The ethics of duty
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The Ethics of Duty. Chapter 3. The Ethics of Duty. Duty and Religion – Ultimately, saved by faith and not by good deeds. We are put on this earth to obey God’s commands.

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The Ethics of Duty

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The ethics of duty

The Ethics of Duty

Chapter 3


The ethics of duty1

The Ethics of Duty

  • Duty and Religion – Ultimately, saved by faith and not by good deeds.

  • We are put on this earth to obey God’s commands.

  • Rewards are not on earth – reward is eternal life in heaven. Though, pleasure may be found in the sheer joy of pleasing God.

  • First Commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, all thy mind, and all thy strength.”


Religious ethics

Religious Ethics

  • There are arguments for & against religious ethics:

    Advantage of Religion: Provides sanctions.

    Criticism: Sanctions are too remote.

  • Advantage: Faith in God is the center of a Christian’s life.

  • Criticism: Social utility should be number 1 for a moral person, not incidental to following God’s word. Time spent in church could be time spent feeding the poor, for example.


Religious ethics1

Religious Ethics

  • Criticism: Religious dogma can lead to tragedy, such as the Spanish Inquisition.

    • Also, religious dogma can stifle inquiring minds.

  • Reply to criticism: Fallible human beings are to blame for these tragedies, not religion properly understood.


Religious ethics2

Religious Ethics

  • Criticism: Consistent Christians should believe their God is the answer. Thus they should try to convert others in order to save them from eternal damnation.

  • Answer: Christianity has mellowed since then. Christians now work effectively with Muslims and Jews.


Religious ethics3

Religious Ethics

  • Advantage: Religion has good uses.

  • Criticism: Do we teach people to believe in a certain religion because it is useful or because it is true?

  • Pascal’s wager. Is this anything more than an appeal to force?

  • Russell: “How do you know that there isn’t a God who respects intellectual honesty, and basing one’s beliefs on evidence rather than faith, so much that he will throw into hell anyone who adheres to a religion just to be on the winning side?


Religious ethics4

Religious Ethics

  • Euthyphro (page 83)

    • Is an act right independently of God’s command?


Natural law

Natural Law

  • The theory of natural law has three main parts:

    • 1. The Theory of Natural Law rests upon a certain view of what the world is like. This view holds that the world has a rational purpose built into nature. Everything in nature has a purpose.

      2. The “Laws of Nature” not only describe how things are but how they ought to be as well.

      3. We can grasp the “Laws of Nature” because God has made us rational creatures.


Natural law1

Natural Law

  • Criticisms of natural law:

    • What makes something “unnatural?” Hearing aids are not found in nature. Diseases are found in nature: cures are unnatural because they are discovered by humans?

    • Is being natural always good? See pages 86-87.


Kantian ethics

Kantian Ethics

  • 2nd Commandment: Love thy neighbor as thyself.

    • What does this mean? Should you love the entire human race equally? Even child molesters and serial killers?

    • Should you love everyone as much as you love your own family?

    • What if you are working on a project and some remote acquaintance is hungry and needs food? Should you drive a half day to feed him/her? Should you do this for everyone? Do you rally have to “sell all thou hast and give to the poor?” Then you will be poor and forced to rely on the possible charity of others.

    • Golden rule can be problematic because of different strokes for different folks.


Kantian ethics1

Kantian Ethics

  • 2nd Commandment: Love thy neighbor as thyself.

    • What does this mean? Should you love the entire human race equally? Even child molesters and serial killers?

    • Should you love everyone as much as you love your own family?

    • What if you are working on a project and some remote acquaintance is hungry and needs food? Should you drive a half day to feed him/her? Should you do this for everyone? Do you rally have to “sell all thou hast and give to the poor?” Then you will be poor and forced to rely on the possible charity of others.

    • Kant said we should follow universal moral laws.


Kantian ethics2

Kantian Ethics

  • Kant’s Theory of Duty

    • Animals act from inclination.

    • Only human beings are capable of acting on principle.

    • Feelings and attitudes differ from person to person. However, reason is universal. If A is larger than B, and B is larger that C than A is larger than C universally. Every rational person would have to agree with this conclusion.


Kantian ethics3

Kantian Ethics

  • A hypothetical imperative is different than a categorical imperative.

  • The Categorical Imperative: Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.

  • Charity and Payment of debts are Kant’s examples.

  • Deontological ethics holds that the rightness of an act is derived from its logical consistence and universalizability.

  • the character of the act itself rather than the consequences is what matters

  • the character of the act itself is determined by it’s maxim.

  • Case of murderer looking for friend and Kant’s response.

  • Critics ask why there can’t be exceptions and qualifications.


Kantian ethics4

Kantian Ethics

  • Example: Truman vs. Anscombe

  • Treating persons as ends

    • Act in such a way that you treat humanity whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means. See pages 98-99.

  • Kant’s Theory of Moral goodness

    • A good will is good not because of what it performs or effects, not by its aptness for the attainment of some proposed end, but simply by virtue of the volition – that it, it is good in itself, and considered by itself is to be esteemed much higher than all that can be brought about by it…

    • We aren’t good because of society, religion and so forth. We are good because of reason.

    • The only absolutely good thing is a good will.

    • A person’s act is morally good when it is done entirely from movies of duty – done simply because the person believes that duty requires this of him, and for no other reason.

    • Did Kant confuse “inclination” with “self-regarding inclination?”

    • Friend in the hospital example.

    • Kid drowning example.


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