Ethics – the study of right and wrong, the study of morality. It’s a branch of philosophy
inquiring into issues that are subject to judgments of right or wrong. Ex: whether to cheat or not
Morality – a particular system of ethical beliefs or principles. That is the issue has to do with
right or wrong but no judgment is being made on way or another. It’s a systems or morals.
Immoral – morally wrong/to do wrong
Amoral – the issue that does not involve right or wrong. Amoral person is someone who doesn’t
have any morality or any morals at all
Moral – involves right or wrong – short form for morality basically
Four questions to ask when examining ethical issues:
1) What are your reasons?
a) Good reasons are relevant. There are several errors in reasoning that indicate lack of
i) Ad hominem – to the person. Making a claim about the person putting forth the
position rather than about the position itself
ii) Paper tiger – Responding to someone’s argument but turning it into something
different than it was. The response is irrelevant to the argument that was actually
iii) Red herring – A distraction. Ex: I can’t cut down those trees, it’s too much
environmental damage. Response – if you don’t someone else will
iv) Appeal to inappropriate authority – don’t refer to any expert in general make sure
they are an expert in the relevant field.
v) Appeal to popularity – by saying “everyone does it” you are implying the opinion of
the majority carries weight – however the majority it not always right – at times
they’re wrong. Even if they are right though, the fact that they’re right isn’t reason
enough to support your point
vi) Appeal to tradition – don’t do something just because it’s always been done that way.
Find out why it’s being done that way and if it’s a good reason than do it but if not
b) Good reasons are adequate and strong enough to support your claim. There are several
errors in reasoning that indicate lack of adequacy:
i) Slippery Slope arguments – arguing that one will lead to another which will lead to
another; this may be probable but not for sure, poor argument
ii) Post hoc – the assumption that because something happens before something else, it
was the cause of that something else.
c) The claims in your reasons, if involving empirical claims, must be true.
i) Empirical claims – a claim that can be tested and that is subject to correspondence (or
lack of) with reality. The “is” questions.
(1) Strategic claims – the “ought” questions, like what should the company do
(prescriptive)? Empirical claim is what does the company do? (descriptive)
ii) Appeals to ignorance – just because we can’t prove it’s false doesn’t make it true
iii) Circular reasoning – where your reasons assume or require the point they are
supposed to support. You assume ahead of time the point you’re supposed to prove.
iv) Equivocation – when you use the same word but with different meanings. Ex: you
boss is superior and superior are better than you so your boss is better than you
v) False dichotomy – Don’t assume that a situation is an either/or situation because
there’s often more than two options
2) What are you assumptions?
a) Identify your assumptions and assess them. If you don’t agree with or accept the
assumption made then you don’t have to agree with or accept the argument.
3) What do you mean by ?
a) Define your terms.
4) What are the alternatives?
a) Ethical decisions often seems to be between X or not X, or X or Y. But often there are
alternative, try to find Z.
- Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but some opinions are better than others.
- Being rational doesn’t exclude being passionate. You don’t have to agree with the
position you put forward – that way people disagree with the position, not with you.
- If your position is what you agree with and they disagree then look at the reasons –
maybe it’s wrong, maybe you can strengthen your reasoning or find another one
- Noodling – keeps discussions going, you are given a mess and have to figure out what is
relevant and how it all fits in with what was just said. Straighten out your noodles before
you put them on the table. This is my point, this is a reason for it, and this is another
reason for it. The next person that says something has to try to connect their noodles to
the previous person’s noodles.
- Try not to use load language
- Be careful with statistics. Make sure they’re reliable and not misleading
Section 2 – Ethical theory
Ethics is interested in prescriptive – what should be in a case - this is what we’ll focus on
Science is interested in descriptive – what is the case
Ought/Is fallacy – when one derives ought from is. When one says we should do X because we
do do X. Just because we do do something doesn’t mean we should do it.
Egoism – two versions of ethical egoism
- Individual egoism: X is morally right if it’s in my own interests.
o It’s a consequentialistic theory – right and wrong are determined by the
consequences and how what happens effects you as an individual
o This egoism is self-interested they think of others only when it’s in their best
interested to do so. Others are independent of their own interests.
- Universal egoism
o Everyone should consider the morally right things that are in their own interest.
Everyone looking out for their own interests