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THE DISCIPLINE OF ETHICS. What is ethics? . Analysis of concepts such as "ought" "right" and "wrong", "good" and "bad", duty, responsibility, etc. Inquiry into nature of morality or moral acts. The search for the morally good life. Normative Ethics. Non-Normative Ethics.

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what is ethics
What is ethics?
  • Analysis of concepts such as "ought" "right" and "wrong", "good" and "bad", duty, responsibility, etc.
  • Inquiry into nature of morality or moral acts.
  • The search for the morally good life.
normative theories of obligation
Normative Theories of Obligation
  • These depend on many assumptions:
  • Nature of Reality
      • Metaphysics and/or Religion
  • Nature of Humans
      • whether there is or is not any "essential" immutable human nature
  • Nature of other life forms
      • pertains to moral considerability
normative theories of obligation consequentialist
Normative Theories of Obligation: Consequentialist
  • Consequentialist theories (aka "Teleological theories") focus on "ends" (goals, conditions).
    • Examples:Natural Law theories (e.g., Aristotle/Aquinas)
    • Environmental ethics stressing the protection of environmental processes (such as evolution) as the central goal (can be bio- or eco- centric)
normative theories of obligation deontological
Normative Theories of Obligation: Deontological
  • Deontological theories focus on "means" (rules of action, duties)
    • Deontological ethics claim some actions are right or wrong in and of themselves. (E.g., Kant)
normative theories of obligation virtue ethics
Normative Theories of Obligation: Virtue Ethics
  • Virtue Ethics-- Focus on traits or character: the good person can know and do the right thing.
    • Sometimes virtue ethics are seen as a distinct third theory
    • sometimes they are woven into deontological or consequentialist/teleological theories
normative applied ethics
Normative Applied Ethics
  • Applied Ethics: making moral judgments about actions and conditions
  • Three Principles that come into play
  • 1) Rights
  • 2) Justice
  • 3) Beneficence
applied ethics rights
Applied Ethics: Rights
  • Rights (promoting autonomy/freedom)
    • Usually perceived to "trump" (take priority over) justice & beneficence principles
      • negative: freedoms from...repression; to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness.
      • positive: freedoms to...(food, clothing, shelter).
applied ethics justice
Applied Ethics: Justice
  • 2) Justice -- (Rendering to each their due)
    • Penal Justice: the guilty get punished.
    • Distributive justice: re. how burdens and benefits, goods, services, preferred jobs and salaries are distributed.
applied ethics beneficence
Applied Ethics: Beneficence
  • 3) Beneficence (concern for the commonweal)
    • Concerned with the common good, and re. the obligation to promote good over evil.
    • Here the concern is for norms of value: what is good? What is bad? What is the highest good?
applied ethics rules
Applied Ethics: Rules
  • From Rights, Justice and Beneficence Principles, people deduce more general rules
  • Environmental e.g.s:
    • Right to clean water/air. Don't violate related laws.
    • Environmental justice. Don't make the poor bear an undue burden of our society's pollution: distribute pollution sites in affluent as well as poor neighborhoods.
    • Beneficence. Pursue an environment in which all species, including humans, can flourish.
applied ethics judgments
Applied Ethics: Judgments
  • From Principles & Rules people make more specific judgments: both evaluations of conditions, and action prohibitions and prescriptions
applied ethics judgments15
Applied Ethics: Judgments
  • Examples:
      • Rights e.g.: Coerced contraception violates human liberties.
      • Justice e.g.: Environmental Justice requires affluent nations to limit their consumption and help pay for contraceptive services for the poor
      • Beneficence e.g.: Garrett Hardin's argument that "lifeboat ethics" justify coercive measures to prevent immigration in the North and to promote contraception in the South.
metathics non normative
“Metathics” (non-normative)
  • analysis of concepts such as "ought" "right" and "wrong", "good" and "bad", duty, responsibility, etc.
  • analysis about how people come to, reason about, and justify their normative ethics.
          • heavily dependent on Analytic Philosophy
descriptive ethics non normative
Descriptive ethics (non-normative)
  • analysis of role of ethics in the social world
  • analysis of human "worldviews," narratives, customs, rites, and so on; the cultural carriers of moral notions and claims
          • heavily dependent on the social science
excursus on rights justice beneficence
Excursus on Rights, Justice & Beneficence
  • Understanding these critical ethical principles
rights based theories
Rights-Based Theories
  • Rights are about the protection of an individual's interests, freedoms, etc.
  • Rights are entitlements to act, or to be acted toward, in some specific way. There are
    • - negative rights (freedom from some action by others) and
    • - positive rights (others have a duty to provide some form of aid).
united nations endorses positive rights
United Nations endorses positive rights
  • Increasingly modern culture has recognized positive rights: to life (food, clothing, shelter, etc.).

- United Nations Declaration on Universal Human Rights.

  • Problems:
    • Rights lose their force when people feel exceptions are morally justified, and most proposed rights seem to have exceptions.
justice based theories
Justice-Based Theories
  • Justice is about the distribution of society's burdens and benefits.
  • There are different principles underlying different conceptions of justice:

Usually inequalities are allowed when they are the result of relevant differences between persons.

Problem: what are relevant differences?

justice different understandings
Justice as Equality. There are no relevant differences between people, therefore all should share benefits / burdens equally.

(Or limited equalitarian thought: all should be equal as far as subsistence needs being met before surplus goods are distributed on any other basis.)

Problem: people differ in all characteristics; and most believe that need, ability and effort are relevant characteristics.

Justice as Contribution (e.g., to the group, society, humanity).

Problem: But this can ignore human needs.

Justice-Different understandings
justice as meeting needs socialism
Justice as meeting needs: Socialism.

Premise: human potential is realized in creative work in co-operation with other people; it is not realized in consumption.

Therefore, work should be done according to one's creative abilities, and benefits distributed according to needs.

  • Problem: Such distribution erodes productive efficiency and can’t work given competitive human nature.
  • Moreover, with socialism the freedom to choose a vocation may be eroded, because you should do that which contributes most to others, rather than pursue one’s your own passions. (Of course, all societies have limited amounts of preferred jobs, so vocational choice is always limited.)
justice as freedom libertarianism anarchism
Justice as Freedom - Libertarianism & Anarchism:

A just society is one free of any coercion, where the freely entered contract is the only norm. (Rights = freedom from the coercion of others.)

Critique: Those without wealth or power enter any bargaining at a disadvantage so they cannot make choices with the same freedom as those already privileged.

justice as fairness philosophical liberalism
Justice as Fairness -- Philosophical Liberalism:

Conflicts are to be resolved by procedures upon which rational people will agree

Basic principle: equal treatment.

Each person has a right to the most liberty compatible with the most liberty for all.

justice as fairness cont
Justice as Fairness (cont.)

Socio-economic burdens/benefits ought to be distributed based on merit, as long as the competition is fair (i.e., as long as there is equal opportunity).

Critiques: It is not proven that disadvantaged persons will or should accept an procedural equality, which empirical evidence does not demonstrate as reality. I.e., why accept a hypothetical (and mythical) equality of opportunity, over a potential equality of condition.

utilitarianism influential beneficence based ethics
Utilitarianism: Influential Beneficence-Based ethics
  • Maxim: Act to promote the greatest aggregate ratio of good over evil (pleasure over pain) for everyone concerned
utilitarianism is about aggregate social benefits
Morally right action, or a morally good society, promotes the greatest possible average satisfactions of human beings.

This includes economic factors as well as less tangible ones such as well being (however defined) and happiness.

Utilitarianism is about aggregate social benefits.
utilitarianism s strengths
Utilitarianism’s Strengths:
  • Egalitarian: all are to be considered in end of happiness. Happiness ought not be at expense of other's misery.
  • Its combination of egoism & altruism: reflects common sense.
  • Allows people to pursue their own interests as well as the common good.
    • "Seeks greatest amount of individual liberty compatible with the greatest among of public liberty."
utilitarianism assumes
Utilitarianism assumes:
  • costs/benefits are measurable.
  • all those affected are included in the analysis.
  • we can assign numerical values to intangibles such as beauty, health, & life
  • we can predict consequences

And Utilitarianism cannot decide whose pleasure and pain counts. Whose does? Only humans?

what are the priorities between principles of rights justice and beneficence
What are the priorities between Principles of Rights, Justice, and Beneficence?

Rights take precedence (if they are implicated)

Beneficence/utilitarian principles are usually seen as the least important ones

However, many believe utilitarian considerations can override other principles if the gains or the prevention of harm is important enough.

remedies to violations of rights or social justice
REMEDIES to violations of rights or social justice

(Re)distributive Justice: redistribute burdens / benefits according to a given moral standard (e.g. economic equality, equal liberty, equal treatment [fair procedures]).

Retributive Justice: When perpetrator knowingly violates moral statute, if punishment is no greater than needed for deterrence.

Compensatory Justice: Theorists have different views about which conditions must be met

compensatory justice 2 views about necessary conditions
Compensatory Justice: 2 views about necessary conditions

1) Injurious action must be wrong or negligent; the person's injury must be the real cause of the injury; and the person must have voluntarily inflicted the injury.

  • Such conditions generally must be met in today's law.

2) Compensation is due if real injury or real privilege is based on the past actions of one's group, otherwise injustice wins.

For this class:

Is nature due compensatory, “restorative” action because humans have harmed her?