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Three Branches of Philosophy:. Epistemology: How do we know? . Metaphysics: What is the nature of the universe ?. Ethics: What is morally “right ?” . What do you do if…. ?. You get an invitation to go to Lake Tahoe for the same weekend you promised to babysit for your neighbor?.

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Three Branches of Philosophy:

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Three Branches of Philosophy:

Epistemology: How do we know?

Metaphysics: What is the nature of the universe?

Ethics: What is morally “right ?”

What do you do if…


You get an invitation to go to Lake Tahoe for the same weekend you promised to babysit for your neighbor?

You witness a friend stealing another friend’s iPod?

You find a pair of expensive sunglasses on the table at In-N- Out Burger, left there by a previous customer?

You dent the BMW in the next parking space as you pull out of the spot?

You are waiting for your math teacher to return to his room and you notice that he has left his final exam lying out in plain sight?

4x +(3)y/43=5z

You find yourself alone with your best friend’s girlfriend/boyfriend, on whom you have a secret crush, and she/he makes a move on you?

Your parents go out of town for the weekend and tell you not to have friends over, but your friends find out that your parents are gone and they show up?

With a lot of beer.

And a lot more friends.

Lake Tahoe




Math test



How do we decide what to do?







“Moral Compass”











Moral/ethical thinking affects our relationships

Moral/ethical issues arise in the workplace

We find examples of morals and ethics in public life

City Council Members Indicted IN Real Estate Scam

Mountain View, Monday

Three members of the city council accused last year o buying city property at reduced cost

In the daily news:


Los Altos, yesterday

Dozens of students were arrested at Los Altos High School early Wednesday after engaging in a high-spirited hurling of mashed potatoes in the school cafeteria.

Morality and Ethics--is there a difference?

Morality generally defines personal character and is based on deep values

Ethics is generally defined as the social system in which morals are applied. In other words, codes of behavior expected by the group or institution.

The two can collide:

* Court of Law

* Medicine

* Work situation

* Other examples?

Everyday moral/ethical questions:

How can I tell what “the right thing” is?

Is it always right to tell the truth?

Do I have an obligation to help people in need?

Why does it really matter if I “do right?”

What do I gain from behaving morally or ethically?

What do I sacrifice from behaving morally or ethically?

How do other people’s moral/ethical decisions affect mine?

Theories and Systems of Morality & Ethics

Lawrence Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development

Stage One: Respect for power and punishment-- I will do what I want as long as I don’t get in trouble

Stage Two: Looking out for #1-- I will do what benefits me; I’ll give if I get

Stage Three: “Good Boy” “Nice Girl”-- I please others to gain their approval

Stage Four: Law and Order-- I conform; I do my duty to maintain social order; people who break rules should be punished

Stage Five: Justice through Democracy-- I actively work to change laws that are unfair; I work within the system

Stage Six: Guiding Moral Principles-- I do what I know is right even if the law says otherwise; I am always true to my values

Information for next five slides from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation

Ethical Relativism:

No principles are universally valid. All moral principles are valid relative to culture. The rules of the society serve as a standard.

Strength--Tolerance/Understanding of other cultures

Weakness--Confuses what ought to be done with what is currently done

Divine Command Theory:

Moral standards depend on God who is all-knowing. Any act that conforms to the law of God is right; an act that breaks God’s law is wrong.

Strengths--Standards are from a higher authority than humans. Gives a reason for moral behavior.

Weakness--Depends on interpretation of God’s will.


Actions are judged right or wrong solely by their consequences. Right actions are those that produce the greatest balance of happiness over unhappiness. Each person’s happiness is equally important.

Strength--promotes human well-being and attempts to lessen human suffering.

Weakness--One person’s good can be another’s evil. Hard to predict accurately all consequences.


Emphasis is on moral rules and duty. Moral norms go for everyone in the society. Emphasis on justice and kind acts. Focus is on what one DOES to be moral.

Strength--Moral rules are universal

Weaknesses—Can be inflexible in some situations. Outcome might not be positive in every case. Rules can be abstract--who decides what is moral?

Virtue Ethics:

Morals are internal. It seeks to produce good people who act well out of spontaneous goodness. Emphasizes living well and achieving excellence. Note: Kohlberg’s theory of moral development is based on this system as the desired goal.

Strength--Internalizes moral behavior. Promotes a positive goal for society.

Weakness—May be unrealistic. Offers no guidance for resolving ethical dilemmas.

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