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Lecutre 3 - Chapter 3

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University of Guelph
PHIL 2600
Aaron Massecar

September 23, 2013 Philosophy: Lecture 3 – Chapter 3 WhatAre Normative Ethical Theories?  Ethical theories are the rules and principles that determine right and wrong for any given situation  Normative ethical theories are those that propose to prescribe the morally correct way of acting  Descriptive ethical theories which seek to describe how ethics decisions are actually made in business The Role of Ethical Theory  Two extreme positions ◦ Ethical Absolutism claims there are eternal, universally applicable moral principles ▪ Rights and wrong are objective qualities, can be rationally determined ▪ Typically traditional ethical theories ◦ Ethical Relativism claims morality is context-dependent and subjective ▪ NO universal right and wrongs that can be rationally determined; depends on person making the decision and culture in which they are located ▪ Typically contemporary ethical theories Traditional Ethical Theories  Generally offer a certain rule or principle which one can apply to any given situation  These theories generally can be differentiated into two groups Motivation Principles → ( Non- Consequentialist Ethics) →Action → (Consequentialist Ethics) → Outcomes Egoism  Theory of Egoism: An action is morally right if the decision – maker freely decides an action to pursue either their (short-term) desires or their (long-term) interests Ul ◦ Adam Smith → Pursuit of individual interest morally acceptable as invisible hand of market creates benefit for all ◦ Relies on free competition and good information ◦ “Enlightened egoism” ◦ Markets do not function perfectly ▪ Anti-globalization movement ▪ Sustainability debate Utilitarianism  An action is morally right if it results in the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people affected by the action ◦ Also called the “greatest happiness principle” ◦ Based on cost-benefit analysis September 23, 2013 Problems with Utilitarianism  Subjectivity ◦ When using this theory you have to think rather creatively, and assessing such consequences as pleasure or pain might depend heavily on the subjective perspective of the person who carries out the analysis ◦ This has led to refinement of theory ▪ Act utilitarianism: Looks to single actions and bases the moral judgment on the amount of pleasure and the amount of pain this single action causes ▪ Rule utilitarianism: Looks at classes of action and ask whether the underlying principles of an action produce more pleasure than pain for society in the long run  Issues around quantification and distribution of utility Ethics of Duties Categorical Imperative (Kant)  Maxim 1: Consistency ◦ Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law  Maxim 2: Human Dignity ◦ Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only  Maxim 3: Universality ◦ Act only so that the will through its maxims could regard itself at the same time as universally law-giving (would others agree? Would you be happy to see your decision reported in the press?) Problems with Ethics of Duties  Undervaluing outcomes  Complexity  Misplaced optimism? Ethics of Rights and Justice  Natural Rights ◦ Certain basic, important, unalienable entitlements that should be respected and protected in every single action ◦ Based on consensus about a nature of human dignity ◦ Strongly based in western view of morality  Justice ◦ The simultaneously fair treatment of individuals in a given situation with the result that everybody gets what they deserve ◦ Fair procedures (procedural justice) ◦ Fair outcomes (distributive justice) John Rawl's “Theory of Justice”  Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of basic liberties September 23, 2013 compatible with a similar system of liberty for all  Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both: ◦ To the greatest benefit of the least advantage ◦ Attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity Limits of Traditional Theories  Too abstract  Too reductionist  Too objective and elitist  Too impersonal  Too rational and codified  Too imperialist Alternative Perspectives on Ethical Theory Approaches Based on Character and Integrity  Virtue Ethics: ◦ Contends that morally correct actions are those undertaken by actors with virtuous characters. Therefore, the formation of a virtuous character is the first step towards morally correct behavior  Acquired traits: ◦ Int
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