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Different ways to interpret this: (1) different societies do, in fact, accept different moral codes (descriptive relativism); (2) each person ought to do what is dictated by his society’s code (normative ethical relativism); (3) There is no standard of reasoning about morality that is independendent of the practices of particular societies (metaethical relativism). (2) and (3) are grounded in (1). Diversity of behavior doesn’t necessarily show that different societies do disagree in their deepest moral convictions. Also, even if there is disagreement, it remains possible that one is right and the other is wrong.
Subjectivism and Emotivism Moore (9) Goodness as Simple and Indefinable If goodness is property in natural world (e.g, tendency to make people happy), then we can use empirical methods. If not natural, knowledge must take other form. M believes goodness is neither a simple nor a composite natural property. Goodness is simple and elemental, in terms of which other things are defined. “Is pleasure good?” differs from “Is pleasure pleasant?” Ross (10) Knowledge of Right and Wrong We begin by directly recognizing that a certain act is right or wrong, and then go on to generalize. Not sensory experience. Ayer (12) Emotive theory of ethics Ethical utterances are not attempts to state facts, and so are not capable of being either true or false. Like cheers and boos. When we say this is wrong, we are merely expressing our disapproval of lying. Verifiability prinicple. Any statement that is neither true by definition nor verifiable throught the five senses is meaningless. Good and right cannot be defined. Ethical utterances are meaningless. Mackie (14) Subjectivity of Values No objective values. Doesn’t say ethical utterances lack cognitive means. Instead, they’re false. Basic question is whether values exist. Variations in moral codes. Hume (20) Morality and Natural Sentiment Reason supplies poor motives for ethics. Reason is slave to passion. Passion plays critical roles. Projects feelings onto it. Anticipates Ayer’s emotive theory. Distinction between natural and
artificial versions. Religious Ethics Plato (25) Euthyphro Morality and gods. Not correct to assume moral lawgiver is divine. Acts are in themselves pious. Psychological Egoism Feinberg (1) Psych Ego. We never want or pursue anything except our own happiness or selfinterest. F. says rarely supported by empirical evidence. That my desires are my own says nothing about what I desire. Altruism. F finds no good reason to accept Psych Ego. Ethical Egoism Plato (17) Ring of Gyges Why be just, when we could feign justice and pursue honor and reward. Hobbes (18) Morality and Self interest Morality is grounded in selfinterest. Justive, gratitude, etc, operate just to ward off strife. Covenants without sword are just words. Government penalizes people. Singer (19) Why act morally? Nothing irrational about egoism. Reason provides no ends, but is means to end. Being moral can be means to true happiness. Meaningful life may go beyond momentary pleasures. Meaning in life may lead us to moral standpoint. Moral Psychology Aristotle (5) The Nature of Moral Virtue The way people acquire a virtuous disposition. Merely theoretical knowledge makes us like invalids who listen to doctor but don’t do anything. We learn virtue by practicing it. Mean of extremes. Weakness of will, whether and how a person who knows what he ought to do can do something else. Nietzsche (38) Beyond Morality Traditional demands of morality grow out of civilization’s need to suppress our more primal impulses. Desire of weak to protect themselves from strong. Especially true of utilitarians. Revaluation of values. Overman. Utilitarianism Bentham (34) Pleasure as the Good Pleasure and the absence of pain are the only things that ultimately have any value. If anything
else is said to be good, it’s only because it works toward pleasure. Questions: Do all pleasant experiences really involve a single kind of feeling? Is capcity to produce that feeling all that matters in friendship, knowledge, etc? Are malice and envy good because they produce the feeling. Nozick (35) Experience Machine Argues against view that pleasure and only pleasure matters to us. If pleasure was it, we’d hook ourselves up to machine. Refuse because people want to act in certain ways, be certain kind of person, and be in contact with reality. Epicurus (36) The Good Life Whatever is pleasant, like Bentham, is good. Pleasure of friendship. No power or wealth necessary, therefore in everyone’s grasp. Happiness bound up with justice. Death is not to be feared, since dead lack sensation. Mill (26) Utilitarianism Strive to produce as much overall happiness as possible. Consequences. Accept conflicting principles. Happiness is only truly desirable thing, so it should be maximized. Rawls (28) Classical Utilitarianism Intuitive basis of utlitarianism. Just as individual tries to maximize his satisfactions over time, so will society look to all its members. Problem: With individual, sacrifice pays off same person later. With group, sacrifice means losers and gainers are different persons. Ross (37) What Things are Good Some things intrinsically good: virtue, pleausre, knowledge. Says place with is better than place without, all other things being equal. Problem: How can pleasures of vicious be bad? Presence of pleasure creates presumption of goodness. In some cases, presumption is outweighed by other aspects of the situation. Goodness resembles prima facie rightness. Kant Kant (29) Morality and Rationality Ordinary people know what’s right and wrong. The good will, not consequences matter. Categorical imperative is fundamental law of conduct. People are ends, not means. Nagel (30) Moral Luck Tension within our attitudes toward moral responsibility. Good will retains moral worth whether it works or not. Worse to run red light and kill pedestrian than run red light and not kill pedestrian. Moral luck. Person has no control over basic character traits and various opportunitites. Must view ourselves as components of objective world, and subjective initiators
of action. Contractarian Ethics Hobbes (18) Morality and Self Interest See above. Government’s role in all this. Rawls (32) Theory of Justice Veil of ignorance to decide what’s best. Primary goods. Tolerate some inequality provided it helped the worstoff and didn’t restrict opportunities. Moral Development Kohlberg (6) Indoctrination Versus Relativity in Value Education Three levels of moral thought as they mature. First, What benefits them. Second, Norms of family, group, or nation. Third, independent moral standards. Each stage has two substages. Applied Ethics Charity: Singer (44) Famine Affluence and Morality If it is in our power to prevent something bad without sacrificing something morally comparable, we ought morally to do it. O’Neill (45) Lifeboat Earth Universal right not to be killed. Abortion Thompson (47) A Defense of Abortion Just because people have right to life, doesn’t mean they have right to everything necessary to sustain life. Each person has prior right to his or her own body. Says degree of care in trying to avoid pregnancy is relevant. Euthanasia Rachels (48) Active and Passive Euthanasia Letting die and killing are the same thing. But killing isn’t that bad. War Nagel (50) War and Massacre Even in combat, some contact is forbidden. Objects of hostility must be treated as persons. Violence only against those who pose a threat. Guilty whatever we do.
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