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History of Western Philosophy in Five Minutes. Video. Philosophy 2030 Spring, 2014 Class #1. Title: Introduction to Ethics Instructor: Paul Dickey E-mail Address: Class Websites:

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History of Western


in Five Minutes



Philosophy 2030

Spring, 2014

Class #1

Title: Introduction to Ethics

Instructor: Paul Dickey

E-mail Address:

Class Websites:

Create your own userid & password.


“Head Start”

  • Extra Credit Quiz
  • 2) Introductions – Tell Us a Story
  • 3) Syllabus
  • 4) Discussion –
  • What is Ethics anyway?
  • 5) Video

Philosophy 2030

Introduction to Ethics


Author: Nina Rosenstand

Title: The Moral of the Story: An Introduction to Ethics

Edition: 7th Edition, 2013

Publisher: McGraw Hill

1) Reading Assignment for Next Class Period:

Chapter 1: pp. 1-18, 36-39

2) Syllabus Quiz on Quia website

3) “Write your story down”


Discussion –

  • What is Ethics anyway?
  • Ethics is one of the multiple disciplines in Philosophy, the one that deals with Moral Judgment and Moral Action.
  • So what is Philosophy?
  • Well, be careful. “What is Philosophy?”
  • is itself a philosophical question that you may hear many different answers and arguments.
  • For our purposes now, let us understand philosophy as an approach to try to answer fundamentally important questions by a process of argumentation known as logic and/or critical thinking.

The Major Fields of Philosophy

  • Metaphysics – “questions about what is”
  • Logic – “questions about philosophy’s own method.”
  • Epistemology – “questions about knowledge,”

4. Ethics -- “questions about values and morality and how they relate to human conduct.”

Does a person have an obligation to others?

How should we live to be good?

What responsibilities do governments have to their citizens?


So, ask a question. Any question.

Congratulations. You are doing philosophy.


So, ask A Question. Any question.


Now, what is the process or method

of answering it? That is, how

should we do philosophy?

Well, it seems you answer it by

making a claim.


What is a Claim?

  • A claim is sometimes called an assertion, an opinion, a belief, a “view”, a thought, a conviction, or perhaps, an idea.
  • A claim must be expressed as a statement or a complete, declarative sentence. That is, it is propositional. It cannot be a question.
  • What is an Objective Claim vs a Subjective Claim? An objective (but not a subjective) claim is true or false independent of what people think! But be careful.

Arguments & Subjectivism

  • The view that “one opinion is as good as another,” “it’s true for me though it might not be true for you” or “whatever is true is only what you think is true” is known as subjectivism.
  • For some things, this makes sense, e.g.

Miller taste great.

My grandson is cute.

The waiter at the restaurant was nice.

But be careful. Is it reasonable to argue that the most significant beliefs in our lives are subjective – whether God exists, whether you are living your life morally, or whom you should love?


But there is another VERY important

distinction that must be made about

claims. Perhaps even more important.

What is a Factual Claim?

  • In its clearest form, a claim asserts that something is true or false.
  • That is, it asserts a fact. This kind of claim is known as a “factual claim” or a “descriptive claim.”

What is a Normative Claim?

  • Value statements can also be claims though. In such claims, a fact is not asserted in the same sense that it was in factual claims.
  • For example, the claim “You should (or ought) to come to class” is not true or false (at least in the same way that the claim “P2030 class is held in Room 218” is).
  • Thus, some claims are “normative claims” or “prescriptive claims.” They express values and how one should act based on values. A value statement is a claim that asserts something is good or bad.

Now, Critical Thinking is Absolutely Relevant to Both Factual & Normative Claims

  • As we shall see in this class, it is necessary that we identify very clearly which kind of a claim we have before we can properly evaluate any argument for it!
  • Thus, please note we are taking a position against the subjectivist and saying that even normative judgments can be analyzed by the principles of critical thinking or reasoning.

The Fundamental Principle of Critical Thinking is The Nature of an Argument

  • Making a claim is stating a belief or opinion -- the conclusion
  • An argument is presented when you give a reason or reasons that the claim is true. -- the premise(s)
  • Thus, an argument consists of two parts, and one part (the premise or premises) is/are the reason(s) for thinking that the conclusion is true.

How Do Premises Support

Factual vs. Normative Conclusions?

In regard to evaluating support for factual vs. normative Conclusions, I would suggest the following two tips to keep in mind

1) Only factual premises support factual conclusions. That is, if the conclusion is factual (or descriptive), ALL premises must be factual.

2) A normative premise is always needed to support a normative conclusion. That is, if the conclusion is normative (or prescriptive), there must be at least one normative premise. Of course, there may or may not be factual premises!


Now, can we get back on topic?

  • Discussion –
  • What is Ethics or Morality anyway?
  • Are Ethical questions factual or normative?
  • If normative, are all normative questions moral questions? What about “What is a good story?”

So, what makes some normative questions moral questions?

  • Is it because they are ask questions about what is appropriate human conduct
  • or what is moral?
  • Well, perhaps, …..