PHI 130 Notes
Unit 1: What is Philosophy
I.Rachels – “What is Morality?”
- Even though moral issues may be controversial, it does not mean that there is no
right answer or truth.
a) Baby Theresa
• Benefit Argument: If we can benefit someone without harming anyone else;
we should. Transplanting Baby Theresa’s organs would benefit others without
harming Baby Theresa, so we should transplant.
• Opposing Argument: Cannot use people as a means. Cannot violate
autonomy. Even though it is wrong to kill, there are exceptions.
Unit 2: Ethical Relativism
I.Crocker – “Moral Relativism and International Affairs”
- Moral Relativism can affect a nation, a segment of society, or an individual.
a) Trans-Society Moral Judgments
• Citizens judge acts of their own society which may affect others. (Ex: war)
• Morally-based governmental policy restraints or policies on international
relations. (Ex: The U.S. having policies that apply human rights policies in
other societies, like not trading with North Korea because we do not agree
with their morals)
• Citizen/leader (A) makes decisions/judgments about citizen/leader (B) in
relation to their international affairs. (Ex: A person makes judgment about a
Saudi woman wearing the hijab)
• Citizen/leader (A) makes decisions/judgments about citizen/leader (B) in
relation to their external affairs. (Ex: A U.S. citizen says that it is wrong for
Germany to invade Poland)
• Appraisals of inter-societal organizations practices or actions. (Ex: UN should
b) Social Descriptive Relativism (SDR)
• “Empirical Theory” – justified by experience
• Same moral rules, different priority
• May have different moral rules
• May differ in kinds of moral concept
• Different domains of application
• “Who counts as a moral agent?” – Children? The insane? Animals? Future
• “What is the object of moral consideration?” – Environment? Animals?
• “Who counts as ‘we’ in a society?”
1. Diversity if subject to explanation.
2. Prudential warning to avoid ethnocentrism.
3. Actions are defined by descriptions. 4. Helps avoid misunderstandings.
c) Social Normative Relativism (SNR)
❖ Arguments for SNR
1. “SDR is true, so SNR is true.”
- However, this is proven false because is “no ‘ought’ from ‘is’.”
2. SNR allows for the “greatest good for the greatest number.”
- However, this is proven false because this claim undermines
the aspect of relativism.
3. SNR would increase tolerance.
- However, this undermines relativism again because it assumes
that tolerance is good for all people, which takes the relativism
out of the claim.
❖ Arguments against SNR
1. What family, tribe, group, class or society determines a person’s moral
code? And what if someone changes classes, groups, or societies,
which moral code do they now accept: past or present? SNR does not
clearly state; it says pick one that is most influential. What if someone
has been negatively influenced or brainwashed? Do they choose
Nazism or a life of serial killings because that moral code has been
2. It is wrong because you cannot determine the moral code of your
group. Laws and rules are established, but people’s actions often
overrise moral code.
3. It leaves no room for moral progress because technically anything can
be justified as moral since it is all relative.
d) Meta-Ethical Relativism (MER)
- Trans-societal moral judgments cannot be rationally resolved.
- Both sides are equally right.
❖ Arguments for MER
1. Since SDR is true, so too, must MER.
- However, differences in moral codes does not mean that both
must be accepted/right.
2. There is not agreed upon moral code, thus MER is the right answer.
- However, an answer may come about; there can be moral truth
uncovered. There can be a right answer.
II.Benedict – Morality is Relative”
- Seemingly incompetent people in a society may not live up to their full potential
if society forces them to make adjustments based on cultural restraints of what
III.Shafer-Landau – “Ethical Relativism”
• Moral Objective Truth – Morally required by their standards, non-arguable,
universally accepted moral truths, relative.
• Ethical Relativism – Relative to an individual or society.
1. Cultural – Moral standards held by a society/culture. 2. Individual – Moral standards held by an individual.
• Moral Infallibility – People do not live up to ideas of a given society or
• Iconoclast – One who questions moral motives/ideals of a given society.
• Moral Equivalence – Everyone and their ideas are equal, moral, and plausible.
• No Intrinsic Value – “Do we like something because it is good or is it good
because we, as individuals, like it?”
• Questioning our Commitments – Standards by which you make moral
decisions. Questioning your values/morality is immoral.
• Impossibility of Moral Progress – No way to prove or disprove an individual’s
Unit 3: Ethical Egoism
I.Rachels – “Ethical Egoism”
• Suppose it is always in each person’s duty to act self-interestedly.
▪ Ex: It is in D’s interest to kill R.
▪ It is in R’s interest to stop D.
▪ Therefore, it is D’s duty to kill R and it is R’s duty to prevent D’s
action of murder.
▪ Thus, it is morally wrong to prevent someone from doing their
▪ Therefore, it is wrong for R to prevent D.
▪ It is both wrong and not wrong for R to prevent D.
▪ This produces a contradiction.
▪ Thus, our assumption is false.
1. Unacceptably Arbitrary
- “Principle of Equal Treatment”
II.Hobbes – “Leviathan”
a) State of Nature – Natural condition of humanity to fight to survive.
• Right of Nature – Right to do whatever to preserve self-worth/survive.
• Practical Rationality – Use whatever methods we deem necessary to survive.
• War of All-Against-All – Only act in a way that is external to yourself, which
may lead to conflict.
• Atomized Individuals –
b) Laws of Nature
• Seek Peace and Follow – Only way to make progress.
• “All men must do the same thing” – Necessary for progress as well. If only
one person seeks peace in a barbaric state, they will get killed. Everyone must
essentially be “on the same page.”
c) Social Contract
• Render our rights to the sovereign.
• Negative obligations = morality III.Locke – “2 Treatist”
- Free, equal, independent.
• Born with property (your body).
• Mixing labor with nature.
b) Social Contract
• “Body Politic” – Surrender only as much power as needed to maintain
❖ Two Powers Given up in the Social Contract
2. Punish Crimes
c) Surrender Freedom
• Mediation of Property Disputes (Legislative, Judicial, Executive)
d) Limits of Government
• Everyone must be equal under the law.
• Laws have to be for the public welfare.
• State cannot arbitrarily take property.
• Power of state cannot be transferred without consent (i.e. voting).
IV.Marx – “1844 Manuscripts”
• A priori
• Marx claims he is not a Marxist.
• History is a history of class struggle.
▪ Slavery Feudalism Capitalism
• Does not advocate against democracy.
• Does not advocate violent revolution.
• Rejects psychological egoism.
• Capitalism = Greed I II
• Commodity Money Commidity Money – Commodity
• Profit comes from exploiting workers.
a) Estranged Labor
• Alienation of the worker from the products of their labor.
▪ Objectification of labor
▪ Creates wealth for capitalist, but not for himself
▪ Object of labor becomes alien and hostile
▪ Loss of reality
• Alienation of the worker from the act of production
▪ Capitalists control production
▪ Externalization of labor from the laborer
▪ The laborer feels like himself, only when not at work
▪ Labor is forced labor under capitalism
• Alienation from “species being” ▪ Human essence
▪ Conscious life activity
▪ Universally of man
▪ Species life becomes a means for individuals
• Alienation of man from man
▪ Capitalist exploitation is expressed in social relationships
o Series of isolated competitors for scarce resources,
maximize self-interest—connection to Hobbes)
▪ Others appropriate work of laborer
▪ Labor that creates the relationship of capitalist to worker
Unit 4: Morality and Religion
I.Plato – “Euthyphro”
- “Is something morally good because God says so or does God say something is
good because it is good?”
II.Adams – “Divine Commands and the Social Nature of Obligation”
• Most obligations are social.
• Social obligations are most fundamental.
• Going to require a relationship with God. Necessarily
• Social requirements motivate us.
1. Actually Made
3. Attributes of the Demander
4. Demandee’s Evaluation
a) Guilt and Relationships
• “Principle Guilt” – Guilt = Voluntary wrongdoing ; Shame = Weakness
b) Supreme Demander
• Social obligation is pre-moral. 1) Not overriding 2) Not morally valid or
• Divine/human is parallel human/human
1. Objective Standards
III.Rachels – “Does Morality Depend on Religion?”
a) Divine Command Theory
• There is an all-powerful being that gives commands to the people, but there is
free will to choose to meet the obligations or not.
• What is morally right is living in accordance with God’s commands.
• What is morally wrong is not living in accordance with God’s commands.
• What is morally neutral is dependent on whether there is a command for it or
1. Solves the problem of moral objectivity – God’s commands
transcend any subjective morals. 2. Promotes moral motivation (social obligations)
1. Euthyphro Dilemma – Is something right because God commands
- Gives people the wrong reasons to believe God’s
2. God commands X because it is right.
- Goodness is external
b) Natural Law Theory
• World exhibits natural order.
• Laws of nature describe how things are and how they should be.
• God wants us to use reason.
1. Counterexamples – People naturally care more about themselves
than others and disease happens naturally, but they are not
2. “Is/Ought” – Cannot get an “is” from an “ought” or an “ought”
from an “is.”
3. Conflicts w/ Modern Science – Descriptions of natural phenomena
tend to be value-free.
4. Believer has no Special Access to Truth
c) Religion and Particular Issues
• Most religious people say that moral rules come from scriptures and leaders of
1. Are there distinctly religious solutions/positions that believers must
- Example: There are modern issues today that religion has not
even touched on because they were written long ago when
these issues were not even present.
- There are certain examples that seem to contradict themselves.
4. Leaders and Tradition
Unit 5: Utilitarianism
I.Mill – “Utilitarianism”
- “Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness [pleasure], and
wrong as they tend to promote the reverse of happiness [pain].”
• Ultimate goal is to attain pleasure at the end of a lifetime; however, it is more
so about the quality of pleasure, not the quantity. • Higher Quality Pleasure – A pleasure is of higher quality if people would
choose it over a different pleasure even if it is accompanied by discomfort,
and if they would not trade it for a greater amount of the other pleasure.
▪ Ex: A person will not choose to become an animal because an
educated person will not choose to become ignorant. “It is
better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.”
• Even though a person who uses higher faculties often suffers more in life
("ignorance is bliss"), he or she would never choose a lower existence,
preferring instead to maintain his dignity.
• Greatest Happiness Principle – To do acts that result in the greatest amount of
happiness or pleasure for the greatest number.
• Mill argues that it is irrational to privilege one’s own happiness over the
happiness of others.
1. What if it is the case that people are never happy?
- Utilitarianism can help us get close to happiness, even if it is
“unattainable.” It allows us to better understand unhappiness.
2. Pleasure is ephemeral.
- If pleasure only occurs in small, brief flashes of time and is
hard to maintain, but happiness is more sustained and a
maximization of those moments over time.
- “Pleasure is like money; you can never have enough.” How can
we be satisfied if we could always be happier? However, there
are multiple aspects to a satisfied life, such as tranquility and
excitement, which balance out one’s happiness in life.
4. People are naturally self-interested.
- How do we attain happiness for the greater good when we are
all individually self-interested? It is possible to care about one
another and improve situations in other people’s lives, which
allow for a higher pleasure than just simply acting self-
5. Martyrs/Self-Sacrificing Heroes
- How does a soldier who dies for their country attain happiness?
Wouldn’t a martyr’s actions be the reverse of happiness (pain)?
Well, it is noble to resign personal happiness and pleasure for
the betterment and happiness of others.
6. Cannot reach everyone and affect their happiness.
- The overall pleasure and happiness of the world is made up of
small acts throughout the world that affect smaller groups.
There are not any examples where one person or one
experience affected everyone in the world.
7. Utilitarianism resorts us to whatever is expedient.
- For example, you do something embarrassing that is painful,
but you lie because it is expedient and promotes happiness;
however, that would make us do immoral acts. Yet, this thought process is short-minded. If everyone lies and cannot be
trusted, there is a lack of promise-keeping and overall
happiness with one another. However, if the lying would save
someone from evil or pain, then lying is permissible because it
protects people and their happiness (Chainsaw Activity).
II.Mulgan – “Proofs of Utilitarianism”
• In order to understand a theory, you must ask three questions:
1. What is being proved?
- What is the thesis of the argument? What is the position?
2. What are the competitors?
- What other moral theories are there?
3. What is the philosophical/cultural context?
- Is it biased? Did they not question something?
a) Theological Utilitarianism
• Oldest form of Utilitarianism
• Defines Utilitarianism in a general sense, but notes that there is some sort of
• Competitors: Usually dogmatic, church authorities, and even directly divine
commands from God that either prove or disprove Utilitarianism.
• Emphasizes reason
• Context: The Enlightenment (states that we need to use reason to determine
the validity of truths and not just accept them because authority says so)
1. General Religious Problems
- Is there a God? How do we know what God wants? Shouldn’t
ethics be separate from divine revelation?
2. More Specific Theological Utilitarianism
- What if we look at God’s actions in scripture…is he always
doing what is best for the greatest number?
b) Evolutionary Utilitarianism
• “This theory of Utilitarianism is correct because it promoted survival in the
• Competitors: Theological Utilitarianisms
1. Ethics = Survival?
- Why should we equate ethics with survival? There are a lot of
things that people do to survive, but they are not deemed
- How do we know what kind of behavior led to survival? We
were not there, there is no documentation. We don’t know what
we utilized (Utilitarianism, Egoism, etc.) in order to get to
where we are now/in order to survive.
3. Happiness - Why should survival include happiness? Survival does not
require us to be happy.