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Unit #3: Morality & the Human Act

Morality and Action

Bianca Gentile

on 6 June 2013

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Transcript of Unit #3: Morality & the Human Act

Morality & Action Unit #3: Human Acts vs. Non-Human Acts *A human act is done with intellect & will.

*A non-human act is done without intellect & will Only human acts are capable of being good or evil. Object Intention Circumstances The Object *The object is the action itself.

*It's the answer to the question:
"What's being done?"

*The object determines the morality of the act. Keep in Mind: *When the object of the act is evil, it follows that the act itself will be evil, regardless of a person's intentions. Intention *The intention of the act is the motive.

*It answers the question, "Why's it being done?"

*The intention may increase or decrease guilt depending on whether the intentions are good or evil . The Circumstances *The circumstances of the act are all the things that surround it.

*Circumstances to consider: Who? Who's doing the acting? Is it a child or an adult? Where? Where does the act take place? How? The manner in which the act is done. The means by which we accomplish an act can affect its morality. When? When is the action being performed? Think about stealing. Is the person stealing food during a natural disaster like a flood? Keep in Mind! *Circumstances can increase or decrease the moral goodness of an act, but no circumstance can turn an intrinsically evil act into a good act. For an act to be good,
the object, intention & circumstances
surrounding it must be good. deals with conflict situations (mainly issues involving life and death) in which an act has two or more effects Action Good Evil *Rejecting the objectivity of good and evil leads to deficient moral theories: Situation Ethics Elements of Human Act Worksheet an erroneous ethical theory which determines the good or evil nature of an act ONLY from the circumstances It's all about The Situation! In situation ethics:
the morality of an act has little to do with the object or intention only the situation matters.

there is no common or universal set of moral principles. In other words,
situation ethics says nothing can be right or wrong for all people at all times... Kidnapping and murdering children
is always wrong! Consequentialism claims that moral good and evil result from the consequences of the act.

an erroneous ethical theory which claims that as long as the outcome is good, the means by which we accomplish it do not really matter. Two Initial Problems 1. You can't do evil to accomplish good.

2. Ends (results) cannot justify means (methods). A Third Problem 3. It's egotistical
For whom is the outcome good?

If we're talking about the individual, then consequentialism gives a person license to do evil for personal gain.

The same holds true on a larger scale for societies. *we can't treat people as mere numbers! They're individuals with individual dignity! This erroneous theory would say an act like stealing money could be justified, because it could bring about a larger proportion of good. Conclusion The errors mentioned in this chapter are all appealing because they contain elements of truth.

But, they go wrong in emphasizing one element to the exclusion of the others. *But as we've seen, good ends, no matter how good, cannot be used to justify evil means. We have to look at all the elements together in order to determine the morality of the act. intended unintended A Word About Culpability *Remember, there is an important distinction between:

the objective wrongness of an act,


the subjective culpability of the person committing the act.

*Not everyone who commits an evil act is blameworthy. *For an action to be considered morally good,
all 3 aspects must be morally good 3 Aspects of Every Human Act: Some Acts are always evil Intrinsic Evil = Only God can judge the disposition of the human heart, but everyone can morally categorize a type of act We must remember: Judgment of a person & judgment of an action are certainly not identical! *Some acts are intrinsically evil & therefore wrong b/c they go against God’s will & destroy human good, regardless of the circumstances

*Therefore, actions such as:
Rape, Murder, Genocide, Abortion, & Euthanasia
can never be justified.

*These are great assaults on human dignity & contrary to the good of humans & God’s will (1) keep the intention good

(2) "the end does not justify the means"

*Means = a method or a course of action by which something can be accomplished

*Good intentions can't make an act good if the means used are evil 2 Rules for governing intentions: ie: giving a present ie: sneezing
*Actions that are opposed to the will of God or to proper human fulfillment

*Judged by their object, independent of the intention or the circumstances that surround them. 1) The Object

2) The Intention

3) The Circumstances Foreseeable
Alternatives Circumstances also includes considering: *one (or more) of the resulting effects is good (intended)
*one (or more) of the resulting effects is bad (indirect & unintentional) The Principle of Double Effect direct indirect Principle of Double Effect Read: page 75-76 4 Conditions to justify an act under
the Principle of Double Effect: 1.
The act itself must be good/moral (or at least indifferent/amoral) *the object or immediate purpose of the act must fall in line with objective standards of morality 2.
The individual must intend the good effect
and not the evil effect *Right intention/motive

*the evil effect, although foreseen, must not be intended; but only tolerated

*one may never directly intend evil 3.
The good effect
cannot be produced
by means of the evil effect *A good end cannot justify evil means

*An evil action can never be morally justified even if it results in a good outcome 4.
There must be
sufficient reason for performing this act, which allows the bad effect to be indirectly produced *If any of the conditions are not met,
the evil is directly done and, therefore, it is morally wrong St. Maximilian Kolbe Principle of Double Effect in Action: 1. Situation Ethics
2. Consequentialism
3. Proportionalism Errors Derived from Subjective Morality: *Read: page 76-78 claims that moral good & evil result from the situation in which a person finds him or herself. *but this surely can't be the case b/c some things are clearly right in all situations, and some things are clearly wrong in all situations. Consequentialism ignores the good that is owed to every individual human person A Fourth Problem Proportionalism bases morality on combining all the consequences of an action This erroneous theory suggests there may be a proportionate (balanced) reason for choosing to do evil in order to achieve a particular desired result Basically, doing something evil to achieve a good result, which is always immoral *other examples:
Robin Hood
Boondock Saints (Object, Intention, Circumstances) (object, intention, circumstances)
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