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Chapter 7

PHI 1101 P - Chapter 7.docx

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University of Ottawa
Iva Apostolova

Moral Reasoning • Moral reasoning has to do with ethics. • Ethics: the study of right and wrong actions. • Ethics has a theoretical and a practical side. • What we’ll focus on here is: • How to identify whether a question is an ethical one; • When making an ethical argument is appropriate; • What type, or level, of ethical question you are dealing with. • The idea is that you are able to identify moral dilemmas, and attempt to resolve them in the best possible way. • Two main objectivist/normative approaches to ethical questions: • 1. Teleological/Consequentialist/Utilitarian: • Right and wrong depend on the outcome/result/goal of one’s actions. • Philosophers associated with this approach: • Aristotle and John Stuart Mill. • Aristotle (also the founder of ‘virtue ethics’and the ‘natural law’theory): • -- humans are rational animals and as such performing rational acts is their ultimate ‘telos’ (goal, purpose); • -- we flourish and are happy when we are virtuous; • -- virtues, such as courage, objectivity, justice, temperance, etc., are achieved through reason; • -- we become just by performing just acts; courageous by performing courageous acts, etc. • John Stuart Mill and Utilitarianism: • -- the principle of utility: greatest happiness for greatest number of people’ • -- example: if one saves a drowning child, one has done something moral, regardless of one’s motives. • Act Utilitarianism: focuses on the consequences of one’s actions for maximizing happiness; • Rule Utilitarianism: focuses on rules as guidelines to maximizing happiness. • General criticisms to theAristotelian approach to ethics: • -- virtues vary from culture to culture and time period to time period; • -- what if humans aren’t the only rational animals? • General criticisms to Utilitarianism: • -- the principle of utility quantifies happiness, as well as moral agents (morally right is what makes the greatest number of people happy); • -- happiness is dictated by the majority; but what if the majority decided that torturing is going to make them happy? • 2. Deontological: right is right according to the moral principle/duty/obligation. • Philosophers associated with deontology: Immanuel Kant. • Kant’s ‘categorical imperative’: act only on such moral maxims which can become a universal law. • Example: do not lie; if everyone does it there will be no truth; do not break your promise; if everyone does it, promise will lose its meaning, etc. • General criticism to the deontological approach: • -- it is too rigorous; doesn’t allow for exceptions to the moral principle/law; • -- e.g., according to Kant’s categorical imperative, one cannot lie under any circumstances; but what if you had to lie to save a life? • -- it puts the emphasis on the moral intention; but we often can’t get to the bottom of one’s intention. • When making moral arguments, ask yourself this: • 1. Is this issue really an ethical one? • 2. Is the issue relevant? • 3. Is the issue sufficiently important to create a moral problem or put me in front of a moral dilemma? • Real moral dilemmas and fake moral dilemmas: • -- fake moral dilemmas do not tell you anything about the moral truth; • -- ex., deciding whether to have a burger
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