Class Notes (806,896)
Canada (492,511)
Brock University (11,830)
Ethics (34)
ETHC 3P82 (34)

2_January 18+20.doc

6 Pages
Unlock Document

Brock University
Thomas Mulligan

January 18/2010: Overview of Philosophical Ethics cont’d Excerpts from David Hume's Treatise on Human Nature, A. J. Ayer's Language, Truth, and Logic, Bertrand Russell's The Problems of Philosophy, Immanuel Kant's Critique of Practical Reason  Last week’s philosophers were all positive about Ethics as they believed that ethical/moral behaviour is possible; this week’s philosophers are skeptical about that David Hume: SKEPTICISM ABOUT ETHICS ( you can’t get an "OUGHT" from "IS") p. 196: "I cannot forbear adding to these reasonings an observation, which may, perhaps, be found of some importance ( ironic). In every system of morality which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author (= earlier philosophers) proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surprized to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, it is necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality.” (A Treatise of Human Nature (1739), Book III, Part 1, Section 1) - founding father of EMPIRICISM: important and reliant knowledge gained only through our five senses (= empirical observations) - Claims that all philosophers before him established a relation between IS and OUGHT: they deducted the ability of the human being being rational from his/her existence (“as the human IS rational he/she OUGHT to be ethical”) = copulation (copula word = Bindewort) - Believes this deduction to be an logical error; it is impossible to get from IS to OUGHT (two completely different concepts; IS/OUGHT distinction): IS = observable in reality; OUGHT ≠ observable  SKEPTICISM ALFRED JULES AYER (1910-1989) - British philosopher - Champion of Logical Positivism: ‘Language, Truth and Logic’ (1936 – major work of the 20 century); derived from earlier empiricism such as Hume’s work but carries it even further - p. 34 “[...] we should have to think both sides of this limit [...]”: Belief among many philosophers in the two senses of Metaphysics o Study of ultimate explanatory principles of the universe o Study of other-worldly realm (e.g. heaven, spiritualism) - Ayer is not interested in the other world or anything that is not observable - Language = way that our mind reasons  p. 35: The verifiability criterion: o A sentence is only important if we can test it with our 5 senses: Example 1: ‘It is raining’  we can prove this by feeling and seeing the rain Example 2: ‘God exists’  cannot be empirically proven with our senses, no reliable way to test this suggestion  statement, hence, has absolutely no meaning, religion is useless  destruction of religion and Metaphysics o Anything that cannot be empirically tested is just meaningless - p. 108: ‘wrong’ and ‘right’ in suggests a normative dimension in ethical terms; he says, however, that this is just the expression of an ethical feeling (which further is meaningless, just ‘gibberish’), not of an assertion  making ethical judgements is completely impossible  SKEPICISM - The veriability criterion: o ‘A sentence is factually significant (i.e. meaningful) if and only if it can be empirically verified’ o Criticism: does not apply to itself o Modification of the criterion: going from ‘meaningless’ to ‘uninteresting’/’invaluable’ BERTRAND RUSSELL (1872-1970) - British mathematician, logician, philosopher, social activist - Knew Ayer and some other philosophers - Wrote novels and such; Nobel Prize for literature (1950) - Not as anti-metaphysical as Hume and Ayer; constantly modified his work; subsistence of universals - Restores Ethics: Principle of deduction o Humans do not reason anything in their daily lives; in some decisions (e.g. whether food is nourishing or poisonous) we are driven back to the ‘inductive principle’, i.e. some knowledge is ‘luminously evident’  intuitive knowledge; their truth is self- evident; there is nothing in-between us and that knowledge o We make an observation and from that we derive future knowledge; being capable to apply the principle of deduction and gather future knowledge is something we are entitled to o From here, he concludes that there have to be some self-evident ethical principles  we immediately know that something is right/wrong (=ethical knowledge); nothing stands between us and that knowledge o He calls this INTUITIVE KNOWLEDGE o If we know that something is right, we, further, know that we are ought to do it Immanuel Kant - Strongly influenced by Hume - He concluded that it is possible to come up with a rule on how to behave  THE CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE: I should only act in such a way that I can will (without contradicting myself) that the maxim of my action should be a universal law. - Universal law: Anybody in the world should be able to will that - Example 1 – Slavery: One person purchases another and owns that person, thereafter/will be his or her master  Can this action be universalized? No, anybody would be anybody else’s master and slave = impossible  Slavery is not universal - Example 2 – Theft: Can the act of stealing be universalized? No, if anyone decides to steal the retail system would collapse (which one needs in the first place to steal from)  Theft is not universal - p. 120/121: o Humans are rational beings  Human nature has two sides:  Heteronomy: human uses his five senses; all decisions are grounded in their DNA; no free will; drives happiness  Autonomy: decisions are grounded in reason and rationality; humans can rise above their DNA and can choose what they do; drives morality o According to Kant, we are supposed to follow our reason/rationality and act autonomously as this is the truer side of us being human Wednesday, January 20/2010 Important concepts: Moral agent - Someone wh
More Less

Related notes for ETHC 3P82

Log In


Don't have an account?

Join OneClass

Access over 10 million pages of study
documents for 1.3 million courses.

Sign up

Join to view


By registering, I agree to the Terms and Privacy Policies
Already have an account?
Just a few more details

So we can recommend you notes for your school.

Reset Password

Please enter below the email address you registered with and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Add your courses

Get notes from the top students in your class.