Module 1 Notes
Two kinds of statements:
1. Descriptive – “Temperature is mean kinetic energy”
Make claims about the way the world is, was, or will be.
2. Normative – “I should get dressed before noon”
Make claims about the way the world ought to be or have been.
Ethical justification to make claims about the way the world ought to be and provide reasons for these claims
Philosophical Ethics is the reasoned attempt to resolve important practical dilemmas. Its conclusions are action
guiding. That is, it tells us which actions are permissible.
Important practical dilemmas put us in a position of conflict. What is important reflects how
deep of significance it is to our lives, which derives from our actions and the effects and on lives
in interests of ourselves and others.
Moral agent anything/anyone that can act for moral reasons (I will do __ because it is the right thing to do)
Moral patients entities towards whom or which we may have duties (deciding our action based on interests of
such entities that may affect what we are justified in doing)
The interests in moral patients count in our moral deliberations
Environmental Ethics is the investigation of the scope of our duties to certain non-human entities: non-human
animals, plants, species, ecosystems and the biosphere
Ethical egoism is the view that for each of us it is best to perform those actions that fulfill our own desires and
interests regardless of the effect such actions have on others
Plato’s dialogue “The Republic” Glaucon believes we do not follow rules of justice or morality
because these rules are right or worthy of being followed, but we follow them because we would
probably suffer at the hands of the unjust if such rules were not in force; although it would be
best if we could be immoral or unjust and get away with it.
Glaucons theory of justice is described as a “mean”
This means it is a midway between practicing injustice and getting away with it, and
suffering injustice with no revenge
People value justice not as a good because they are too WEAK to do injustice with
The Ring of Gyges
Gyges is a Sheppard finds a gold ring that makes him invisible and has powers. He uses the ring and seduces the
queen, kills the king and takes the throne.
Would any man in possession of such ring take advantage of such properties?
Glaucon believes no man would choose to act justly if we could get away without punishment Glaucon’s bet is that all of us would use this power to perform unjust or immoral actions. If he is
right, then all of us really are ethical egoists because what we would all prefer is the unbridled
freedom Gyges has.
Arguments of Ethical Egoism
Ethical egoism is a challenge because ethical theories lay down duties that very often run counter to the claims of
The publicity argument
If a moral theory is deemed to be correct, there would be publicized principles of what’s
right and wrong
Ethical egoists cannot make their intentions public, or else others would protect
themselves from the exploitation of the egoist, therefore ethical egoism is not a moral
The friendship argument
Ethical egoists cannot receive the things friends provide us with (companionship,
emotional support, material support)
Goods of friendship demand one must pay interest into the other – this goes against
self-interest – the ethical egoist must abandon their ego in order to fulfill their desire for
The ethical egoist could say in response that everyone deserves to reap the benefits of
friends, regardless of the other decisions or actions they make.
Could also say that they could hide their self-interest ego from their fellow friend
The counterintuitive results argument
For an action to be permissible, it must follow with what the ethical egoist believes to
be in his/her interest. However, the crux of this argument is that the extreme results of
an action (someone wants to wipe out the Amazonian rainforest and has the power to
do so) is not necessarily plausible.
Meta-ethics the study of abstract questions concerning the nature of moral justification
Permissible action – right
Impermissible action – wrong
Supererogatory action – go above and beyond call of duty
Can be morally praised, but cannot be blamed for failure to do so
Ethical relativism is the view that moral codes and the practices associated with them arise from particular
cultures and that there is no set of transcultural moral standards against which any particular code or practice can
Ethical relativism is a challenge because moral theories are universal; they purport to apply to all people, whereas
the relativist denies that any theory can do this.
Two key points
1. Multiculturalism has made many people realize that there is something suspect about one group
forcing its moral code on another. The e