Created: 12/17/2012 8:05 PM Updated: 12/18/2012 12:52 AM
Moral values: beliefs about right and wrong behaviour"
Morality: a system of beliefs about right and wrong behaviour (actions)"
Ethics: the philosophical study of morality"
Non-moral Values: everything that we desire that is not a moral value (often expressed as
One might value leisure time in a wilderness setting"
One might value being part of a society that avoids extremes"
One might value living in a country whose legal system is secular, not religiously, based"
Social Values: values that constitute the fabric of a society"
The protection of privacy" Constitutions capture these broad collective values"
Bias: This is a very fluid term: for us it will one of:"
a belief that influences other beliefs and actions but isnot relevant to those other beliefs or
actions (often sub-conscious)"
a belief that is inconsistent with the available evidence (e.g., Insite)"
a behaviour (or belief) that violates a moral or social value (e.g., hiring on ethnicity rather
Anglo & European Ethical Theories
Natural Law Ethics
Has a very long history stretching back to Plato and Aristotle
Consider Aristotle's distinction between conventional justice and natural justice
Over the last two thousand plus years it has had many faces
In essence natural law ethics connects what is right and wrong conduct to what is natural
The important elements in both are:
Reason is inextricably connected to human nature, right action and virtue.
Failure to live according to the dictates of right reason debases the person (corrupts the
The goodness of the human person (virtuousness by pursuing right reason) and the
goodness of the actions (works) of the person are inextricably connected
True law (the consequence of right reason in agreement with nature) applies universally,
and is unchanging and everlasting (Cicero states this explicitly in the quoted passage;
Aquinas holds this as well); in today's language ethical principles apply to everyone, in all
places and in all times.
Natural law restting, as it does, on reason and reasonableness relies also on "self evident"
truths - truths that any right thinking person would accept
This seems tenable within a common framework (European Christendom)
The self-evident truths are considerably more contentious when viewed across different
Appeal to natural-law-type theory today occurs in two different contexts
Inalienable human rights
The Roman Catholic Church's argument against "unnatural behaviors"
"We hold these truths to be SELF-EVIDENT that all men are created equal, that
they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, and among
these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
UN Declaration of Human Rights
"Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights
of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace
in the world."
In this statement, the grounding of the inalienable rights is:
not in self evident truths but in requirements for "freedom, justice and
peace in the world"
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
"The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights of freedoms
set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be
demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society"
The broad challenge is:
To provide a non-value-laden definition of "right reasoning in accord with nature" To consistently declare things unnatural to be wrong
Specific Challanges: David Huma and G.E. Moore
Home and the is/ought barrier
War involved pain, suffering and death
War is wrong
More and the Naturalistic Fallacy
"Good" is a non-natural property
the "Open question"
Any statement of fact- any claim about the nature of things - is subject to
the question "is it good?"
Foundational Principle: Universalizability
"Act only on the maxim through which you can at the same time will that it be a universal
This is known as the Categorical Imperative
An operational interpretation:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
form ancient Babylonian "code of Hammurabi" circa, 1780BCE
Categorical Imperative is broader
It provides the basis for social justice and social obligations (duties) as well as
guiding individual action
Means and Ends
"Act always so that you trat humanity, in your own person or another, never merely
as a means but also at the same time as an end in itself"
Social Contract Ethics
The basis of ethics lies in tacitly accepting a social contract - agreeing to live in a certain sort of
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
the "war of all against all" (state of nature)
Jean-Jacques Rouseau (1712-1778) "Attempt to reconcile what right permits with what interest prescribes, so that justice and
utility are not divided" (social contract, 1762)
Social contract theorists takes as a starting point self-interest and attempt to provide a
foundation for a collective (society) and a concept of justice
A theory of justice (1971) - constructing a just society based on individual self interest
the original position
THe veil of ignorance
To this point ethical theories considered are "deontological"
the study of, reasoning about, of duty
First comprehensive statement was by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)
Greatest exponent was John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
utility (pleasure, happiness, good) must be maximized
One should always act such that the greatest good for the greatest number is achieved
One shoud always act such that the individual utility is maximized for the greater number
Increasingly in Ango-European countries values ahve been understood in terms of:
Harm vs Benefit
Ethical Version: Thwarting invadind defeating or setting back legitimate interests
Legal version: Invasion of legally protected interests
Risk: probability and magnitude of future unwanted harm
The interests of one individual should not be "thwarted" by another individual or group of
individuals (including a society) unless demonstrable harm to others can be demonstrated
Live and let live
1. Magnitude of the harm
2. Probability of harm occurring
3. Magnitude of the benefit
4. Probability of realizing the benefit
Value of a desired outcome
Probability of the desired outcome
Probability of harm in securing the outcome
Severity of harm
Alternative methods of achieving the outcome
Ethical Theories Summary:
Natural Law: Moral facts are those that any rational, clearly thinking person would agree upon. Kantian: Moral facts can be derived from the categorical imperative
Social Contract: Moral facts are what people would agree upon from a state of nature or behind
a veil of ignorance
Utilitarianism: Moral facts are those that maximize aggregate wellbeing.
Christianity/Divine Command Theory
Moral values are correct because God makes them correct. Moral duties are obligatory
because God commands them to be. God makes moral facts true.
Meta ethics asks: What makes ethical theories true
A meta-ethical theory purports to tell you how you can tell whether an ethical theory is
correct. Why its right
Ethical theory in turn posits moral factsW. hat is right
Christianity is a ethical theory
Divine Command Theory it Meta-Ethical
Intelligent Design Theory
Successor to "Scientific Creationism" which sought to accommodate Biblical literalism with
little to no religious references
Typically accepts evolution but argues that intelligent design must have intervened evolution in
certain feature in biological organisms that are highly unlikely to evolve in natural
selection (negative argument)
Evo by natural selection is the only credible naturalistic account of the features of
Since natural selection is likely to be false, only credible alternative is Intelligent
Design (positive argument)
Philip Kitcher on IDT
intelligent force too vague to account for both the negative argument or positive
one. Does not solve or hypothesize anything in detail. if god is intelligence than we dont know its aims. with out that IDT does not exist,
therefore its not science
Science is seen as the best method of arriving at true claims about the world.
1. Kitchers "four ways"
1. Sociobiology can explain how people have acquired ethical concepts
2. Sociobiology cant each us facts that, in conjunction with moral principles that we
already accept, can be used to derive normative principles that we have not
3. Sociobiology can explain what ethics is all about. It is the key to meta-ethics
4. Sociobiology can teach us new fundamental normative principles
DNA of individuals is derived from previous generations
Human beings should do whatever is required to ensure the survival of a common gene
Jumping from DNA to ensuring survival is not logically deduced
Sociobiology cannot teach us fundamental moral facts Animal Rights/Welfare
Majority opinion is that animals do not equal with humans
Small opinion is that they have no standing
Descartes and friends believed it
Minority opinion is that they have equal standing
Majority believes that animals have interests that we should recognize
Based on suffering or intrinsic value
Majority believes that we should embrace the 3 Rs of animals in research
Reduce (higher species)
Replace (with non-animal processes)
Refine (more humane)
Transgenic animals and xenotransplantation additional issues
Genetic techniques are fraught with difficulties and success rate is low
Gender and Science
2 Fundamental Strands