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Philosophical Orientations


When you are on the job, you may be asked to do things that you feel are ... His moral principle could be summed up in what he called the Categorical Imperative. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Philosophical Orientations

Philosophical Orientations
CIS270 Programming I Kirtland Community
College Instructor Lisa Balbach
Presentation Overview
  • When you are on the job, you may be asked to do
    things that you feel are unethical or immoral
    what you decide to do will be based upon your own
    philosophical orientation.
  • This presentation explains different
    orientations and their impact on ethical decision
  • NOTE People often make decisions using more
    than one orientation!

Components of a Philosophic System
  • Philosophic systems are comprised of
  • Metaphysics
  • Epistemology
  • Axiology

  • Metaphysics is the theory of the ultimate
    nature of reality.
  • It asks the question what is real?

  • Epistemology is the theory of truth or
  • It asks the question what is true, and how do
    we come to know that truth?

  • Axiology is the formal system of identifying and
    measuring value.
  • It asks the question what is good and bad?
  • Axiology is made up of two sub-parts ethics,
    which is the theory of the goodness or badness of
    human behavior, and aesthetics, which is the
    theory of the goodness or badness of visual
    appearance or audible sound (expressed in terms
    of beauty or ugliness).

How the Components work Together
  • The parts of a philosophic system must be
    compatible with one another.
  • A person's view of reality (metaphysics) must be
    consistent with how that person thinks reality is
    known (epistemology) and how that person thinks
    reality is to be valued (axiology).
  • Metaphysics (one's explanation of reality)
    determines epistemology and axiology. In other
    words, the way you explain reality determines
    your view of knowledge and of value.

Philosophic Systems
  • There are 4 basic philosophic systems
  • Idealism (or Realism)
  • Existentialism
  • Naturalism
  • Pragmatism

  • Reality is spiritual (religion-based) rather than
    matter-based (higher power determines what is
  • Implies a view of life in which the predominant
    forces are spiritual and the aim is perfection.
  • Idealists judge solely on the action itself and
    not on the results of the action.
  • If an action is wrong then it may not be
    performed even if its performance resulted in a
    great deal of good.
  • Sometimes an Idealist might excuse the
    performance of a wrong action because it is the
    "lesser of two evils." Example It is OK to
    break into a computerized database if it results
    in saving a life.
  • Attitude that places special value on ideas and
    ideals as products of the mind
  • Example Goodness is found in the ideal (at the
    conceptual level rather than at the material

Idealists include
  • Socrates
  • Plato
  • Kant (modern idealist)
  • Kant believed moral actions are based on a
    "supreme principle of morality" which is
    objective, rational, and freely chosen.
  • His moral principle could be summed up in what he
    called the Categorical Imperative.

More about Socrates (469 - 399 BC)
  • Used critical reasoning to set the standard for
    all Western philosophy.
  • Possessed an unwavering commitment to truth
  • Was the first philosopher to focus specifically
    on the area of VALUES (God, the Good and the
  • Did not claim an interest in "things beneath the
    earth and in the skies" (i.e., a knowledge of
  • Left no written record - Arisophanes and Xenophon
    wrote about his life and works.

More about Plato(427-347 BC)
  • Plato began his philosophical career as a student
    of Socrates.
  • After Socrates died, Plato studied with students
    of Pythagoras, and established his own school of
  • Plato tried both to pass on the heritage of a
    Socratic style of thinking and to guide the
    students progress through mathematical learning
    to the achievement of abstract philosophical
  • In his earliest literary efforts, Plato tried to
    convey the spirit of Socrates's teaching by
    presenting accurate reports of the master's
    conversational interactions, for which these
    dialogues are our primary source of information.
    Early dialogues are typically devoted to
    investigation of a single issue, about which a
    conclusive result is rarely achieved.

Naturalism (or Realism)
  • Reality exists in matter (i.e. the physical
    world) rather than in spirituality.
  • If you can touch it, it is real.
  • Governed by nature
  • The universe, is one of natural design and order

  • Goodness will be found by living in harmony with
  • Evil is a departure from this natural norm either
    in the direction of excess or defect (i.e.,
    having, or doing, too much or too little of
    something which is naturally good).

Naturalists Include
  • Aristotle (see next slide)
  • Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Believed that traditional philosophy and religion
    (i.e. the philosophy of Socrates) are both
    erroneous and harmful for human life
  • Believed Idealist philosophy destroyed and
    degraded our native capacity for achievement.
  • Karl Marx
  • Believed the foundations of reality lay in the
    material base of economics rather than in the
    abstract thought of idealistic philosophy
  • Believed that philosophy ought to be employed in
    practice to change the world.
  • NOTE Naturalists do NOT all agree on specific
    questions. Some, like Nietzsche, were professed
    atheists, while others accepted God. Aristotle
    attempted to explain phenomena in terms of
    biological processes of perception

More about Aristotle (384-322 BC)
  • Aristotle was the most notable product of the
    educational program devised by Plato
  • He spent twenty years of his life studying at the
  • After Platos death, he established his own
    school at the Lyceum.
  • Aristotle spent his time teaching, writing and
    conducting research.
  • His surviving works include his investigations of
    an wide range of subjects, from logic,
    philosophy, and ethics to physics, biology,
    psychology, politics, and rhetoric.
  • Aristotle revisits many issues at different
    stages of his own development. The result is a
    complex record of Aristotle's thinking about many
    significant issues.

  • Pragmatism dominated American philosophy from the
    1890s to the 1930s and has reemerged as a
    significant element in contemporary thought.
  • States reality is a process. It is neither matter
    nor spiritual.
  • Reality is a dynamic coming-to-be rather than a
    static fixed being.
  • Reality is an experience.
  • Pragmatism holds that truth is modified as
    discoveries are made and is relative to the time
    and place and purpose of inquiry

  • The Pragmatist believes that value claims must be
    tested and proven in practice.
  • Things are value-neutral in themselves. There is
    nothing that is always good, nor is there
    anything that is always bad.
  • Moral judgments should not be based on the action
    that is done, but rather on the results of that
  • In answer to the question, "Is that good?", a
    Pragmatist would probably reply, "Is it good for
  • Pragmatic ethics are relativistic (the end
    justifies the means).
  • If something is useful for achieving some end or
    goal, then it becomes good.

  • Pragmatist looks for guidance from the group
  • For the Pragmatist, the whole is greater than the
    sum of its parts. (Which means the whole is more
    valuable than any of its parts).
  • Implications include
  • the group's collective wisdom is to be more
    highly esteemed than the wisdom of any individual
    within the group
  • moral judgments are based upon what is best for
    the greatest number of people.
  • This means that the Pragmatist attempts to
    achieve "the greatest good for the greatest

Pragmatists include
  • Jeremy Bentham
  • Decide outcomes based upon amount of pleasure
    over pain.
  • In situations with all bad outcomes, choose the
    alternative with the least number of undesireable
  • C. S. Peirce (c.1872) )
  • developed the principles of pragmatic theory as
    formal doctrine.
  • William James
  • held that in vital matters of faith the criterion
    for acceptance was the will to believe
  • key figure in promoting the widespread influence
    of pragmatism during the 1890s and early 1900s.
  • John Dewey
  • developed the instrumentalist aspects of the
  • C. I. Lewis (1883-1964)
  • Applied Kantian principles to the investigation
    of empirical reality
  • Richard Rorty
  • argued that theories are ultimately justified by
    their instrumentality, or the extent to which
    they enable people to attain their aims.

  • Doesnt believe reality is fixed and static
    (similar to the pragmatist).
  • Believes each individual defines their own
    reality (different than pragmatism which believes
    reality is a process and looks for the good of
    the group).

  • Any meaning that gets into the world must be put
    in it by the individual, and that meaning or
    value will hold only for that individual.
  • A person's world and identity are the product of
    their own choice.
  • Reality is different for each individual.
  • Each person's own identity, is the product of
    that person's own choice.
  • Existentialism is not necessarily a "selfish"
    type of philosophy. It is not primarily concerned
    with one's own interests but rather with one's
    own conscience

  • Forces people to make choices (if you choose not
    to decide, you still have made a choice).
  • Forces individuals to express preferences
  • Forces individuals to accept responsibility for
    actions. If the choices were freely made, then
    responsibility for them must be accepted.
  • While heredity, environment, and society might
    influence what choices an individual makes, the
    Existentialist believes there is a zone of
    freedom within each individual that cannot be
    conditioned or predetermined.
  • Evil, for the Existentialist, is being false to
    self. It is a breaking of one's personal law.
  • An Existentialist is not necessarily a
    non-conformist, but if an Existentialist conforms
    to the values of a group it will be because that
    person has freely chosen to do so - not because
    that person has been pressured to do so by the

Existentialists include
  • Soren Kierkegaard
  • His fundamental insight was the recognition of
    the concrete ethical and religious demands
    confronting the individual. He saw that these
    demands could not be met by a merely intellectual
    decision but required the subjective commitment
    of the individual.
  • Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Believed existence precedes essence.
  • For Sartre there was no God and therefore no
    fixed human nature that forces one to act.
  • Man was totally free and entirely responsible for
    what he makes of himself. (It was this freedom
    and responsibility that, as for Kierkegaard, is
    the source of man's dread. )
  • Gabriel Marcel
  • French christian existentialist who developed his
    philosophy within the framework of the Roman
    Catholic Church

  • Bargar, Robert. Philosophical Belief Systems.
    Retrieved April 10, 2003 from http//
  • Existentialism. Retrieved April 18, 2003 from
  • Idealism. Retrieved April 18, 2003 from
  • Kermerling, Garthy. Philosophy Pages. Retrieved
    August 16, 2003 from http//
  • Naturalism. Retrieved April 18, 2003 from
  • Pragmatism. Retrieved April 18, 2003 from