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THEO 303 (Su '15) T01 - Why study Ethics

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Hartmut Scherer

on 12 May 2015

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Transcript of THEO 303 (Su '15) T01 - Why study Ethics

Why study Ethics?
Ethical Dilemma
Mary stole a copy of the final for Honors Biology and circulated it among her friends. You have an opportunity to see the final and are particularly torn about if you should look or not...after all you are in about the middle of this class gradewise and only those students who score in the top 50% will be allowed to go on to the advanced class (which is highly regarded on a college application). Of course if you say nothing your chance of being in that top 50% is pretty slim.
Sources and Image Credit
"Introduction to Types of Ethical Systems." http://www.accessexcellence.org/AE/AEPC/WWC/1992/ethical_systems.php. Accessed May 9, 2015.
#1 I think that in today's society cheating of this sort is so usual
that there is no particular reason not to look at the test.
What kind of thinking does the following response reveal?
(Virtue Ethics, Deontology, Relativism, Divine Command, or Utilitarianism)
#2 First of all it seems that having this information is a form of
stealing information that is not yours. Didn't we learn as
children in Sunday school that we shouldn't steal?
Divine Command
#3 I think the real issue here is do the ends justify the means.
The Four Essential Questions of Application
What we ought to
Duties/Principles (Deontology)
What we ought to
Character (Virtue)
Goals (Teleology)
What we ought to
What we ought to
- ability to make judgments
- skill in the art of seeing
- servant of duties, character
and goals
Should you live a moral life, if you cannot die, if you are not accountable to anyone and if you have absolute power? Why or why not?
Mrs. Williams was a thirty-five-year-old single mother of two. After almost a decade on the welfare rolls, she had begun to free herself from dependency by taking a job as a cashier at a local grocery store. She had just received her first check, and on the way home from cashing it at the bank with pride, she was held up at gunpoint by a drug addict who needed quick cash for another fix. He grabbed her wallet with over two hundred dollars in cash and fled into the twilight of the evening. Was this an ethical or unethical act? Why?
Ethics and the Moral Life
"The moral life is behavior in which we have a sense of oughtness and obligation."
Doriani, Daniel M.,
Putting the Truth to Work
(P&R 2001), 97-116.
Ethics is the discipline that studies the moral life.
Hollinger, Dennis P.,
Choosing the Good
(Baker, 2002), 13.
If morality refers primarily to behavior and character, ethics is the discipline that tries to provide guidance and perspective in making decisions and forming character.
Ethics provides good reason for why something is moral.
Ethics is about the good (that
is what values and virtues we
should cultivate) and about the right
(that is, what our moral duties may be).
It examines alternative views of what is
good and right; it explores ways of gaining
the moral knowledge we need; it asks
why we ought to do right; and it brings
this to bear on the practical moral
problems that arouse such
thinking in the first place.
Arthur Holmes in Hollinger, Dennis P.,
Choosing the Good
(Baker, 2002), 14.
Making Moral Judgments
1) Consider the
2) Evaluate the
of the person (called the "moral actor")
3) Evaluate the
of your actions and decisions
4) Attempt to evaluate the
of the moral actor
(4 specific considerations)
(4 broad categories)
Descriptive ethics
- is a sociological discipline that attempts to
describe the morals of a particular society
Normative ethics
- refers to the discipline that produces
moral norms or rules as its end product.
- is an area of ethics that investigates the
meaning of moral language.
Aretaic ethics
- is a category of ethics that focuses on the
virtues produced in individuals, not the
morality of specific acts.
(also called virtue)
4 Frameworks for Ethical Decision Making
Adopted frameworks and their approaches from “A Framework for Making Ethical Decisions”; http://www.brown.edu/academics/science-and-technology-studies/framework-making-ethical-decisions. Accessed May 9, 2015.
Duty (deontological) Framework
We focus on the duties and obligations that we have in a given situation
The Duty-Based Approach
This approach argues that doing what is right is not about the consequences of our actions but about having the proper intention in performing the action.
The Fairness or Justice Approach
All free men should be treated alike, just as all slaves should be treated alike. Fairness of starting point is the principle for what is considered just.
The Divine Command Approach
This approach sees what is right as the same as what God commands.
Virtue Framework
We try to identify the character traits (either positive or negative) that might motivate us in a given situation
The Virtue Approach
This approach argues that ethical actions should be consistent with ideal human virtues.
Consequentialist (teleological) Framework
We focus on the future effects of the possible courses of action, considering the people who will be directly or indirectly affected
The Utilitarian Approach
This approach considers the consequences that concern large groups of people, in part because it instructs us to weigh the different amounts of good and bad that will be produced by our action. The best action will be that which produces the greatest balance of good over harm.
The Egoistic Approach
In this approach, an individual often uses utilitarian calculation to produce the greatest amount of good for him or herself.
The Common Good Approach
This approach promotes the perspective that our actions should contribute to ethical communal life.
What makes an action right or wrong in this framework or system?
Ethical Relativism Framework
We focus on right and wrong knowing that they are not absolute and unchanging.
Cultural Relativism
Right and wrong are determined by cultural consensus.
Moral Subjectivism
Right and wrong are determined by one’s individual tastes and preferences.
#4 It seems like I ought to look at the moral rules that come into
play in a situation like this.
#5 I think to deal with this dilemma you ought to look deep inside
yourself and see what your motives are for the action you might
Virtue Ethics
Terms Used in Ethical Judgments
When we say something is ethically "obligatory" we mean that it is not only right to do it, but that it is wrong not to do it. In other words, we have an ethical obligation to perform the action.
Adopted from http://www.brown.edu/academics/science-and-technology-studies/framework-making-ethical-decisions. Accessed May 9, 2015.
The opposite of an ethically obligatory action is an action that is ethically impermissible, meaning that it is wrong to do it and right not to do it.
Sometimes actions are referred to as ethically permissible/"neutral," because it is neither right nor wrong to do them or not to do them.
These types of actions are seen as going “above and beyond the call of duty.” They are right to do, but it is not wrong not to do them.
Morality and the Law
- substantial overlap between what is legal and what is moral
- For laws to be valid, they must have some connection to
widely shared moral principles
- Law is the moral minimum. Obeying the law is the beginning
of our moral obligations
A person’s genuine moral intent is changed by persuasion, not coercion.
The Rights Approach
This approach stipulates that the best ethical action is that which protects the ethical rights of those who are affected by the action. It emphasizes the belief that all humans have a right to dignity.
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