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Ethical theories. Lecture 2, MS008A. Today. Ethical Theories of Duty (Kant) Virtue (Aristotle) Consequence (Utilitarianism) John Stuart Mill. Ethical theories. The formal study of ethics goes back to the greek philosopher Socrates . Philosophers have proposed many ethical theories

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ethical theories

Ethical theories

Lecture 2, MS008A

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

today
Today
  • Ethical Theories of
    • Duty (Kant)
    • Virtue (Aristotle)
    • Consequence (Utilitarianism) John Stuart Mill

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

ethical theories1
Ethical theories
  • The formal study of ethics goes back tothe greek philosopher Socrates.
  • Philosophers have proposed many ethical theories
  • Why study these theories?
    • A useful ethical theory makes it possible for us to examine moral problems, reach conclusions through logical resoning and defend the conclusions.

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

moral truths
Moral Truths
  • Are there certain moral truths?
    • Human rights
    • The ’law’ of nature: the behaviour and doings of humans that enable us to develop the potential and talents that nature has given us
    • Deeds that create peace and harmony between people
    • Moral truths are those that are accepted by many people, despite differences in culture and religion

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

the problems of ethical behaviour
The problems of Ethical Behaviour
  • Not always a question of what is difficult to decide, that is, the difference between right and wrong, ’good and bad’
  • Sometimes we are tempted to do something – knowing that it is not right
  • There is a thing called common sense
  • Although: ’Common sense is not so common’

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

example
Example
  • An obviously good deed: The classical ’seeing an old woman across the road.’
  • We do this good deed, encounter a friend who says. ’Why did you do that? You have other things to do, don’t waste your time, you should be out there making money!’
  • The problem: You are forced to defend your good deed.
  • The deed in itself is good, unquestionably.

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

turning the tables
Turning the tables
  • When the person doing good is made to answer
  • Hypothesis: The scandals of WorldCom and Enron.
  • Figures were manipulated, the people on the inside got away with fortunes before the crash
  • What if the responsible had said: No, we will not do it. It is wrong! With no further explanation.

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

how does it really work
How does it really work?
  • Many large companies today are being pressured into acting morally
  • They are forced to take ethics seriously, as a part of their culture
  • Attitudes change – ethics are placed higher than profit
  • Corruption will be more easily revealed
  • Insight: Good ethics will pay in the long run!

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

the ethics of duty
The Ethics of Duty

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

immanuel kant 1724 1804
Immanuel Kant (1724 -1804).
  • Immanuel Kant was born at Königsberg in East Prussia, 22 April, 1724; died there, 12 February, 1804.
  • There are two periods of Kant's literary activity. The first, the pre-critical period, extends from 1747 to 1781, the date of the epoch-making "Kritik der reinen Vernunft"; the second, the critical period, extends from 1781 to 1794.
  • Good Will and the Categorical Imperative
  • Peoples actions should be governed by moral laws that are universal
  • Principles of morality must be based on reason
  • Kantianism explains why an action is right or wrong, does not just state that it is so.

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

good will
Good will
  • The only thing that can be called good without qualification.
  • Is not the same as good deeds, but good in itself.
  • Intelligence and courage are good qualities, but can be used in harmful way: robbing banks, fraud etc.
  • Focus is on what we ought to do, not what we want to do =dutifulness = acting in a certain way according to moral rules.

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

the categorical imperative
The Categorical Imperative
  • First formulation: Moral rules = universal laws. ’Act only from moral rules that you can at the same time will to become universal laws’.
  • Second formulation: ’Act so that you always treat both yourself and other people as ends in themselves, and never only as a means to an end.’
  • Example: The Carla case –

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

the carla story
The Carla story
  • ………….

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

analysis
Analysis:
  • Plagiarism evaluated using the Categorical Imperative:
    • First formulation: Use the rule: I can claim credit for a report written by someone else. Reports would cease to be valid as indicators of knowledge if everyone followed this rule.
    • Second formulation: Carla is using her professor as means to an end.

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

utilitarianism theory of consequence
Utilitarianism (Theory of Consequence)
  • A philosophy that is in contrast to duty ethics
  • Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) (english philosophers)
  • Two philosophies:
    • Act utilitarianism- an action is good if its overall effect is to produce more happiness than unhappiness
    • Rule utilitarianism – We ought to adopt those moral rules which if everyone follows them, lead to greater increase in total happiness
  • Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill:

http://www.utilitarianism.com/mill1.htm

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

utilitarianism
Utilitarianism
  • Utilitarianism (from the Latin utilis, useful) is a theory of ethics based on quantitative maximization of some good for society or humanity.
  • It is a form of consequentialism.
  • This good is often happiness or pleasure,
  • Utilitarianism is sometimes summarized as "The greatest happiness for the greatest number." Wikipedia

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

slide18
Cont…
  • The philosopher John Stuart Mill:
    • [Utilitarianism is ] … ’the creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, utility or the greatest happiness principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasure’

(Utilitarianism, ii, 1863).

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

slide19
Hume
  • The philosopher Hume did not see any religious source or sanction of morality in utilitarianism
  • In his ‘Inquiry concerning the Principles of Morals (1751)’ he carried out an extensive analysis of the various judgments which we pass upon our own character and conduct and on those of others
  • He drew the conclusion that virtue and personal merit consist in those qualities which are useful to ourselves and others.

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

act utilitarianism
Act Utilitarianism
  • Principles of Utility
  • An action has nothing to do with the attitude behind the action
  • Bentham: No motive is in itself a bad one. If motives are good or bad, it is because of their effects.

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

pros and cons of act utilitarianism
Pros and cons of act Utilitarianism
  • Pro:
    • It focuses on happiness
    • It is down to earth – where to build a prison, where to treat drug-addicts- the metadon –programme (but: Not in my back yard)…
  • Con:
    • It is not practical- too much energy goen into every moral decision
    • Ignores our sense of duty
    • The problem of moral luck – the effect decides whether the action is moral or not

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

rule utilitarianism
Rule Utilitarianism
  • Weaknesses of Act Utilitarianism has lead to Rule Utilitarianism
  • Everyone should follow rules that lead to the greatest increase in total happiness
  • Applies the principle of happiness to the effect of moral rules, act utilitarianism applies the principles to individual actions
  • Focuses on rules like duty ethics:
    • Rules should be followed without exception
    • Rule utilitarianism looks at the consequenses
    • Duty ethics looks at the will motivating the action

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

rule utilitarianism pros and cons
Rule Utilitarianism - pros and cons
  • Pro:
    • General consequences on society by adopting a universal rule
    • Solves the problem of moral luck – the occasional atypical result does not affect the goodness of an action
    • Example – sending flowers to a sick person is always a good action (even though she may be allergic to flowers…)
  • Con:
    • We must use a single scale to evaluate completely different kinds of consequences – for instance building a new motorway: cost and benefit in money, vs people losing their homes
    • Think of more cons!

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

virtue ethics
Virtue Ethics
  • Virtue ethics may be identified as the one that emphasizes the virtues, or moral character
  • In contrast to the approach which emphasizes duties or rules (duty, deontology)
  • or that which emphasizes the consequences of actions (consequentialism).

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

virtue ethics1
Virtue ethics
  • In philosophy, the phrase virtue ethics refers to ethical systems that focus primarily on what sort of person one should try to be.
  • According to virtue ethicists the aim of all humans is to lead a good, happy and fulfilling life.

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

example1
Example
  • Suppose it is obvious that someone in need should be helped:
    • A utilitarian will point to the fact that the consequences of doing so will maximise well-being
    • A deontologist to the fact that, in doing so the agent will be acting in accordance with a moral rule such as "Do unto others as you would be done by”
    • A virtue ethicist to the fact that helping the person would be charitable or benevolent.

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

honesty
Honesty
  • An honest person cannot be identified simply as one who always tells the truth,

for one can have the virtue of honesty without being tactless or indiscreet.

  • The honest person recognises "That would be a lie" as a strong reason for not making certain statements in certain circumstances

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

relativism
Relativism
  • There are no universal moral norms of right and wrong
  • Different people/groups of people can have opposite views of a moral problem – both can be right.
  • Two kinds of relativism:
    • Subjective relativism
    • Cultural relativism

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

subjective relativism pro and con
Subjective relativism: pro and con
  • Pro:
    • Each person creates his/her own morality ( example: views on abortion).
    • If morality is relative, we do not have to agree – for instance if abortion is right or wrong. Both sides are right.

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

continued
Continued…

Con:

  • A line of defense for doing what you want to do: ” Who are you to tell me what to do and what not to do?” Morality = doing what you want to do
  • Doing what you want as long as it does not hurt anybody: What does it mean to harm somebody? The question is NOT subjective!
  • Tolerance is not the same as subjective relativism. Does being tolerant mean that you accept that others are intolerant, racist etc:
    • Relativism = no universal rules.
    • ’People ought to be tolerant’ = a universal rule. Inconsistant.

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

cultural relativism
Cultural relativism
  • Different views of right and wrong held by differentsocieties
  • The meaning of right and wrong rest with a society’s moral guideines
  • Right and wrong varies in time and place
  • Example: Circumcision of African women
    • Anthropologists have defended a culture’s right to stick to tradition
  • Cultural differences concerning truthfulness, stealing and cheating:
    • Example: testifying to lower speed after a car accident. 90% of Norwegians would not, 10 % of Yugoslavians would not. (Ethics for the Information age. Michael Quinn)

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

cultural relativism pro
Cultural Relativism – pro
  • Different social contexts demand different moral guidelines
  • It is arrogant for one society to judge another – we have more technology than others, but we are not ’better’, more intelligent, more moral etc.
  • Morality is reflected in actual behaviour: ’Do as I say, do not do what I do’ – but does this work?

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

cultural relativism cons
Cultural relativism: cons
  • Different views on right and wrong does not imply that there ought to be different views –
    • Example: How to solve the drought problem:
    • Aquaduct vs. sacrifice to rain gods
  • Societies share core values, therefore, they may exist a universal ethical theory – opposing cultural relativism. Examples of core values:
    • care for newborn,
    • not telling lies,
    • prohibition against murder.
  • Moral guidelines are a result of tradition, not necessarily based on reason.

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005

next week
Next week
  • Censorship and Freedom of Speech.
  • Intellectual Property.
  • Privacy.
  • Excercises: Find examples of good ethical conduct.
  • Use Wikipedia to find out more about ethics of duty, consequence and virue, and criticism of these theories. Write a page or so about the likenesses and differences in these three theories.
  • To be discussed in class.

Kirsten Ribu - Siri Fagernes - HiO 2005