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Moral Systems, Ethical Concepts


We should use holy books as moral decision-making guides. Case Against Divine Command Theory Different holy books disagree Society is multicultural, ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Moral Systems, Ethical Concepts

Moral Systems, Ethical Concepts Theories
  • Chapter 2

  • Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion,

Ethics is the study of morality
  • Morality is a system of
  • Rules that guide human conduct (rules of conduct)
  • Directives for individual conduct
  • Social policies for society at large
  • Principles for evaluating the rules
  • Standards used to justify the rules
  • E.g., justice, fairness, respect for others

Basic Components of a Moral System
Rules of Conduct (Action-guiding rules, in the
form of either directives or social policies)
Principles of Evaluation (Evaluative standards
used to justify rules of conduct)
Examples include principles such as of social
utility and justice as fairness
social policies
Rules for guiding the actions of individuals
(micro-level ethical rules)
Rules for establishing social policies (macro-lev
el ethical rules)
Examples include directives such as"Do not
steal" and "Do not harm others."
Examples include social policies such
as "Software should be protected and "Privacy
should be respected."
 Four features of a moral system
Public The rules are known to all of the
Informal The rules are informal, not like formal
laws in a legal system.
Rational The system is based on principles of
logical reason accessible to all its members.
Impartial The system is not partial to any one
group or individual.
Components of a Moral System
Religion Philosophy Law
Grounds for justifying moral principles
Principles of Evaluation  Rules of Moral Conduct
Moral principles and rules
Source of moral rules
Core Values
  • Value judgments exist in every endeavor
  • So do value disputes
  • Must guard against the many/any fallacy
  • Values may be
  • intrinsic or instrumental
  • moral or non-moral
  • Core values are special kinds of values

Core values
  • Are there universal values at the core of all
  • Life and happiness are valued by all cultures
  • Autonomy
  • It is rational to possess core human values
  • It is ethical to respect others core values

Why we engage in philosophical/ethical analysis
  • To critically evaluate arguments
  • To support a position or claim
  • To convince someone to adopt or reject a certain
  • To provide consistent (logical) reasons for our
  • To engage in meaningful dialogue

How do we do it?
  1. State a belief or claim
  2. Produce an argument to support that belief
  3. Evaluate the argument
  4. Go to 1.

What ethical theories have in common
  • They identify what it means to do the right
  • They assume that people have free choice to make
    their own rational decisions.
  • Their goal is generally to contribute to the
    well-being of humanity.
  • They distinguish obligations responsibilities
    from choice personal preference.

Some ethical theories in sound bites
  • Ethical relativism
  • To each his own
  • Utilitarian (Mill)
  • The greatest good for the greatest number
  • Deontological (Kant)
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto
  • Social contract theory
  • I will if you will
  • Virtue ethics (Aristotle)
  • Be all that you can be

Ethical (subjective/cultural) relativism
  • There are no universal moral norms.
  • This theory suggests that different environments
    spawn different ethics
  • Historical times
  • Countries
  • Communities
  • Families
  • Individuals

Case Against Ethical Relativism
  • Just because two societies do have different
    moral views doesnt mean they ought to have these
    different views
  • Descriptive vs. prescriptive/normative
  • Doesnt explain how moral guidelines evolve/are
  • Societies do, in fact, share certain core values
  • Provides no way out for cultures in conflict
  • Because many practices are acceptable does not
    mean any cultural practice is acceptable
  • many/any fallacy

Divine Command Theory
  • Good actions are those aligned with Gods will
  • Bad actions are those contrary to Gods will
  • Holy books reveal Gods will.
  • We should use holy books as moral decision-making

Case Against Divine Command Theory
  • Different holy books disagree
  • Society is multicultural, secular
  • Some moral problems not addressed in scripture
  • The good ? God (equivalence fallacy)
  • Based on obedience, not reason

  • An ethics of principle
  • Universal principle
  • treat everyone equally and respectfully
  • Logic rationality
  • humans can reason about what is good or evil
  • Human interactions based on the categorical
  • never treat others merely as means to an end
    rather, treat them as ends in themselves

Categorical Imperative
  • Act so that you treat both yourself and other
    people as ends in themselves and never only as a
    means to an end.
  • What does this mean
  • In friendship?
  • In business?
  • In school?

Scenario from text
  • Carla
  • Single mother --- Works full time --- Takes two
    evening courses each semester
  • History class
  • Requires more work than normal classes --- Carla
    has an A on all work so far --- She doesnt
    have time to write her final report
  • Carla purchases report and submits it as her own

Kantian evaluation of the scenario
  • Carla submitted another persons work as her own
  • She attempted to deceive professor
  • She treated professor as a means to an end
  • End passing the course
  • Means professor issues grade
  • What Carla did was wrong

Case for Kantianism
  • Rational
  • Produces universal moral guidelines
  • Treats all persons as moral equals
  • Workable ethical theory

Case Against Kantianism
  • Sometimes no rule adequately characterizes an
  • There is no way to resolve a conflict between
  • Conflicting duties
  • Kantianism allows no exceptions to moral laws.

Utilitarian Ethics
Bentham Mill
  • A consequentialist theory
  • Focus is on the outcome of an act or application
    of a rule, and not on behavior or attitude.
  • Utility equates to happiness
  • Depending on the context, think of happiness as
  • Advantage
  • Benefit
  • Good
  • Pleasure
  • Profit

The Principle of Utility
  • Also called the Greatest Happiness Principle.
  • An action is right (or wrong) to the extent that
    it increases (or decreases) the total happiness
    of the stakeholders.

Act-based vs. Rule-based
  • Act-based utilitarianism
  • We should analyze each of our actions from the
    perspective of how much happiness we believe they
    will engender.
  • Rule-based utilitarianism
  • We should base our behavior on rules that are
    understood to maximize collective happiness.

Case for utilitarianism
  • Focus on happiness is reasonable
  • Practical, appealing to most people
  • An action or rule can be judged as largely good
    or bad
  • Comprehensive
  • Takes all factors of an action into consideration
  • Rule utilitarian calculus is easy
  • Long-term consequences of rules matter
  • Not each individual act

Critique of utilitarianism
  • Could result in harming some for the sake of the
  • The minority may be treated poorly as a means to
    social good.
  • Adding up consequences requires that we calculate
    them all in the same units of measurement.
  • Ignores our innate sense of duty

Moors Just Consequentialism A Two-Step Strategy
1. Deliberate over various policies from an
impartial point of view to determine whether they
meet the criteria for being ethical policies. A
policy is ethical if it
a. does not cause any unnecessary harms to
individual groups
b. supports individual rights,
the fulfilling of duties, etc.
2. Select the best policy from the set
of just policies arrived at the deliberation
stage by ranking ethical policies in
terms of benefits and justifiable (harms). In
doing this, be sure to
a. weigh carefully between the
good consequences and the bad consequences
in the ethical policies and
b. distinguish between
disagreements about facts and disagreements about
principles and values, when
deciding which particular ethical policy should
be adopted.
Social contract ethical theory
  • Our natural state is pre-moral
  • Living in a society puts our moral behavior in a
    new light
  • We enter into a social contract to surrender some
    absolute freedoms to societys rules laws.
  • Our motivation to be moral is that it is in our
    self-interest to abide by rules that have been
    set for everyone

Social contract theory
  • Morality consists in the set of rules,
    governing how people are to treat one another,
    that rational people will agree to accept, for
    their mutual benefit, on the condition that
    others follow those rules as well
  • Rachels

  • Between social contract theory and deontology
    (Kantian ethics)
  • Both are based on the notion of universal moral
  • But
  • Kant a moral rule is one that can be
    universalized (i.e., everyone should follow it)
  • Focus is on duties
  • SCT a moral rule is one that rational people
    would support for the benefit of the community
  • Focus is on rights

  • We classify rights according to the duties they
    impose on others
  • Negative right
  • Others must not encumber you
  • Considered to be absolute (guaranteed w/o
  • Positive right
  • Others must make it possible for you
  • Considered to be limited (some restrictions apply)

Rawlss Principles of Justice
  • Each person may claim a fully adequate number
    of basic rights and liberties, so long as these
    claims are consistent with everyone else having a
    claim to the same rights and liberties
  • Any social and economic inequalities must
  • Be associated with positions that everyone has a
    fair and equal opportunity to achieve
  • Be to the greatest benefit of the
    least-advantaged members of society (the
    difference principle)

DVD Rental Scenario
  • Bill owns chain of DVD rental stores
  • He collects information about rentals from
    customers constructs customer profiles
  • He sells profiles to direct marketing firms
  • Some customers are happy to receive more mail
    order catalogs others are unhappy at the
    increase in junk mail

Evaluation (SCT)
  • Consider the rights of
  • Bill, customers, and mail order companies.
  • Do customers have a right to expect name, address
    to be kept confidential?
  • If a customer rents DVDs from Bill, who owns the
    information about the transaction?
  • If Bill and a customer have equal rights to
    information, Bill did nothing wrong to sell
  • Butif customers have a right to expect their
    data or transaction to be kept confidential
    without giving permission, then Bill was wrong to
    sell information without asking for permission.

Case for Social Contract Theory
  • Framed in language of rights
  • Explains why people act in self-interest without
    common agreement
  • Provides clear analysis of certain
    citizen/government problems

Case Against SCT
  • No one really signs a contract
  • Some actions have multiple characterizations
  • Conflicting rights problem
  • May unjustly treat people who cannot uphold
  • Can promote minimalist morality

Comparing our workable theories
Theory Motivation Criteria Focus
Kantianism Dutifulness Rules Individual
Act Utilitarianism Consequence Actions Group
Rule Utilitarianism Consequence / Duty Rules Group
Social Contract Rights Rules Individual
Morality of Breaking the Law
  • Social contract theory perspective
  • Kantian perspective
  • Rule utilitarian perspective
  • Act utilitarian perspective
  • Conclusion

Virtue Ethics
  • An ethics of purpose
  • A person should try to cultivate excellence in
    everything he or she does.
  • The emphasis is on building and assessing an
    individuals character, and not on rules or

Four Types of Ethical Theory
Type of Theory Advantages Disadvantages
Consequence-based (Utilitarian) Stresses promotion of happiness and utility Ignores concerns of justice for the minority population
Duty-based (Deontology) Stresses the role of duty and respect for persons Underestimates the importance of happiness and social utility
Contract-based (Rights) Provides a motivation for morality Offers only a minimal morality
Character-based (Virtue) Stresses moral development and moral education Depends on homogeneous community standards for morality