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TRN125Y1 Study Guide - Subjectivism, Correlation Does Not Imply Causation, Krypto

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Allen Akerman

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Ethical Reasoning Review
Cultural Relativism
Cultural Differences Argument
1. Different cultures have different moral codes
2. There is no objective truth in morality. Right and wrong are only matters
of opinion, and opinions vary from culture to culture
James Rachels argues that the conclusion does not follow from the premises,
however the conclusion may still be true (example climate change).
Nevertheless the argument is invalid because even if the premises are true
the conclusion could be false = not sound
This conclusion is one way of forming the cultural relativism argument
Rachel argues there are 3 consequences of accepting this argument
(1) We can’t say that the customs of other societies are morally inferior to
our own. Why not? Because such a judgment would imply some sort of
trancultural standard of comparison and if CR is correct there is no such
(2) We could decide whether actions are right or wrong just by consulting
the standards of our society. Why? Because if right and wrong are relative
to culture this must be true for our culture just as much as for others
(3) The idea of moral progress is called into doubt. Why? Because to judge,
that, say, certain contemporary practices are better than the practices of
an earlier age is to make just the sort of transcultural judgment that
according to CR is impermissible
- claims these consequences are unacceptable and therefore the theory is
implausible but for your own purpose think: are these consequences real
and are these consequences unacceptable if they are in fact real?
Rachels on Ethical Subjectivism
An evaluative premise in an argument may express a moral opinion held by
the arguer
On one view moral opinions are based simply on feelings and nothing more =
ethical subjectivism
Rachels thinks ES is a mistake, why? Because we aren’t required to give
reasons to justify our feelings but we are requires to provide support for our
moral judgments. Moral judgments (value judgments) must be supported by
good reasons because most value judgments don’t strike us as being
evidently true and thus require supportive reasons
Moral thinking and conduct are a matter of weighing reasons and being
guided by them, where as ES is going in the wrong direction by focusing on
The truth of ethics: the answer to a moral question is simply the answer that
has the weight of reason on its side. Such truths are objective in the sense
that they are true independently of what we might want to think
Nagel on the objective basis of morality
The argument: suppose that you are about to do something that would hurt
another person steal the persons umbrella, say. You are asked: “how would
you feel if someone did that to you?” you would resent it. But if you admit
this, then you are also admitting that you think the person would have a
reason not to do it to you. And that reason, whatever it is, is a reason that
they would have against hurting anyone else in the same way; further, it’s a
reason anyone would have not to just anyone else in that way, and so it is a
reason you have not to hurt someone else in this way; thus it is a reason you
have not to steal the other person’s umbrella
o The argument relies on the matter of simple consistency a factor
originated by Immanuel Kant
Fact and Values
Central issue in philosophy what is the logical relation between facts and
values, or between factually statements and value judgments? = fact-value
question or the this-ought question
One position - factual statements cannot entail value judgments non trivially
“Other things being equal”
Provided that other factors or circumstances remain the same
Latin term Ceteris paribus
Singer’s Method of Reasoning in “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”
He begins by telling us what he will argue
o “The whole of the way we look at moral issues needs to be altered”
He also bases his argument on a certain assumption, attempting to create
common ground. He asserts that if his audience does not agree with this
fundamental assumption than don’t read the article because you won’t be
warranted to accept his conclusion
o Assumption: “Suffering and death from lack of food, shelter, and
medical care are bad.”
o Note that in the Crito, Socrates does the same, he presents a principle
that he knows Crito will accept and builds his argument form there
o An arguer who sets out to persuade an audience to accept her
conclusion must proceed from one or more premises or assumptions
that the audience agrees with. Arguments concerning moral matters,
the starting point may be a normative assumption/premise as in
Socrate’s and Singer’s arguments
Singer goes on to state a moral principle
o “If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening,
without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance,
we ought, morally, to do it”
Singer than acknowledges 2 implications of this principle 1) distance (no
moral difference whether the people suffering are neighbors or foreigners)
2) numbers (cant claim that well millions of people live like me)
o By acknowledging these implications and then refuting them he
creates a dialectical form of argumentation
The rebuttal Singer gives to the distance implication is “universalizability” =
attributed to the philosopher Immanuel Kant.
Immanuel Kant
The idea of consistency in Nagel’s argument on the objective basis of morality
was originally proposed by Kant to further understand this principle
consult this example
o Suppose that Jones is thinking of breaking a promise he has made to
Green because he believes it would be inconvenient for him to keep it
o Whether he realizes or not, he accepts a rule its okay to break a
promise I have made if it would be inconvenient for me to keep it.
o This rule may refer to Jones in particular but it could be put in a
GENERAL form Its okay for anyone to break an inconvenient
He must think, But wait, what would a world where people
acted in this way be like? People would probably break
promises they made to Jones himself. But he most likely
wouldn’t accept this = inconsistent with his view
Kant proposes a test for deciding when a particular action is consistent with
The Categorical Imperative (command)
- An unconditional, in the sense that it is binding on us
independently of the inclinations or desires we happen to have (
Do this/ Don’t do this)
- Contrasts with hypothetical imperatives (Do this if…)
- In Kant’s terms = a maxim – a general rule which specifies a) what
it is I conceive myself doing and b) my reason for doing it
- One should act on a particular maxim only if you can will that it
should become a universal law
- Therefore this is a theory for finding when actions are consistent
with duty
- 2 steps
1. Universalize the maxim
2. Is there a contradiction in this universal law?
- An action is consistent with duty, by the test of the categorical
imperative, if and only if a) there is no contradiction involved in
the idea of the maxim of the action existing as a universal law and
b) our will would not contradict itself if we were to will that the
maxim of the action should become a universal law.
Applying the categorical imperative the lying promise
Suppose you need money but that if you borrow the money you need you
wont be able to repay it and you know this full well, then your maxim is: