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Lecture

January 10th, 2013.docx

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Department
Philosophy
Course
PHIL 2810
Professor
Kristin Borgerson
Semester
Winter

Description
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 Utilitarianism  The core of this insight is that we want the world to be the best possible place, and shouldn't all our actions be directed so that the outcomes make the world a better place  Consequences/outcomes are all that matter o So it doesn't matter what's going on internally in our minds, just the consequences Ethical theory is supposed to provide us with some kind of guidance as to how to govern ourselves  Help yourself to determine what is right and/or wrong in any given situation The original trolley problem  You're the person at the switch  If you don't move the switch, the 5 people die  But if you do, only the person on the top track will Utilitarianism  Our theory of the good = happiness  Principle of utility o A person is to act so as to maximize utility, which is the net balance of happiness  The greatest happiness for the greatest number of people o The main concept of utilitarianism  Concerns? o Very demanding theory, takes a lot of effort to assess happiness for everybody on every single action we take for everything we do o There is lots of room for abuse in utilitarianism, because it is a vague statement, it is quite easy to be distorted  For example, murder of a small minority group because it would make a larger number of people happy to see them dead o Special relationships: Utilitarianism would say that if two strangers were drowning, and your loved one somewhere else drowning, it says that you should save the two. But the special relationship between you and your loved one says you should save them because the severe unhappiness you would feel with their death would outweigh the happiness of saving the two others o Rights/justice  Guy taking toys from Calvin  Peeping tom taking pictures of you. Exploiting your privacy rights, but makes the tom happy. You never find out. So by utilitarianism standards, this is ok Deontology  Starts with the idea that motives or intentions are all that matter  Immanuel Kant o Starting point for him is not that we want to make the world a happier better place, but that lets look at the capacity to reason  If we look at this, we see that reason binds us to certain moral laws o If you have rea
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