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Susan Wolf - Ethics

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University of British Columbia
PHIL 102

PHIL 102 – Susan Wolf North Carolina Moral philosophy – Moral model of the good life • What is a good life to live? • The moral model: ethics provides a comprehensive guide to living o The good life is the morally best life o Ethics trumps everything in this view • The moral model is encouraged by the “grand traditions” of ethics The indirect act consequentialism: a right action is the one that maximizes overall good o It’s teleological, maximalist, and impartial. Think about the consequences o We act out of internalized social norms, learned character traits, emotions, and personal commitment and projects.  These must be tested against the consequentialist principle.  Not hard for us to not do morally horrible things. (Not Hobbes) • Consequentialism has been responsible for remarkable change • The moral model is encouraged by the “grand traditions” of ethics Kantianism: moral duties are categorical imperatives – Do X! • Doing X is not conditional upon having Y as an aim • Moral duties don’t engineer outcomes • Morality expresses human dignity = autonomy = self-governance o Similar to Stoics’ theory: Ancient Greek – it’s happy to do the right thing o “Morality is not the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness” Kant o Act only so as to treat oneself and others as ends and not merely as means! o Don't’ treat someone as a “means to an end”!  Exercise autonomy of being. PHIL 102 – Susan Wolf Singer: If we can prevents something bad without sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, and then we’re morally acquired to do it. • Assistance to those in need is NOT supererogatory • Supererogatory actions are morally good but not morally required o The word “supererogatory” was invented for the Latin translation of the parable of a Good Samaritan. Thomson: carrying a fetus to term is not morally required but it is morally good! • Minimalist Decent Samaritan would let the violinist for a couple of hours o Should we be this or the Good Samaritan? • Good Samaritan would help – will do more than that Moral Hero does what is required at great personal sacrifice! Highly remarkable and sacrifices • Schindler – WW2 Moral Sinner • Paul Gauguin – French Post Modernist Painter (Huge Influence in art) o Wealthy banker and art collector o Wants to be a painter and not banker o Left his wife and 5 children. • Are there cases where you discount the morally right thing to do and go do art or something SUSAN WOLF Moral Saints: “A person whose every action is as morally good as possible… who is as morally worthy as can be” – Wolf • Either she does her duty or her actions are supererogatory • Moral considerations trump all others Main argument: PHIL 102 – Susan Wolf 1. The best life is the morally best life only if moral saints live the best life a. The moral model implies that the moral saints live the best life 2. The lives of moral saints aren’t the best lives a. E.g. Mother Teresa is not living the best possible lives 3. So the best life is not the morally best life Morality is not a comprehensive guide to the best life. It’s only part of the picture – small part. Is (2) true? Why is (1) true? Ethics may be a comprehensive guide to the best life, but it still doesn’t mean that moral saints live the best life. Why does the moral model imply this? Not happiest but the best. If (1) and (2) is true, then (3) will follow. Deductive argument. “Moral perfection… does not constitute a model of personal well-being toward which it would be particularly rational or good or desirable for a human being to strive” Wolf is saying – THIS IS NOT EVEN THE IDEAL. It’s not the ideal to live up to. (Interesting view) You might consider it as an ideal but you can’t achieve this ideal. The best life is the morally perfect life, but I can’t have the best life. E.g. I’m not moral Teresa. The best life = the moral life (often point of view) Logically Kosher Argument: Deductive If P then Q Not Q Not P Some questions: • Why is (2) true? And what is a moral saint? • Why is (1) true? Test the statement and see if it holds up. Why are the premises true? o Why does doing our moral best make us moral saints? Why not moral high achievers? o E.g. Athletic high achievers PHIL 102 – Susan Wolf • Subject them to scrutiny Wolf Claims: Moral Saints don’t live the best moral best lives. • Moral saint: “a person whose every action is as morally good as possible… who is as morally worthy as can be.” o Their “life [is] dominated by a commitment to improving the welfare o The Loving Saint: His happiness lies in the happines
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