PHIL/POLS/INTP264 Ethics and International Affairs. Lecture 1: Intro/Utilitarianism 7 July 2008. Some Moral Theories. Utilitarianism (Rachels article) Kantian Ethics (O’Neill article) The Wrongness of Killing (Norman article) Why do we need moral theories?
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Lecture 1: Intro/Utilitarianism
7 July 2008
* All other actions are morally wrong/inferior
* Happiness = (net pleasure/pain, or preference satisfaction)
1. To hedonism: Is happiness all that matters? (deceived businessman/ experience machine e.g.)
2. To consequences:
Utilitarianism is right to warn against taking moral common sense at face value, but still some objections to the theory seem to have a rational basis; e.g., moral desert.
Lecture 2: Kantian Ethics
10 July 2008
1. Different formulations of fundamental moral principle (Categorical Imperative)
One should always treat humanity, whether in others or in oneself, always as an end, and never merely as a means
3. How are we to understand what it means to treat someone as an end, not a means?...
e.g., ‘I should get to class on time’, ‘I should keep my promises’, etc.
4. An act is morally impermissible (wrong) if it uses another in a way to which they could not, in principle, consent. Examples:
a. deceit (lying, false promise, etc.)
Justice vs. Beneficence:
1. There are two types of moral duty, according to Kant, duties of justice and duties of beneficence.
a. Duties of justice require one not to treat others as mere means, but as ends in themselves (as discussed)
b. Duties of beneficence require one to sometimes act to further the ends of others
Kantian ethics lacks scope of utilitarianism, but it is more precise in guiding individuals’ conduct in the areas of life that it does apply.
a. Scope example: Kantian ethics doesn’t apply, ordinarily, to the question whether it is right to brush one’s teeth; utilitarianism does apply, in principle.
- Whereas Utilitarianism may or may not permit such killing, depending on the consequences for overall happiness
Lecture 3: The Wrongness of Killing
11 July 2008
Utilitarianism: Life is valuable because living things are sentient (or capable of feeling pleasure/pain, happiness). But, persons can be sacrificed for the greater good (i.e., a greater amount of happiness).
Kantianism: Life is valuable because humans are rational. Persons cannot be sacrificed for any ‘greater good’. “Respect for persons”
1. Religious connotations problematic
2. Even on secular conception of reverence or awe or respect to life, the notion is too broad.
a. does it include all life?
b. Human life? (why?; speciesism)
c. Animal life above a certain threshold? Again, why there?
3. If the criterion is one of rationality or some other cognitive criterion, then what about those animals who possess it (or those humans that don’t?)
4. Potentiality: problematic
1. It normally causes pain and suffering to the person killed and their loved ones
a. In line with certain of our intuitions, i.e., with regard to euthanasia and anencephaly
b. But what about those cases where killing doesn’t cause pain and the person is a normally functioning adult hermit?
1. Similar to Kantian Ethics
a. but, just how autonomous does one need to be to be worthy of respect?
b. Again, what about borderline cases, infants and severely retarded persons; and higher animals?
* Where life means: the continuing process of experience and development