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Human Acts

Sources of Morality
The Nature of Morality

The concept of morality revolves around

the problem of good and evil
Its sole basis is human actions.
Human actions are either good, bad or
indifferent, depending on the relationship
of the act having moral perfection and
fullness required by the object of the
Human Acts versus Acts of Man
Human Acts = deliberate free acts
(involves intellect and will)
Acts of Man = acts performed either
without deliberation or knowledge or free
will. Exs: (1) unconscious acts
(2) involuntary acts
(3) semi-deliberate acts
(half asleep)
(4) spontaneous acts
3 Constituents of the Human Acts
Knowledge (and Deliberation)
= the advertence of what the moral agent is
doing, thinking or willing
= the absence of constraint from within and
outside of man
= a formal quality of human acts whereby any
action or omission results from a principle within
the agent, and from some knowledge which the
agent possesses in the end.
Sources of Morality
WHAT The Object

The first quality describing the human act.

It is like the basic factor of morality, the

substance of the moral act.

By our human reason and standards of

morality, we judge a particular act, in
itself, as good, bad or indifferent.
WHY The Motive

The purpose or intention is that for the

sake of which something is done.

It is the reason behind our acting.

Man usually puts an act as a means to

accomplish an end, different from the act
The end or intention can modify
human actions in four ways:
An indifferent act may become morally
good or evil.
(Ex.: To study engineering is in itself an
indifferent action. It becomes good when
inspired by the thought of making a
decent living. It becomes bad if it is
intended to perform illegal or immoral
The end or intention can modify
human actions in four ways:

An objectively good act may become

morally evil.
(Ex.: When a person gives alms to a poor
girl with the intention of seducing her.)
The end or intention can modify
human actions in four ways:
An objectively good act may receive more
goodness. (Ex.: A person may give alms
not only to help the poor but also for the
love of God.)
The end or intention can modify
human actions in four ways:

An objectively evil act can never become

good in spite of the good motive. (Ex. To
steal money with the good intention of
giving it to charitable institutions or to the
poor, as the legendary Robin Hood did.)
As a principle, we say the end does not
justify the means.
They play an important role in affecting
the morality of our actions because mans
acts are performed at a definite time and
place, in a particular manner, for a certain
reason, etc., all of which in one way or
another, increase or diminish the
responsibility of the action.
are conditions modifying human actions,
either by increasing or by diminishing the
responsibility attending them.
Ethical is what my feelings tell me
is right. But this is not a fixed
statement, and that makes
Who/what decides whether an act
is morally good or bad?

How can you tell who is right then?

Ethical Subjectivism
It is a theory that asserts that the
basis of the goodness or badness
of an act is the human agent
himself, the one who decides to
act, the subject of action.
It comes from the belief that every
individual has his/her own set of
experiences that form his/her
moral values.

It follows therefore, that what is

good for one person may not be
good for the other person.
Morality is a matter of personal

what is good for me may not be

good for you, so we leave each
other alone when it comes to
What happens if all of us are
ethical subjectivists?

Societal codes are formed and

agreed upon by people because
they assure harmony, order and
peaceful co-existence.
Ethical subjectivism invites the
opposite: chaos, fighting, mistrust
and violence.

This theory therefore is contrary to

the noble aims of societal life.
Cultural Relativism
This theory claims that the basis of
the goodness or badness of an act
is the culture of the society.
What is good for one group of
people may not be good for
another group of people.

What is right on one side of the

river may not be right on the other
side of the river.
When in Rome, do as the Romans

If one is in doubt, whether his/her

action is morally acceptable,
he/she should check whether the
said act is acceptable in the
particular society where he/she is
This theory gains more acceptance
because of the phenomenon of
globalization wherein business
relationships have increasingly
become worldwide in nature,
scope and interest.

MNCs multinational companies

TNCs transnational corporations
Fundamental Claims of Cultural
1. Various societies have various
ethical beliefs and codes.
- abortion is legal in many
2. There are no moral principles
that are common in all societies.

3. Moral standards are not moral

absolutes. They are dependent on
the evolving and dynamic nature of
the societys cultures, beliefs and
4. There are no objective moral
values. The society determines
what is good and what is bad
within its particular society.
5. There is no privileged and
special culture that other cultures
would look up to, emulate and
immolate. Every culture is unique
unto itself.
6. No society can brag about its
morality. There is no morally
inferior culture. There is simply
When two people disagree about
something, it does not follow at
once that both of them are correct
or both of them are wrong.
When it comes to moral beliefs, it
is possible that one belief is correct
and the other one is misguided.
We may not tolerate practices that
are morally wrong; but we must
also respect the differences of
cultures, beliefs and mores.
We must not at once reject
cultures that are different from us;
and we must appreciate the
uniqueness and varieties of
We must not dwell on the external
differences, rather, we must work
to find the unity among diversity
of cultures.
Moral Objectivism maintains that
there are moral principles that
have universal validity regardless
of time, place and culture.
In other words, the moral
objectivist claims that morality is
neither subjective nor culturally
Rather, it is objective in the sense
that there are ethical principles
that are common in all societies.
It is important to note that the
moral objectivist is not necessarily
an absolutist.
Moral absolutism does not accept
exceptions to ethical rules under
any circumstance or situation.
Moral objectivism acknowledges
that a moral principle can be
overridden by another moral value.
Thus, even though truth-telling is
an objective value, it is not
absolute because there are
instances that a person is even
morally obliged to lie.
In Moral Philosophy, the term
consequentialism refers to an
approach in moral decision-making
wherein the prime consideration is
the effect/consequence of an
action or a decision.
For the consequentialist, an action
is morally acceptable if it leads to
some desired consequences.
The consequentialist is not
concerned with the act itself. As
long as the effect is good (for the
individual or for the group), then
the act is morally acceptable.
In the world of business, there are
two consequentialist approaches
that seem to be relevant.

These are (1) ethical egoism and

(2) utilitarianism.
For the egoist, a good act is one
that produces a good consequence
for the individual who performs
the act.
Ethical egoism is not a viable
ethical theory. It is not different
from ethical subjectivism.
If the business world would be
dominated by egoists, then expect
exploitation of workers, deception
of consumers, violation of basic
human rights, grave abuse of the
environment, and so on.
Utilitarianism is also a
consequentialist approach to
ethical decision making
But unlike the egoist, the
utilitarians main concern is not
individual interest, rather ,
presented with different
alternative courses of action, he
looks for that one that has the
over-all good consequences or
benefits for the most number of
affected people.
the greatest good for the greatest
number of people
Wage increase?
Who will be affected by the
How many stands to benefit from
How many would be harmed?
- the right action is that which has
the most utility for the greatest
number of people.
Criticisms Against Utilitarianism
1. It is hard to quantify or measure the
good and bad effects of a decision.

The effect that is good may not only

pertain to quantifiable objects such as
profit, infrastructures, prices, products
and others. It may also refer to
abstract values such as joy, care,
freedom, love, life, quality of life and
2. Consequences are hard to
There are long term and short
term consequences.
A mining company would defend
its mining industry by claiming that
it generates job, it improves the
lives of the local residents and it
contributes to local and national
coffers. The long term effects,
however, are the destruction of the
environment, the hazards to health
and even to lives of people.
3. Some basic human rights may
be violated because of too
much concern for the over-all
good consequences.
Would you take away the life of a
patient who is in persistent
vegetative state?
Immanuel Kants Deontological
Kant is a German philosopher
famous because of his ethical
theory that through the use of
human reasoning, the human
person can discover universal
ethical principles and these
principles pose as moral duties
that each person has to follow and
Human person is both rational
and free

A human act must be founded

on reason.
A human act has true moral worth
if it is performed because of a
moral duty and not just because of
mere benefits and personal
The businessman who incorporates
CSR in his company because this
will mean more profit is morally
inferior to another businessman
who integrates CSR because it is in
conformity with moral duties.
Kant emphasizes the difference
between acting from a moral duty
and acting in conformity with a
moral duty.
Kant calls those principles that are
universally binding as categorical

It is imperative because it poses

itself as a command that obliges
one to obey.
It is categorical in the sense that it
is uncompromising.
There are two kinds of preposition:
Categorical and Hypothetical
Categorical preposition is a direct
assertion or denial of something.
The sun is shining.
Hypothetical preposition is more
complex because the truth of one
part is dependent on the truth of
the other part.
If it is daytime, then the sun is
Translated into ethical principles,
a hypothetical imperative may look
like these:
If it is favorable for your
employees, then you may not pay
Bribery is morally wrong if it is not
beneficial to our company.
A categorical imperative:
stealing is wrong, no ifs, no buts.
When one is in a moral dilemma,
two criteria can be set to help one
be enlightened:
What if everybody would do it?
and reversibility
What if it is done to me?
What is a right?

It is an individuals entitlement to

A person has a right when that

person is entitled to act in a certain
way or is entitled to have others
act in a certain way toward him.
It is different from a privilege.
To have 10 hours of absences in

To acquire a drivers license at

the age of 18.

To vote when one reaches the

legal age.
To use the parking lot inside
the university premises.

To enroll for a college


To eat inside the classroom.

To check (by the student) a
teachers class record.

To express ones opinion on

divorce and the use of artificial

To challenge the view of the

To be free from surveillance of
a CCTV inside the classroom.

To boycott classes as a form of

objection to tuition free
Rights can be classified into two:
legal rights and moral rights
A legal right is acquired due to
specific laws of a locality.
A moral right (human right) is
significantly different from a legal
It is inherent in each and every
human person by virtue of his
Since a moral right is inherent by
virtue of personhood, it is also
generally considered as universal.
Universal Declaration of Human
The right to own property alone as
well as in association with others.

The right to work, to free choice of

employment, to just and favorable
conditions of work, and to
protection against unemployment
The right to just and favorable
remuneration ensuring for the worker
and his family an existence worthy of
human dignity.
The right to form and join trade
The right to rest and leisure, including
reasonable limitation of working hours
and periodic holidays with pay.