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The Moral Point of View. Why Study Ethics?. Moral concerns are unavoidable in life. Analogy: morality is a lot like nutrition. Principal concern: health The role of experts Disagreement. Ethics as an Ongoing Conversation. Professional discussions of ethical issues in journals.

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The Moral Point of View

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The moral point of view l.jpg

The Moral Point of View

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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Why Study Ethics?

  • Moral concerns are unavoidable in life.

  • Analogy: morality is a lot like nutrition.

    • Principal concern: health

    • The role of experts

    • Disagreement

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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Ethics as an Ongoing Conversation

  • Professional discussions of ethical issues in journals.

  • We come back to ideas again and again, finding new meaning in them.

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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Ethics and Morality

  • Morality: first-order set of beliefs and practices about how to live a good life

  • Ethics: a second-order, conscious reflection on the adequacy of our moral beliefs.

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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Moral Health

  • The goal of ethical reflection is moral health.

  • Thus we seek to determine what will nourish our moral life and what will poison it.

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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Ethical Inventory

  • Take the ethical inventory on pp. 8-10 now or on the web at:

    • http://ethics.sandiego.edu/ActiveWebSurvey/theory/ .

  • Return to your answers after finishing each chapter.

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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The Moral Point of View

  • What makes something a moral issue?

    • Content:

      • duties, rights, human welfare, suffering, character, etc.

    • Perspective:

      • impartial, compassionate, etc.

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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Example: Cheating

Imagine a situation in which you see a classmate cheating. There are several elements from a moral point of view:

  • Some people are hurt by the cheating

  • There is deception in the situation

  • Cheating seems to be unfair to those who don’t cheat

  • There are conflicting values—honesty, loyalty, etc.

  • There are questions of character.

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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The Language of Moral Concerns

  • Some philosophers have argued that moral issues are characterized by a particular kind of language—terms such as duty, obligation, right, and good.

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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Impartiality

Many philosophers have argued that the moral point of view is characterized by impartiality, that is, I don’t give my own interest any special weight.

  • Immanuel Kant

  • John Stuart Mill

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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Compassion

  • Other philosophers have seen the origin of the moral life to be in compassion, feeling for the suffering of other sentient beings.

  • Josiah Royce: “Such as that is for me, so is it for him, nothing less.”

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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Universally Binding

  • Moral obligations, some philosophers maintain, are universally binding and that is what gives them their distinctive character.

  • Kant: morality is a matter of categorical imperatives.

    • Distinguish between hypothetical and categorical imperatives.

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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Concern for Character

  • Philosophers from Aristotle onward have seen the primary focus of morality to be character.

  • Two questions:

    • What ought I to do? (Kant and Mill)

    • What kind of person ought I to be? (Aristotle)

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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The Focus of Ethics

  • Ethics as the Evaluation of Other People’s Behavior

    • We are often eager to pass judgment on others

  • Ethics as the Search for Meaning and Value in Our Own Lives

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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Ethics as the Evaluation of Other People’s Behavior

  • Ethics often used as a weapon

  • Hypocrisy

  • Possibility of knowing other people

  • The right to judge other people

  • The right to intervene

  • Judging and caring

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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Ethics as the Search for Meaning and Value in Our Own Lives

  • Positive focus

  • Aims at discerning what is good

  • Emphasizes personal responsibility for one’s own life

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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What to Expect from a Moral Theory

Functions of theory:

  • Describe

  • Explain

  • Give strength (Stockdale)

  • Prescribe

    • Open new possibilities

    • Wonder

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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What to Expect from a Moral Theory, 2

What is ethics like?

  • Physics

    • Clear-cut, definitive answers

  • Engineering

    • Several possible ways of doing things, many ways that are wrong

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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The Point of Ethical Reflection

  • Ethics as the evaluation of other people’s behavior

    • Sources of mistrust about moral judgments

      • Hypocrisy

      • Knowing other people

      • The right to judge

      • Judging and intervention

      • Judging and caring

  • Ethics as the search for the meaning of our own lives

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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Conclusion:Ethics & Good Health

  • Ethics is like nutrition

    • One studies bodily health, the other moral health

    • Significant disagreement in both fields

    • Still there is a significant common ground.

©Lawrence M. Hinman


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