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Phil 110B Notes

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University of Waterloo
Nicholas M Ray

Phil 110 B Ethics and Values Monday, Wednesday, September 9 & 11 • Dilemma, choice, values, rights, morals, wrong, benefit, compliance What is philosophical ethics? • A study of the right and the food • Ethical theory • Norms for moral conduct – how do we live a good life? • A way of assessing what is right and good • A study of what the Right and the Good are, and how they relate o Ideal form that we direct all our action (Plato) o Good=pleasure/desire?? Bad – beer, cigarettes (desirable) o Right = Good ( o Good/Right (Kant) “you only know you’re doing the right thing if it’s not good/if it’s hard to do” – moral/self pleasing? Varieties of Ethics • Descriptive • Normative *focus* • Applied/practical (animal ethics, abortion, etc) • Meta-ethics “Good” natural property? Physical, happiness Yellow=yellow vs. yellow car vs. “good” vs. bachelor=unmarried + man • The fat man in the cave • The trolley problem o Runaway trolley o You are positioned near a rail switch o If you do nothing, the trolley will barrel down the track toward 5 people working on the track, surely killing them all o If you flip the switch, you send the trolley toward ONE person, killing him instantly o What is the moral thing to do?  INTENTION: to save 5, whereby knowingly killing one: doctrine double effect • Passive vs. active • Passion vs. action • Patient vs. actor • Letting die vs. Killing • Proximity as morally relevant • Supererogatory acts o Never morally obliged to ie. Save someone else o Right (obliged to do) vs. Good (happiness, pleasure) • Perception  it is better to be unjust but perceived as just than to be just but perceived as unjust More generally, what is Philosophy? • Question: what is ethics? • There are many ways to think about it: 1. Method (conceptual analysis; argumentation) 2. Subject matter 3. Intellectual attitude * 4. Canon of texts Conceptual Analysis: • Understanding a concept in relation to other concepts (analyzing concepts) • Definitions • What is Justice  “form,” “concept,” “universal” • Breaking things down into their (conceptual) parts • Understanding complexes in light of more simple concepts • E.g. “a bachelor (the concept) is an unmarried human male adult” o “Justice is the advantage of the stronger” o “the good is what is pleasurable” Friday, September 13 Argument and Argumentation • Maybe even more central to philosophy than conceptual analysis • Like conceptual analysis, we see it operating in Plato’s dialogues • Arguments are structured, containing premises that offer rational credibility to a definite proposition, aka a conclusion o premises 1-5 (reasons of belief) to conclusion • Argumentation theory began with the works of Plato (427-347 BCE) and Aristotle (384- 322) in ancient Athens Argumentation theory: • Concerned with inference patterns • How do we move from premises to conclusions? What are the relationships that can exist between premises and conclusions? • How are arguments formed, regardless of their content? • How are arguments used and to what ends? Truth? Mere persuasion? Politics? Philosophy? Science? Deductive arguments? • Arguments that purport to be “truth-preserving” • i.e. arguments that are attempts at VALID arguments • an argument is DEDUCTIVELY VALID if and only if its premises guarantee the truth of its conclusion, i.e. if an only if it is impossible for the premises to be true while the conclusion if false • example: o P1: all humans are mortal o P2: Socrates is a human o Therefore(C), Socrates is mortal  Conclusion is certain to be true is P1 and P2 are true (i.e. if all agree on premises, we all agree on the conclusion) o P1: all dolphins are oblong o P2: Chucky is a dolphin o C: therefore, Chucky is oblong o P1: my dog isn’t a dog (F) o P2: my dog is cute o C: The CN tower is tall  ? • We call arguments that are structured like this “syllogisms.” This is a “deductive syllogism” • Deductive validity does not mean good argument Inductive arguments: • We are much more likely to see examples of INDUCTIVE inference • “Likely,” assumptions • Technically we mean “ampliative inference” • in inductive arguments, the truth of the premises increases or makes more likely/probable that the conclusion will be true • cogent Persuasive arguments – Rhetoric vs. Dialect • arguments are generally attempts to persuade you (merely persuade, or arguments that persuade because they’re reasonable and because they have true premises) • flattery Monday, September 16 Wednesday, September 18, 2013 The Ring of Gyges • The moral of the story isn’t only that we would be unjust if given the chance • It is that it is actually RATIONAL to be unjust, so long as you can do so without getting caught • The just man perceived as unjust vs. the unjust man perceived as just  better to be ... Justice as a Social Contract • Glaucon and Adementus are, as devils advocates, plumping for the SOCIAL CONTRACT THEORY OF JUSTICE • *HOBBES defends such as view later • We are just only because of the rewards it gives us within society (as perhaps the afterlife) Dialogue: • Socrates is a broken man Just City: • City = organization of resources o Purpose to people based on contribution o Protection/security o Entertainment/leisure o Communication o Structure/order o Comfort o Law and order (civility) o Healthcare o Religion o Education o Arts • Socartes: the healthy city (basic needs are met) o Thinks are also born with all the knowledge you are going to have (innate) doesn’t believe in education • Vs. The City of wealth/excess • The city that allows common riches and opportunities that would not be available to persons on their own • We work together and build a city so we can get the things we need with more ease and so we can get the things we want as well • Easier to get the things when each person is doing what accords with their nature (PRINCIPLES OF SPECIALIZATION) • Expertise: each person should do what they are best at doing • If the cobbler needs to bake his own bread (which he aint good at), make and mend his own clothes, then he will spend less time making and mending shoes • The good city is the city in which every person is doing his or her part o Such a city would still need to be defended (soldier) o Such a city would still need to be ruled o We should seek out natural guardians and soldiers should we not? o Soldiers should only do what they do well – they shouldn’t also be cobblers, bakers or traders – they should be soldiers! o It is their nature to be head strong or spirited not in their nature to be rational o We need rational rulers (philosopher kings) • The good city is the JUST city, the one that is properly divided into its parts, each working together • The JUST city is the harmonious city • Political justice  Just city + Just person/just soul • Just person/soul: • APPETITES (workers) and spirit (guardians) and reason (rulers) • Just person = balanced person o The just person is the person whose soul are behaving in harmony o The just person is the person who is not over run by their appetites or their spirit – they are governed by reason (life of calmness, reflection, thought...philosophical = happy soul) Friday, September 20 Plato – value pluralist = more than one thing has intrinsic value The forms  beauty (good in itself and has instrumental value), health, wellness, justice, pleasure, knowledge (wisdom) Epicurus  monism about value; only has one thing that has intrinsic value = pleasure (Hedonist) i.e. knowledge, health, beauty, etc. are only good if they produce pleasure *video*Plato’s cave – animated version *chart* Epicurus (341-270 BCE) • Was a Greek atomist • The atomists believed that the universe contained only atoms and the void • The void is the space b/t atoms, with no defining characteristics • The word atom comes from the Greek atomos (literally meaning uncuttable) • All life is an aggregation of atoms in the void according to collisions b/t atoms Atomism before Epicurus • This form of natural science (atomism) was developed in the 5 century BCE by Leucippus and his student Democritus Epicurus on the Soul • Since the soul is not the void, it must be an aggregate of atoms • But this means that the soul is part of the body • When the body is no more, the soul is no more • Thus, we shouldn’t think that we can survive the destruction of our bodies Monday, September 23 The Good Life • Socrates – a good life is a life of philosophy in preparation for death o Death is the reward for such a life, where the soul continues eternally in an unfettered state of pure knowledge o Epicurus disagrees with this: there is no life after death o The good life is thus whatever physical changes can bring on pleasure or the avoidance of pain o These are the most fundamental (innate and inherent) values on which we make all of our choices • Hedonism o Is the view that pleasure and pain are the fundamental values on which all human action are based o Hedonism itself is not a unified school o Epicurus adopts a hedonistic axiology • Cyrenaicism o A school of hedonism started by a Socratic philosopher named Aristippus of Cyrene o His idea was that basic pleasures of the flesh, such as eating, drinking and having sex were of fundamental value • Epicureanism o Based on “higher” pleasures o The pleasure most likely to deliver a sustained feeling of contentment are friends, rational thought and a simple material existence o These together allow us to reach a state of ataraxia, or a state free from worry (calmness, contemplation) o Epicurus takes the basic pleasures of Cyrenaicism to be more trouble than they’re worth, leading in the end to worry and pain o So pleasure is the only thing of instrinsic value o The question “why be moral” (hard for Plato to answer, easy for Epicurus) o We should be moral because it feels good o We should do what will bring the most pleasure in the long run o For this reason, lots of “fun-right-now” activities will not make the cut o Moral psychology  motivation gap – why should I be moral? (because it feels good, i.e. having a hot vs. cold shower) • Epicurus on Death Journal Report: (due Oct. 2)  1 or 2 paragraphs. -2 points for characterization of the problem -2 for your attempt to negotiate the problem -“Here’s the’s what I think about it, this is what Plato might mean by this...” -Being able to follow along with readings/issues/have a good understanding... -1 for clear/concise writing Wednesday, September 25 VIRTUE ETHICS  moral/ethical “theory” Hypothetical imperative – “if you don’t do this, you can’t do this” Categorical imperative – you must... a morality not based on wants/desires • The normative ethical theory that stresses the importance of moral character – how does the person who is moral develop a moral character? • Not straightforwardly foundational • Not “”” systematic • Rather than focusing on principles for choosing the right action, Virtual Ethics studies the development of those traits which make us moral • Usually focused on moral education o i.e. a child who is let do whatever they want, will grow up to be an awful person • The right action is done in accordance with the virtues • The virtues themselves: o Motive (for action) o Moral character o Moral education o Moral wisdom, judgement, discernment o Family, friendship relationships o Deep concept of happiness o The role of emotions in morality o Fundamental questions about what sort of person you should be Virtues or Excellences: • The virtues go back to the ancients but t heir use in Virtual Ethics goes back to Plato and Aristotle • The virtues are deep character traits, or dispositions for action in many situations o I.e. should I do A or B  I want to do A but B is right  I will do A and rationalize why I am doing it vs. choosing B because it is moral • They are, for Aristotle, the golden mean of dispositions • They are “multi track” dispositions  i.e. character traits are reasons for action in a large number of cases *i.e. influencing child to share by enforcing and thanking them and rewarding them when they share, rather than ignoring and watching TV or saying no, don’t share or only share this with me. • There are some things that aren’t virtues because there is no mean for them (killing, prostitution) “I didn’t kill him too hard” • These things are defined by a kind f pure extreme – there is no good measure • Thus, if the categorical imperative is imperfectly summed up by the golden rule – Virtue Ethics is imperfectly summed up by the saying, “Everything in good measure or moderation.” • Death penalty?  What’s your aim? For justice or vengeance? Can you kill for justice? Friday, September 27 An example of: Honesty • For a virtue ethicist, being honest cannot be, as it was for Kant, about not telling lies. • Aristotle thought that being honest was a kind of mean between tactlessness and being overly discreet, between saying all of the truth all of the time (even without reason) and never telling speaking the truth • Telling the truth b/c the consequences would be good or because it follows a rule misses the mark • One is honest b/c that is what an honest person would do • The honest person will not only tell the truth, will also seek out honest friends, raise honest children (an honest life) • She will develop an emotional reaction to dishonesty, also overly discreet and tactless people • She is pleased when honest people succeed, displeased when dishonest people succeed How do we know who has virtue? • Because we are talking about [deep] character traits [overtime], we cannot base our assessment on one action (or a few actions)  moral people will do immoral things, vise versa • To posses the virtue fully is to possess a full or perfect disposition (very rare) • More often, we see the virtue in development for an agent – a matter of degree (better in 20s then a teen, better in 30s than 20s  develop morally) • We assess the agent based on their behaviour over time Reason, emotion and continence • The virtuous person has emotions in line with their virtuous dispositions • A fully virtuous person does what they should which at the same time is also what they desire o Ought to but don’t want to vs. ought to to want to (i.e. helping old lady cross street because it is right AND you want to  moral agent – desires and obligations coincide) • But, an imperfectly virtuous person must exercise “continence” or strength of will • Most virtuous agents have to control their desire to act otherwise, as it is easier to be vicious rather than virtuous (i.e. stealing vs. download music – easier to be vicious when downloading, or realize it is wrong) • COMPARE TO KANT Natural vs. full virtue: (Aristotle) • If one is motivated by inclination to do right, then this is what A calls “natural virtue” • However, this is not full virtue b/c the person who is doing right is not doing so b/c of a rational choice, but simply b/c she is inclined to be a good person 3. Practical Wisdom aka phronesis • What is it that a morally mature adult has that a nice child or adolescent lacks? • The both have good intentions but the child is more prone to “mess things up” • The child lacks knowledge and experience of which the adult has more of • Children often harm those they intend to help b/c their intentions aren’t sufficiently sharpened by knowledge • Adults should know better so their good intentions when ignorantly exercised are met with moral disdain o i.e. when someone buys you a “crappy” gift Practical wisdom and context sensitivity • it is part of practical wisdom to know how to secure real benefits effectively • moral action, or the good use of one’s intentions, requires situational appreciation • being able to read the mass of into in a situation is part of being moral – thus action cannot really be captured by a rule The person of practical wisdom • The person of practical wisdom for A and others serves many a role: o our moral educator o she is our moral template o shows us how to exercise experience and knowledge so as to sharpen our intentions o b/c moral wisdom is so important for Aristotle, and b/c the person of practical wisdom must be experienced and knowledgeable, she will likely have other purposes within our society as well, such as political acumen, intelligence, grace, humility, etc. Persons of practical wisdom: • Rumi? • Bill Gates? • Parents (for children, at least) • Gandhi • Mark and Craig Keilburger • Mother Theresa, Jesus • Da Vinci • Einstein • Gandalf Monday, September 30 4. Eudaimonia • Deep happiness • Well-being/health • Human/rational flourishing • Not a subjective quantity • Just as plants or animals can flourish in such a way that we can study how and why they flourish, so to for humans • Living a life of virtue is necessary for eudaimonia The Virtues and Flourishing • Eudamonists think that the virtues are what enable a human to flourish – there is a link between eudaimonia and what makes the virtues virtuous • Pluralists think that the good life is the morally meritorious life, the life that is responsive to the demands of the world – no tight or necessary link between flourishing and the virtues • Perfectionists or naturalists think that the good life i
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