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Philosophy 1370 D review .docx

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University of Ottawa
Ken Ferguson

1. What is meant by the term “moral theory”? A branch of philosophy concerned with principles that allows us to make decision about what is right and wrong. There are 2 types of moral theory consequentialism: the rightness of an act depends only on its consequences and non-consequentialism: consequences are not the only thing that affects the morality of an act. Within the moral theory there are five major ethical theories, which includes Utilitarianism, Kant’s ethics, Ross’s ethics, Rawl’s ethics and Natural law and moral theology. Each of these theories represents an attempt to supply basic principles that can be employed as guides for making moral decisions and as standards for evaluation of action and policies. 2. How Utilitarian would justify the principles of utility (i.e., their theory of value)? The principle of utility focuses it’s attention on the consequences of actions, rather then upon some features of action themselves. The utility or usefulness of an action is determined by the extent to which it produces happiness; therefore no action is in itself right or wrong. Nor is an action right or wrong by virtue of the actor’s hope, intentions or past actions. Using the principle we are suppose to consider the possible results of an action, then we are to choose the action that produces the most benefits (happiness) at the least cost (unhappiness). The action may produce some unhappiness but it is a balance of happiness that the principle seeks. The key concept of the principle of utility is happiness and the aim of ethics then is to increase the amount of pleasure in the world to the greatest extent. 3. Two major objections against act Utilitarianism? One of the major objections against act utilitarianism is that it requires us to know what the consequence of our action will be, but this is impossible because we cannot predict the future. We can only make reasonable efforts to get relevant information, and predict probable consequences of our action. Another objection to act utilitarianism is the notion that we are obligated to keep a promise only if keeping it will produce more utility that some other action. For example a surgeon promises a patient that he would the one to preform his/her operation but during surgery the surgeon allows a well-qualified resident to perform parts of it and everything goes well. From a utilitarian point of view that is nothing wrong with his failure to keep his promise. Critics charge that his action is wrong because in making a promise it has become an obligation. Act utilitarianism is unable to account for obligation engendered by action such as promising, pledging for such actions involve something other than consequence. 4. The difference between act and rule utilitarianism According to act utilitarianism it is the value of the consequences of the particular act that counts when determining whether the act is right. For instance an AU might say "it is moral to murder someone if they are a danger to society." Even though there is a law against citizens murdering each other, AU's think that murdering a serial rapist is moral because more people would be safe. AU thus condones vigilante justice. Rule utilitarianism maintains that an action or policy is morally right if and only if it is consistent with the set of rules (moral code) that would maximize happiness, if generally followed. For example, there is a law in our country that murder is wrong. A RU would say, "Murder is wrong because if everyone follows the law, no one will have to be afraid of being murdered in their sleep. Or society will be more orderly, because people won't kill each other randomly and we can be in public and private spaces without fear. 5. The respect for person’s version of the categorical imperative. The second formulation of Kant’s categorical imperative asks us always to act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in any other person, always at the same time as an end, never merely as a means. This version illustrates Kant’s notion that every rational creature has a worth in itself and that morality consists of doing one’s duty to treat people, including yourself, as an end, never only as a means to an end. To treat other people as an end is to respect people as rational moral agent who also have their own goals, projects and other life pursuits; to recognize their humanity, and how they freely and knowingly choose to be treated. For example putting your self in medical experiment that you know may physically harm or compromise your well being in order to make some money is using yourself as a means to an end therefore we are morally wrong and not acting a rational moral agent. 6. Kant’s universalizability test for the rightness of an act. The first formulation of Kant’s categorical imperative suggests that we act only on maxims that can be used as a universal law. The central idea of the test is that a moral maxim is one that can be generalized to apply to all cases of the same kind. That is, you must be willing to see your rule adopted as a maxim by everyone who is in a situation similar to yours. You must be willing to see your maxim universalized, even though it may turn out on some other occasion to work to your disadvantage. The test is one that requires us to avoid inconsistency or conflict in what we will use as a universal law. For example if you adopt a maxim that it is wrong to steal and it used as a universal law. Everyone as well as your considered to follow this law even if you are hungry on a particular day and your only option was to steal. 7. Explain the moral theory known as virtue ethics Virtue ethics is based on character. Its fundamental ideas is that a person who has acquired the proper set if disposition will do what is right when faced with a situation involving a moral choice. Therefore, virtue ethics does not involve invoking principles or rules to guide action. If a person's character is good then so will the person's choices and actions be good. There is value in the ideals of Virtue Ethics, namely the value of directing the individual's attention away from following popular opinion while placing the attention back upon the individual him/herself. 8. What criticism does the feminist ethics direct against traditional ethics? Feminists reject the traditional notions that ethics can be represented by a set of abstract rules or principles and that the morality of actions and policies can be assessed by reference to them. From the feminist point of view traditional ethics is compromised by the facts of the social world. The unequal distribution of political and social power and the inequalities attached to the accidents of birth, race, and gender mean that even such an apparently basic principles as the autonomy of the individual is restricted in its application. For example a woman who cannot afford an abortion is not free to get one. Thus her autonomy as an abstract right is meaningless. The aim of ethics then must be to eliminate or reduce oppression of women, races and other subordinate groups in societies throughout the world. 9. The difference between moral theories and moral principles. Moral theories are put forward as a complete description and explanation of right and wrong, meant to hold always, and never overridden Moral principles are less comprehensive than moral theories, are relevant considerations in a broad range of situations but might be overridden by some other principle or value 10. How would utilitarian and Kantian ethical theories, respectively, justify autonomy? Autonomy means the right of self-determination or self-governance and an action is autonomous when the action is intentional, based on sufficient understanding and sufficiently free of external and internal constraints. So therefore fromKant’s deontologicalviewsautonomyisanintrinsicvalue.Theabilitytoactautonomouslyis goodinitself;autonomyiswhatmakesusunique/human.Autonomyisrelatedtofree willforKant,andthereforeisessentialtomorality.Froma utilitarianperspective autonomyisaninstrumentalvalue.Eachpersonisbetterbybeingabletoknowand controlhis/herhappiness People derive satisfaction from controlling their own lives and individuality leads to new ideas, knowledge which benefits humanity 11. Why is the negative concept of freedom and autonomy inadequate? External constraints intervene between our desires and our actions, and prevent us from doing what we want therefore freedom is the absence of external constraints. The negative concept of freedom and autonomy is inadequate because the negative concept of freedom over
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