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PHIL 1F91 Lecture Notes - Meta-Ethics, Relativism, Deontological Ethics

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Brian Lightbody

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PHIL 1F91 November 9, 2012
Lecture Ten: Ethics
Definitions and Terms
- Ethics: Originates from the Ancient Greek word “Ethos” which means: “character”
- Later the Romans re-interpreted “ethos” to mean the correct or proper principles of the good life
Non- Normative Ethical Approaches
1. Descriptive Ethics
Descriptive ethics chronicles the actual ethical norms and morals of a given society or
culture think anthropology
2. Metaethics
Involves a conceptual analysis of ethical terms and concepts. Example: what do we mean
by the „good‟?
Normative Approaches
3. General Normative Ethics
“Attempts to formulate and defend basic principles and virtues governing moral life”
Normative means: to establish ethical principles which would apply “across the board in all
situations” and to all persons
These rules are PRESCRIPTIVE
4. Practical Normative Ethics
Practical Normative ethics tries to facilitate findings in normative ethics to “real life”
Resource allocation, for example, is a perennial problem when dealing with health care.
(No one is in favor of raising taxes! That‟s political suicide)
Ethical Objectivism vs. Ethical Relativism
1. Ethical Objectivism holds that there are objective moral values in the sense that at least some
ethical norms are true for all peoples at all times
2. Ethical Relativism denies that there are any objective moral values
- We will look at various ethical objective theories first before turning to the ethical relativist position
Philosophical Ethical Theories
1. Consequentialist Theories
Consequentialists are concerned about the consequence of an action. That is, whether the
end result will produce more good than harm
Welfare and Non-Welfare Consequentialism
o Welfare consequentialism holds that the end result of any act must increase the net
benefit for all
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