• Philosophers work with concepts and arguments
• Philosophy breaks down into three different sections
• Descriptive – what is the case?
• Normative – what we ought to do
What is existence?
Mind and body
Knowledge vs. opinion
How should I act
How should I live and act
o Premises and true, and conclusion must be true
o Only about the form
o Validity + true premises
• Sophistry, derived from the sophists means to deceive somebody
• Socrates claims:
o Nobody commits error willingly
o If you know what justice is, then you will act with justice • Weakness of the will - you smoke or do whatever you want because your will is
o Socrates doesn’t think this exists
• One of plato’s early dialogues
• Euthyphro’s (a religious official) father murdered a servant, so Euthyphro is going
to kill his father
• Socrates asks euthyphro what the definition of holy/pious is
o First definition by Euthyphro: “The holy is just what I am doing right now:
prosecuting wrongdoers, whether in the cases of murder or temple-robbery, or
those who are guilty of any other such offence, be they one’s father or mother or
anyone else whatever; and failing to prosecute is unholy.” (pp.7-8)
o Socrates: no wtf. That’s not a definition of pious because you gave me an
example, not the definition.
• Euthyphro realizes his mistake and gives a second definition
o Second definition by Euthyphro: “What is agreeable to the gods is holy, and
what is not agreeable to them is unholy.” (p.8)
o Socrates: there are lots of gods and not all gods agree. What is agreeable
to one god can be disagreeable to a different god
• Euthyphro’s last try at the definition
o Revised version of the second definition by Euthyphro: “The holy is whatever
all the gods love; and its opposite, whatever all the gods hate, is unholy.” (p.11)
o Socrates: “Is the holy loved by the gods because it is holy? Or is it holy because
it is loved?” (p.11)
o In other words, Socrates is asking the following: Is an action holy (pious) because
it is loved by the gods? Or do the gods love it because it is holy (pious)?
This means that if the gods loved it because its holy, then the
gods are determining what is holy. If the latter, then something
else is determining what is holy
CULTURAL RELATIVISM – James Rachel • Cultural relativism – something is morally right if a society accepts it to be so
• The main claims that have been made by cultural relativists are:
(1) Different societies have different moral codes. (Descriptive claim)
(2) The moral rightness of an action within a society is determined by the moral code of that
society. In other words, the moral code of a society (or the approval of the society) determines
what’s right within that society.
(3) There is no objective standard to adjudicate between moral codes.
(4) The moral code of our own society (or any other society, for that matter) has no special
status; it is merely one among many.
(5) There is no “universal truth” in ethics. In other words, there are no moral truths that hold for
all peoples at all times.
(6) Trying to judge the conduct of the people of other cultures is mere arrogance. Instead of this,
we should adopt an attitude of tolerance toward the practices of other people. (Normative claim)
• Recall that according to cultural relativists “Trying to judge the conduct of the people of
other cultures is mere arrogance. Instead of this, we should adopt an attitude of tolerance
toward the practices of other people” (Normative claim).
o you can’t say this because there is no universal truth
o tolerance cannot consistently be approved by cultural relativists
o a cultural relativist can only make this claim as an objective universal
value judgment, but it can only apply in their own society
o you cannot tell somebody from a different country to treat you with
• we ought to be tolerant vs all moral truths are culturally relative (normative).
o These two claims are inconsistent with each other
The cultural differences argument
• 1. Different cultures have different moral codes.
• 2. Therefore, there is no objective “truth” in morality. o Just because there is a disagreement doesn’t mean that there is no
objective truth in morality. So you cant make this logical jump. Just
because people think the earth is flat, doesn’t mean that it is.
o he should have more premises, because the conclusion doesn’t
CONSEQUENCES OF CULTURAL RELATIVISM
• Cultural relativists then cannot criticize their own society or other societies
o No transcultural objective norms
• Consequences of taking cultural relativism seriously
o They cannot say that there is moral progress
The right way is the folkways from ancestors. Moral progress would
mean to be better than your previous times, but saying that means
there is an objective criteria to morality
• James Rachel agrees with some things in cultural relativism
o It teaches us to be open minded
• Cultural relativism and human rights doesn’t seem to go together
THE DIVINE COMMAND THEORRYYYYY
The Divine Command Theory: According to a theory about the nature of right and wrong
known as “The Divine Command Theory,” an action is morally right (good) only because God
• Recall Socrates’famous question to Euthyphro: “Is an action holy (pious) because it is
loved by the gods? Or do the gods love it because it is holy (pious)?”
• Now let us substitute “morally right” for “holy” and “commanded by God” for “loved by
the gods” as follows:
• Is an action morally right because it is commanded by God? Or does God command it
because it is morally right?
Problems with the divine command theory – morally right because commanded by god • Problem of arbitrariness
o God has commanded to be truthful, but in principle he could have done
the opposite and it would still be morally right
o Because he decides what is good, he can say ANYTHING is good and it
will be so.
• Goodness of god rendered meaningless and reduced to nonsense
o Whatever god commands is good.
o What is good? Whatever god commands
o So therefore whatever god commands is whatever god commands, which
does not make sense
Problems with saying that god commands it because it is morally right
• In taking this option, we have abandoned the theological conception of right and
wrong - when we say that God commands us to be truthful because truthfulness
is right, we are acknowledging a standard of right and wrong that is independent
of God’s will. The rightness exists prior to and independent of God’s command,
and it is the reason for the command.
All this may be summarized in the following argument:
1. Suppose God commands us to do what is right. Then either (a) the right actions
are right because he commands them or (b) he commands them because they are right.
2. If we take option (a), the God’s commands are, from a moral point of view,
arbitrary; moreover, the doctrine of the goodness of God is rendered meaningless.
3. If we take option (b), then we will have acknowledged a standard of right and
wrong that is independent of God’s will. We will have, in effect, given up the theological
conception of right and wrong.
4. Therefore, we must either regard God’s commands as arbitrary, and give up the
doctrine of the goodness of God, or admit that there is a standard of right and wrong
that is independent of his will, and give up the theological conception of right and wrong.
5. From a religious point of view, it is unacceptable to regard God’s commands as
arbitrary or to give up the doctrine of the goodness of God.
6. Therefore, even from a religious point of view, a standard of right and wrong that
is independent of God’s will must be accepted. WHY BE MORAL?
The Plot of the Republic
• Is it always better to be just than unjust?
Classification of Good Things and Justice
• Desired for its consequences
o Going to the gym
• Desired for its own sake
o Joy, bathing
• Desired for both its consequences and its own sakes
o Intelligence and health
o Most superior class of good things
o Socrates or somebody says that justice follows in this category because if
there were no rewards then nobody would do it
• In the Republic, Socrates’s main task is to show what justice is and that justice is better
than injustice. More specifically, what Socrates’s interlocutors, including Glaucon, would
like Socrates to prove is that justice is not only desirable, but that it belongs to the
highest class of desirable things: those desired for both their own sake and their
Convincing people that it is on every account better to be just than to be unjust is not an easy
task. This is mainly because, as Glaucon tells Socrates, many people believe that no one is just
willingly but only when they are compelled. Let’s take a look at what Glaucon exactly says:
“To commit injustice, they say, in its nature, a good thing, and to suffer it a bad thing; but
the bad of the latter exceeds the good of the former; and so, after the two-fold experience
of both doing and suffering injustice, those who cannot avoid the latter and choose the
former find it expedient to make a contract of mutual abstinence from injustice. Hence
arose legislation and contracts between man and man, and hence it became the custom to
call that which the law enjoined just as well as lawful. Such, they tell us, is justice, and so
it came into being… ”
Question 1: What is the nature of justice according to this account?
Justice is something that comes out as the result of an agreement. We are presented with a confventional account of justice. And the second important point that follows form this is
that justice is not something that is intrinsically inheritable. If you could get away without
being just, then you would. This is the definition of ordinary people.Aproblematic one.
• In order to make his point even clearer Glaucon tells Socrates the story of the shepherd
Question 2: Briefly, what happens to Gyges? What does the myth of Gyges tell us about
human nature? Do you agree with this depiction of human nature?
• Gyges gets this magical ring that makes him invisible. Then he does a bunch of bad stuff.
So the point is that human nature would make it so that people are only motivated by self
• Joel Feinberg provides a good account and critique of the view called “Psychological
Egoism.” According to this view, all human actions when properly understood can be
seen to be motivated by selfish desires.
A DESCRIPTIVE THEORY ABOUT HUMAN NATURE: PSYCHOLOGICAL
EGOISM /ETHICAL EGOISM – JOEL FEINBERG
• Psychological egoism would say that EVERYTHING that we do is for our own
• Ethical egoism is a normative theory that says how we should act
o What we ought to do
• Psychological egoism is a descriptive theory
o Explains how human beings are and not what they ought to do
• Psychological egoists
o 2. Psychological education
“As for moral education, it is probably true that punishment and reward
are indispensible means of inculcation. But if the child comes to believe
that the sole reasons for being moral are that he will escape the pain of