Sunday, August 30, 2015

Final Exam Chapter 5 Spring 17

Ethics is the study of moral values.

Moral values are behaviors of fundamental consequence for human welfare.

Moral Judgements = Moral standards + Factual beliefs.

Ethics can be broadly divided into objectivism and subjectivism.

Objectivism is the view that right and wrong are independent from peoples' beliefs. Subjectivism is the view that right and wrong are dependent of peoples' beliefs.

1. Subjective Absolutism: The view that what makes an action right is that one approves of it.

Counters: (a) SA makes moral evaluations a matter of personal opinion, (b)impossibility of moral disagreements (one can only agree with the absolutist and the reason is that he believes he's the ONLY ONE THAT'S RIGHT). 

2. Subjective Relativism: What makes an action right is that it is approved by that person.

Counters (same as above). You must be able to tell the difference between the (the absolutist thinks she's the only one that's right, whereas the subjective relativist believes that many people can disagree and still be right at the same time) absolutist and the subjective relativist. 

3. Emotivism: The doctrine that moral utterances are expressions of emotions. Basically, the emotivist is saying that right and wrong ARE NOT REALLY OUT THERE!

Counters: Blanshard’s Rabbit. What matters is not one's suffering but the victim's suffering (factual force of the victim's suffering). I've brought up the argument of throwing acid into women's faces, as a proof that these women's suffering warrant a moral judgment of condemnation. 

4. Cultural relativism: The doctrine that what makes an action right is that it's approved by that culture.

Counters: 1- Logical contradiction (see above), impossibility for moral disagreements and 2- The fact that cultures are not that different at a deeper level. One can point to differences between "deep" values (moral values, i.e., human behavior of fundamental consequence for human welfare) and "superficial" values (domestic habits, etiquette, fashion, etc) other cultural values to the effect that most cultures seem to share the same deep moral values. 

5. Logical Structure of Moral Arguments: we can make the case that moral standards are sort of facts. Not 1+1=2 kind-of-fact, but "unnecessary suffering is wrong" kind-of-fact. For example, "slavery is wrong" seems to be morally factual, i.e., the unjust exploitation of the slave and his/her suffering seems to address facts in the world. So, 

Moral standards + factual beliefs = Moral judgments (this is not a formula, just an approximation).

So we talk of factual beliefs, which is a belief held by factual evidence (i.e., child abuse is wrong because of the facts we know about psychology, human rights, child development, etc,).

6. The text suggests one can defend the idea of universal moral principles?

1- Principle of mercy (Unnecessary suffering is wrong) and
2- Principle of justice (Treat equals equally).

 Section 5.2

 Difference between consequentialist theories and formalist theories. Consequentialism is the theory that judges the rightness or wrongness of an action in terms of its consequences. Formalism is the theory that judges the rightness or wrongness of an action in terms of the action's form (i.e., "killing is wrong": the formalist believes that moral actions are objective).

2. Intrinsic (value for its own sake; moral agency & personhood are essential values: a-reason, b-autonomy, c-sentience, d-freedom) and

Instrumental values: values for the sake of something else, "Peter is a good mechanic" is an example of instrumental value.

3. Ethical egoism: What makes an action right is that it maximizes one's best interest. We talk about this calculation as PRUDENCE. The egoist understand the social rules of engagement: favor for favor, and that maximizing means a long term commitment to one's interest. 

Counters: (a) Egoist's motivations (if known, the egoist's intentions seem to betray reversibility principle). (b) Egoism is not a socially or politically cogent theory (i.e., you would not vote for an egoist in office). 

4. Act or Traditional Utilitarianism: What makes an action right is that it maximizes happiness everyone considered. Remember "everyone" means here the group the utilitarian is considering, i.e., family, community, state, nation, etc.

Counters: (a) McCloskey’s informant (b) Brandt’s Heir, (c) Ross' unhappy promise, (d) Goodwin's Fire Rescue, (e) Ewing's Utilitarian torture. In each one of these cases one has violated principles of justice, duty and equality. 

5. Rule Utilitarianism: What makes an action right is that it falls under a rule that if generally followed would maximize happiness everyone considered.

RU is better than TU. Why? Because if applied, it can solve the problems posed by the previous counterarguments.

In McCloskey's case, the rule is "Do not bear false witness." In Brandt's Utilitarian Heir case, the rule is "Do not kill (your father)," in Ewing's Torture, the rule is "Do not torture." Yet if one knew that this particular individual, John Doe had information that would save the lives of 100 people, Rule Utilitarianism would justify torturing him (given the second clause of the definition: to "maximize happiness everyone considered").  Once a utilitarian, always a utilitarian. 

Section 5.3

1. Kant’s Categorical Imperative: What makes an action right is that everyone can act on it (which yields universalizability), and you'd have everyone acting on it (which yields reversibility: Golden Rule).

2. Perfect duty: A duty that must always be performed no matter what. And imperfect duties. Problem with Kant's first formulation: (a) Hare’s Nazi fanatic (I've commented this as the Jihadist counter. He follows reversibility and universalizability. It's perverse formulation but it satisfies both R and U).

How can we solve this?

3. Kant's Second Formulation: "treat people as ends, never merely as a means to an end." 

Counters: Problem of exceptions to the rule. Some times we have to treat people as means to ends. Example: Broad's Typhoid Man. What to do then?

 Pluralistic Formalism: What makes an action right is that it falls under the highest ranked duty in a given situation. 

4. Ross’ Prima Facie Duties. Actual duties: One that must be performed in a particular situation. Prima Facie Duty: A duty that must be performed unless it conflict with a more important duty. You must know hierarchy and each one of these duties as I explained in class:

1- Justice, 2- fidelity, 3- reparation, (are the three most important) followed by:
4- beneficence, 5- non-maleficence, 6- gratitude, 7- self-improvement. 5. Pluralistic Formalism improves upon Kantian theory's problem with exceptions.

Section 5.4

Aristotle's virtue.

Aristotle begins by saying that virtue is an admirable human quality.

There are intellectual and moral virtues. Intellectual virtues are dispositions, such as wisdom and understanding, which help discover truth.  Moral virtues are dispositions such as courage, temperance, friendliness, justice, etc. Intellectual virtues can be thought, moral virtues need to be practiced. They help us avoid moral problems but more importantly, they help our moral balance (since generally a poor action is a manifestation of defect or excess).

The highest good for humans, the highest aim of all human practical thinking, is eudaimonia. What makes a virtuous character (ethikē aretē) possible, which is in turn necessary if happiness is to be possible.

He describes a sequence of necessary steps: righteous actions (under the influence of teachers) allow the development of the right habits, which in turn can allow the development of a good character in which the habits are voluntary, and this in turn gives a chance of achieving eudaimonia. Virtue is an admirable human quality, marked by a disposition to behave in certain ways in certain circumstances. Then, there is the mean between excess and defect.

Here are some examples:

defect       golden mean      excess
apathy----gentleness----short temper

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