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Intro to Applied Ethics

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PHIL 2075
Duff Waring

Applied Ethics Morality – norms about right or wrong in human conduct that are widely shared among members of the given society Ethics – generic term for various ways of understanding or evaluating the moral life Ethics can be normative i.e it can dictate what ought to be in norms or behaviour It can also be non-normative in that it dictates factually what the case is Descriptive ethics – the factual description of non-normative beliefs (take about what is the case and describe the situation) Meta Ethics – the analysis of the language and concepts and methods of reasoning in ethics (describing something like “the good” or “the right”) (not about getting you to think about how you ought to live or what you ought to do in a given situation or how you ought to respond to a divisive moral issue) Normative ethics General Normative – investigates the question of which general moral norms of evaluation of conduct should we accept and why (utilitarianism/consequentialism, deontology and virtue ethics) Practical or applied ethics – attempts to use theory or argument to tackle moral problems in society (analyzes reasons to support why someone would take a particular position on a moral dilemma)` - Includes bio ethics, environmental ethics, business ethics Greek and roman philosophers discussed how we ought to live and how we ought to prepare for death, so the resurgence of practical ethics is a rebirth of questions that have been asked for centuries For the first half of the 20 century ethics was mainly meta-ethics and we’ve advanced ourselves to normative ethics In the 60s university student started demanding courses on the ethical issues that challenged thethevery day, which is why the resurgence of practical ethics occurred in the latter half of the 20 century Principlism* - a combination of the different aspects of normative ethics that seems to be a modern way of thinking about philosophy and its application Utilitarianism/Consequentialism Argues that actions are right based on the consequences of the action rather than the consideration of right or the good When we judge a moral agent we judge by the extent to which she brings about the best set of consequences/outcomes If you are a utilitarian you are a consequentialist but not the other way around Requirements of being a utilitarian - Endorse the principle of utility, the principle of utility means you maximize ‘the good’ (however you define the good you try to maximize it if you are a utilitarian) - Endorse a theory of value, theory about what is good/a standard of goodness, argue that the goodness or badness of consequences is measured in utilities, could be pleasure, happiness, satisfaction of desires or aims, argue that pleasure and happiness are agent neutral goods - Have to be a consequentialist - Impartiality, when you think morally, your course of action isn’t going to just affect you, its about how we treat others and the kind of treatment we can expect from them. We have to make an impartial decision in what we think about other people Everyone counts for one and no one counts for more than one All persons affected by actions should receive impartial consideration, if your action is only going to affect yourself then you act in a way in which you maximize the utility for yourself Utilitarian in government would be that you maximize the utility for the greatest number There is an argument in the fact that you want to maximize utility and that you also want everyone to count equally Act utilitarianism/ Rule Utilitarianism Act – wants to commit or perform the act that will maximize utility, they do this calculation for the amount of utility that might be realized on an act by act basis The amount of good produced determines what it is right to do (the good determines the right) ISSUES* making a promise as a utilitarian does not create any kind of bond, it’s always about how much utility you will realize based on your act (paying for services vs. giving to charity) You would never know whether or not your action will maximize utility unless you know all the consequences of you actions, so there is never any way to tell There really is no way to calculate units of utility on an objective basis (quantification problem) You could realize more utility if the majority used the minority as slaves Focus is on the maximum amount of utility but is insensitive to the individual amount of utility for each person If an act is going to maximize the good you put special relationship aside and you end up asking how do you have time for anything else? It is too demanding and you have to make too many sacrifices Rule – instead of evaluating on a case by case basis, they look at which actions will promote the greatest utility over all over the long run Rule utilitarians concede that there might be some cases where if they disregard the rule they would normally follow, they would realize a boat load of utility that they can’t walk away from Because of the ignorance of the rule, the difference breaks down between act and rule utilitarianism and rule just becomes act so is there really a point to rule utilitarianism? Believe it’s permissible to use people as means to create a greater utility, as means to an end Does a consequentialist have other options? What if instead of maximizing pleasure we reduce suffering? If we commit to minimizing suffering we might not have much time to do much else One consequentialist theory instead of maximizing they do a satisficing approach – you act so as to produce the consequences that result in an increase of good that is good enough not necessarily ‘the best result’ just enough to satisfy the good Deontology Deontology is an approach to ethics based on the notion of duty or what is right, often involves a set of rights that must be respected and it limits the things that we can do to persons ‘constraints’ - Claim that we are constrained from using autonomous persons only as means to our ends Mcnaughton and rolling point out that deontology has advantages in that it allows for the things in many versions of consequentialism do not. Not morally constrained to maximizing the good. Deontology allows for prima facie duties to special relationships/loved ones/people to which you make promises Impartialism in utilitarianism is agent neutral but in deontology you can have agent relative actions Pg 41-42 criticism of constraints Deontologists have an absolute constraint against killing innocent people but what if there was a choice of killing one to save 5? Deontology endorses absolute rules that admit no exceptions - There is more of a focus on individual other than overall good in deontology Kant and Ross - Morality requires us to do the right thing even if the immediate consequences are not favourable to us regardless of our desires or wishes at the time You do your duty because its your duty according the common sense but Kant argues the you do it because reason compels you Kant claims that moral oughts are categorical, binding on rational agents because rational agents have reason and are rational Act only according to the maxim by which you can at the same time will that it could become a universal law. If you act then you think about what rule you would be following and that would be your maxim and if you think that all rational people/reasonable morals agent would follow that law then it is universal Pg 35 – promising could not exist in a world where making deceitful promises is a universally accepted norm. so making deceitful promises in order to gain what you want would not be accepted by any rational agent and is an affront to reason. Some people argue that deontology has an implicit appeal to consequentialism We can’t know for sure what the consequences of our actions will be, we should just avoid the evil and not lie and deal with the consequences. Kant thinks that we would be morally responsible for bad consequences if we lied, we would not be responsible for bad consequences if we told the truth It is seldom the case that a moral dilemma will surround just one moral issue or principle. We have to balance them to see which one is the strongest, there is no decisional algorithm, you have to exercise judgement or practical wisdom Ross claims that these obligations are always morally relevant, if there is a prima facie duty not to cause harm, if an action was to cause harm then there is an obligation not to do it. - However, obligations can be conditional. Moral dilemmas involve a conflict between duty obligations and moral principles. There might be a conflict between doing good and not harming someone, you have to weigh the moral obligations and decide which ones are strongest Do we maximize happiness by reducing suffering – satisficing (reducing the suffering will increase the happiness in a way that is just good enough) - Some argue that mental health is the absence of mental disorder but the WHO takes the position that it is more than that Kant says you should act as to treat humanity always as an end and never as a means ONLY Animals can be used as means to our ends but it has been argued that people shouldn’t abuse animals because it might make it easier to abuse people Virtue Ethics Has to do with desirable character traits, courage etc. Determining the rightness or wrongness of actions (deontology and consequentialism) VE considers the criteria for the goodness or badness of people (moral or immoral) - States that persons must acquire goodness by training in the moral life A moral person with the right desires will understand what ought to be done better than someone who is morally wrong or indifferent, it’s more important than an intellectual grasp or rules In VE acting morally determines character and indicates much about reasons intentions and feelings - How do i/we live well (fundamental question of ethics) Aristotle’s answer was to live according to virtue Reason has to be tempered with the right feelings/emotions and feeling and emotions has to be tempered with the right reasoning Virtue - Settled habitual decisions to see fell and act in a certain way You can perform a temperate act of be temperate So acting virtuously is being virtuous on the basis of appropriate mutually reinforcing feelings and reasoning and not just making one virtuous act Phronesis – practical wisdom, your thoughts actions and reasons are so in tune that when you confront a situation your dispositions just enable you to see/think/feel about the right thing to do How do we learn to get it right? – a virtuous person has to be trained in the virtues from a very young age, moral initiatives are trained, if you learn to habitually perform virtually actions then after a while you will acquire all the virtuous feelings and dispositions Pg 42 and 43 on deontology – raise the crucial problem ‘the problem of incompleteness’ - Radical approach (virtue ethics can stand on its own), stop focussing on actions and focus on character - Virtue ethics can supplement our thinking on moral actions, reasons and thinking Virtues might conflict, because when deciding what to do, virtues might conflict There is no explanation of a reason why it is better to have a virtue and if you try to explain it involves explaining actions Abortion When does a human fetus have such moral value that it should not be aborted? - Determine whether a fetus is a person with full moral rights and thus a prima facie right not to be killed and if so by what criteria Warren claims that held intuitions about what constitutes personhood can settle the abortion debate What does it mean to be human? - Being human in the moral sense - Bing human in the genetic sense Arguments are made that you can be human without being a person, at conception the clump of cells is a human but not a person What is genetically human is not necessarily morally human but it has the ability to become as such, but there is leeway to make arguments about it not being there yet and therefore not afforded all the rights the a person or a moral human being would have Criteria for personhood - Person has consciousness of objects and events that are external and internal to the being and the capacity to feel pain (sentience) - The ability to reason to develop capacity to solve new and complex problems - Self-motivated activity - The capacity to communicate - Presence of self-concepts and self-awareness - Moral agency, the capacity to regulate actions through moral principles or ideas A man whose consciousness has been obliterated, or defective human beings with no depreciative cognitive ability are considered persons but not human beings ****Even a fully developed fetus is less person like than the average fish (warren) The problem with this is that it seems to back infanticide Warren argues: - Even if the parents didn’t want the newborn other people might want it and might b
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