated with positions in society to which everyone has an equal opportunity Be of the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged 1921-2002
Strengths of Contractualism Framed in terms of rights Explains acting out of self-interest when there is no common agreement Provides framework for moral issues dealing with government (civil disobedience)
Criticism Doesn’t address actions that can be characterized multiple ways Doesn’t address conflicting rights
Comparing the Two Theories Both believe that there are universal moral rules Basis of those moral rules Kant: can be universalized Contract: would benefit the community
Teleological Theory What is it? Something is good based on its consequences Doing Good is important Primary example: Utilitarianism Jeremy Bentham John Stuart Mill 1748-1832 1806-1873
Utilitarianism Greatest Happiness Principle Compute the costs and benefits Simple calculation: do positives outweigh the negatives? Two forms Act – judge the consequence of a specific act Rule – judge the consequence of the generalized rule
Strengths Focus on happiness Down to earth Appeals to many people Comprehensive
Problems of Act that Rule Addresses Too much work to make a decision on each act Susceptible to happenstance
Criticisms Ignores our sense of duty Range of effects that one must consider Calculus requires that we balance very different aspects Unjust distribution of good results
About the Term Project Each class member will present a different point of view on a different controversial topic 8-12 pages 25% grade individual 15-20 minute presentation 20% grade Partner Various checkpoints along the way All presentations will be reviewed with me