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Philosophy 223 Relativism and Egoism. Remember This Slide? Ethical reflection on the dictates of morality can address these sorts of issues in at least.

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Presentation on theme: "Philosophy 223 Relativism and Egoism. Remember This Slide? Ethical reflection on the dictates of morality can address these sorts of issues in at least."— Presentation transcript:

1 Philosophy 223 Relativism and Egoism

2 Remember This Slide? Ethical reflection on the dictates of morality can address these sorts of issues in at least three different ways. Descriptive analysis of the actual content of morality. Conceptual study of moral concepts. Normative Ethics: “prescriptive study attempting to formulate and defend basic moral norms…aims at determining what ought to be done…[not] what is, in fact, practiced” (7). Applied Ethics: defined “misleadingly” as the use of normative principles “to treat specific moral problems” (8).

3 Defined “Misleadingly” “Applied” encourages a serious misunderstanding: that the attempt to specify (8) the practical implications of normative theory (normative principles) on specific issues involves making moral judgments. Moral Judgments are made by Moral Agents (folks like us, though in a way to be specified). In fact, we are judging creatures. How good are we at it?

4 The Role of Judgment Judgment: the application of a principle or general rule to a particular (instance, entity, kind, etc.). How might “specifying” the principle help? What are the features of good judgment? How can judgment go wrong?

5 Relativism and Judgment Ethical Relativism: the view that the scope of application of moral principles is always less than the whole of the moral community. ER is a species of relativism. The genera is the (common) recognition that people disagree (judgments do vary). Making the general claim is non-controversial. Making the specific claim is a much different matter.

6 What’s the difference? There is an important difference between noting that people disagree about what is right, and asserting that what is right is relative. The former is a description of the world, the latter claim is a normative claim: “it delineates which standards or norms correctly determine right and wrong behavior” (8). That is, the obvious fact that people disagree is not enough to establish it. We have to instead ask if there is any good reason to be relativists.

7 No Good Reasons Extent of the disagreement that can be observed is more limited than we might think. Significant differences in judgment ultimately understood as application of shared principles. The disagreement that does exist often turns out to be a disagreement about facts. Thus, while there is relativism of judgment (people do disagree), but little reason to believe that there is significant relativism of standards. Even if we could find a fundamental difference in standards that wasn’t resolvable by factual agreement, that doesn’t rule out that one is just wrong. It doesn’t fit the evidence.

8 Can we Just Disagree? Moral disagreement is ineliminable, but we don’t need to give up. 1.Refine our factual understanding. 2.Seek Clear Definitions of concepts. 3.Use of examples to guide judgment. 4.Analyze and evaluate differing views.

9 From Relativism to Egoism If we push ER to it’s most extreme form, we end up with the view that right and wrong is determined relative to individuals and their interests. This extreme view is very close conceptually to egoism. Egoism: “all choices either do involve or should involve self-promotion as their sole objective” (13). Egoism is a position commonly articulated in business contexts Free-Market theory, with its emphasis on rationalizing individual interests, seems to underwrite egoism.

10 Two Species of Egoism Psychological Egoism: as a matter of psychological fact, everyone is motivated to act to satisfy their perceived self-interest. Ethical Egoism: Normative ethical claim asserting that the supreme principle of conduct requires us to maximize our individual self interest relative to the interests of others.

11 Psychological Egoism PE is an attempt to provide an explanation for human conduct. No justification involved. What about morality? PE rules out the possibility of altruism: unselfish concern for the interests of others. Most moral principles seem to require that people conform to them whether or not it’s in their interests to do so. If PE is true, this requirement seems impossible.

12 Should We Accept PE? As an explanation of behavior, PE is testable by observation and other forms of empirical analysis. What about your own experience? Psychological data undercuts the universalistic pretensions of PE (see p.15).

13 Ethical Egoism Unlike PE, EE is not an attempt to describe or explain how people actually work, but rather to specify how they should work (it’s a prescriptive claim). Clearly, EE conflicts with the common understanding of how morality works. Understood as a form of relativism, EE has the problems of relativistic ethical theories. Like PE, EE seems to exclude reference to other’s interests, but most moral principles require such reference.

14 Should We Accept EE? Business people are commonly advocates of a form of enlightened EE. Only a very narrow understanding of self-interest precludes recognition of the advantage of living under a system of laws, and thus EE is perfectly consistent with the laws and regulations governing business practices. But EE has some significant problems as an ethical theory. Can’t account for, or resolve, conflicts of interest. Produces logically inconsistent results. Is unacceptably arbitrary.

15 What Should Ethical Theories Exhibit? We’ve considered and seen reasons to reject two attempts to specify the constraints under which our moral decision making should operate. What have we learned in the process? There are some general features which acceptable Ethical Theories should exhibit. 1.Determinacy: produces normative verdicts 2.Consistency: in normative verdicts 3.Intuitive Appeal: verdicts should be consistent with our intuitions. 4.Explanatory Power: ability to account for considered moral judgments.

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