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Ethics: Theory and Practice

Jacques P. Thiroux Keith W. Krasemann

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Chapter Eight
Setting Up a Moral System: Basic Assumptions and Basic Principles

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Conflicting General Moral Sense


Consequentialism v. Nonconsequentialism Self v. Other-interestedness Act v. Rule Emotion v. Reason

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Basic Assumptions
What constitutes a workable and livable moral system:
Rationally based and yet not devoid of emotion Logically consistent but not rigid and inflexible Universality or general application to all humanity and yet be applicable in practical ways to individuals and situations Able to be taught and promulgated Ability to resolve conflicts
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Basic Principles, Individual Freedom, and Their Justification


The problems of morality center essentially upon two areas:
How to attain unity and order by working with basic principles so as to avoid the chaos of situationism and intuitionism How to allow individual and group freedom to work with such principles meaningfully

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Basic Principles, Individual Freedom, and Their Justification


The Value of Life principle states that human begins should revere life and accept death The Principle of Goodness or Rightness is ultimate to any moral system, and it requires that human beings attempt to do three things:
Promote goodness over badness and do good Cause no harm or badness Prevent badness or harm

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Basic Principles, Individual Freedom, and Their Justification


The Principle of Justice or Fairness
This is distributive justice, meaning that human beings should treat other human beings justly and fairly when attempting to distribute goodness and badness among them Theories about, and ways of distributing, good and bad have been fully described in Chapter 6

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Priority of the Basic Principles


There are two ways of establishing the priority of the five moral principles In the first, or general, way, the principles are classified into two major categories based upon logical and empirical priority

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Priority of the Basic Principles


First Category: Value of Life principle
Because without life there can be no morality whatever

Principle of Goodness
Because it is the ultimate principle of any moral system

Both are logically and empirically prior to the other three principles
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Priority of the Basic Principles


Second category: Principle of Justice of Fairness
Because in most human actions more than just one person is involved, and some form of distribution of goodness and badness must be established

Principle of Truth Telling or Honesty


Because it follows from the need to be fair and just in ones dealings with others

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Priority of the Basic Principles


Second category (contd): Principle of Individual Freedom
Because each individual is the only one truly able to decide what is good for himself

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Priority of the Basic Principles


In the second, or particular way, priority is determined only be referring to the actual situation or context in which moral actions and decisions occur

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Situation or Context
Importance of the situation and context of moral problems and basic principles
The situation or context is important because morality always occurs in particular situations to particular people, never in the abstract We must start from a broad yet humanly applicable, near-absolute principle so that there will be some basis for acting morally and avoiding immorality
Copyright 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.