PHIL 2810 Lecture Notes - Descriptive Ethics, Normative Ethics, Trolley Problem

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Published on 18 Apr 2013
School
Dalhousie University
Department
Philosophy
Course
PHIL 2810
January 10th, 2013
January-10-13
10:03 AM
Reminder:
Descriptive ethics
o What views a person holds
Normative ethics
o What views a person should have
o This class examines these ethics to decide which ethical beliefs are justifiable in real life
settings
Ethical relativism
Cultural relativism
o Different cultures have different moral codes (descriptive claim)
o This is not a very argued claim because most people recognize that cultures around the
world do have different moral codes
Therefore there is no objective truth in morality. Right and wrong are only matters of opinion,
and opinions vary from culture to culture (normative claim)
o There's an issue with the structure of this argument
If we take ethical relativism seriously
There is no measure of right and wrong other than the standards of one's society/culture
o If we take this seriously we can't hold the stance that there are in fact universal human
rights among all people in the world
o And if we think that our legal system is built up on moral reasoning, we're going to have a
really difficult time coming up with laws that govern everybody in the world effectively
o This approach will end up with the conclusion that might makes right, and that your
society's views are the only ones that are correct, and why would other societies change
their views to match yours? So the only way to solve the conflict is to kill them
o It fails to appreciate common ground
Most people around the world would believe that torturing babies is wrong
o Moral progress
How would we make progress to a better situation? If what our society says is right,
how are we going to begin considering revising our moral system to make things
better
Social and cultural values shape our beliefs and actions whether or not they are justified
o Need to remember and keep this in mind because this will help us remind ourselves that we
may possibly be wrong in our beliefs and actions
Implications
Some limits to cultural limitations
o Limits to how far people can go by playing the 'I believe it so it is' card
However you still need to maintain the respect for these differences to maintain diversity
between societies
Appeal to reasons
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Document Summary

Descriptive ethics: what views a person holds. Normative ethics: what views a person should have, this class examines these ethics to decide which ethical beliefs are justifiable in real life settings. Cultural relativism: different cultures have different moral codes (descriptive claim, this is not a very argued claim because most people recognize that cultures around the world do have different moral codes. Therefore there is no objective truth in morality. Right and wrong are only matters of opinion, and opinions vary from culture to culture (normative claim: there"s an issue with the structure of this argument. There is no measure of right and wrong other than the standards of one"s society/culture. So the only way to solve the conflict is to kill them. Most people around the world would believe that torturing babies is wrong: moral progress. If what our society says is right, how are we going to begin considering revising our moral system to make things better.

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