Running Head: Contemporary Moral Problems Essays

Contemporary Moral Problems: 12 Chapters

Angelica Jean M. Buyson De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde

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Running Head: Contemporary Moral Problems Essays


This is a collection of reflections from Cotemporary Moral Problems: 12 Chapters. These reflections discuss today’s most important most important problems that emphasize critical reasoning by leading moral philosophers. These 12 chapters helped me understand more about ethics especially about rights and duties.


Running Head: Contemporary Moral Problems Essays

I would like to dedicate this book to my parents, relatives and friends who gave me the motivation to finish this book and especially God who make all things possible.

Table of Contents


Running Head: Contemporary Moral Problems Essays James Rachels: Egoism and Moral Sceptism........................................................6-7 John Arthur: Religion, Morality, and Conscience.................................................8 Friedrich Nietzsche: Master- and Slave-Morality.................................................9 Mary Midgley: Trying Out One's New Sword......................................................10 John Stuart Mill: Utilitarianism.............................................................................11 James Rachels: The Debate over Utilitarianism....................................................12 Immanuel Kant: The Categorical Imperative........................................................13-14 Aristotle: Happiness and Virtue............................................................................15 Joel Feinberg: The Nature and Value of Rights....................................................16 Ronald Dworkin: Taking Rights Seriously...........................................................17 John Rawls: A Theory of Justice...........................................................................18 Annette Baeir: The Need for More than Justice....................................................19


Running Head: Contemporary Moral Problems Essays

12 Chapters

Chapter 1: James Rachels – Egoism and Moral Scepticism What I expect to learn: I expect to learn meaning of Egoism and Moral Scepticism. I want to know the connections and differences about Egoism and Moral Scepticism. I also want to know the who is James Rachels and her point of views about Egoism and Moral Scepticism. Qoute: “No one, it is commonly believed, would have such iron strength of mind as to stand fast in doing right to keep his hands off their other men’s goods, when he could go to the market-place and fearlessly help himself to anything he wanted, enter houses and sleep with any woman he chose, set prisoners free


Running Head: Contemporary Moral Problems Essays
and kill men at his pleasure, and in a word go about among men with the powers of a god. He would better than the other; both would take the same course.” Review: Egoism is the theory that one’s self is, or should be, the motivation and the goal of one’s own action. Egoism has two variants, descriptive or normative. The descriptive (or positive) variant conceives egoism as a factual description of human affairs. That is, people are motivated by their own interests and desires, and they cannot be described otherwise. The normative variant proposes that people should be so motivated, regardless of what presently motivates their behavior. Altruism is the opposite of egoism. The term “egoism” derives from “ego,” the Latin term for the English word “I”. “Egoism” should be distinguished from “egotism,” which means a psychological overvaluation of one’s own importance, or of one’s own activities. ( Moral scepticism denotes a class of meta-ethical theories all members of which entail that no one has any moral knowledge. Many moral skeptics also make the stronger, modal, claim that moral knowledge is impossible. Moral skepticism is particularly opposed to moral realism: the view that there are knowable, mind-independent moral truths. ( This chapter explains the point of views of the author, James Rachels, about arguments of psychological and ethical egoism. She explained that it is the object of an action that creates meaning or determines whether a certain action is selfish or not. The author, James Rachels distinguishes the psychological and ethical egoism. Psychological egoism is the view that all men are selfish in everything that they do, that is, that the only motive from which anyone ever acts is self-interest. Ethical egoism is, by contrast, a normative view about how men ought to act and it is the view that, regardless of how men do in fact behave, they have no obligation to do anything except what is in their own interests. What I’ve learned: • • • • The meaning of Egoism The meaning of Moral Sceticism The differences between psychological and ethical egoism The legend of Gyges

Integrative Questions: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. What is Egoism? What is Moral Scepticism? What is psychological egoism? What is ethical egoism? What are the differences between psychological and ethical egoism?


Running Head: Contemporary Moral Problems Essays

Chapter 2: John Arthur – Religion, Morality and Conscience What I expect to learn: I am expecting to learn the meaning of religion, morality, and conscience. I also want to learn how they are different from each other and how they are connected. I want to know the background of the author and why he wrote the topic. Quote: “Morality is Social.” Review: Religion is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a supernatural agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.


Running Head: Contemporary Moral Problems Essays
Morality is an unusual word. It is not used very much, at least not without some qualification. People do sometimes talk about Christian morality, Nazi morality, or about the morality of the Greeks, but they seldom talk simply about morality all by itself. Consistent with this way of talking, many anthropologists used to claim that morality, like law, applies only within a society. ( Conscience is ability or a faculty that distinguishes whether one's actions are right or wrong. It can lead to feelings of remorse when a human does things that go against his/her moral values and to feelings of rectitude or integrity when actions conform to such norms. According to Arthur, morality and religion is different for the reason that morality involves our attitudes toward various forms of behaviour, typically expressed using the notions of rules, rights and obligations. On the other hand, religion, typically involves prayer, worship, beliefs about the supernatural, institutional forms and authoritative texts. Morality and Religion are connected for the reason that without religious motivation people could not be expected to do the right thing; that religion is necessary to provide guidance to people in their search for the correct course of action; and that religion is essential for there even to be a right or wrong. What I’ve learned: • • • • The meaning of religion The meaning of morality The meaning of conscience Why morality is social

Integrative Questions: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. What is religion? What is morality? What is conscience? What distinguishes morality and religion? Why morality is social?

Chapter 3: Friedrich Nietzsche – Master- and Slave- Morality What I expect to learn: I am expecting to learn the difference between master morality and slave morality. Also I want to know the will to power. Quote: “He, who has not a hard heart when young, will never have one.” Review: The author, Friedrich Nietzsche states that a consequence of the "Will to Power" is the exploitation of man by man, and this exploitation is the essence of life. For Friedrich Nietzsche, the Will to Power is the dominant principle of organic function. Without the Will to Power exploiting the sentimental weaknesses of equality among people, society cannot develop. The Will to Power is the Will to Life.


Running Head: Contemporary Moral Problems Essays
The two primary types of morality are master morality and slave morality; in higher civilizations and in people, they are mixed. Master morality is a "yea-saying" attitude where "good" and "bad" are equivalent to "noble" and "despicable" respectively. The master creates value. Slave morality is a "naysaying" attitude or herd morality which holds to the standard of that which is useful or beneficial to the weak or powerless. The virtues are sympathy, kindness, and humility. Strong and independent individuals are evil. This struggle between master and slave moralities recurs historically. According to Friedrich Nietzsche, ancient Greek and Roman societies were grounded in master morality. The Homeric hero is the strong-willed man, and the classical roots of the Iliad and Odyssey exemplified Nietzsche's master morality. He calls the heroes "men of a noble culture", giving a substantive example of master morality. Historically, master morality was defeated as the slave morality of Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire. ( What I’ve learned: • • • The meaning of master morality The meaning of slave morality The will to power

Integrative Questions: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. What is master morality? What is slave morality? What distinguishes master morality and slave morality? What is the will to power? What is a Homeric hero?

Chapter 4: Mary Midgley – Trying Out One’s New Sword What I expect to learn: I expect to learn about moral isolationism. I want to know about Japanese custom of tsujigiri because I haven’t heard it before. Quote: ““Most cultures are formed out of many influences.” Review: In Mary Midgley’s Trying Out One’s New Sword, she explains that moral isolationism “Consists in simply denying that we can never understand any culture except our own well enough to make judgements about it”. She goes on to state that, “those who recommend this hold that the world is sharply divided into separate societies, sealed units, each with its own system of thought”. Mary Midgley also explains that the people who take up this idea of moral isolationism think that it is being respectful to other cultures and societies. Mary Midgley does not agree with this idea. “Nobody can respect what is entirely


Running Head: Contemporary Moral Problems Essays
unintelligible to them. To respect someone, we have to know enough about him to make a favorable judgement, however general and tentative. And we do not understand people in other cultures to this extent. Otherwise a great mass of our most valuable thinking would be paralyzed”. ( Moral Isolationism is the view of anthropologists and other that we cannot criticize cultures that we do not understand. According to Mary Midgley, moral isolationism would lay down a general ban on moral reasoning. Essentially, this is the programme of immoralism and it carries a distressing logical difficulty.Tsujigiri literally means as crossroads-cut. Tsujigiri is a verb on classical Japanese which means “to try out ones new sword on a chance wayfarer”. A Samurai sword had to be tried out because, if it was to work properly, it had to slice through someone at a single blow, from the shoulder to the opposite flank. Otherwise, the warrior bungled his stroke. This could injure his honour, offend his ancestors, and even let down his emperor. So tests were needed, and wayfarers had to be expended. Any wayfarers would do – provided, of course, that he was not another Samurai. Scientist recognizes a familiar problem about the rights of experimental subjects. What I’ve learned: • • The meaning of moral isolationism The Japanese custom of tsujigiri

Integrative Questions: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. What is moral isolationism? What is tsujigiri? What is the basis for criticizing other cultures? What is the idea of separate and unmixed cultures? What is wrong with moral isolationism?

Chapter 5: John Stuart Mill – Utilitarianism What I expect to learn: I am expecting to learn utilitarianism. I also want to know why Epicureanism is a doctrine worthy only of swine. And I want to know the meaning of Principle of Utility. Quote: “If one of these gave him no pleasure and the other no pain, he would not love or desire virtue, or would desire it only for the other benefits which it might produce to himself or to persons whom he cared for. . .” Review: Utilitarianism is the ideas that the moral worth of an action is determined solely by its utility in providing happiness or pleasure as summed among all sentient beings. The Principle of Utility or the greatest happiness principle state that the actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness are intended pleasures and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and privation of pleasures. The Principle of Utility could be


Running Head: Contemporary Moral Problems Essays
used to justify actions that are conventionally viewed as wrong by for example lying could be a cause for a person to be unhappy. His conscience could kill him. He would always be thinking about his lies. The higher pleasure is the one that all or almost all who have experience of both give a decided preference, irrespective of any feelings of moral obligation to prefer it. While the lower pleasure is when those who are competently acquainted with both, place so far above the other that they prefer it, even though knowing it to be attended with a greater amount of discontent, and would not resign it for any quantity of the other pleasures which their nature is capable of. Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of Epicurus (c. 341–c. 270 BC), founded around 307 BC. Epicurus was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention. Following Aristippus— about whom very little is known—Epicurus believed that the greatest good was to seek modest pleasures in order to attain a state of tranquility and freedom from fear (ataraxia) as well as absence of bodily pain (aponia) through knowledge of the workings of the world and the limits of our desires. ( What I’ve learned: • • • • The meaning of Utilitarianism The Principle of Utility The Epicureanism The meaning of higher and lower pleasures

Integrative Questions: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. What is utilitarianism? What is Principle of utility? What is Epicureanism? What is higher pleasure? What is lower pleasure?

Chapter 6: James Rachels – The Debate over Utilitarianism What I expect to learn: I expect to learn more about utilitarianism. I also want to know the three propositions that can be summed up with classical utilitarianism. Quote: “The idea that happiness is the one ultimate good and unhappiness the one ultimate evil.” Review: Classical Utilitarianism is classified as: First, Actions are to be judged right or wrong solely in the virtue of their consequences. Second, in assessing consequences, the only thing that matters is the amount of happiness or unhappiness that is caused. Third, calculating happiness or unhappiness that will be caused, no one’s happiness as to be counted as more important than anyone else’s. Hedonism is a school of ethics which argues that pleasure is the only intrinsic good. According to Rachels, the problem about Hedonism is it gets thing the wrong way around. Hedonism misunderstands the nature of happiness. Happiness is not something that is recognized as good and sought for its own sake, with other things appreciated only as means of bringing it about.


Running Head: Contemporary Moral Problems Essays
Rule utilitarianism is a form of utilitarianism that says actions are moral when they conform to the rules that lead to the greatest good, or that "the rightness or wrongness of a particular action is a function of the correctness of the rule of which it is an instance."For rule utilitarians, the correctness of a rule is determined by the amount of good it brings about when followed. Act Utilitarianism is a utilitarian theory of ethics which states that the right action is the one which produces the greatest amount of happiness or pleasure for the greatest number of beings. Act utilitarianism is opposed to rule utilitarianism, which states that the morally right action is the one that is in accordance with a moral rule whose general observance would create the most happiness. What I’ve learned: • • • • • The meaning of classical utilitarianism The three propositions of utilitarianism The meaning of hedonism The objections about justice, rights and promises The meaning of rule and act utilitarianism

Integrative Questions: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. What is Hedonism? What is Classical Utilitarianism? What are the three propositions of classical utilitarianism? What is rule-utilitarianism? What is act-utilitarianism?

Chapter 7: The Categorical Imperative – Immanuel Kant What I expect to learn: I’m expecting to understand the Kant’s accounts of the good will. Also, I want to know the differences between hypothetical and categorical imperative. Quote: “They do protect their lives in conformity with duty, but not from the motive of duty.” Review: When I read the case of Immanuel Kant titled “The Categorical Imperative”, it’s really hard for me to understand because I don’t know the topic. So I did some research to learn and understand more the statements that are hard to understand. Hypothetical Imperative originally introduced in the philosophical writings of Immanuel Kant, is a commandment of reason that applies only conditionally: Kant divides hypothetical imperatives into two subcategories: the rules of skill and the counsels of prudence. The rules of skill are conditional and are specific to each and every person to which the skill is mandated by. The counsels of prudence (or rules of prudence) are attained a priori (unlike the rules of skill which are attained via experience, or a posteriori) and have universal goals such as happiness. While, categorical imperative helps us to know which actions are obligatory and which are forbidden. The three categorical imperatives are: first, universal law


Running Head: Contemporary Moral Problems Essays
– All moral statements should be general laws, which apply to everyone under any circumstances. There should be no occasion under which an exception is made. Second, treat humans as ends in themselves – Kant argues that you should never treat people as a means to some end. People should always be treated as ends in themselves. This promotes equality. Third, act as if you live in a kingdom of ends – Kant assumed that all rational agents were able to deduce whether an argument was moral or not through reason alone and so, all rational humans should be able to conclude the same moral laws. Immanuel Kant argues that the highest form of good is good will. To have good will is to perform one’s duty. To do one’s duty is to perform actions which are morally required and to avoid those actions which are morally forbidden. Kant said that we should perform our duty because it is our duty and for no other reason. To perform an action out of desire for any self indulgent consequences is not a morally good action. Duty is good in itself. Immanuel Kant believed that we should act out of duty and not emotion. A human action isn’t morally good because we feel it’s good, or because it is in our own self interest. Even if duty demanded the same action, but it was done for a motive such as compassion, the act would be a good act, but the person would not be moral (virtuous) for choosing it. Maxim is a subjective principle of action and must be distinguished from an objective principle – namely, a practical law. What I’ve learned: • • • The meaning of hypothetical imperative The meaning of categorical imperative The Kant’s accounts of the good will

Integrative Questions: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. What is hypothetical imperative? What is categorical imperative? What is Kant’s account of the good will? What is maxim? What are the three of categorical imperatives?


Running Head: Contemporary Moral Problems Essays

Chapter 8: Happiness and Virtue - Aristotle What I expect to learn: I am expecting to understand the statements and issues in the case of Aristotle titled Happiness and Virtue. I also want to know the meaning of happiness and virtue according to the author, Aristotle. Quote: Since happiness is an activity of soul in accordance with perfect virtue, we must consider the nature of virtue: for perhaps we shall thus see better the nature of happiness. Review: When I’ve read the title of the case, I’m very much interested with it because that I can relate to the topic. There different meanings of happiness and virtue but still I want to know and understand the meaning of happiness and virtue according to the author, Aristotle. Aristotle discusses the different types of virtues and generally how one can achieve happiness. According to him, human happiness is a lifelong process. It is continuously ongoing and the purpose has the end in itself. Happiness is an activity of the soul and in that is an ongoing actualization of the soul’s potential for virtue. Being virtuous is selfsufficient in itself and therefore leads to human happiness. The happiness that Aristotle spoke of was not necessarily the same that we would think have today. Today our view of happiness tends to be hedonic. We want to feel good immediately and tend not to think too far ahead. So we see a night out or a pleasant activity as a route to happiness. Happiness is a state of mind or feeling characterized by contentment, love, satisfaction, pleasure, or joy a variety of philosophical, religious, psychological and biological approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources. Virtue is a character trait or quality valued as being


Running Head: Contemporary Moral Problems Essays
always good in and of it. Pleasure describes the broad class of mental states that humans and
other animals experience as positive, enjoyable, or worth seeking. (

What I’ve expect to learn: • • • The meaning of happiness according to Aristotle The meaning of virtue according to Aristotle The connection of happiness and virtue

Integrative Questions: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. What is happiness? What is virtue? What is pleasure? How happiness and virtue does relate? How happiness and pleasure does relate?

Chapter 9: The Nature and Value of Rights What I expect to learn: I’m expecting to learn about nature and value of rights. Also, I want to know why Joel Feinberg wrote a case about nature and value of rights. Quote: “We can make the human beings in it as attractive and virtuous as possible without taxing our conceptions of the limits of human nature.” Review: In this chapter, Joel Feinberg emphasizes the importance of human rights. He wants us to know and appreciate how lucky we are that we live in a world with human rights. Nowheresville is a world like our own except that people do not have rights. As a result, people in this world cannot make moral claims when they are treated unjustly. They cannot demand or claim just treatment, and so they are deprived of self-respect and human dignity. The author, Joel Feinberg, explains the doctrine of the logical correlativity of rights and duties is the doctrine that all duties entail other people’s rights and all rights entails other people’s duties. Joel Fienberg also explain that a personal desert is when a person is said to deserve something good from us what is meant in parts is that there would be certain proprietary in our giving that good thing to him in virtue of kind of person he is in virtue of some specific thing he has done. The notion of sovereign right monopoly is that there is right to treat others well, but this duty is not according to subject but according to God. In addition, the notion of Sovereign right-monopoly is about the latter case that he

could be said not merely to deserve the good thing but also have a right to it as his


Running Head: Contemporary Moral Problems Essays
due. A claim right is a right one holds against another person or persons who owe a corresponding duty to the right holder.

What I’ve learned: • • • The Nowheresville The concept of personal desert The claim-rights

Integrative Questions:

1. What kind of world is Nowheresville?
2. 3. 4. 5. Explain the doctrine of the logical correlativity of right and duties. Explain the concept of personal desert. Explain the notion of a sovereign right-monopoly. What are claim-rights?

Chapter 10: Taking Rights Seriously – Ronald Dworkin What I expect to learn: I’m expecting more about human rights. I want to know the meaning of legal and moral rights. Also, I want to know and understand the point of views of Ronald Dworkin about rights. Quote: “There is a difference between saying that someone has a right to do something and saying that it is the right thing for him to do, or that he does no wrong in doing it.” Review: Human right are the basic right or freedom to which all human beings are entitled and in whose exercise a government may not interfere. Legal rights also called civil rights or statutory rights are rights conveyed by a particular polity, codified into legal statutes by some form of legislature, and as such are contingent upon local laws, customs, or beliefs. In contrast, natural rights also called moral rights or unalienable rights are rights which are not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of a particular society or polity. Natural rights are thus necessarily universal, whereas legal rights are culturally and politically relative. According to the author, Ronald Dworkin, the institution of right must require an act of faith on the part of the minorities and the second was the Government will not re-established respect of law without giving the law some claim to respect. According to Dworkin, right in the strong sense means that if a people have a right to do something, and then it is wrong to interfere with them. As an example, if a citizen have a right to speech


Running Head: Contemporary Moral Problems Essays
freely or to tell and share their opinions, then it is wrong for the government to interfere with the exercise of this right.

What I’ve learned: • • • The meaning of legal rights The meaning of moral rights The two important ideas behind the institution of rights

Integrative Questions: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. What is human right? What is a legal right? What is a moral right? What are the two ideas behind the institution of rights? What does Dworkin mean by right in the strong sense?

Chapter 11: A Theory of Justice – John Rawls What I expect to learn: I am expecting to learn about justice. I want to know the importance of justice and also the principles of the author about justice. Quote: “Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought.” Review: In this chapter, I really want to know and understand more about justice because honestly I don’t know how to explain my point of views about justice. Justice is the concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, fairness, or equity. John Rawls’s theory states that there are two principles of justice: The first principle involves equal basic liberties, and the second principle concerns the arrangement of social and economic inequalities. According to Rawls theory, these are the principles that free and rational persons would accept in a hypothetical original position where there is a veil of ignorance hiding from the contractors all the particular facts about themselves. The first principle of justice states that each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others. The second principle of justice states that social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both reasonably expected to be to everyone’s advantage and attached to positions and offices open to all. Justice concerns the proper ordering of things and persons within a society. As a concept it has been subject to philosophical, legal, and theological reflection and debate throughout history. According to


Running Head: Contemporary Moral Problems Essays
most theories of justice, it is overwhelmingly important like John Rawls, for instance, claims that "Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought." Justice can be thought of as distinct from and more fundamental than benevolence, charity, mercy, generosity or compassion. What I’ve learned:

• • •

The meaning of justice Rawls’s conception of the original position Rawls’s first principle of justice Rawls’s second principle of justice

Integrative Questions: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. What is justice? What is Rawls’s conception of the original position? What is Rawls’s first principle of justice? What is Rawls’s second principle of justice? What is the importance of justice?

Chapter 12: The Need for More than Justice – Annette Baier What I expect to learn: I am expecting to learn more about justice and care. Quote: “The best moral theory is one that harmonizes justice and care.” Review: The ethics of justice deals with moral choices through a measure of rights of the people involved and chooses the solution that seems to damage the least number of people. Rooted in a respect for the legal system, it applies in the Western democracy ideas like social contract theory to everyday moral decisions. The ethics of care is a normative ethical theory; that is, a theory about what makes actions right or wrong. It is one of a cluster of normative ethical theories that were developed by feminists in the second half of the twentieth century. ( The theory of moral development has two dimensions the first is to aim at achieving satisfying community with others, the other aiming at autonomy or equality of power. The relative predominance of one over the other development will depend both upon the relative salience of the two evils in early childhood, and on early and later reinforcement or discouragement in attempts made to guard against athese two evils. Annette Baier said that these provides the germs of a theory about why, given current customs of childrearing, it should be mainly woman who are not content with only the moral outlook that she calls the justice perspectives, necessary though that was and is seem by them so have been to their hard worn liberation from sexist oppression. The three important differences between Kantian liberals and critics Baier says are, first it was dubious record, second was its inattention to relations inequality or its pretence of equality. The third reason is its exaggeration of scoop of choice, or its inattention to unchosen relations. What I’ve learned:


Running Head: Contemporary Moral Problems Essays
• • • • The meaning of justice and care The theory of moral development The three important differences between Kantian liberals and their critics The Kantian liberals

Integrative Questions: 1. 2. 3. 4. What is the ethic of justice? What is the ethic of care? What is the theory of moral development? What are the three important differences between Kantian liberals and their critics?

References 0K-T6r&sig=F42ZWVghVASuj8LgrK14hBCUHvQ&hl=tl&ei=J-yDSa2I5C5rAe2zamUAw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAYQ6AEwA A#v=onepage&q=&f=false