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Ethics & Morality (Spring '13)

A prezi to track our progress in E&M.

Stephen Hebert

on 7 March 2015

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Transcript of Ethics & Morality (Spring '13)

Consequential vs. Categorical
Moral Reasoning

The Trolley Problem
You are driving a runaway trolley. The brakes have gone out. Ahead you face a fork in the track, you can choose from either of the following options:
You can continue to go straight, but you'll surely crash into five workers, killing them.
You can take an alternate track to the right, but you'll surely crash into one worker, killing him.
What do you do?
(Another) Trolley Problem
You are a bystander who sees a runaway trolley about to crash into five workers, killing them, of course. Looking around, you notice a very fat man standing near the tracks. You have two options
Do nothing and let nature take its course.
Push the fat man in front of the trolley, killing him, but saving the five workers.
What do you do?
What moral principle(s) do
we use to evaluate these cases?
Moral Reasoning
The outcome is all that matters in determining what is and what isn't moral.

The end justifies the means...
Moral Reasoning
The moral value of an action is determined by certain duties and rights independent of the outcomes.

The end does NOT justify the means. The means are either just or unjust in and of themselves.
Think about the trolley problems.
Were you using
moral reasoning?
The Greatest Happiness Principle
Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832)
Two Sovereign Masters
Pleasure & Pain
Item 1 of Benthamite Utilitarianism —
Humans have two masters:
• Pleasure
• Pain

All that we do is governed by these two.
The Principle of Utility
...one property to rule them all...
All things (objects, actions, thoughts, etc.) have a property called "utility."

UTILITY = that which
maximizes pleasure
and reduces pain.
(in nuce)
Morality is determined by the measures that
increase utility.

An action is moral if it produces the greatest
happiness/pleasure for the greatest number of people.
Measuring Pleasure & Pain
How pleasurable or painful is a course of action?
For a GROUP of persons, there are 7 principles to consider —

John Stuart Mill
Utilitarian Reformer...sort of...?
John Stuart Mill (1806–1873)
Two Objections to Bentham
Rights/Liberty and Higher Pleasures
Two objections to Bentham's Utilitarianism emerged —
1. It disregards individuals' rights and liberties.
2. Should all pleasures be considered equal
("push-pin is as good as poetry").
Mill on Liberty
Mill on Higher Pleasures
In the long run, freedom creates a happier society.
KEY: Humans are a higher order of being. Consequently, they value their freedom as an important part of being happy.
It benefits society to encourage higher pleasures because they will create greater happiness in the long run.
KEY: Humans are a higher order of being and are capable of higher pleasures. Working toward those higher pleasures will produce more pleasure over the long-term.
Important Question:
Is Mill REALLY a utilitarian?
Do we own ourselves?
Ayn Rand (1905–1982)
Basics of Libertarianism
What is libertarianism anyway?
Robert Nozick & Slavery
Libertarianism vs. Utilitarianism
Libertarians focus on rights.
Utilitarians focus on utility.
KEY: A libertarian would never agree to a policy simply because it increased utility. The policy must also respect individual rights.
Important Question:
Do we really own ourselves?
NB: Ayn Rand rejected libertarianism,
but has been VERY influential amongst
We might think of libertarianism as espousing this radical notion:

"The Principle of Self-Possession"
We own ourselves. Therefore, we have the right to do with ourselves whatever we please.

Libertarians stand against paternalism.
Libertarians favor the minimal state.
Libertarians are against coercion as it violates self-possession.

Taxation = Taking my earnings
Taking of earnings = Forced labor
Forced labor = Slavery

This is a violation of the
principle of self-possession.
The Doctor and the Patients
What would you do?
You are a doctor in an ER. The following happens:
Patient A comes in with what appears to be a cold.
As you are seeing Patient A, four new patients come in. Each needs a different transplant in order to live.
Patient B needs a kidney.
Patient C needs a liver.
Patient D needs a heart.
Patient E needs a pancreas.

Would you be willing to kill Patient A in order to save the other four patients? Why or why not?
Kant & Freedom
a Rigorous Notion of Freedom
...give in to your desires...
Heteronomy is NOT Freedom
Morality Begins with Autonomy
Only autonomous actions can
have moral worth.
KEY: We can only act morally when we are acting according to a law which we have given ourselves.
Important Question:
If so much of what we do is not free,
how do we go about giving a law to
ourselves? Can anything really be
The vast majority of the decisions that we make are heteronomous —
the food we eat,
the clothes we wear,
the friends we spend time with,
the schools we go to.

Why? Because we are really acting based on desires and inclinations that have either been socialized into us or forced upon us in some other way.
Because heteronomous actions are by definition taken under a law NOT given by ourselves, they are NOT free.

THEREFORE, most of the decisions that we make, according to Kant, are not free. We are acting under the influence of something outside ourselves (desire, socialization, pressure, etc.)
You are the law...
Kant's radical notion of freedom begins with the idea of

For Kant, to act autonomously is to act according to a law that you give yourself.

The opposite of autonomy is
, acting according to a law that someone else gives you.
The Categorical Imperative
doing the right thing
Imperatives: Categorical vs. Hypothetical
The Categorical Imperative
The Categorical Imperative
Important Question:
Do these formulations of the
categorical imperative open Kant
up to the charge of consequentialism?
We act under two different types of commands —

Hypothetical Imperatives
are those that are done for a reason other than duty. "If I do X, then Y will be the result." These are not autonomous and cannot be moral.

The Categorical Imperative
commands us to act out of duty — doing the right thing for its own sake.
FORMULA #1 for the Categorical Imperative:


Do only those things that would be right and good if they were done universally (i.e., by all).
doing the right thing for the right reason
The only way to truly behave morally is to act out of

DUTY = "doing the right thing for the right reason"

For Kant, two conditions must be met for an action to be moral —
(1) The action must be autonomous.
(2) The motive must be pure.
FORMULA #2 for the Categorical Imperative:


Consider human beings as ends rather than means. Because they are rational beings, they have dignity and are worthy of respect and should be treated accordingly.
A deal is a deal. Right?
a discussion about contracts
All Contracts Aren't Fair
Is paternalism necessary?
The Moral Forces Behind a Contract
Important Question:
What does this have to do with
society and morality?
There are a variety of reasons why a contract might not be fair —
lack of a good bargaining position,
ignorance about the terms, etc.

(1) Should we enact paternalistic policy to even these
(2) Is consent always binding? At what point does
consent lose its force?
There are two potential sources of moral force for any given contract —


What is reciprocity and how does it work?
The Social Contract
Did you sign one?
Political philosopher John Locke says that we live our lives under a social contract.
We benefit from society.
Society benefits from our labor.
We've given tacit consent to this contract by enjoying the benefits of society?

(1) What are these benefits that I've reaped?
(2) How important is consent?
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