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History of Philosophy A

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Title: History of Philosophy A


1
History of Philosophy A
  • Lecture Three Medieval Ethics II

2
Recap
  • Last lecture we
  • Introduced the Euthyphro Dilemma
  • Examined Ockhams Divine Command Theory

3
This Lecture
  • Well look at some reasons why people think
    Ockham is wrong
  • Problem one Arbitrariness
  • Problem two Undermines Gods goodness
  • Problem three Ockhams Conscience
  • We then look at a competing medieval theory
    Aquinas Natural Law theory.

4
This Lecture
  • Well look at some reasons why people think
    Ockham is wrong
  • Problem one Arbitrariness
  • Problem two Undermines Gods goodness
  • Problem three Ockhams Conscience
  • We then look at a competing medieval theory
    Aquinas Natural Law theory.

5
Problem One Arbitrariness
  • The first problem was mentioned last lecture.
  • In fact, its not one problem but two problems
    often run together.
  • In its first formulation theres a concern that
    God now gets to make arbitrary moral assertions.
  • Example Left sock before right sock.
  • Example Theft is acceptable.
  • Example Genocide was okay yesterday, but is
    wrong today.
  • (although does the Bible support such a reading?)

6
Problem One Arbitrariness
  • And it also works the other way around.
  • Not only would it be weird if the world was that
    way, but its weird that the moral strictures we
    currently have are that way.
  • Example Rape is only wrong because God says so.
  • A more religious example Sacrilege is only wrong
    because God says so.
  • There are intuitions that theres a reason that
    these things are wrong.
  • That, if there is a God, He sees that reason and
    so tells us not to do it.
  • He Himself didnt make up the reason.

7
Problem One Arbitrariness
  • But theres another source of arbitrariness.
  • Imagine God cobbled together an utterly random
    set of strictures.
  • Its like Calvinball.

8
Problem One Arbitrariness
  • God might demand that killing innocents is only
    wrong one a Tuesday, unless youre wearing a red
    t-shirt in which case its wrong every other day
    of the week.
  • He might say we are obliged to marry all people
    named Nigel.
  • He might order that we all do the funky chicken
    whenever someone says the word frugal, and that
    failure to do so is worse than any other sin.
  • Its just crackers!
  • You might have the intuition that necessarily a
    framework of strictures to count as a moral
    framework must have some sense to it.
  • It must be well ordered, rational, motivated by
    similar aims etc.

9
This Lecture
  • Well look at some reasons why people think
    Ockham is wrong
  • Problem one Arbitrariness
  • Problem two Undermines Gods goodness
  • Problem three Ockhams Conscience
  • We then look at a competing medieval theory
    Aquinas Natural Law theory.

10
Problem Two Gods Goodness
  • One motivation for DCT was that for it to be
    otherwise would undermine Gods power.
  • That if God had no control over the moral laws,
    He would be somehow limited and not omnipotent.
  • But theres a right back at you problem
    lurking.
  • Some worry that if DCT were true itd actually
    undermine Gods omnibenevolence.

11
Problem Two Gods Goodness
  • Gods goodness is meant to be an admirable
    quality a really great thing.
  • Heck, its one of the reasons Hes meant to be
    worshipped.
  • But given DCT, so the argument goes, all God is
    omnibenevolent amounts to is God doing what He
    wants to do.
  • Thats not admirable, thats easy.
  • We can all do what we feel like.

12
Problem Two Gods Goodness
  • So DCT removes from God an admirable quality.
  • Or a slightly different way to look at it.
  • The phrase God is good is meant to be
    informative.
  • But now its uninformative as it just says that
    He does what He does.
  • Compare Next semester well look at Descartes.
  • Hell suggest there might be something just like
    God but evil.
  • Given DCT thats conceptually impossible a
    contradiction to even think about.

13
This Lecture
  • Well look at some reasons why people think
    Ockham is wrong
  • Problem one Arbitrariness
  • Problem two Undermines Gods goodness
  • Problem three Ockhams Conscience
  • We then look at a competing medieval theory
    Aquinas Natural Law theory.

14
Problem Three Ockhams Conscience
  • This objection is more specific to Ockhams DCT.
  • His notion of using your conscience to figure out
    what the moral law is, is kind of weird.
  • If I look inside myself and my conscience seems
    to tell me that brutally killing and eating
    people is okay, then apparently thats good
    justification for doing it.
  • So what if Im Hannibal Lecter?

15
Problem Three Ockhams Conscience
  • It looks like there are questions to be asked
    about Ockhams moral epistemology.
  • We might have serious misgivings.
  • Although this might be more a problem with
    Ockhams theory than DCT in general.

16
Counterarguments
  • Lets recap whats gone on in the last two
    lectures.
  • Weve introduced arguments for DCT.
  • Weve introduced reasons not to believe DCT.
  • Two points to note.

17
Counterarguments
  • Point one
  • Ive intentionally left aside in-depth criticisms
    of the arguments for and against.
  • Are there things wrong with Ockhams argument for
    DCT?
  • Sure!
  • Are there things wrong with the three arguments
    against DCT?
  • Sure!

18
Counterarguments
  • Whats wrong with them?
  • Well why should I tell you that?
  • Coming up with rebuttals to these arguments is
    what youre here for.
  • You are not here to learn arguments verbatim.
  • Thats pointless, and would also spoil the fun.

19
Counterarguments
  • The arguments weve given, both for and against,
    have been intentionally picked such that they
    have flaws I think you can locate.
  • Whilst not being idiotically ridiculous.
  • Ive done this because this is the first year and
    youve got to learn how to argue how to give
    objections on your own.
  • Its one of those essential study skills I talked
    about in Lecture One.

20
Learning Skills
  • What a philosopher cares about are the reasons to
    accept that opinion, and whether they are good
    reasons or not.
  • They care about the arguments that you one can
    give for a particular point.
  • No position we study is obvious (if it were, why
    would we study it?) so every position is open to
    criticism.
  • So philosophers also care about the
    counterarguments against such criticism.
  • If you are to succeed, you must get used to
    offering arguments, acknowledging criticisms and
    giving counterarguments against such criticism.

21
Learning Skills
  • What a philosopher cares about are the reasons to
    accept that opinion, and whether they are good
    reasons or not.
  • They care about the arguments that you one can
    give for a particular point.
  • No position we study is obvious (if it were, why
    would we study it?) so every position is open to
    criticism.
  • So philosophers also care about the
    counterarguments against such criticism.
  • If you are to succeed, you must get used to
    offering arguments, acknowledging criticisms and
    giving counterarguments against such criticism.

22
Counterarguments
  • So thats why Im light on further detail.
  • Only a COMPLETE AND UTTER MORON would think that
    the arguments presented in this lecture are (i)
    exhaustive or (ii) worthy, by themselves, to be
    repeated in an essay.
  • What you need to do is come up with some
    rebuttals to these arguments, and present those
    rebuttals in your essays.
  • Get them by
  • Coming up with them yourself
  • Coming up with them as part of group work
  • Reading books and (whilst referencing correctly!)
    using someone elses

23
Counterarguments
  • Any questions?
  • Point Two
  • The problems given here arent exactly responses
    to the motivations for DCT.
  • We introduced two motivations
  • The Non-Existence of Universals
  • The Curbing of Gods Power
  • We had three problems
  • Problem one Arbitrariness
  • Problem two Undermines Gods goodness
  • Problem three Ockhams Conscience
  • Note how the problems dont explain why the
    motivations are flawed!

24
Counterarguments
  • And they cant both be right!
  • The motivations cant be flawless and the
    problems be flawless!
  • Thatd entail a contradiction!
  • (Youd be obliged to believe P and not believe
    P)
  • Keep that in mind, particularly when writing
    essays.
  • An evaluation of a position isnt giving some
    for reasons and some against reasons.
  • Its about picking one reason and sticking with
    that reason showing whether that reason works
    or not.

25
Counterarguments
  • Nor is this comment limited to this lecture!
  • For the rest of the course (for the rest of your
    other courses!) these things apply and should be
    born in mind.
  • I just want to make these matters explicit.
  • From here on in, we wont have time to make these
    matters explicit.
  • But you are expected to realise it yourself.

26
This Lecture
  • Well look at some reasons why people think
    Ockham is wrong
  • Problem one Arbitrariness
  • Problem two Undermines Gods goodness
  • Problem three Ockhams Conscience
  • We then look at a competing medieval theory
    Aquinas Natural Law theory.

27
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 74 AD)
  • Started his education at age 5, at Monte Cassino.
  • It turned into a battleground between Emperor
    Frederick II and Pope Gregory IX
  • (The Church had him excommunicated. A few
    times.)
  • Aquinas went to the University of Naples, studied
    there and got into Aristotle and, importantly,
    met the Dominicans.

28
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 74 AD)
  • Decided to become a Dominican, which annoyed his
    parents.
  • So much in fact, they kidnapped him and held him
    for two years.
  • His brothers even hired him a hooker to seduce
    him.
  • He beat her back with a burning stick.

29
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 74 AD)
  • His mother, realising the battle was lost,
    arranged for him to escape.
  • This was to spare her the embarrassment of having
    him released.
  • He then went and joined the Dominican order.

30
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 74 AD)
  • Like Augustine, he became a famous philosopher
    and theologian.
  • Wrote numerous texts, including the Summa
    Theologica (written in the form of articles)
  • Stopped in 1273 after a religious experience /
    stroke or nervous breakdown caused him to have a
    vision.
  • Delete as applicable
  • After that, he refused to write anymore
    philosophy, convinced it was all like straw

31
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 74 AD)
  • A few months later he had to travel, and whilst
    on his donkey accidentally hit a branch with his
    head.
  • He fell ill, and whilst he recovered slightly, he
    quickly fell ill again and died.
  • Fifty years after his death he was pronounced a
    Saint.

32
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 74 AD)
  • It was hard finding a miracle for him.
  • The best they had was that a sick man fancied
    some herrings.
  • The next delivery of sardines, which Thomas took,
    contained herrings!
  • That wasnt good enough.
  • The Pope nevertheless canonized him saying
  • There are as many miracles as there are
    articles of the Summa

33
Thomist Ethics
  • Aquinass philosophy is called Thomist
    philosophy.
  • He did not take the heretical line of Ockham on
    the Euthyphro Dilemma.
  • Aquinas said that morality was more fundamental
    than Gods commands that God commanded P
    because P was obligatory.
  • But this doesnt limit Gods power.
  • God would never want to do immoral things Hes
    all good!
  • If He would never want to do immoral things, He
    isnt constrained by the fact He cant ordain
    moral law Himself.

34
Back to counterarguments
  • Notice how that is a response to a previous
    problem.
  • One argument for DCT is that otherwise God could
    not be omnipotent.
  • Heres Aquinas arguing that, in fact, this view
    is misguided.
  • So here Aquinas is offering a counterargument to
    a motivation for DCT.

35
Thomist Ethics
  • Nor does Aquinas stop there.
  • He provides his own ethical system.
  • Aquinas was heavily influenced by Aristotle.
  • Aristotle was very into teleology.
  • Teleology is all to do with the functions of
    things.
  • So, Aristotle said, everything has a function.

36
Thomist Ethics
  • Aquinas, like Aristotle, thinks that to lead a
    good life we should fulfil these functions.
  • And, like Ockham, he believes that people from
    non-Christian religions can also figure out their
    moral obligations.
  • They can do so by attending to their natural
    inclinations.
  • There are three levels of inclinations.

37
Thomist Ethics
  • First level Those inclinations shared by all
    living things.
  • Self preservation
  • Second level Those inclinations shared by all
    animals.
  • Reproduction, caring for the young
  • Third level Those specifically human
    inclinations.
  • Rationality

38
Thomist Ethics
  • So we figure out what to do on the basis of these
    natural inclinations.
  • Since we are inclined to reason, we shouldnt
    engage in practices that deprive us of reason.
  • Example Getting blind drunk
  • This is known as natural law.
  • Notice that this means we can, if Aquinas is
    right, figure out what things are right or wrong
    by looking at nature.
  • So he has a variant moral epistemology from
    Ockham.

39
Thomist Ethics
  • Well see more of Thomas Aquinas in the
    forthcoming lectures.
  • But thats enough of an introduction to ethics in
    general.

40
Next Lecture
  • God and the Problem of Evil.
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