Sunday, May 1, 2016

Final exam, Chapter 5

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.


4. Cultural relativism: The doctrine that what makes an action right is that it's approved by that culture. Counterarguments: 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: Moral standards + factual beliefs = Moral judgments (this is not a formula, just an approximation). What is a factual belief? 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. Are there universal moral principles? I think we could say yes. 


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

Section 5.2

 
1. 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; personhood is an essential value: a-reason, b-autonomy, c-sentience, d-freedom) and instrumental values (value for the sake of something else). 


3. Ethical egoism: What makes an action right is that it promotes one's best interest. This is equivalent to a calculus of prudence. Counterarguments: (a) Egoist's motivations (if known, the egoist's intentions seems to treat moral agents as means to an end). Moral agents are mot mere instruments for one's interest. (b) Egoism is not a socially or politically cogent theory (i.e., you would not vote for an egoist in office if you could vote for an utilitarian). 


4. Act Utilitarianism: What makes an action right is that it maximizes happiness everyone considered (remember this is only a particular milieu: family, class, Miami, Florida, the USA). Counterarguments: (a) McCloskey’s informant (problems with rights) (b) Brandt’s Heir (problems with duties), (c) Goodwin's Fire Rescue (problems with duties), (e) Ewing's Utilitarian torture (problems with justice). 


Rights: positive & negative rights. 

Negative rights: they are inherent, one owns them: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 
Positive rights: Rights that are given by society: such a welfare rights.

Duties: obligations one has by virtue of one's embeddedness in society. Filial, social, etc.

Justice: justice is fairness.
 

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 a better theory than AU. Why? 
Because if applied, it can solve the problems posed by the previous counterarguments. In McCloskey, the rule is "Do not bear false witness." In Brandt's utilitarian heir, 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."  

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). Remember Triff's circuit.
 

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 Bin-Laden Syndrome).  How can we solve that?
 

3. Kant's Second Formulation: TREAT PEOPLE AS ENDS, NEVER AS MEANS TO AN END. Problems with the second formulation? 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 (ethikÄ“ aretÄ“) 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                               Excess

cowardice----courage----rashness
apathy----gentleness----short temper
stinginess----generosity----extravagance
grouchiness----friendliness----flattery
boorishness----wittiness----buffoonery
self-deprecation----truthfulness----boastfulness
insensibility----self-control----debauchery