Ethics and Moral Values Clark Wolf Iowa State University. Philosophical approaches to ethical choice and reflection….
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Ethics and Moral ValuesClark WolfIowa State University
“The problems of philosophy involve questions in which we are all (or should all be) deeply interested at the most basic level. They are important to us as we make decisions about what to believe, and how to be critical of our own naively held beliefs. Philosophical investigation may help us to determine what kinds of choices we should make, and what kind of person to be. It may help us to understand and justify our belief (or disbelief) in God. It may help us to form a rational life plan, and to better understand our own motives and fears. Philosophical questions are important to us as we try to understand what we are and to determine our place in the scheme of things. And they are important to us as we try to choose right actions in a complicated and difficult world, and to find meaning in our lives. These are not trivial projects.”
Identifying Ethics: Principles of ethics should provide us guidance as we make choices in a complicated world. Ideally, an account of ethics should help us to identify moral principles and morally relevant features of the choices we face.
1) Accept the premises and the conclusion
2) Reject the premises
3) Argue (or show) that the conclusion does not follow from the premises.
Basic Values: The Josephson Proposal:
1) Duties that rest on previous acts of my own
a) Promises.b) Duty to rectify previous wrongs.
2) Duties that rest on previous acts of others (Duties of gratitude).
3) Duties of justice (Ross interprets this as a duty to endeavor to bring the distribution of pleasure or happiness in line with merit.)
4) Beneficence- Duty to benefit others.
5) Duty to improve one's own virtue or intelligence.
6) Duty not to injure others.
1) Fidelity- Obligation to keep promises.
2) Veracity- Obligation to tell the truth, or (or better-- not to tell lies).
3) Fair Play- Obligation not to exploit, cheat, or "free load" on others
4) Gratitude- Obligation to return favors
5) Nonmaleficence- Obligation not to cause harm, pain or suffering to others,
6) Beneficence- Obligation to help others in distress, at least when this involves no great danger to oneself or to third parties.
7) Reparation- Obligation to repair harms to others that are one's fault.
8) Obligation not to kill others (except in self-defense).
9) Obligation not to deprive others of their property.
10) Obligation to oppose injustices, at least when this involves no great cost to oneself.
11) Obligation to promote just institutions and to work toward their establishment, maintenance, and improvement.
Finding an appropriate list of basic obligations may seem like a philosophers’ game. But the business of making appropriate ethical decisions is not a game. One practical goal of such a list is that it may help us to make appropriate decisions in complicated circumstances.
Helping out on your father-in-law’s farm, you discover that he has ceased to use appropriate environmental precautions. His plow patterns are leading to excessive soil erosion and excessive pesticide run-off. There is reason to believe that his unsafe practices are significantly contributing to groundwater contamination, and that erosion from his fields is
Philosophical deliberation should help us to make our values and choices deep and thoughtful. Maybe this makes it more likely that our choices will be the right ones.