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Traditional Ethical Theories. Optional Tutorial Monday, February 27, 3-3:50. Quiz on February 29. Section one (50%): 10 short answer questions, 5 points each. Largely definition of terms and identification of philosophical positions with the appropriate philosopher or belief system.

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Optional Tutorial

Monday, February 27, 3-3:50

quiz on february 29
Quiz on February 29

Section one (50%):

10 short answer questions, 5 points each. Largely definition of terms and identification of philosophical positions with the appropriate philosopher or belief system.

Section two (50%):

2) One long answer to a question from a choice of two. The two questions will be chosen from the following list of four. (50%)

long answer questions
Long-answer questions
  • Is cutting down a tree a moral issue? If so, why? If not, why not? If so, is it justified in some circumstances? Why? Discuss in relation to at least two belief systems that we have studied.
  • What belief system that we have studied is most likely to result in an environmentally sound and sustainable society? Compare your choice with at least two other belief systems.
  • Is it better for people to live a more natural way? Explain what you mean by “more natural”. If it is not better, why not? If it is better, for whom is it better (i.e. for the individuals living the natural lifestyle, for people in general, for future generations, for sentient animals in general, or for the earth/nature as a whole), and why?
  • What has intrinsic value? Discuss in relation to at least two belief systems that we have discussed.

Note: belief systems that we have discussed include Aristotelian teleology, virtue ethics, natural law ethics, Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, deontological ethics, utilitarianism and the scientific world view/evolutionary theory.

virtue ethics review
Virtue Ethics (review)

Aristotle

Virtue consists of realizing our natural human potential as

rational animals (our telos).

The cultivation of human virtues

Kindness, courage, honesty, justice, etc.

Focus on motivations for actions, rather than consequences

Problems with virtue ethics:

Do people really have a telos? If not, how can the virtues be justified?

Is cultivating the virtues really the best way for an individual to maximize his human potential?

People can do the wrong thing for the right reasons (e.g. ignorantly kind)

natural law ethics review
Natural Law Ethics (review)

Thomas Aquinas

What is natural is good because God made nature and God is good.

God gave us the innate ability to know what is good.

Morality is universal and objective: it is a law of nature.

Problems for virtue ethics:

Depends upon belief in God.

Without belief in God, there is no justification

for believing that what is natural must be good.

deontological ethics
Deontological Ethics

Kant (1724-1804), German philosopher

Rightness of actions is independent of consequences.

The Categorical Imperative defines our moral duties.

Moral duties, e.g.

not to kill or harm innocent people

not to lie

to keep promises

to respect the rights of others

The Categorical Imperative can be understood through reason.

deontological ethics cont
Deontological Ethics (cont.)

The Categorical Imperative can be worked out through the principle of universalizability:

"Always act according to that maxim whose universality as a law you can at the same time will", and is the "only condition under which a will can never come into conflict with itself…"

(Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals)

Rational beings have an intrinsic worth and dignity.

The end (purpose) of morality is in preserving the well-being and dignity of all rational agents:

“Act with reference to every rational being (whether yourself or another) so that it is an end in itself in your maxim…“

(Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals)

You must never treat a person as a means, but always as an end.

problems with deontological ethics
Problems with deontological ethics

Problem of justification for Categorical Imperative

– where does it come from

Not all good actions can be universalized

Rigid

e.g. if we have a categorical imperative not to lie,

it is wrong to lie even if by lying to a mad gunman,

we can save an innocent person’s life

It is not always possible never to treat a rational agent as an means, not an end, e.g. war

readings for next week
Readings for next week

Required:

Des Jardins, Environmental Ethics (2001),

Chapter 2, on reserve in the Main Library