Ethical Theory


The Trolley Problem


The Trolley Problem: take 2

4 The Transplant Surgeon .

5 Consequentialism & Deontology  Consequentialism – rightness depends on consequences  Deontology – rightness depends at least in part on a formal moral rule or principle .

6 $180 billion government bailout A few months later.. $165 million in bonuses to 400 executives ..

What I feel is wrong is wrong.Relativism “What I feel is right is right. other than the exercise of power. And that it’s wrong to harm others for such a reason.There are no objective moral truths – only an individual’s feelings or preferences.” – Jean Jacques Rousseau 7  Ethical Subjectivism .  Anyone can harm others if it feels right to them  And we do tend to think that arbitration is possible – we do it all the time. .  Some Criticism:  No arbitration between views possible.

Relativism  8 Cultural Relativism .  Offers no criteria for distinguishing between reformers and criminals  Can’t explain moral progress  Encourages blind conformity to cultural norms.  Some Criticism:  Guilty of deriving ought from is (the Naturalist Fallacy). rather than rational analysis of moral issues (which we think is important)  Doesn’t work in pluralistic cultures (like ours)  Can lead to suspicion and mistrust of other cultures .All (not some) moral values are nothing more than cultural customs and laws.

Following the law is not the same thing as acting morally 9  Laws can be immoral  Laws can provide insufficient direction  Laws can be ambiguous  Doing the moral minimum is doing what you are morally obligated to do (not doing bad)  Doing good: going beyond your obligations .

but rather to evaluate them. the more you open your mind and widen your horizons.10 Moral Development & Maturity Postconventional thinking does not need to reject cultural norms. it’s because they are the right norms to have – not because they are the norms we do have. If it accepts them. The more you think about your choices. the more your moral reasoning is likely to mature! Kohlberg’s stages of moral development . the more you think about your reasons and the reasons of others.

The Virtue of Selfishness (1964) 11  Some Criticism:  Justifies any self-interested action – no matter how it effects others.Ethical Egoism .everyone ought to do what is in his or her own rational self-interest “The achievement of his own happiness is man’s highest moral purpose” – Ayn Rand. altruism with morality .  Selfishness is usually associated with immorality.

“The greatest good for the greatest number” .12 Utilitarianism Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1831) The morally right act for an agent A at a time t is that act available to A at t. that will maximize the total amount of good in the world (that will have the best consequences).

. and pain is any sensation you’d rather not have than no sensation at all.13 Hedonistic Utilitarianism What is good? Pleasure and the absence of pain are good Pleasure is any sensation you would rather have than no sensation at all. .

14 .  Non-metaphysical – it doesn't make goodness/badness right/wrongness some sort of weird qualities. you can use the hedonic calculus to get an actual answer to the question of “what should I do in this case?”. What in the world is “a natural right?”  Non-elitist – it counts all sentient creatures. It works with people as it finds them and organizes society so that they being that way actually has good consequences for everyone. And all types of pleasures equally  Determinate in principle – in principle.What Bentham thinks are the advantages of Utilitarianism  Neutralistic – treats everyone in the same way  Realistic – it’s based on real psychology.

15 The Hedonic Calculus For each action-alternative:  Determine Intensity x duration  Determine Probability  Calculate Total = (intensity x duration) x Probability Perform the action-alternative with the highest total .

S.How do we regard different types of pleasures?  What counts as pleasure?  What about sadistic and masochistic pleasures? 16  Bentham: the source of pleasure doesn’t matter  Are there higher and lower pleasures?  Bentham: It’s a subjective criterion – “Pushpin is as good as poetry”  J. Mill: There is an objective quality to different pleasures that should also be factor into our calculations Quality comes from what people would choose if they had access to all possible pleasures .

17 Are all goods commensurable?  Can all pleasures be roughly compared? Can they be reduced to some sort of homogenous value? .

.18 Utilitarianism & business Market view – Free and unregulated markets would maximize the overall good by most efficiently connecting supply with demand. Administrative view – Policy experts manipulate the economy to attempt to improve the outcome beyond the capacities of a purely free market.

Criticisms of Utilitarianism  It’s too difficult to apply 19  People care about more than just pleasure  We can not reduce all human goods into quantifiable units which can be aggregated and compared  There is no non-arbitrary limit to how far into the future we should consider consequences  Intention is important for determining the moral status of actions. but no room for this in utilitarianism  Justifies acts that seem to be plainly wrong like murder and rape .

Always act according to the rule that would produce the most utility in the world (vs.20 Other forms of Utilitarianism  Rule Utilitarianism . “act” utilitarianism)  Preference Utilitarianism: Always act so as to maximize satisfaction of people’s preferences (vs. “Hedonistic” Utilitarianism) .

 Rights hook into correlative duties: if you have a right not to be killed. 21  Positive rights are rights to aid – entitlements to be provided with something  Right to due process of law in the US. have your property stolen.Rights and duties  One way to think of a right is as a trump against the claims of the general welfare. to healthcare coverage. then I have a duty not to kill you.  Negative rights are rights to non-interference  A right not to be killed. to free education. etc. etc. . raped.

rather than categorical/absolute  All moral rules must rest on a categorical imperative (CI) 22  To find out whether a moral principle is ok to act from. you see if it’s compatible with the Categorical Imperative (CI) .Kantianism  Moral actions follow from the right moral principles  How do we know if our moral principles are good ones?  Hypothetical imperatives are conditional.

but always treat them as an end in themselves”  1st formulation of Categorical Imperative: "Act only according to that maxim that you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” (a rule that applies to everybody)  Step 1: Formulate a sincere and rational maxim (a subjective principle of action that states what you propose to do. past.The Categorical Imperative  2nd formulation of Categorical Imperative: “Never treat a person merely as a means to an end. (everyone. and why)  Step 2: Universalize the maxim to everyone. present and future. as if by a law of nature. does A in C in order to achieve E) 23 .

with the law you made in Step 2 24  Step 4: Test the maxim  The contradiction in conception test – In the social world of (3) would it be possible to achieve your end by means of the action you proposed in 1?  The Contradiction in the Will test . etc. it is NOT permissible to act on that maxim! AND that means that not to do that thing is a moral duty. psychology.The Categorical Imperative  Step 3: Imagine the world that would result from conjoining all the laws of physics. .Could I consistently will that this social world actually exist? If a maxim of action fails the CI tests. sociology.

g. so it seems we may propose any number of maxims for any action. rather than feelings is mistaken.25 Criticisms of Kantianism  Its absolutist and inflexible (What if the negative consequences are too high?)  Some maxims which seem to be ok. (e. Which should we follow?  The whole approach of basing morality on rationality. . fail the CI test. Go to the beach on a sunny day)  We have no positive formula for constructing maxims.

26 Some major moral principles  The Principle of Nonmaleficence – We ought to act in ways that do not cause needless harm or injury to others  The Principle of Beneficence – We should act in ways that promote the welfare of other people  The Principle of Utility – We should act in such a way as to bring about the greatest benefit and the least harm .

education. reflection. and effort  What habits or instincts are these?  Those that your “moral exemplars” poses . experience.27 Virtue Ethics  Virtue ethic focuses on having a good character – tells you what kind of person you ought to be  It is action-guiding in the sense that it recommends that you become the kind of person that will do what is right – perhaps instinctively  How do you become virtuous?  Develop the sort of habits or instincts that a virtuous person has through good upbringing.

loyalty. honesty. sincerity. shrewdness. kindness. sympathy. intelligence. skillfulness.  Practical/non-moral virtues  Rationality. proficiency. fairness. prudence. thoughtfulness.28 Virtue Ethics – the virtues  Moral Virtues  Benevolence. . charity. respect consideration. patience. etc. tenacity. capability. compassion. etc.

(2) Virtue Ethics may praise certain character traits. If Virtue Ethics has no universal basis.29 Criticisms of Virtue Ethics (1) Different cultural groups have had different. opinions on what constitutes a virtue. but this provides us with no or insufficient practical guidance about which specific actions to perform . sometimes conflicting. it leads to an undesirable cultural relativism.

Using Child labor 30 .