Ethics What is a Good Life?
Not too long after your China trip, you have a series of dreams about the laboratory where your friend says you were kept as a brain in a jar. After each dream, you remember a small monkey with big brown eyes, his fingers wrapped around the bars of his cage . “They’re going to cut his brain out and put it in a jar”, you say to your best friend.“I’ve got to go back and save him!” “That would get you a nice jail sentence”,she replies.“The laboratory has a legal right to experiment on monkeys. Besides, they treat the lab animals humanely. They use anesthetics, and they don’t allow animals to suffer unnecessarily. ”
“Laws are just human inventions,”you say. “There have been lots of unjust laws. We can’t guide our actions just by the laws that exist. Otherwise we wouldn’t have any way of deciding what new laws need to be made, or what old laws should be discarded.” “But shouldn’t you obey the laws that exist, until they have been changed?”, your friend asks.“What would be the point of having laws, if everyone who disagreed with them could disobey them?” “So if it were legal to kick people with tattoos, you would let me kick you – until the law was changed?” Your friend covers up her new tattoo. “Nobody would ever create a law that stupid!”, she says, glaring at you.
An example Ethical question: Are there laws which should be disobeyed? How can we distinguish them from laws which should be obeyed? Do we have moral duties which should be honored, regardless of the consequences? Or is it the consequences of our actions, in terms of the happiness or pain they create, which justify or condemn our actions? How would we apply these ideas to the question about which laws should be obeyed, and which disobeyed?
Some Philosophical Theories Deontological Ethics Our actions are good if they are consistent with moral rules. Authoritarian Rationalist The source of the moral rules you should follow is some moral authority you recognize as greater than yourself – like your Dad, your Boss, Ms. Cauley, or God. There is some rational basis for moral rules. For example, a moral rule should be universalizable. It should make sense for everyone to be able to follow it.
Some Philosophical Theories Deontological Ethics Our actions are good if they are consistent with moral rules. Authoritarian Rationalist We should follow whatever rules are dictated by our supreme moral authority. Laws consistent with these rules should be obeyed, regardless of consequences. One may adopt any system of rules which is universalizable. Laws consistent with these rules should then be obeyed regardless of consequences.
Some Philosophical Theories Intuitionist Ethics A healthy mind can directly intuit the difference between a good action and a bad one. The good presents itself as good. We could directly intuit the difference between good laws which we should obey, and bad laws which we should not.
Some Philosophical Theories Teleological Ethics It is the goals of our actions which make them good or bad. Utilitarian Aristotelian The goal of our actions should be to reduce suffering and increase happiness. The goal of your actions should be to fulfill your potential as a human being, and to help others do the same.
Some Philosophical Theories Teleological Ethics It is the goals of our actions which make them good or bad. Utilitarian Aristotelian Laws which increase the net total amount of happiness over suffering should be obeyed. Those which do not should not be obeyed. Laws which help people realize their full potential as human beings should be followed. Those which do not should not be obeyed.
Continue your journey... Read Part II of ZMM Sections 8 - 15 pp. 96 - 189 Assignments ZMM PDF Reading Quiz on Tuesday, May 20