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Lecture 2

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Hugh R Alcock

 Why do we need ethical theories?  We often face difficulty, but important, moral choices  i.e. is it right under any circumstances to punish a crime by death  i.e. lend money to friend or donate to charity  There is genuine disagreement. It doesn't do concerning such debates to say "Let's just accept that capital punishment is wrong for you and acceptable for me."  Why can't we say this?  Need a conceptual framework (i.e. a theory) to explain our moral claims --> conceptual framework allows us to make sense of moral claims  Ex. Need theory of gravitation to explain moon's orbit  Theory --> set of ideas that provide an explanation  An ethical theory provides support for moral claims  Cannot justify why we feel a particular action is right or wrong w/o ethical theory  Moral statements can be rephrased in terms of how things should or ought to be  Normative --> depend on some normal standard  i.e. it's wrong to steal --> one shouldn't steal  Ethical theories have to do w/ how our world should be rather than how it is  It's wrong to go through a red light; why?  Relative good  When something is good for something or some purpose  Ludwig Wittgenstein  We have an obligation to behave morally  Absolute judgement of value  Moral judgements are absolute in the sense that they're good or bad (i.e. intrinsically good or bad)  The Mona Lisa is beautiful [in its own right]  Ice cream is pleasant  Other judgements about actions are relative in sense that they're good or bad for some end (purpose)  i.e. they are extrinsically good or bad  Wrong to kill a baby (regardless of whether it's illegal or not) --> our moral claims are univeral (absolute) in scope  Applies to EVERYONE at any time  Some societies practise infanticide and some agree we have no right to judge if such a society sanctions immoral acts  This is to espouse relativism  3 ethical theories (3 basic approaches to moral judgments)  Consequentialist, deontological, virtue-based  Consequentialist (Teleological):  Easy to judge an act as good/bad based on whether or not that actions consequences are good/bad
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