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PHL406 - Test #1 Notes

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Ryerson University
PHL 406
Paul Raymont

PHL406 Test #1 Notes Descriptive (or is) statements o Tells us what is the case or how things are in the world Prescriptive (or ought) statements o Tells us what ought to be the case or how things really ought to be in the world o Tells us how things SHOULD be o Tells us how we should or ought to act o Not really ethical in nature; their aim is to tell someone how to act if he/she is to advance their own interests o Considered if..then, statements (tells what someone should do if blah blah then they should do blah blah) Two main anti-ethical theories: o Egoism Has a descriptive statement States human nature is inescapably selfish Our nature always to pursue our own interests Incapable of acting ultimately for the sake of others rather than for our own sake Plausible that there is a natural disposition to behave altruistically (for the sake of others at some cost to oneself) Example: produce and care for offspring even though doing so kills ones time and resources from self- promoting activities (mother taking care of her child takes away time from her career) o Cultural relativism Ethical claims are only true and false based on their culture Ethical standards are considered cultural constructions Invented, not discovered, by a cultural group Numerous objections include: Different cultures disagreed about what is right and wrong o However, no objective fact of the matter about right and wrong If relativism is true, no way to accommodate the idea of moral progress o Idea that changes in our cultures history was for the better and made moral progress o Relativists have to deny that its progress because they believe whoever criticized the culture would have been wrong by definition o Relativists view that whatever is right for reformers is what the culture told them is right Two main ethical theories: o Utilitarianism The good determines the right. To determine what the right action is, you have to figure out which action produces the most good (or best consequence) for the most amount of people The end justifies the means Best consequence is when there is the most happiness and least suffering (Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill) In some cases, we oppose the utilitarian view (refusing the violate the rights of the few by sacrificing them for the greater good) whereas other times we side with it. (wanting to sacrifice the few for the sake of the many) (The trolley case) Multiple objections: Cannot accommodate the idea that some forms of happiness are unworthy of pursuit Clarifying what is meant by maximize happiness o Try to bring the greatest amount of happiness over suffering that we can? Maximize the average level of happiness in the population An objection would be if were supposed to maximize happiness, well have a duty to get rid of anyone bringing down the average level of happiness Works better with a smaller population Some inconsistency could occur in the utilitarian view Since utilitarianism leads to absurd consequences no matter how its interpreted, it should be rejected o Deontology To act morally is to act in accordance with some moral rules Immanuel Kant Obey moral rules or law even if it sometimes results in less happiness and more suffering Kantians are not utilitarians Most important moral rule is categorical imperative Treat humanity (in yourself or another) never solely as a means but always also as an end in itself. He means that while we use tools as a means to an end (using tools to make a shelf)we should never use humans as a means Humans have a locus of inherent value by simply being themselves Capable of guiding her actions by means of their own powers of reason in pursuit of their goals Able to exercise general autonomy Main way to respect dignity of other people is by making sure that you have their free consent for any interaction with them Kantians suspect utilitarians value happiness more than persons Utilitarians alledgely see persons only as places where happiness can be increased and suffering minimized Kantians prefer to direct their ultimate respect to the persons which entails valuing their distinctive and defining features of persons: autonomy Don Marquis o Argues against most abortions with What makes the killing of one of us seriously immoral? He views killing one of us is a moral crime because it deprives us of a future Considers abortion to be seriously immoral o Two rival positions include: The desire theory Wrong to kill one of us because we generally desire to continue living If this theory was accepted o Undercut Marquis opposition to abortion Marquis rejects it because he thinks that we may kill someone whos under anesthesia since at this moment, that person doesnt desire anything at all The desire theory would wrongly license killing depressed people since they wouldnt have the desire to continue living The discontinuation theory What makes the killing of one of us wrong is the fact that such a crime would discontinue a relatively good sequence of experiences. Whoever adopts this view could allow abortion because fetuses dont have any experiences to relive Marquis rejects it by saying it fails to identify the right set of experiences that matter when determining whether
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