We are considering ethics in its normative, not descriptive sense
o What is right and wrong? (not what people think is right and wrong)
o Is it ever OK to cheat or lie? What circumstances?
o Are abortion and euthanasia morally permissible?
o Is it justified to kill people in war?
Distinct from the law: cheating on your partner is immoral, but not illegal
o another ex. death sentence in some states: legal, but immoral to some
philosophical approach to morality tries to give reasons for moral and ethical beliefs
o this may not always be possible for every question, whether it is one central question in
o so: what reasons we can give for the beliefs that we have
distinct from religion: reasons should be intersubjective (apply whether or not one is of a
particular religion/not based on faith); more based on rationality
Hume (1711-1776): Is morality grounded in reason or sentiment (feeling)?
o His approach: analyze “personal merit”