Ethical Frameworks What should we do and why should we do it? Moral Judgements and Moral Principles Moral Judgements o An act is right, wrong, obligatory, supererogatory o A person is good, bad, responsible for an action, praiseworthy, blameworthy Moral Principles o An act is iff ______
Ethical Universalism: There is some way of filling in the blank that results in a true moral principle Fact and Value Sources of disagreement o Factual: disagree about how things are and about the likely consequences of actions o Moral: even given agreement about the facts people still disagree about whats right and wrong about the matter under consideration Abortion: Factual agreement - moral disagreement
Discrimination: Factual disagreement - moral agreement Sex, drugs, and rock n roll: disagreement about likely consequences Ethical Relativism What is Ethical Relativism? Ethical Relativism: The view that what is ethically right is relative either to the individual (Individual Relativism aka Ethical Subjectivism. Ethical Universalism: There is some (i.e. at least one) moral principle that is true for everyone, always, and everywhere
o Moral Principle Format: An act is right if and only if _________ Individual Ethical Relativism: there is no way of filling in the blank to make a true statement. Cultural Ethical Relativism: the blank should be filled in with it conforms to the norms of its culture (the culture of the agent) Some Motives for Ethical Relativism Putative Counterexamples to Ethical Universalism: There are lots of kinds of actions that arent either always right or always wrong. Whos to say: There is wide-spread disagreement about a great many moral
issues and no clear, objective way of determining whos right. Tolerance: We shouldnt (1) blame people for acting in accordance with different preferences or customs or (2) interfere with them. Different Circumstances: What works for some people or in some societies might not work for other people or in other societies. Putative Counterexamples Counterexample: An example which disproves a proposition. For example, the prime number 2 is a counterexample to the statement All prime numbers are odd. Moral Claim: An act, a, is if and only if a is an act of kind K.
Counterexample to Moral Claim: a is an act of kind K but a is not . o Claim: a is wrong if it violates any of the Ten Commandments. o Counterexample: x violates one of the Ten Commandments but x is not wrong. Thou shalt not lie. II wouldnt wouldnt be be caught
caught dead dead in in that that rig. rig. Cute Cute outfit!
outfit! What about white lies? Noble Lie Thou shalt not steal. What about Jean Valjean stealing that loaf of bread when he was starving?
Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? And he said unto them [Mark 2:23 -27]
The The Sabbath Sabbath was was made made for for man--not man--not man
man for for the the Sabbath. Sabbath. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. NO! I Iguess
The fallacy of false dichotomy is committed when the arguer claims that his conclusion is one of only two options, when in fact there are other possibilities. The arguer then goes on to show that the 'only other option' is clearly outrageous, and so his preferred conclusion must be embraced.
IfIf the the Ten Ten Commandments Commandments arent arent absolutely absolutely true true with with
no exceptions then no exceptions then anything anything goes! goes! Response: Acts and Act Descriptions Ethical Universalism: An act, a, is if and only if ______
Ethical universalists do not claim that every kind of action is either always right or always wrong! The question is: how do we fill in the blank to make a true statement? There are innumerable ways of describing the same action o What kinds of descriptions are morally relevant at all? o The description may be more general/abstract than youd think or more specific than you think. Actions Under Descriptions An action can belong to many different kinds!
You break your promise to give a madman a gun on Tuesday. Promise-breaking Breaking a promise when keeping it would have very bad consequences Doing something on a Tuesday Doing an action that brings about the greatest good for the greatest number Doing an action with the intention of preventing someone else from being harmed
Kinds of actions An action can belong to many different kinds! Promise-breaking Kinds of actions An action can belong to many different kinds! Promise-breaking when keeping the
promise would have very bad consequences Promise-breaking Kinds of actions An action can belong to many different kinds! Promise-breaking when keeping the
promise would have very bad consequences Promise-breaking Tuesday actions Kinds of actions An action can belong to many different kinds!
Promise-breaking when keeping the promise would have very bad consequences Promise-breaking Tuesday actions Actions that bring about the
greatest good for the greatest number Kinds of actions An action can belong to many different kinds! Promise-breaking when keeping the promise would have very bad consequences
nt e v pre ed Tuesday actions o t Promise-breaking ded harm
n e int being s ion from t c A s Actions that bring about
her otthe greatest good for the greatest number Moral Principles An individual action is right or wrong in virtue of some general principle concerning kinds of actions: An action is if it is an action of kind K But what is K???
o A promise breaking? An act done with good intentions? An act that produces the greatest good for the greatest number? An act that does no harm? An ethical relativist says that there is no way of filling in that Kno universal moral principles. Ethical Universalism To be a ethical universalist you only have to agree that there is some kind of action thats always right or always wrong. The relevant kind may be something very general, for example, doing
something that brings about the greatest good for the greatest number. Response to Motives for Ethical Relativism Counterexamples: Careful of how you fill in the blank in An act is right iff____ Whos to say: There is wide-spread disagreement about a great many moral issues but we can still reason about moral issues and moral principles. Tolerance: Ethical universalism, arguably, does what you want it to do: prohibits blame and intervention where and allows endorsement of tolerance as a value. Different Circumstances: Yup! What works for some people or in some societies might not work for other people or in other societies. Utilitarians agree and
Utilitarianism is a form of Ethical Universalism. Ethical Relativism and Tolerance Individual Ethical Relativism: There is no way of filling in the blank that makes the following statement true for everyone, always, everywhere true: An act, a, is if and only if ________ therefore The Individual Ethical Relativist cannot, without contradicting himself, hold that intolerance is wrong or that everyone, always, everywhere should be tolerant. The Moral of the Story
Relativism isnt as good as its cracked up to be: a little learning is a dangerous thing Relativism does not, and cannot support universal tolerance--because it doesnt support universal anything! We can accommodate our intuitions and commitments (about tolerance, about not being dogmatic, etc.) without buying into any form of relativism. If you think youre an Ethical Relativistyou may be a Utilitarian... ...or you may find what you want an another reasonable ethical theory Normative Ethics
Virtue ethics, deontological theories, and consequentialism Ethical Universalism: Three Theories Assumption: there is only one ultimate criterion of moral conduct, whether a single rule or set of principles. Virtue Ethics Deontological (duty) theories Consequentialism o Subjective Welfarism: hedonic or preferentist utilitarianism o Objective List theories
Virtue Ethics Emphasizes the role of character and virtue rather than either doing ones duty or acting in order to bring about good consequences. Does not aim primarily at identifying universal principles but deal with wider questions, e.g. How should I live?, What is the good life--what is human flourishing?, What are proper family and social values? Inspired by Aristotles teleological notions: virtue is the proper end of humans. o Cardinal Virtues (Plato): wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice o Theological Virtues: faith, hope, and charity
Objections to Virtue Ethics Self-Centeredness: primary concern is with the agents own character, with selfcultivation and self-grooming. Not Action-Guiding: fails to give us any help with the practicalities of how we should behave and what policies should be adopted. o Example: Should I help a friend with moving? Moral Luck: right education, habits, influences, etc. promote the development of virtue; wrong influencing factors promote vice. Some virtues, e.g. friendship depend on the availability of external goods. When youre alone it makes you capone: a tough life makes people bad.
Deontological (Duty) Theories Morality based on foundational principles of obligation which are obligatory irrespective of consequence that might follow from our actions. Examples of deontological theories o Rights Based Theories: moral rights taken to be natural, universal, equal for all, and inalianable (see e.g. Locke, framers of US Constitution) o Kants Categorical Imperative: Treat everyone as an end in themself. o Rosss Prima Facie Duties: fidelity, reparation, gratitude, justice, beneficence, self-improvement, non-maleficence.
Consequentialism An action is morally right if the consequences of that action are more favorable than unfavorable o Ethical Egoism: an action is morally right if the consequences of that action are more favorable than unfavorable only to the agent performing the action. o Ethical Altruism: an action is morally right if the consequences of that action are more favorable than unfavorable to everyone except the agent. o Utilitarianism: an action is morally right if the consequences of that action
are more favorable than unfavorable to everyone. Utilitarianism PU (Principle of Utility): An act is right iff it maximizes utility. o What is utility (well-being)? Pleasure? Preference-satisfaction? Flourishing construed in some objective sense? o What is maximizing? Highest total? Highest average? Justice - Distributive & Retributive: How to divide the utility pie? Desert? Liberty: Mills Utilitarianiam vs. Mills On Liberty; life adjustment vs life improvement
Rules and Precedents How do we decide? Theory construction in ethics: arriving at a reflective equilibrium Reflective Equilibrium The method of reflective equilibrium consists in working back and forth among our considered judgments (some say our "intuitions") about particular instances or cases [and] the principles or rules that we believe govern themrevising any of these elements wherever necessary in order to achieve an acceptable coherence
among them. The method succeeds and we achieve reflective equilibrium when we arrive at an acceptable coherence among these beliefs. We arrive at an optimal equilibrium when the component judgments, principles, and theories are ones we are un-inclined to revise any further because together they have the highest degree of acceptability or credibility for us. Ptolemeic Astronomy: Earth at Center Theory Coping with conflicting data
Deny (observational error) Patch Reject in favor of new paradigm Ethical Intuitions: Observations and Data We reflect on our response to real cases And to cases described in thought experiments, for example, Rawls Veil of Ignorance
thought experiment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8GDEaJtbq4 A sample theory to test The Wiccan RedeHarm none The Wiccan Rede The Rede was first publicly recorded in a 1964 speech by Doreen Valiente
Self-Regarding Actions Self-Regarding Action: An action that has no significant, direct consequences for anyone but the agent. Liberty Limiting Principles o The harm principle--Individual liberty is justifiably limited to prevent harm to others. o The principle of legal paternalism--Individual liberty is justifiably limited to prevent harm to self. o The principle of legal moralism--Individual liberty is justifiably limited to
prevent immoral behavior. o The offense principle--Individual liberty is justifiably limited to prevent offense to others. The Wiccan Rede prohibits eating obliging strangers A case of easy rescue What is harm? Failing to help in some cases
when we dont actually do harm can be wrong. Another sample theory: Utilitarianism PU (Principle of Utility): an act is right iff it maximizes utility Utility is understood as desire-satisfaction, pleasure or happiness Consider moral intuitions that support the theory Consider those that are go against the theory (example: the promise to the dead man problem) What should we do if intuitions go against the theory: o reject the intuitions and keep the theory?
o reject the theory in favor on one that explains our intuitions? o modify the theory to accommodate our intuitions? Contributing to harmful practices Some kinds of actions that are harmless individually are harmful when lots of people do them The Promise to the Dead Man Case
Promise that when Im dead youll give me decent burial Maximizing utility The The greatest greatest good good
for for the the greatest greatest number! number! A good Utilitarian cuts up the body and uses it as fish bait. Telishment
Telishment is a term coined by John Rawls to illustrate a problem of the utilitarian view of punishment. Telishment is an act by the authorities of punishing a suspect in order to deter future wrongdoers, even though they know that the suspect is innocent. Fairness: The Magic Shrinking Utility Pie Social and economic inequalities (a) They are to be attached to positions and offices open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity; and (b), they are to be to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society. (Rawls)
Utility Monsters A Utility Monster is a thought experiment by Robert Nozick, which critisizes utilitarianism. He asks us to imagine a monster which recieves more utility (more pleasure basically) from each unit of resources than any humans do. It is therefore logical, and indeed morally required, to give everything to the monster. The Trolley Problem Youre riding a trolley thats barreling toward five people on the tracks. Doing
nothing will result in their deaths. Alternatively, you could pull a lever, diverting the vehicle to another set of tracks, killing one person instead of five. What do you do? The End! Here we are again
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