Chapter 2
Ethical Concepts and Ethical Theories: Establishing and Justifying a
Moral System
Ethics and Morality
Ethics: greek ethos, study of morality
What is Morality?
Morality: system of rules for guiding human conduct, and principles for evaluating those rules
Moral rules: rules of conduct
Policies: rules of conduct that have a wide range of application (could be formal laws, informal,
implicit guidelines, etc)
Two kinds of rules of conduct
o Directives: guide our conduct as individuals (at the mircolevel)
o Social policies: framed at the macro level
Eg, directive, do not harm others
Eg. Social policies, unauthorized duplication of software should not be allowed
Principle of social utility: greatest good for the greatest number
o Litmus test, see if a policy of don’t duplicate software has moral grounds
What Kind of System is a Moral System?
Morality, system whose purpose is to prevent harm and evils
o Also to promote human flourishing
Fundamental purpose of a moral system to prevent or alleviate harm and suffering
Gert, moral system is both public and informal
o Public, everyone must know what the rules are that define it
Eg, playing a game, players known the rules, and those players use the rules to
guide their behaviour
Different than game though because not everyone has to play a game, but
everyone obligated to participate in a moral system
o Informal, no formal authoritative judges presiding over it
Eg. Pick up game in basketball, no refs, but players generally adhere to rules
Moral system also rational, based on principles of logical reason accessible to ordinary persons
Rules of a moral system must be available to all rational persons (moral agents)
o Do not hold nonmoral agents (pets, young children, and mentally challenged persons)
responsible for their actions
Moral system impartial, moral rules are ideally designed to apply equitably to all participants
Blindfold of justice principle
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Deriving and Justifying the Rules of a Moral System
Core values, help make decisions about moral system, social policies
Core Values and Their Role in a Moral System
Value: latin valere, having worth or being of worth
Some philosophers suggest that the moral rules and principles comprising a society’s moral
system are ultimately derived from that society’s framework of values
Instrumental value: value that serves some further end or good, tied to external standard
Intrinsic values: valued for their own sake (eg, life and happiness)
Also could distinguish core values from other values
o Chosen b/c basic to a society’s thriving and perhaps even to survival
But a core value doesn’t have to be a moral value
Values could be moral or nonmoral values
o Rationality, in our interest to promote values consistent with our own survival,
happiness and flourishing as individuals
o But could use to further self-interests
o Use impartiality to think morally
Three Approaches for Grounding the Principles in a Moral System
Rules of conduct in a moral system can be derived from a society’s core values
Principles used to justify the rules of conduct are grounded
Grounded in one of three sources
o Religion
o Law
o Philisophical
Approach #1 Grounding Moral Principles in a Religious System
Eg, stealing is wrong b/c it offends God or because it violates one of God’s Ten Commandments
Difficulty in applying rationale, diff religions, not same beleifts
Approach #2 Grounding Moral Principles in a Legal System
Eg. Stealing is wrong b/c it violates the law
Law instead of religion, eliminates certain kinds of disputes b/w religious and non religious
persons and groups
Problem is that law varies for place to place
Also, some laws practices have been morally wrong
o Eg. Slavery
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