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PP110 jan16.docx

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Hugh R Alcock

PP110 Jan.16/13 Class2 Ethical Theory- Why do we need ethical theories?  We often face difficult, but important, moral choices. Ex- do I keep my promise to lend my friend money or do I give this money to a very deserving charity? Again, is it right under any circumstances to punish a crime by death?  There is genuine disagreement. It does not do concerning such debates to say “Well, let’s just accept that capital punishment is wrong for you and acceptable for me. (good and bad) Why can we not say this?  Two parts- we need to have answers to moral questions because we have to settle or agree on something. We can’t do nothing and there has to be a resolution. Also, we feel that these things are true or false, right or wrong. It is how we feel about it.  In order to provide an explanation of our moral claims we need conceptual framework ex- a theory that allows us to make sense of them. For example- in order to explain why the moon orbits the earth we need a theory of gravitation  By theory we mean a set of ideas that are presupposed to supply an explanation for something. Ex- science.  Ancient Greeks formulated a theory based on spheres; they moved in circles and were nestled within one another. They tried to explain what was what before science could explain it.  There are different theories to explain the same thing, such as ethical theories  An ethical theory- provides us with grounds to support our moral claims. Without such a theory we cannot justify why we think some particular action, for example, is right or wrong.  Often moral statements can be rephrased in terms of how things should or ought to be. For example- in asserting that it is wrong to steal we might say instead, without loss of meaning that one ought not to steal.  We say that one ought to stop at a red light. It is wrong to go through a red light. Why is it wrong? Is it enough to reply that it is against the law not to stop?- suggestions: maybe if it does no harm, who is allowed or not allowed (exceptions) such as for cops, some ethical theories say that it is okay to do something incorrect (not seen as wrong)  Ludwig Wittgenstein (philosopher)-  Guys says- You play badly, answer- I know, but I don’t want to play any better, response- ah, that’s alright then  Guy comes up says- you acting like a beast, response- I know I behave badly, but then I don’t want to behave better, response- that’s not alright BUT instead- well you ought to behave better.  ...Here you have an absolute judgement of value, whereas the first instance was one of relative judgement  Moral judgements are absolute in the sense that they are good or bad in their own right ex- intrinsically good or bad, what pleases us- sensory pleasure such as love, etc. Definition- Of or relating to the essential nature of a thing; inherent. Such as money is a thing BUT holds value.  Other judgements about actions are relative in the sense that they are good/bad for some end (purpose) ex- they are extrinsically good/bad. Such as money, we value it for what we can purchase, a mean to get other things. Def-external, outwards.  We would say it is wrong to kill a baby (infanticide) regardless of whether it is illegal or not. In this sense our moral claims are universal in scope- they apply to everyone at any time  This is not an uncontentious claim. There are societies that do practise infanticide and some argue that quite generally we have no right to judge if such a society sanctions immoral acts. This is to espouse a relativism. Ex- such a
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