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Challenge to Ethics, Nov 23rd.docx

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Brian Lightbody

PHIL 1F91 November 23, 2012 Lecture Twelve: Problems With Virtue Ethics Continued… - Although a virtue ethicist approach may provide us with a guideline for the individual agent, it tells us nothing about universal ethics as such - Virtues are sometimes incompatible: honesty and compassion for example Challenge to Ethics: Relativism - Ethical relativists argue that there are no objectively moral “rights” or “wrongs” - Ethical intuitions are subjectively correct according to the person who holds them - Ethics, as such, is irrelevant because if all ethical intuitions are subjective then arguing about the objective moral values of ethical intuitions is incoherent Four problems with Ethical Relativism 1. Self-referential contradiction 2. The preposterous objection 3. The impossible disagreement objection 4. The impossibility of moral improvement objection Self-Referential Contradictions  Some statements have universal scope in that they describe a characteristic or property about all statements that belong to a particular set: o Example: “All logically true statements are objectively true”  However, self-referential statements also belong to the same set about which they describe a characteristic belonging to a set of statements o Example: “all logically true statements, including this one, are objectively true.”  Sometimes a self-referential statement will lead to a contradiction depending on what property the statement purports to describe of the set of statements in question  Usually this occurs with a universal negative statement, example: “There is no statement which is obviously true.” If this statement is true then it is false since the statement claims that no statement is obviously true Application to Ethical Relativism - Example 1: “All ethical intuitions are subjective.”  If all ethical intuitions are merely subjective then what does this tell us about statement 1?  If the statement is an ethical intuition about ethical intuitions then it is either true or false. Assume it is true. We have two choices if true: either it is objectively true or mere opinion believed to be true (that is, it too is merely subjective). But if objectively true then it contradicts itself. Not all statements are subjective - Example 2. If it is an opinion beli
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