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Law 1

Hunter Law
Professor Jeffrey M Wood
PHIL 1000
6 December 2015
Distinguishing what is Right and Wrong
According to the, New American Standard Bible, we must treat others
the same way you want them to treat you, Luke 6:31. This verse has been
adopted by many and often what we tell children who misbehave while
interacting with their peers. We have been taught to demand fairness, and
treat everybody essentially the same. However, we dont do this and we
probably shouldnt. Humans come in all shapes and sizes, with personalities
just as unique as your own. This is why we treat others differently, based on
their situation in life and the fact that different types of people desire
different things and react to circumstances differently. So, if we are all
different, is right and wrong a standard that should be followed the same by
each person or is the problem of deciding what is right or wrong situational?
How can I know right from wrong? This ethical or moral philosophy of
right and wrong conduct must be evaluated to define this. We try to look at
right and wrong as concepts that guide our behavior. According to, Dr.
Joshua Halberstam, author of Everyday Ethics and professor at Columbia
University, there are quite a few theories on how to answer the question of

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what is right and wrong. Through Theological Ethics, humans use religion and
the bible for moral guidance, much like Brian Cleeve, award winning
broadcaster and author of 21 novels. Cleeve offers a solution, to the right vs.
wrong problem in his 1938 novel titled, A World Vanishing. After discovering
mysticism, Cleeve devoted the rest of his lifework to God. Mysticism is
defined as, the belief that union with or absorption into the Deity or the
absolute may be attained through contemplation and self-surrender,
according to the Oxford Dictionary. Cleeve felt that his belief in mysticism
had a profoundly positive effect on his quality of life. According to Cleeve,
there was a time when we could all recite the 10 commandments they
were taught in school. Implying that morality was held to the standard of
what the bible tells us is moral. Cleeve believed that the bible has practical
relevance to moral dilemmas, and through following the advice written in
the Good Book you would be on the right path to success and happiness.
Without following this written advice, Cleeve says, We are like men at sea
without a compass.
Another theory mentioned by Dr. Halberstam, was favored by 19th
century German Philosopher, Emmanuel Kant. This is the consequential
theory. This theory states that we need to judge the moral value of an action
by the end result it produces. Emmanuel Kant believed in the theory of
deontology. Kant believed by defining whether or not you were driven by
responsibility to act with respect to moral law, determines the moral worth
of an action as right or wrong. Kant believes that as long as you tried to

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help, even if you end up not helping at all, you action was still morally good
or right. Kant states, Morality isnt a matter of what makes you happy, its
about rationality when we act from duty we are willing the right thing out
of respect for ourselves as rational law given beings.
Through his deontological view, Kant created the moral law called the
categorical imperative, which has three truisms and holds correct regardless
of situation or circumstance. The fist truism has to do with universality, and
states that you should only do something if you think it would be okay if
everybody did it all the time. The second truism states that every human
must be treated with respect and nobody should ever be allowed to
manipulate someone for their gain, because we are responsible for ourselves
we need to be responsible for our actions. The third and final truism positions
that we must act as if we are the absolute moral authority of the entire
universe, which means we should act as the example, according to Kant.
Dr. Halberstam also mentions a, virtue-based theory that focuses on
character. Basically, our values need to be considered when making a
decision, because our values essentially can only be moral if they are a result
of moral intentions and not selfish reasons. Another school of thought
regarding what is right and wrong is called consequentialism.
Consequentialism states that right and wrong are dependent upon the
consequences of an action. Thus asking the question, does the end justify
the means?

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We are faced with moral dilemmas every day, and you may think that
you are morally just, but as we look deeper situations regarding right vs.
wrong become unclear. In Kants Axe Man theory, he asks: If a threatening
man with an axe came to your door looking for your friend, would you tell
him where they are or would you lie to protect them. In this situation lying
becomes what looks to be the right choice, however, according to Kant lying
is the wrong thing to do. From his deontological approach Kant reasons that
telling a lie is a categorical imperative and by lying and trying to lure the axe
man away from your friend, you would have a hand in what happens to them
later. So, if the axe man ends up finding your friend, whatever happens to
them is on your conscience. While on the other hand, if you were to tell the
axe man the truth, then no matter what happens later, according to Kant,
you are no longer morally obligated and therefore should have a clear
Deontology according to Kant, Is the mortal worth of an action being
determined by whether or not you were motivated by duty. Kant states that,
Duty is the necessity to act with respect towards moral law. What if you felt
your moral duty was to protect your friend from the axe man, believing that
morally, lying was the best choice? To determine an actions moral worth, we
need to look at the intentions of the person preforming the action. If their
intentions are good, then good will is expressed acting by your own moral
duty. This technically would satisfy the categorical imperative. Youre
participating in an action that you believe is right, you are thinking about

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your friend and their best interest (treating them as an end rather than a
mean), and you are acting with moral authority by doing what you believe is
right. So is lying really a categorical imperative after all? According to
utilitarianism lying is okay, or at least it can be. Philosophers who believe in
the theory of utilitarianism determine the moral worth of an action by the
amount of joy it brings and for the maximum amount of people. So if you
believed that lying to the axe man would be beneficial and bring everyone
great happiness, then by all means, lie.


"Bing." Define+mysticism -. Oxford University Press, n.d. Web. 06 Dec.


Halberstam, Joshua, Ph.D. "How Can I Know Right From Wrong? Watch
Philosophy Animations on Ethics Narrated by Harry Shearer." Open Culture.
The Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, 1 Mar. 2006. Web. 06
Dec. 2015.

Hulme, David. "Right and Wrong." Ethics and Morality:., Fall 2000.
Web. 06 Dec. 2015.

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Jones, Josh. "How Can I Know Right From Wrong? Watch Philosophy
Animations on Ethics Narrated by Harry Shearer." Open Culture. Open
Culture, 30` Mar. 2015. Web. 06 Dec. 2015.

Multiple Contributors. "Ethics." Ethics. From Wikipedia, the Free

Encyclopedia, 6 Dec. 2015. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.

New American Standard Bible. La Habra, CA: Foundation Publications, for the
Lockman Foundation, 1971. Print.

Wood, Mia. "Are Your Actions GOOD? (Kant vs. Mill)." Ed. Jacob S. Salamon.
Https:// N.p.: Jacob S. Salamon,
2014. Print.