Ethical REview.docx

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Department
Trinity College Courses
Course
TRN125Y1
Professor
Allen Akerman
Semester
Winter

Description
Ethical Reasoning Review Cultural Relativism Cultural Differences Argument 1. Different cultures have different moral codes Therefore, 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 standard (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 feelings  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 promise  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 duty 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: when I think I need money, I will borrow it and promise to repay it even though I know that I can’t.  Well the world where people acted in accordance with this maxim involves a contradiction – it undermines the point of a promise, promises would have no purpose because people would cease to believe in them Example of when our will would contradict itself if we were to will that the maxim of the action should be a universal law:  As a ration being, a person necessarily wills that her abilities be developed, since they are useful to her and have been given to her for all sorts of possible purposes  Her will would be in contradiction with itself if she were to will that she neglect to develop her abilities and spend her time in idleness instead Persons as ends in themselves  Rational beings are called persons because their very nature makes them ends in themselves – something which must not be used merely as means  The formulation of the categorical imperative relies on this principle – act I such a way as to treat any person in every case as an end and never only as a means (only instrumental for gaining something you want).  Example: making a lying promise, you only agree to the promise for your own gains, using the other person as a vehicle to do so  Respect the dignity of rational beings. R.M. Hare  When we are trying, in a concrete case, to decide what we ought to do, what we are looking for is an action to which we can commit ourselves but which we are at the same time prepared to accept as exemplifying a principle of action to be prescribed for others in like circumstance.  Hare opposes naturalist theory – the method of characterizing meanings of key moral words, given factual premises, to deduce moral conclusions Example 1. It is desired that promises be kept Therefore, 2. It is good that promises be kept  If we define desired to mean good then this is a trivially valid argument, yet it takes a fact and makes a moral conclusion  Naturalist theories deny that there is a logical gulf between facts and values  Hare believes moral reasoning does not necessarily proceed by way of deduction of moral conclusions from non moral premises  Hare thinks that it may be that moral reasoning is not linear but rather it may be a kind of exploration in which we search for moral principles and test them against particular cases by following out their consequences and seeing whether we can accept them (similar when Singer builds his case around defending implications of the principle he addresses) 2 features in moral judgments 1) Prescriptive – an action can be prescribed for ourselves by committing ourselves to an action 2) Universalizability- (derives from Kant) an action which we are prepared to accept as exemplifying a principle of action to be prescribed for others in like circumstances Hare‟s example: Jack, Jill and Mary  Jack owes money to Jill, and Jill owes money to Mary  The law says that creditors may put their debtors into jail to force them to pay their debts o Jill prescribes the action to herself “Let me put jack into jail o Changes this to a moral judgment “I ought to put Jack into jail if he will not pay me what he owes” o This requires her to accept the principle “Anyone who is in my position ought to put his debtor into jail if he does not pay” – Because of CONSISTENCY (treating similar cases similarly) o But then this applies to Mary in Jill‟s case – wouldn‟t want to do this The Outline of the thinking process 1. I ought to put Jack into jail if he will not pay what he owes. (Prescriptive) 2. Anyone who is in my position ought to put her debtor into jail if he does not pay. (Universalizibility) WHY does (1) Require (2)? – It is a matter of logical consistency, which requires like cases should be treated alike. However this assumes that there is no relevant difference in the cases, which Hare agrees with, the cases are identical for Jack-Jill and Jill-Mary 3. I (Jill) owe money to Mary. Thus, if Jill accepts principle 2 she must accept the following moral judgment 4. Mary ought to put me into jail if I don‟t pay her what I owe her. Thus, she must accept 5. Let Mary put me into jail if I don‟t pay her what I owe her BUT, she wouldn‟t want 5 sooooo If Jill isn‟t willing to accept (5) then she mustn‟t accept (4), because if she did, she would have to accept (5). And if she‟s not willing to accept (4), then she mustn‟t accept principle (2) because if she did accept that then since she owes money to Mary she would have to accept (4). And if she isn‟t willing to accept principle (2) then she can‟t accept (1) because according to Hare, accepting (1) requires accepting (2). Hare‟s 3 (or 4) ingredients in moral judgments 1) Facts 2) Logic – prescription and universializability 3) The inclination or interests of the people concerned  These allow us not to arrive at an evaluative conclusion but to REJECT an evaluative proposition o Hare establishes 2 conditions that must be satisfied before a person can accept a particular moral judgment saying that some actions ought to be done: prescription and universalizability, if they are not satisfied then the judgment must be rejected rather than accepted. If the conditions are met she can accept the judgment without being guilty of logical inconsistency, but the question is SHOULD she accept it and as we know this requires good reasons for her to do so.  Hare clarifies that it is not necessary for Jill to actually stand in the other person‟s position but rather that it is sufficient if she just considers hypothetically such a case in which she is in the same relation to another person as Jack is to her. She must envisage what it is like to be in jack‟s position as if their roles are reversed – not asking here what she would do if she was Jack, but rather what she says about a hypothetical case in which she is in Jack‟s position (doesn‟t necessarily have to owe Mary money). The second clarification is that Hare doesn‟t use deduction it relies on consistency 4) Therefore Hare believes in “normal” cases imagination is the fourth necessary ingredient  Moral reasoning requires that you consider others interests – this is what turns selfish prudential reasoning into moral reasoning. Since our concern is with the nature of moral reasoning, let us note this point carefully: what turns selfish prudential reasoning into moral reasoning, Hare is telling us, is giving weight to the interests and inclinations of others as if they were one‟s own.  Important Themes: o You cant accept the judgment that you ought to treat another person, X, in a certain way if you aren‟t prepared to accept the judgment that you ought to be treated in that way in a hypothetical situation in which the roles are reversed and you are in the position that X is now in = consistency o Moral reasoning requires us to give weight to others interests as if they were our own. This doesn‟t mean other‟s interests have to determine what we ought to do, rather it means that in deciding what ought to be done we must take into account the interest of others and accord them the same weight in our deliberation as we accord our own interests or else it is not moral reasoning it is selfish prudential reasoning (2) Kant and Hare As we saw in Theory Handout 17, Kant‟s first formulation of his categorical imperative can be restated in somewhat simpler terms as follows: Act on a particular maxim only if you can will that it should become a universal law. The following outline explains how Kant thinks we should decide whether we can will that a particular maxim should become a universal law. In addition, the following outline identifies the question that Hare‟s method of moral
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