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Theoretical Foundations of Ethics

• Meta Ethics: Schools of thought which tries to understand as to why human beings think in terms of right/wrong. • Are there any objective criteria by which you can assess moral statements? • Normative Ethics: Different theories making an attempt to understand what makes things right or wrong for human beings .

• Asked questions about purpose of human life. .Greek Philosophers I • Socrates: Ethics cannot be made up of abstract ideas. In order to understand the common perception of ethics. Ethics should be knowledge that seeks to improve human life. authority of the government etc. we must have better understanding of people’s circumstances and pay attention to conditions of human life.

well suited to make decisions for the community. creates the possibilities for corruption. . In order to curb the corruption. in love with wisdom. self-controlled. • Philosopher King: those who are intelligent. These correspond to the "reason" part of the soul and are very few.Greek Philosophers II • Plato: Student of Socrates • Intellectual consequences of denying the reality of the material world • Contended that the very fact that we have Government. what is required is to have ‘Philosopher Kings’. rational.

Plato and Society • Plato questioned the concept of society and doubted the ideas that are propagated by the society. Truth Norms of the society .

then all actions of that person are moral actions. .Aristotle • Student of Plato • Best known for his contribution towards emphasing the virtues of ‘Balance’ and ‘Moderation’ for creating an ethical society.Greek Philosophers III . • When a person acts according to his/her nature and realises his/her full potential.

• For example: A knife: used by a doctor or used by a thief will have completely different consequences.• People should not simply ‘live’ but also try to improve their lives. Something can be considered ‘good’ if it fulfilled its purpose. • Aristotle also said: ‘Any action right/wrong depends on whether or not it is a ‘good’ thing to do. .

’ . where he proclaimed that human beings are inherently cruel and nasty. people come together and collectively create an entity to maintain justice in the world called ‘Government. morality and politics in 1500s. working on ethics.Thomas Hobbes • English Philosopher. • Wrote a book called ‘The Leviathan’. Therefore. In a jungle like kingdom. the powerful will try to dominate over the week and the more intelligent will try to manipulate the less intelligent.

.John Locke • English Philosopher from the 1600s • Believed that human beings are essentially nice and the world can be properly governed if people are provided with three rights: – Right to Life – Right to Liberty – Right to Property • Self is continuity of consciousness. from where the source of ethics lie.

Moore • Goodness cannot be defined.E. because it is unlike any other quality. • For example: To say something is ‘good’ is like saying that it is ‘yellow’ – how can you describe ‘yellow’ to someone who does not know that colour? • However. then why do we face ethical dilemma? .English Philosopher G. if we intuitively know what is good.

• ‘Make Merry today. • Also. who has seen tomorrow?’ • Example: ‘Charvakas’ the ancient Indian philosophical system also emphasised on materialism and pleasure-seeking activities • Danger: If you are a Hedonist. Judgments we make are based on our feeling of pleasure or pain. you have to suffer the conviction that every helpful person is actually trying to help you simply doing something for himself/herself.Hedonism • ‘Happiness is the goal of life’. excessive indulgence can be dangerous .

Egoism • We actually only do things that we believe will benefit us. • Machiavelli argued that people will do the right thing only under compulsion but given a chance will do what is in their best interest . • An Ethical Egoist is someone who claims that everyone should pursue self interest and that selfishness is not a fact to be regretted.

the philosophy holds that becoming a clear and unbiased thinker allows one to understand the universal reason .Stoicism • Peace of mind is the highest virtue and that virtue is sufficient for happiness. • All moral corruptions are equally vicious. • Development of self-control and fortitude are means of overcoming destructive emotions.

• “In any situation where there is a moral choice.Utilitarianism • One of the most influential of ethical theories propagated by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill • Efforts of all human beings are to increase the pleasure and reduce the pain. the right thing to do is that which is likely to produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.” .

• 1) Is immediate happiness the criterion. or is it the long term benefit? • 2) By what criteria do you judge what leads to happiness? • 3) What about the minority voices? .Criticism of Utilitarianism • The main problem of this argument is that it completely ignores the aspect of justice.

the starting point for a debate on morals cannot be something ‘out there’ – it should be the actual experience of moral obligation – feeling that there is something we ‘ought to do’. • The mind plays an important and active role in shaping and ordering experiences. Our mind determines the way we experience things. .Immanuel Kant • One of the strongest influences on the ethical discourse in the world • Kant was most concerned with the sense of duty. it is not a passive recipient of what is ‘out there’. • Therefore.

g. you should be comfortable with the idea when everyone in the world is breaking traffic lights .Categorical Imperative of Kant • 1) All your actions should based on a thought where you believe that this action should be a universal law.: When you decide to break a traffic light. For e.

However. stealing the food does not justify even your positive actions. the means to reach that objective should also be pure. it is unethical because even though feeding the poor is a good thing to do.• 2) No longer how pure the objective is. . “Ends-Means Test” For example: You steal from someone to give food to the hungry.