Full Year Lectures for PHL271

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Luke Gelinas

PHL271 Jan 2 2012 Introduction What is ethics? - what is the right thing to do - what is good/bad - what does it mean to lead a good or happy life - what is justice - why bother being good or just Argument from Cultural Differences Premise: different cultures in fact have different moral codes, and disagree over the answers to moral questions Conclusions: there is no such thing as universal or objective moral truths 1. is this a good argument? o the conclusion does not follow the premise invalid argument o to get that conclusion, we need to add another premise: if there is disagreement between cultures on the answers to moral questions, then there are no objective or universal answers to moral questions o but is the added premise true ? o do we think that disagreement in the realms of math or science show that there are no objective scientific or mathematical truths? the mere fact of disagreement does not conclude that there is no answer o can we assume that math and science differ from morality? are there moral truths etc. rape is wrong o are there positive reasons to reject the claim that there are no objective and universal moral truths? 2. more generally, do you think there are right/wrong or better/worse answers to moral questions? Cultural Relativism - an action or practise is right in a given culture if it is approved of by that culture, and wrong if it is disapproved of by that culture o what is socially acceptable - some consequences of cultural relativism: o since gassing Jews was socially acceptable (at that time) in Germany, it is right - if it harms no one, morality accepts it? PHL271 Jan 9 th Basic Question for next few weeks: What is the relation between morality and civil law? Between the legal and moral norms that govern a community? What is the relation between morality and civil law? Must a civil law accord with morality to count as a law? What is the status of morally unjust laws? - status of laws that seem to be immoral or unjust o ex. permissible for police to detain Jews for their ethnicity o ex. segregation Aquinas on Natural and Civil Law - the angelic doctor - the dumb ox - stats from eternal law which he says is the divine reason that structures and rules the universe - from eternal law, Aquinas moves to natural law, which he says is the part of the eternal law that governs that natural stuff in the world - from natural law, Aquinas moves to human laws, which he says are concrete applications of the natural law Eternal Laws - laws of physics/logic/math - govern and explain domains of enquiry Natural Law - among eternal laws are laws that govern and set standards for the functioning of the natural world generally, including human behaviour - 2 big claims: o 1. Nature is Teleological every living thing has a distinctive telos goal, function, purpose, end something toward which it naturally moves if left unhindered ex. telos of tomato plant flower and seed ex. telos of wolf more complicated since Darwin, dont we know the end or goal of every living thing is just to reproduce? not sure. But Aquinas (and his contemporary defenders) are thinking of a things telos or function or end as more than just reproductive success o 2. Goodness/Badness explained in terms of a things end or form or function a things telos/eng/goal determines what is good for it and what is bad for it good: thrives at doing what it naturally does (achieving its telos) detract from xs telos = bad for x - promote xs telos: good for x Human Morality - natural law theory tells us to perform acts that contribute to the good or flourishing of o ourselves o all other humans o some other humans (fam/friends) o higher-level animals (mammals animals that can feel pain) o living things generally insofar possible - if you want to stay alive you have to do some damage to other living things at some point Buddhist - what does a good human life look like? Natural Law and Human Law - for Aquinas, human laws are specific applications of the natural law to concrete human circumstances - room for leeway here can be applied in different ways to different situations to issue in different human laws - but nonetheless, human laws are an expression of the natural/moral law participation* - what about immoral or unjust laws? o Augustine says those laws arent really laws dont count 1. conceptual claim: x doesnt count as law unless x is just and conforms to morality human laws are applications of moral laws if something is a human law, it has to have good moral content and conform to moral facts 2. normative claim: x counts as law even if x isnt just, but x has no normative force unless x is just Hobbes on Law and State of Nature Leviathan - main concern is the passages we read is to provide an account of the foundations of political community o what is the purpose of the state? o why do we form political community? o what forms of political authority are legitimate? - answers these questions by describing a movement from a primitive state of nature to life under political community State of Nature 1. imaginary condition of humankind before we join together to form political communities 2. war of all against all 3. solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, short Why is the state of nature so bad? - no such thing as right or wrong until someone steps up and says so sovereign state (Aquinas believes that to be God) - everyone is selfish Psychological Egoism - human being are necessarily self-interested creatures o always only motivated by our own well-being - is there such thing as altruistic behaviour? o motivated by the good of other people to do well/good o the reason you do things is to save yourself from guilt you dont care about the homeless person, you just dont want it on YOUR conscience that you didnt help him so you do it for YOURself, not for HIM o are people nice to other people because they want others to be nice to them back youre not nice because you care about them o just want the problem to go away homeless person gets money so they stop bothering you o do people donate to charities to make themselves look good ? o but most of our actions are not thought out some are done subconsciously how do we decide if someones actions are deliberate? neuroscience - in a situation where there is no law and order, or threat of punishment, we will do whatever we can get away with o to survive, to get ahead resources will be limited competition no natural progression of power roughly equal beings constant war, no one will be able to come out on top Right of Nature - Hobbes thinks that in the state of nature, we have a right to do whatever need to do to advance our needs - there is no independent law of morality or justice in the state of nature to constrain our actions - there is just the law of self-preservation - also thinks that self-interest will get us out of the state of nature o we will all reach a point to find peace to make our lives better o we do this by entering a social contract Social Contract - to exit the state of nature, humans contract together, agreeing to give up their right to uninhibited self-gain and instead to be bound by laws o 1. self-interest dictates that you only give up your right of nature and to extent that others do the same o 2. self-interest dictates that you only play by the rules if you stand a reasonable chance of being caught and punished for breaking them Hobbes on Law - law is the command of a sovereign - 1. law: determined by social convention o whatever the state commands (in the right way) is thereby the law - 2. morality: at least right and wrong are determined by law Law and Morality - Hobbes: looks like law and morality do not come apart, since the law determines morality - Aquinas: law and morality do not come apart, but the explanation is reversed: morality determines the law Unjust/Immoral Laws - Hobbes: doesnt have much room for unjust laws, since the laws themselves determine what is just o an unjust law would have to be one that contradicts either itself or other
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