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ToK: Ethics

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Chris Kirby

on 15 September 2016

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Transcript of ToK: Ethics

a ToK perspective
The branch of philosophy that deals with the moral principles that govern a person's or group's behavior.
Applying the Characteristics
Ex 1: Could blowing up the manufacturer of land mines with their own products be argued as ethically right, and believed to be ethically right by those who did it?
Applying the characteristics
Ex 6: If you pick up notes from the desk of a student sitting next to you with the intention of depriving him of the notes, is your action unethical?

Ex 7: If you accidentally pick them up because you thought they were yours, is your action unethical?
Religious Theories
Divine Revelation:
The major religions of the world all have ethical codes or moral laws which set standards of behavior for their members.

These codes are usually revealed through divine revelation, that is directly through a prophet

The Ten Commandments were revealed through the prophet Moses
The Islamic code of religious law is based on the teaching of the Koran and the sayings of the prophet Mohammed
The four gospels of the New Testament were written by followers or disciples of Christ
The Self Interest Theory
Asserts that the ethical goal of each of us should be the promotion of our own self interests
Aristotle argued that all humans seek what he called eudaimonia (difficult to translate, but some thing like ‘being content with life in a fulfilled and virtuous way’)
Can you think of any Ethical Codes?
Ethical Codes
Shouldn't we have a code of ethics to guarantee that we treat each other ethically?
IB Academic Integrity Policy
Bibb Code of Conduct
Medical Code of Conduct
When are we considered to be making an ethical decision?
For a decision to be considered an ethical one, it must have the following four characteristics:
4 Characteristics of Ethical Decisions
You must believe your action is right and be prepared to justify it as such
The interests of someone other than yourself must be involved
You must act of your own free will
Your action must be deliberate
Applying the Characteristics
Ex 2: If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, could you do anything ethically wrong?

Ex 3: If you work hard to pass an exam, is that in itself an ethically good act?

Ex 4: If you work hard to please your grandmother , is that potentially an ethically good act?
Ex 5: If your classmate is selling marijuana at school and you believe her threat that she, or her friends, would kill you if you informed the school administration of her activities, is your silence unethical?
Most of us are brought up to follow certain ethical rules. Some examples are:
Never take a human life
Never cause needless pain or suffering
Do not gamble
Do not drink alcoholic drinks
Do not eat pork
Do not steal
Never tell a lie
Each of these rules tells you what to do, but it doesn’t tell you why you should (or shouldn’t) do it.
What we need is a set of ethical principles which form the basis for these rules.

From the earliest recorded times philosophers and religious thinkers have developed such sets of ethical principles, called Theories of Conduct.
Theories of Conduct
Religious theories
The Self Interest Theory
The Universal law Theory
The Utilitarian Theory
For some who have a strong belief in god, knowing right from wrong is easy:
Right is following the rules of god and the prophets.
Wrong is when you stray from these rules
If the prophets tell you killing is wrong, then it is wrong
If the prophets tell you to pray three times a day, you pray three times a day
Problems with Religious Theories of Conduct
Does god command what is ethically right or does god’s command make it right?
Who can decide, and how can they decide, what the actual ethical code is?
Does God actually exist?
Arguments for the existence of God
The Design Argument
The First Cause Argument
The Existence Argument
According to Descartes, everyone has the idea of a perfect being, and this perfect being must, by definition, be perfect. To be perfect it must exist as existence is part of perfection. Therefore this model of perfection, God, must exist.
Don’t confuse self-interest with selfishness

Concern for others is not only compatible with self-interest, it is basic to it – to help others is to help oneself

If you lie and steal to benefit yourself financially, you will soon find yourself ostracized by your community.

Some psychologists would put it this way – A person must value him/herself and only then can he/she value others
The Self Interest Theory
Conflicts of self interest
What happens if your self interest is in direct conflict with someone else’s?

Aristotle would say that your self interest is better served by compromise than by determinedly seeking a reward/award.
Problems with the Self Interest Theory
Some people, however much they may want to, are not able to look after their own self interest.
What do we do with people who simply do not share the same search for fulfillment that most of us have?
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