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Ethics as AoK. Ethics as AoK. “I cannot see how to refute the arguments for the subjectivity of ethical values, but I find myself incapable of believing that all that is wrong with wanton cruelty is that I don’t like it.” —Bertrand Russell, 1872-1970

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ethics as aok1
Ethics as AoK

“I cannot see how to refute the arguments for the subjectivity of ethical values, but I find myself incapable of believing that all that is wrong with wanton cruelty is that I don’t like it.”

—Bertrand Russell, 1872-1970

“When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares it his duty.”

—George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950

moral reasoning
Moral Reasoning
  • Moral Principle:
    • Cheating on a test is wrong. Snoogles cheated on the test. There what Snoogle did was wrong.
  • Identify the Moral Principle:
    • Paula shouldn’t have kept the money she found—it doesn’t belong to her.
    • The CEO accepts bribes. He should be fired.
    • Bubba should be released from prison. He didn’t receive a fair trial.
moral reasoning1
Moral Reasoning
  • Consistency: expect moral judgment to be applied w/consistency
    • anti-abortionist who supports the death penalty
    • vegetarian who buys leather shoes, belts, etc.
    • politician who proclaims family values has an affair
  • Facts: alleged facts that are basis of moral judgments are true
    • capital punishment is a deterrent
    • child labor should be outlawed
    • genetically modified foods should be banned
moral reasoning2
Moral Reasoning

Moral Principle ConsistencyFacts Value-judgment

What if we do not share the same underlying moral principle?

moral relativism
Moral Relativism

Morals determined by the society in which we grew up

No universal morals: more like customs, i.e. monogamous/polygamous; bury dead/burn dead

moral relativism1
Moral Relativism
  • Diversity Argument: abundance of moral practices throughout the world & throughout time means no objective moral values
    • Slavery; female genital mutilation; sahti; cannibalism
  • Lack of Foundation Argument: no independent moral ‘reality’ to base moral values as a measure of true/false
    • David Hume, 1711-1776: “tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.”
moral relativism2
Moral Relativism

Culture of Tolerance: Is it possible with moral relativism?

Problem of Cultural Imperialism

Is it always okay to believe that “they have their values and I have my values and who am I to say he’s wrong”?

moral relativism3
Moral Relativism

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.


Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.


Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.


Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

--Martin Niemöller

self interest theory
Self-interest Theory

Premise: humans are always and everywhere selfish

How does such a theory impact the notion of morals or ethics?

Definitional Argument

Evolutionary Argument

Hidden Benefits Argument

Fear of Punishment Argument

self interest theory1
Self-interest Theory

Definitional Argument

True by definition (necessarily true) that everyone is selfish

What about altruism?

Hang with your friends

Visit a retirement home

Which action is altruistic?

self interest theory2
Self-interest Theory

Definitional Argument

Is there a difference between Donald Trump and Mother Theresa based on the definitional argument?

self interest theory3
Self-interest Theory

Definitional Argument

  • Criticism:
    • Definitional argument robs ‘selfish’ of its meaning; how can you criticize something that is the universal motivator of actions
    • Self-regarding Desires v. Other-regarding Desires
self interest theory4
Self-interest Theory

Evolutionary Argument

Struggle for survival led us to being selfish

Other people’s interests concern us only to extent they affect our own interests

Therefore: capitalism is superior to socialism because it taps into human nature

self interest theory5
Self-interest Theory

Evolutionary Argument

  • Criticism:
    • Evidence that supports idea that empathy & altruism is part of our nature
      • Monkeys refuse pull lever that delivers food if it also caused a shock in another monkey
      • Babies (about 1 yr. old) will offer a blanket or toy if they see their mother crying
      • Edward O. Wilson, biologist, “Cooperative individuals generally survive longer and leave more offspring.”
self interest theory6
Self-interest Theory

Hidden Benefits Argument

We get hidden benefits from being kind to people, i.e. gratitude, praise, positive image

Return a favor or helps our reputation

self interest theory7
Self-interest Theory

Hidden Benefits Argument

  • Criticism:
    • People do acts without expecting anything in return, i.e. tip restaurant never visit again
    • Citizens of Chambon, France who hid Jews from Nazis
    • Oskar Schindler or Raol Wallenberg
    • David Hume: “I esteem the man whose self-love, by whatever means, is so directed as to give him a concern for others, and render him serviceable to society; as I hate or despise him who has no regard for anything beyond his own gratifications and enjoyments.”
self interest theory8
Self-interest Theory

Fear of Punishment Argument

Civil behavior results only from fear of being punished with a fine, ostracism, imprisonment, shame, etc.

What would have if the police were to go on strike?

Montreal, 17 October 1969

self interest theory9
Self-interest Theory

Fear of Punishment Argument

  • Criticism
    • What is the basis of this belief?
    • Cynic might claim Mother Theresa acted out of fear of eternal damnation, but wouldn’t God know that and judge her accordingly
    • Ring of Gyges (Plato): ring allows bearer to become invisible… what would you do with it?
theories of ethics
Theories of Ethics

Systematic Approach

Religious Ethics

Duty Ethics

Utilitarianism

Immanuel Kant

theories of ethics1
Theories of Ethics

Religious Ethics

Religion like an authoritative rule book

Source of moral insight & ethical guidance

Does that mean we do not have to think about ethics, that we have no responsibility to reflect on ethics?

theories of ethics2
Theories of Ethics

Religious Ethics

What about free will?

What about the ‘idolatry of literalism?”

Exodus 35:2 proclaims that anyone who works on the Sabbath should be put to death

spirit of the code or the letter of the code?

theories of ethics3
Theories of Ethics

Religious Ethics

  • Plato (428-348 BCE)
    • cannot derive ethics from religion
    • Is something good because God says it is good, or does God say that it is good because it is good?
theories of ethics4
Theories of Ethics

Religious Ethics

  • Plato (428-348 BCE)
    • God says it is good: what if God decides that murder is good
    • Good because it is good: are values independent of God? Do we need to appeal to God to justify them?
theories of ethics5
Theories of Ethics

Religious Ethics

Matthew 19:24: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”—How should we interpret this?

Can a person be a good Catholic if they practice birth control?

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881): “if God is dead, everything is permitted.”

theories of ethics6
Theories of Ethics

Duty Ethics

  • ethics centered on fulfilling obligations
  • duty-based ethics = deontological approach
  • morality of an action is judge by adherence to rule
theories of ethics7
Theories of Ethics

Duty Ethics

  • What about rights?
  • duty/rights connected
    • duty not to steal/right to property
    • right to life/ duty not to kill
  • How are these justified?
theories of ethics8
Theories of Ethics

Duty Ethics: Kantian Ethics

  • Immanuel Kant, 1724-1804
  • duties are not arbitrary and can be determined by reason
  • categorical imperative: categorically imputes duties across situational variables
theories of ethics9
Theories of Ethics

Duty Ethics: Kantian Ethics

  • “act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law”
  • "act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means”
  • “every rational being must so act as if he were through his maxim always a legislating member in the universal kingdom of ends.”
theories of ethics10
Theories of Ethics

Duty Ethics: Kantian Ethics

  • “act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law”
    • What would happen if everyone did that?
      • i.e. promises
      • consistency
theories of ethics11
Theories of Ethics

Duty Ethics: Kantian Ethics

special pleading: excuses to justify our own behavior that we would not find acceptable in others

“If you want to know the foulness of lying, consider the lying of someone else and how you shun it and despise the man who lies and regard his communication as foul. Do the same with regard to all your vices, for you do not realize the foulness of your own case, but from someone else’s.”

--Al Ghazali, 1058-1111

theories of ethics12
Theories of Ethics

Duty Ethics: Kantian Ethics

  • Golden Rule
    • Buddhism:Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." Udana-Varga 5:18
    • Confucianism: "Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you" Analects 15:23
    • Hinduism: This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. Mahabharata 5:1517 
theories of ethics13
Theories of Ethics

Duty Ethics: Kantian Ethics

  • Golden Rule
    • Islam: “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. “ Sunnah
    • Jainism: "In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self." Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara
    • Judaism: "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary." Talmud, Shabbat 31a.
theories of ethics14
Theories of Ethics

Duty Ethics: Kantian Ethics

  • Golden Rule
    • Taoism: “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.”     Tai Shang Kan Yin P’ien
    • Zoroastrianism: “That nature alone is good which refrains from doing another whatsoever is not good for itself.” Dadisten-I-dinik, 94,5
theories of ethics15
Theories of Ethics

Duty Ethics: Kantian Ethics

Veil of Ignorance: John Rawls, 1921-2002

Assume that you arrive at the bargaining table with no knowledge whatsoever of your social status, economic power, ethnicity, religion or gender. Then, asks Rawls, what kind of society would you want to set up?

theories of ethics16
Theories of Ethics

Duty Ethics: Kantian Ethics

  • Values & Dignity
  • Kant: no individual should be given preferential treatment/ no individual should be discriminated against
    • never right to sacrifice an individual’s life for the greater good
theories of ethics17
Theories of Ethics

Duty Ethics: Kantian Ethics

  • Values & Dignity
  • Dual Concept of the Self
    • Individual is one among many but also a me
    • should never be treated as a mere means to an end
theories of ethics18
Theories of Ethics

Duty Ethics: Kantian Ethics

  • Values & Dignity
  • Kant: difference between objects and humans
    • objects have value
    • humans have dignity
theories of ethics19
Theories of Ethics

Duty Ethics: Kantian Ethics

  • Moral Value
    • moral value of an action determined by motive for which it is done not the consequences that derive from it—accident v. revenge
    • actions should be motivated by reason not feeling
      • what if you feel like helping Person A, but not Person B?
      • only do good things when you want to
theories of ethics20
Theories of Ethics

Duty Ethics: Kantian Ethics

Moral Value

Motives for Doing Good

expect something in return

sympathy

duty

theories of ethics21
Theories of Ethics

Duty Ethics: Kantian Ethics

  • Criticisms:
    • moral absolutism, i.e. lying
    • rule worship
      • respect traffic, but it’s OK to drive through red light if you’re late for work
      • respect traffic laws, but it’s OK to drive through red light if you’re rushing someone to the emergency room
theories of ethics22
Theories of Ethics

Duty Ethics: Kantian Ethics

  • Criticisms:
    • conflicts of duty
      • If a person is unfaithful to their partner, should they confess and make their partner unhappy or say nothing and deceive them?
      • If your grandmother and a famous doctor are trapped in a burning building, do you rescue your grandmother because she is family or the doctor because she is more useful to society?
      • If your child is dying of a rare disease and you cannot afford the drugs to save him, are you justified in stealing the drugs?
theories of ethics23
Theories of Ethics

Utilitarianism

Jeremy Bentham, 1748-1832

John Stuart Mill, 1806-1873

Moral Principle: the greatest happiness of the greatest number

“It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong.”

--Jeremy Bentham

theories of ethics24
Theories of Ethics

Utilitarianism

Moral Principle: the greatest happiness of the greatest number

actions are right in so far as they tend to increase happiness and wrong in so far as they tend to decrease it

“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.”

--John Stuart Mill

theories of ethics25
Theories of Ethics

Utilitarianism

Happiness = presence of pleasure and the absence of pain

maximize pleasure

minimize pain

theories of ethics26
Theories of Ethics

Utilitarianism

democratic system

rational theory: short-term & long-term

egalitarian system

theories of ethics27
Theories of Ethics

Utilitarianism

Criticisms:

What is pleasure? ice cream, education, freedom, lack of responsibilities…

What is happiness?

“To be without some of the things you want is an indespensable part of happiness.”

--Bertrand Russell

theories of ethics28
Theories of Ethics

Utilitarianism

  • Criticisms:
  • What is happiness?
    • you earn $50,000/year & four friends earn $25,000/year
    • you earn $100,000/year & your four friends earn $250,000/ year
    • Love & Marriage & Adultery?
theories of ethics29
Theories of Ethics

Utilitarianism

  • Criticisms:
  • Bad Pleasures:
    • malicious pleasures: derived from suffering of others
    • empty pleasures: do not help us develop as humans or obtain our full potential
theories of ethics30
Theories of Ethics

Utilitarianism

  • Criticisms:
  • Judges Actions
    • right or wrong action depends on its outcome or consequences
    • what about the actions to get to the end
      • do means justify ends?
theories of ethics31
Theories of Ethics

Utilitarianism

  • Criticisms:
  • Obligations & Rights
    • Pugnacious is a malicious member of a community. Beneficence decides to do something about Pugnacious. She hides behind tree and, as Pugnacious passes by, hits him in the head with a baseball bat. She then drags his unconscious body to the river and throws him in.