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Although there are several different usages and meanings of theory in the social sciences, the two that are
central to our course are theory construction and schools of thought.
Theory construction is focused on the process by which individuals construct theories of social reality. The
components of theory in this usage are assumptions, concepts, definitions, and relationships. An assumption is
a belief about something assumed true, but with no evidence to support it either way. A concept is a social
phenomenon, some aspect of social reality. Concepts have names and definitions. For instance, the first
sentence in this paragraph includes a named concept (theory construction) followed by its definition. And
relationships are statements about how concepts are related or connected.

For example, one assumption is that individuals are moral beings that can choose between right and wrong. A
number of concepts follow from this assumption. One such concept is distributive justice, which can be
defined as an individuals perception that a fair exchange is one in which those who work harder should
receive more than those who receive less. Injustice occurs when those who do not work at all receive the same
amount, or even more, than those who work very hard. Consider your employment experiencehave you ever
had the experience of working hard but having your efforts ignored while some whom does not work much
gets a salary raise or promoted? There are a number of relationships between distributive justice and other
conceptsincentive to work harder, satisfaction with work, loyalty to company, and so forth.
Schools of thought refer to ways of viewing social reality that have a long history of prominent thinkers
and advocates. Each has at its core one or two basic assumptions about the motivations and perceptions that
guide the social view of individuals. Throughout our course we will be exploring three historical schools of
thoughtthe ethical theories of utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethicsthat have dominated thinking
about how individuals make moral choices, and three other schools of thoughtthe ethical perspectives
relativism, egoism, and emotivismthat have emerged more recently.

Most of our focus in class will be on the schools-of-thought versions of theory. Each of the ethical
theories/perspectives is based on key assumption about how individuals decide what is right and wrong. In the
end, it could be argued that the difference between an ethical theory, an ethical perspective, and a newly
constructed theory about what guides individuals in choosing between right and wrong is merely the degree to
which each has been tested and how widely accepted each has become among social scientists. Ethical theories
have been tested and refined for centuries, with some of the greatest thinkers as their adherents, and have wide
acceptance. Ethical perspectives are more recently developed ways of understanding how individual choose
between right and wrong, based on assumptions and solid logic that are becoming more widely accepted. We
will not be studying any newly constructed ethical theories in our course, theories whose assumptions and
logic has not undergone testing, but this is not to say that new ethical theories will not emerge in the future to
provide yet other points of view on how individuals make moral choices.

DISCUSSION 1 Theory, Evidence, Belief, and Bias

The purpose of this discussion is to contrast theories, evidence, beliefs and biases. Prepare and
post a response to the following questions:
a. Define what a theory is. What is the goal of a theory? What are the components of a
b. Describe how we know if a theory is valid. What is evidence or data? Where does
evidence/data come from? What role does evidence/data play in understanding a
c. Contrast a theory from a personal belief. What are the practical uses for a theory, and
what are the practical uses for beliefs? Which is more likely to represent a bias, a
theory, or a belief? Explain.
Theories are philosophical speculations, developed to answer the questions of why, how,
what, and what if? The goal of a theory is to analyze, elucidate, and validate solutions or
conclusions to the premises of an argument. Ethical theories attempt to justify beliefs, opinions,
and the motives of past, present, and future human behaviors. Components of a theory are
beliefs, assumptions, ethic principles, concepts, definitions, and the relationships of each.
Validity structures arguments, constructed of sentences that must be true so that
conclusions support the premises. If the premises (or claims) of deductive arguments supports
the conclusion, and both are found to be true, sound, and acceptable, then we know if a theory is
valid. Valid theories are arguments supported by evidence, reason, and logic. Evidence, or data,
is the logic, reasoning, and information used to test the claims of an argument. The evidence or
facts come from the research and observation put into developing the conclusion of individual
opinions, or claims. Through testing, modifying, and studying the variables of a claim as it
changes over time one can compile data. If logic and reasoning justifies the truth of the claim,
the knowledge gathered through this evidence helps in understanding a theory.
This is actually the difference between a theory and a belief. A theory relies on this
supportive evidence, logic, and reasoning to validate the opinions, or claims, of its argument.
Someone may believe in or hold conviction of something regardless of any evidence, argument,
or justification. (Mosser, K. 2013) Because of the contrast between the two, one can also
compare the practical uses for theories and beliefs.
A Neurologist may conduct studies, research, and tests to support the premises of an
ailing patient. The tests and research conducted concludes results that can be supported by
reasoning, (weakness, chronic fatigue, chronic pain) evidence, (residual capacity lowered,
insomnia, severe inflammation, and painful tender points) and logic (symptoms resemble similar
pain disorders). The neurologist may find that the Gate Control Theory (1960) is a practical
concept to explain why he can diagnose the patient with Fibromyalgia. The gate control theory
says that as pain signals travel to the brain, they pass through nerve gates that can be opened or
closed. When the gates are open as they are when you're tired, stressed, or depressed pain
messages pass through more readily. (Gate Control Theory 1960)
On the other hand, a Phycologist may believe that the same patient suffers not from
Fibromyalgia, but from unhappiness (depression) and a lack of sufficient sleep (insomnia). The
psychologist may believe that through simple talk therapy and anti-depressants, the phantom
pains may go away. The psychologist may believe it is Chronic Stress, and the argument,
justification, and evidence of chronic pain are supporting factors in their belief.
There may be more bias towards beliefs than theories because, theoretically, not many people
believe theories to be true. Someone who believes that a patient has cultural or spiritual
influences causing pain is may hold more bias towards someone with a disability. One who
theorizes that the cause or claim of fibromyalgia is a medical issue that required medical
treatment will not have negative bias toward a patient disabled by a Muscular Skeletal Disorder.
Sources courtesy of
Winnie Yu. 2006. The Gate Control Theory. Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue.
Mosser, K. 201 3 Ethics and Social Responsibility. (Section 1.2 para 4) Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

To clarify what I mean by, "not many people believe theories to be true," it was my assumption that
theories are widely accepted, however not by all. Darwin's Theory of Evolution describes the evolution
of species from a certain point (non-life), and components of this theory, found in ancient theories. The
concept of life evolving from one, source (complex or not) is believed by some without the evidence or
research of natural selection, etc. Some religions do not 'believe' in this theory, however, it may be the
relationship between the beliefs of man's origin, and the assumptions tested in the Evolution Theory
which turned this ancient belief into a theory.

Therefore, I feel there is more bias is towards beliefs, someone having "faith" in a creator of life, than
towards a theory, some one's philosophy of the evolution of life. Some people do not 'believe' this
theory to be correct, or true, and some people do not believe what most religions teach.

"Nevertheless, Darwin confessed, "To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for
adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction
of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely
confess, absurd in the highest degree."

Emotions will cause you to do things and become someone you do not consider yourself to be. This
man must know that it was not the officer nor the fault of the officer whom he chose as a target for his
anger. Projection, I believe, is what this is in psychology.
Seeing life from another perspective helps me in learning, and discerning life. It is the cause of most
debates, arguments, and stress: differentiating perspectives. It helps in many instances to see things
from someone elses point of view, and some believe that principles of perception navigate us through

Peer review,
I like the format you used to present your thoughts; I will follow your example so that my
contemplations and responses are clear to the reader. In your response, you declared that a theory is an
educated assumption. I think that an educated assumption would be a guess or hypothesis that
attempts to explain a phenomenon without logic, evidence, or reason backing the assumption.
Therefore, a theory, I gather, is an assumption, tested through research using logic and reasoning to
conclude if the assumption can answer a question or support a claim. A hypothesis and a theory are
Peer review,
We share similar insights on how the validity of theories are proven and of how we define beliefs. I
agree with your statement that, they *beliefs+ are personal and backed by emotion. All the evidence a
believer requires is in the intensity of their emotions and confidence in what they believe. Great

Peer review,
I am learning a lot on this subject as I read our classmates' differing points of view. I know that these
topics are sensitive to many, but, maybe, that is the point. Secondly, I completely understand what you
mean about your beliefs and proof you have of its authenticity in your personal life. There are some
things that I believe to be true based own personal experiences, things that some have countered with,
Right in the middle of what you beLIEve, is a lie! There are many attempt at disproving facts, evidence,
opinions and beliefs, however, life has always and will continue to inspire experiences from differing
points of views.

Discussion 2 Three Classical Ethical Theories

The purpose of this discussion is to investigate the ethical theories of Western philosophical thought.
Prepare and post a response to the following prompt:
a. Identify the three dominant ethical theories in Western philosophy, and define each of the
ethical theories. Your definitions should contrast the theories based on how each would
evaluate an action to determine if it is good or virtuous.
b. Explain and compare what duties each theory would impose on an individual who aims to act in
a way that is good or virtuous.
The Ethical Theories of Western Philosophical Thought
The ethical theories of Western philosophical thought, Virtue, Duty, and Consequential theories,
identify the psychological source of an individuals moral judgments and conduct. The three dominant
school of thought theories in Western philosophy, Virtue Ethics, Deontology, and Utilitarianism, seek to
identify what motivates an individuals actions, behavior, and how they decide what is right and wrong.
Virtue Ethics, unlike Deontology and Utilitarianism, describe the truths and values existing in the traits of
an individuals character that leads to exhibiting their ethical behavior. Individuals do not act solely out
of obligation to follow rules and social concepts of morality, nor in a way that is consequently beneficial
to themselves or others. Instead, the individual makes decisions that reveal the true nature of him or
her, whose habitually acquired virtues evaluate an action to determine if it is good or virtuous. For
example, if an individuals family is in need then he or she will not rob an establishment to support
themselves. Instead, the individual will rely on virtues like faith, hope, and charity; their faith may be in
an entity or God (My God shall supply all my needs), their hope in a better tomorrow, a job prospect,
or in the charity of a virtuous individual/organization.
Deontology connotes that an individual acts in consideration of established moral obligations and his or
her duty to others. As defined in Ethics and Social Responsibilities, Deontology is, A nonconsequentialist
ethical theory that claims an act is to be evaluated in terms of its accordance with a specified set of
rules. (Mosser, K. 2013) Therefore, unlike a Utilitarian, Deontologists do not consider the results, or
consequences, of their actions, nor do their actions stem from their principles of character. To
determine if their actions are good or virtuous, they have to consider the other person's needs and
desires, respect them, and try to avoid violating them. (Mosser, K 2013) For example, an individual may
decide not to rob an establishment just because their family is in need. They may instead rely on
government or social structures that may or may not be obligated to help the less fortunate.
Utilitarianism focuses on maximizing the wellbeing or happiness of a group or society with actions
whose results have the best outcome. A Utilitarian determines if an action is good or virtuous if
consequences of that action are more favorable than unfavorable to everyone. In contrast to
Deontology, Utilitarianism is not rooted in moral obligations, nor is it limited to the context of an
individuals character, as with Virtue Ethics. For example, an individual may decide to rob an
establishment because their family is in need, and justify their actions by reasoning that it would benefit
the wellbeing of their family or group.
Response to instructor,

Yes, I tried, and I firmly believe that "individuals should not coercively prevent others from exercising
freedom of action." (Political positions of Ethical Egoism) The act is right if it promotes happiness and
well-being in Utilitarianism, and I am not sure how shoving an officer leads to happiness. Nevertheless,
this is an individual act whose motives may be favorable to the group as a whole, so it may be utilitarian
actions. "Benjamin R. Tucker, a famous 19th-century individualist anarchist, held that "if the individual
has the right to govern himself, all external government is tyranny."

Am I on the right track with the meanings of these theories?

Peer review,

I enjoyed reading your response and agreed with your thoughts on Utilitarianism benefiting
those working to reducing the negative for the majority. In a sense, maybe this does mean Utilitarianism
does not look at "right or wrong behavior," as you note. With the focus being on maximizing the utility
for the greater number of people, the correct action may not be a factor; the consequences or resulting
actions is what Utilitarianism focuses on.
I also agree that in Virtue Ethics, specific performance is the primary focus. I understand where
you are coming from when you contrast the theories, and I had to think a lot about your response.
When you get to Deontology possibly being "bad" because the theory does not focus on the
consequences but the act itself (from an ethical point of view), is this what you are saying can lead to
common sense?

Peer review,

I enjoyed your post you defined the theories well. As I read your response and think of what
Utilitarianism is I think that, I can be an act utilitarian at times. "Utilitarianism looks for fairness in
everything. Also with utilitarianism there is no wrong or right way, it looks for the results." There are
some circumstances and situations where my moral code is intact and unchangeable, right is right and
wrong is wrong, and I was raised to respond and do things a certain way.
Nevertheless, in certain situations, I do not always consider being virtuous, but I do look to
certain role models to model my behavior, as with Virtue Ethics. And it is the same with Deontology, I
treat people with respect and respect social concepts of moral behaviors, but some legal right are
violated by the social structure I am abiding by. Thus, I turn to Utilitarianism.

Do you think it is possible for someone to utilize the principles of each theory throughout their
In addition, because it caught my attention when you mentioned Virtue Ethics and its
association with Aristotle more than once, do you agree with his view of virtuous individuals, and his or
hers attaining and application of certain virtues?

Grading Summary
These are the automatically
computed results of your exam.
Quiz One Week One Ethics and
Social Responsibilities Dr. Allen,
Ashford University.
Date Taken: 7/27/2014
Time Spent: 48 min , 05 secs
Points Received: 10 / 10 (100%)
Question Type: # Of Questions: # Correct:
Multiple Choice 10 10

Grade Details - All Questions
Question 1. Question : The categorical imperative is an ethical concept most closely
associated with
Student Answer:





none of the above.
The answer can be found in section 1.6, Classical Ethical Theories.

Points Received: 1 of 1

-1391547386 MultipleChoice 14 True

0 -1391547386 MultipleChoice 14

Question 2. Question : Which statement might be used to argue that pornography ought
to be extensively regulated?

Student Answer:

Pornography demonstrates realistic forms of sexual

Pornography provides enjoyment to millions of people.

Pornography denigrates women.

Pornography creates realistic perspectives about healthy

None of the above
The answer can be found in section 2.4, under the heading The
Argument for Extensive Regulation.

Points Received: 1 of 1

-1391547385 MultipleChoice 40 True

0 -1391547385 MultipleChoice 40

Question 3. Question : Which country outlawed the wearing of full-face veils in 2011?
Student Answer:

The United States

Saudi Arabia



The answer can be found in section 2.1 Can Ethical Principles Conflict
with the Law?

Points Received: 1 of 1

-1391547383 MultipleChoice 28 True

0 -1391547383 MultipleChoice 28

Question 4. Question : A sound argument is
Student Answer:

a valid argument with all true premises.

a valid argument that could have false premises.

a strong argument with all true premises.

a strong argument that could have false premises.

none of the above.
The answer can be found in section 1.3, under the heading

Points Received: 1 of 1

-1391547381 MultipleChoice 6 True

0 -1391547381 MultipleChoice 6

Question 5. Question : The Golden Mean is best captured by which slogan?
Student Answer:

everything for the good of all

nothing according to evil

do unto others as you would have them do unto you

Nothing in shortage, nothing in excess

none of the above
The answer can be found in section 1.6, Classical Theories.

Points Received: 1 of 1

-1391547379 MultipleChoice 23 True

0 -1391547379 MultipleChoice 23

Question 6. Question : Philosophers claim that arguments should be won by
Student Answer:

a coin flip.

the person who expresses himself or herself most


the person who has the most logical and factual evidence.

all of the above.
The answer can be found in section 1.2, Argument and Emotion in

Points Received: 1 of 1

-1391547377 MultipleChoice 2 True

0 -1391547377 MultipleChoice 2

Question 7. Question : Ethical theorists would be comfortable making which statement?
Student Answer:

Ethical principles and ideas must always conform to the laws
of a country.

Ethical principles and theories can contradict laws of a

It is important to not make anyone uncomfortable in
proposing an ethical argument.

Ethicists must present arguments that prove beyond any
doubt that their theories are correct.

None of the above
The answer can be found in section 2.1, Can Ethical Principles
Conflict with the Law?

Points Received: 1 of 1

-1391547375 MultipleChoice 27 True

0 -1391547375 MultipleChoice 27

Question 8. Question : Which argument might be used to support the claim that
pornography should not be illegal?
Student Answer:

Pornography is a form of speech that should be protected.

People have been harmed in the production of pornography.

The pornography industry has harmed children.

Pornography makes men more likely to rape women.

A and C
The answer can be found in section 2.4, under the heading The
Argument Against Extensive Regulation.

Points Received: 1 of 1

-1391547374 MultipleChoice 38 True

0 -1391547374 MultipleChoice 38

Question 9. Question : Which statement might a libertarian most agree with?
Student Answer:

The state should be responsible for the welfare of its citizens.

The state should be allowed to restrict freedom whenever it
deems it necessary to do so.

The state should restrict freedoms based on the greatest
happiness of the citizens.

The state should only be allowed to restrict behavior that
harms others.

None of the above
The answer can be found in section 2.4, under the heading Some

Points Received: 1 of 1

-1391547373 MultipleChoice 47 True

0 -1391547373 MultipleChoice 47

Question 10. Question : According to literature on violence in television, the average 18
year old will have seen how many violent acts?




The answer can be found in section 2.4, under the heading Where Do We
Go from Here?

Points Received: 1 of 1

Response to Instructor in Discussion 1. Expand on your statement, Theoretically, not many believe a theory to be
Response to Instructor, Post your introduction. Does my response reflect utilitarianism, or egotism?