Morality and Ethics

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Morality and Ethics. Where does morality come from?. Is it wrong to kill an innocent person for no good reason?. If so, why?. Morality comes from God?. Platos Euthyphro Is something wrong because God says its wrong or does God say its wrong because it is wrong. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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  • MORALITY AND ETHICS

  • Where does morality come from?

  • Is it wrong to kill an innocent person for no good reason?If so, why?

  • Morality comes from God?Platos Euthyphro

    Is something wrong because God says its wrong or does God say its wrong because it is wrong.

    We have to use our own judgment to decide right and wrong.

  • MetaethicsHow do we determine what is right and wrong?System of ethicsJustification for ethics

    Three popular ethical schemes:

    Virtue ethicsDeontological ethicsUtilitarianism

  • Virtue EthicsAristotle (384 B.C. 322 B.C.)

    Ancient Greek philosopher and student of Plato

    Virtue consists of realizing our natural human potential as rational animals (our telos)

    Eudemonia (happiness, the good life) is achieved through the cultivation of human virtues, such as wisdom, justice, courage, generosity, kindness and moderation.

  • The good life

    People are virtuous in order to cultivate their own soul and achieve a higher happiness

    Focus on motivations for actions, rather than consequences

    The goal is self-realization: to be noble, honorable, decent

    Cf. Confuciouss junzi

    What kind of people do we want to be?Do we want to be the kind of people who would do that?

  • Problems with virtue ethics

    Do people really have a telos? If not, how can the virtues be justified?

    Is cultivating the virtues really the best way for an individual to maximize his human potential?

    People can do the wrong thing for the right reasons Surely the action is wrong even if the motivation is right

  • Deontological EthicsKant (1724-1804), German philosopher

    Rightness of actions is independent of consequences.

    The Categorical Imperative defines our moral duties.

    Moral duties, e.g.not to kill or harm innocent peoplenot to lieto keep promisesto respect the rights of others

    The Categorical Imperative can be understood through reason.

  • Deontological Ethics (cont.)The Categorical Imperative can be worked out through the principle of universalizability:

    "Always act according to that maxim whose universality as a law you can at the same time will", and is the "only condition under which a will can never come into conflict with itself"(Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals)

    Rational beings have an intrinsic worth and dignity.

    The end (purpose) of morality is in preserving the well-being and dignity of all rational agents:

    Act with reference to every rational being (whether yourself or another) so that it is an end in itself in your maxim (Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals)

    You must never treat a person as a means, but always as an end.

  • Problems with deontological ethicsProblem of justification for Categorical Imperative where does it come fromNot all good actions can be universalizedRigide.g. if we have a categorical imperative not to lie, it is wrong to lie even if by lying to a mad gunman, we can save an innocent persons lifeIt is not always possible never to treat a rational agent as an end, e.g. war

  • Suggested readings

    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, at: http://plato.stanford.edu/ Entries on: Consequentialism and Deontological Ethics and Virtue Ethics

    Mill, John Stuart, Utilitarianism (1863), available at: www.utilitarianism.com/mill1.htm

    Stephen Law, The Philosophy Gym, Chapter 17, Killing Mary to Save Jodie. available on Moodle

    Required readingTraditional Ethical Theories (excerpt from Online Guide to Ethics and Moral Philosophy at: caae.phil.cmu.edu/Cavalier/80130/part2/sect9.html), available on Moodle

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