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Theory of Knowledge - Introduction to Ethics

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Phil Morgan

on 17 September 2013

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Transcript of Theory of Knowledge - Introduction to Ethics


Ethics - The study of right and wrong in human actions. The method by which we determine our values and pursue them.

Ethical - A philosophically-defined, but basically idealistic standard of right and wrong, often stated in terms of 'Ought to'.

Moral - Personal behaviour measured by the prevailing standards of what is considered 'good' or 'bad', Involving choice and more than one person.
What do I do?
Why do I do it?
Moral Judgment
- An utterance which asserts that something is good or bad and should or should not be done.

- An assessment of what is important and what is not. Values are attitudes; standards by which people measure the worth of everything

- A situation requiring a choice between two equally undesirable alternatives.
Was cutting the rope a 'good' thing to do?
Why does the sister protest against the requested action?
What value informed the father's decision?
We should perform those actions which will, in their circumstances,
produce the greatest good, defined as utility.


An action is good if it is performed in accordance with a rule which
itself produces the greatest utility for the greatest numbers of people.
Right and good consist in obedience to objective moral duties.

Utilitarianism is the position that the sole element in human good
is the promotion of human well-being and satisfaction.
The right action is the one which produces the greatest utility,
or the greatest quantity of positive states for people.
Good human characteristics would be those that lead to good actions.
It is entirely dependent on the consequences or results for human well-being.
This is termed outcome utilitarianism.

Social contract theory suggests that these individuals
would come together to form a society, accepting that
they have certain obligations to each other.

Rules of conduct would be established to govern
permissible and non-permissable behaviour.

What is ‘Good’ would be a matter of agreement
between the ‘authors’ of the social contract.
Social Contract Theory
Divine Command Theory
Six Ethical Theories
Deontological Theory
Bullets are 'bad'.
Gummi Bears are 'good'.
Sociobiological theory
Perhaps moral value is related to evolution? In Sociobiological theory, moral conduct is that which facilitates humankind’s cohesion and survival. Behaviour considered detrimental to these ends was prohibited.

Co-operation is good...
Virtue theory
We have a shared human nature. Moral agreement is possible because of our shared understanding of what the virtues are.
Was he wrong to cut the rope?
V. Honour thy father and mother.
VI. Thou shalt not kill.

The Problems of Evaluative Language
Is this a hairy man?
Is this a hairy dog?
Is this a good painting?
Is this good food?
Is this a good idea?
You are about to be shot
by an armed attacker.

Are bullets good?
You are lost in the wilds
You have a rifle, three bullets
and no food.

Are bullets good yet?
You've just wrestled the loaded
gun away from the armed attacker.

Are bullets good now?
On a long car journey with screaming children, you find a bag of Gummi Bears.

Are Gummi Bears good?
You are dangerously overweight, diabetic,
and addicted to sugar.

Are Gummi Bears still good?
Relative Value
Christian crusaders in the Middle Ages not obeying the VIth commandment.
Imagine that a group of individuals find themselves
marooned together in an isolated place. Without any external authority/government/associations,

How would they conduct themselves?
You have a biology test. You are not confident
in your knowledge and have prepared a 'Cheat sheet'.
for the test, The teacher is distracted, and your peers
are all busy writing. Now is the perfect moment to
get the sheet out and cheat....so
what do you do?
How can we make a
decision about whether
or not commit an action?
Four tests of action
Cheating to the dark side
leads...much to learn you
still have...
The Mentor Test
The Publicity
The Role Model Test
The mirror test
"Breaking News...Joshua Wong cheated
on his bio test today...he used a set of
prepared notes to swindle his way to a
perfect 7.
Would Jesus cheat on
a bio test?
Can I look at myself
knowing that I am a
How do I view myself in the
knowledge of my actions?
According to
act utilitarianism
the son was right to cut the rope. Two people
survive, at the cost of one life.

What is the problem with utilitarianism?

Can we
that it is
right to cut the rope?
Duties and obligations
Thomas Hobbes - Leviathan
Problems with social contract theory?
Utility - The state of being useful,
beneficial of profitable
Immanuel Kant
The Categorical Imperative.

Act only according to that
maxim by which you can, at the
same time will that it would
Suggest a maxim
that you would will
to be an unbreakable
Do we?

What are our shared virtues?
Why should we be
concerned with
ethical questions?
Theory of Knowledge
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