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PHI-305: Ethical Thinking in the Liberal Arts

Grand Canyon University: Brett A. Berger
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Brett Berger

on 9 April 2015

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Transcript of PHI-305: Ethical Thinking in the Liberal Arts

PHI-305: Ethical Thinking in the Liberal Arts
What is a good life?
Grand Canyon University
Brett Berger

Topic 1
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Topic 8
Our societies most pressing debates are ethical debates.
Financial Crisis
Abortion
Left-wing vs. Right-wing
poverty
Racism
Class Warfare
Immigration Reform
Gay marriage
War
Terrorism
Sex scandals
Violence
Cyber-bullying
Education Reform
CEO Bonuses
Personally, we are making decisions based on what we think is the good life.
Relationships
Career
Money
Politics
So what? Why should I be interested in this class?
My Teaching Philosophy
Transformation
To understand the foundational goals, expectations, and structure of the course.
To start thinking about the significance and relevance of ethical thinking.
Define ethics.
Reflect on the question: “Why be moral?”
Today's Objectives:
Student ownership
Tension
Respect
Introductions
Instructional Assistants
Individual Forum:
Name:
Birthdate:
Hometown:
Major & Career aspirations:
Hobbies/Interests/extracurriculars:
One question you hope will be addressed in this course:
Syllabus
Assignment/Quiz
Participation
Expectations
Using LoudCloud
Humor
"Selfie"
Course Intro
This class will ask you to...
talk about things you may not be comfortable talking about.
examine yourself and your assumptions.
seek to understand those who are not like you.
Using Technology
The Nature of Ethics
Morals
"Specific customs, precepts, and practices of people and cultures" (Pojman, 2006, p. 2).
Moral Philosophy
"Philosophical or theoretical reflection on morals" (Pojman, 2006, p. 2).
Ethics
"Whole domain covering morals and moral philosophy" (Pojman, 2006, p. 2).
Ethics vs.
Morals

Ethics vs.
Other Domains

Religion
Law
Etiquette
Ethics and Happiness
Is happiness a motivation for living morally?
Reflection:
Identify examples from your personal life or from society that illustrates how short term gain or pleasure led to long-term ruin.
Lasting Happiness?
What's my motivation?
Discussion:
What is My Motivation Worksheet
Restrictions
I may have to sacrifice my own self-interests.
I may have to deny my natural impulses and drives.
I may have to limit my own pleasure.
Lasting Happiness:
Fulfillment
Harmony
Whole Life
Eternal Life
Societal Purposes
To keep society from disintegrating
To reduce human suffering
To promote human flourishing
To resolve conflicts of interest in orderly ways
(Pojman, 2006, pp. 16-17)
Group Discussion:
Does societal pressures make people better or worse?
Ethical Questions
Metaethics vs. Applied Ethics
Traits of Morals
Prescriptive
Universal
Overriding
Publicity
Practical/Possible
Personal preference
Legal responsibility
Biological determination
Evaluating Acts
Types Action
Consequence
Character
Motive
Deontological (Duty)
Consequentialist/Utilitarian/Pragmatism (Utility)
Aretic/Teleological (Virtue)
Right & Wrong
Obligatory & Optional
Discussion:
Filtered through these lenses, how would the decision of divorce be answered?
Ethics &
The Ancient World
Homer
The Sophists
Socrates
Plato
Aristotle
The Good?

Virtues?

Motivation?

Instruction?
The Good?

Virtues?

Motivation?

Instruction?
The Good?

Virtues?

Motivation?

Instruction?
The Good?

Virtues?

Motivation?

Instruction?
The Good?

Virtues?

Motivation?

Instruction?
What is the essential ethical view of Homer? What in our contemporary society does it mirror?
What is the essential ethical view of The Sophists? What in our contemporary society does it mirror?
(470-399 B.C.E)
Quick Facts:
Influential figure in Athens.
Never established a school or wrote down his teachings
Known for his use of questions
Irritated the powerful
Sentenced to death for corrupting the youth.
Quick Facts:
Socrates' most famous pupil
Our written account of Socrates
Founder of The Academy - First higher learning institution.
Founding figure in western society
Quick Facts:
Student of Plato
Instructor to Alexander the Great
First to complete a comprehensive system of philosophy including politics, logic, science, ethics, aesthetics, and metaphysics.
(424– 348 B.C.E.)
(384-322 B.C.E.)
Define the features of two Ancient ethical traditions: Homer and Sophistry.
Evaluate how these two traditions defined the good life and how they passed on their teaching.
Sketch differences between these traditions and those of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
Reflect on common themes in contemporary society.
Objectives:
Homer's
Illiad
and
Odyssey capture an oral tradition of collected stories to pass along moral virtues.
The noble warrior
Cunning & Courage
Honor & Reward
Story & Mythology
Power & Self-Interest
Persuasiveness
Rhetoric
Morality serves those in power
Convention conceals egoist motives
Justice benefits others injustice benefits self
Be clever not to get caught
Truth & Justice
Rational
Self-critical
Righteousness
Happiness
Afterlife
Questions (Socratic Method)
Reason rules the spirit & appetites
For its own reason
Wisdom
Courage
Temperance
Justice
Socratic Diaogue
Function
Happiness
Golden mean
Training
Student says: "Morals are a person’s standards on their behavior or beliefs concerning what is acceptable for them to be doing." We are not concerned with personal standards but public standards.
Rules of engagement
"ought" not "is"
Student says: "Some people in this world might share a couple morals but I will guarantee that not everyone shares the exact same morals in the exact same way. This is what also makes us different and unique."
If one "ought" other "ought" too.
Worldview & Ethics
What is our worldview?
WORLDVIEW
our answers to
seven big questions
THEOLOGY
METAPHYSICS
EPISTEMOLOGY
ETHICS
HUMAN NATURE
Is there a God? What is God like?
What is the nature of the reality?
How do we know things?
What does it mean to be human?
How do we know right from wrong?
We may think of a worldview as a collection of our foundational beliefs, perceptions, and assumptions through which we interpret the nature, structure, and meaning of the world.
A couple of considerations:
we all have one whether we know it or not.
we may share it broadly with others.
there may be some conflict between our confessional worldview and our actual worldview.
PURPOSE
Is there a purpose to it all?
CORE
COMMITMENTS
How ought one to live?
Discussion -
How might one's worldview commitments determine one's moral philosophy?
A debate between William B. Provine and Phillip E. Johnson at Stanford University, April 30, 1994
Worldview Systems & Moral Philosophies
Question of God?
Question of knowledge?
Question of human nature?
Debate between Shelley Kagan and William Craig
What is a human's moral nature?
What is the nature and origin of morality?
What is the meaning of life?
Is God necessary for ethics?
The rationale of moral philosophies is grounded in a worldview.
Genetics & Justice:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/08/17/158944525/would-judge-give-psychopath-with-genetic-defect-lighter-sentence
Naturalism & Love:
http://bigthink.com/big-think-tv/love-is-the-product-of-lousy-neurons
http://veritas.org/talks/god-necessary-morality1/
Thank You for Smoking
Human-nature-
as-it-is
Moral Imperatives
Human-nature-
as-it-is
Human-nature-
as-it-ought-to be
Moral Imperatives
Is God necessary for morality?
Question is not whether atheists or the unreligious can be stand up citizens or good neighbors.
Question is not whether there can be unreligious moral philosophies.
The Question is whether we can speak about moral values like good & evil or right & wrong if God is not in the equation
Question is not whether religion is effective or necessary to motivate people to live morally.
Socrates asks Euthyphro, "Do the gods love holiness because it is holy, or is it holy because the gods love it?"
The Euthyphro Problem (Plato)
Or we may say, "Does God command what is good because it is good, or is something good because God commands it?"
Divine Command Theory
Morality originates with God.
Moral rightness simply means "willed by God" and moral wrongness means "against the will of God."
There are no further reasons for acting morally.
Tolstoy declares, “The attempts to found a morality apart from religion are like the attempts of children who, wishing to transplant a flower that pleases them, pluck it from the roots that seem to them unpleasing and superfluous, and stick it rootless into the ground. Without religion there can be no real, sincere morality, just as without roots there can be no real flower”
Dostoyevsky's Ivan Karamazov proclaims, "If God doesn't exist, everything is permissable."
Autonomy Thesis
Morality does not originate with God.
Moral rightness and wrongness are based on an objective morality that is independent of God's will.
There are reasons for acting one way or another independent of God's will.
Can we speak of things being "really" wrong and not mere social conventions or emotions, if there is no God?
In other words...
Warm-Up: God and Public Ethics Worksheet
Theistic Framework
Atheistic Framework
Are morals relative?
Good
1
2
3
4
Class Discussion:
Should girls be educated in Saudi Arabia? Why?
Do you agree with these students?
The world is grey; there is no black and white.
To each his own.
I respect it [another's belief] because people can have their own thoughts as long as they don't try to influence them upon me.
If it feels right for you, then it is right.
What may be moral to one individual or group of people, may not be moral to another individual or group of people.
Pluralism
Relativism
Vs.
Moral Objectivism
Moral Subjectivism
Vs.
Problems with relativism:
Class Discussion:
What is the draw to moral relativism?
Clarifying Terms
Makes moral language irrelevant
Make moral progress incomprehensible
Becomes self-contradictory
Favors the powerful or the majority
Is tolerance always a good?
Absolutism/Universalism
Virtue Ethics
Human-nature-
as-it-is
Human-nature-
as-it-ought-to be
Moral Imperatives
Teleological View of Ethics
Virtue ethics frames the question in terms of character shaping
Human-nature-
as-it-is
Human-nature-
as-it-ought-to be
Moral Imperatives
A Proposal for a Christian Virtue Ethics
Colossians 3:5
Put to death
, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8
But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things
as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9
Do not lie to each other
,
since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
You are therefore be.
Thinking about your decisions
What is the telos of human nature?

What is the decision consistent with that telos?

What is the decision consistent with my confession?
How do people evaluate actions?
Deontological
Consequentialist
Emotivist
Teleological
How would you describe Christian Ethics?
Do you agree with this student?
Just because someone does certain bad things does not make them a bad person.
Telos
How do people evaluate actions?
Deontological
Consequentialist
Emotivist
Teleological
Group Discussion:
List as many strengths and weakness as you can to Virtue Ethics as a moral philosophy.
Strengths
Weaknesses
Plato vs. Aristotle
What is virtue?
Greek = arete
4 Cardinal Virtues
Temperance
Courage
Wisdom
Justice
How do we know what is good?
Natural Law
Stoics
Believed there was a divine spark that enabled humans to discern the rational laws that governed the universe and thus by living according to reason could live harmoniously with those laws.
Aristotle
Human beings like all other objects have a nature, purpose, and function. Good is defined in terms of that purpose. Bad is contrary to that purpose. Human nature is to live according to reason.
Thomas Aquinas
Combined the notion of the cosmic law with the notion of human purpose. One can discern the law through that which man is naturally inclined. Good is to be pursued and promoted and evil is to be avoided. The Good are the things that are according to reason.
Natural Law
Human beings have an essential rational nature established by God, who designed us to live and flourish in prescribed ways
Even without knowing God, reason can discover the laws necessary for human flourishing.
The natural laws are universal and unchangeable and ought to be used to judge individual and social laws.
(Pojman, 2006, pp. 46-47)
Group Discussion:
Think about Roman Catholic teaching on matters of sexuality (e.g., Prohibitions on homosexuality, contraception, divorce, etc.). How do these prohibitions reflect a Natural Law framework?
Group Discussion:
List as many strengths and weakness as you can to Natural Law as a moral philosophy
Strengths
Weaknesses
"...For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them..."
(Rom 2:14–15 ESV).
Modern Ethics
Modernity
Pre-modern
Modern
"Spirit of the Age"
Generally authoritarian view of knowledge
Sense of identity drawn from belief in the divine.
Rejection of authoritarian ideas of knowledge.
Exaltation of human reason and science.
Human society will move out of the dark and into the light.
Protestant Reformation
Newtonian Physics
(1642-1727)
(1483-1546)
(1564 – 1642)
(1596 -1650)
Cartesian Philosophy
Political authorities are so by divine rights
Group Activity: How will you define morality apart from the appeal to divine authority?
(1509 –1564)
(1473 – 1543)
Copernican Revolution
Nicolaus Copernicus
Galileo Galilei
Martin Luther
John Calvin
René Descartes
Isaac Newton
Execution of Charles I
Proliferation of diverse ideas
Empowerment of the individual
Exaltation of the human
October 31, 1517 - Luther posts his 95 Theses
Reformation vs. Revolution
Authority of the Word of God ≠ the Church
Reaction against abuses of the religious authorities
Diversity (Calvinism, Lutheranism, Anabaptism)
Sola Scriptura & Sola Fide
June 21, 133 - Galileo supports Copernican view
Science vs. Science
Science vs. Religion
Upends Ptolemaic view of the solar system
Displaces man from the center of the universe
Seeks to provide rational defense of God
Skepticism = Hermeneutic of Suspicion
I think therefore I am
Thomas Hobbes
(1588–1679)
David Hume
Immanuel Kant
(1711-1776)
(1724-1804)
Activity: You're the Mayor...
Defender of the Monarchy
Principle Work:
Leviathan
What is society?
"A group of self-interested individuals"
What would life be like without government? State of Nature?
Equality
- Equally able to kill each other
Scarcity
- Creates competition
State of Nature
- Continual state of war
Insecurity
- No enjoyment, no development, no culture, no personal growth
State of Nature
- Leads to a motivation for peace
Peace
- Can only come through other regards.
Conditions for Peace
- Can only come through submission to the protection of a strong power.
Potential Abuses
by power are better than the state of nature.
What happens when social structures breakdown?
Morality - Social Contract
Right and wrong is nothing but the agreed upon constraint of self-interest for the sake of peace.
Nothing can be regarded as good or evil apart from law.
The Leviathan can only regulate behavior.

In the state of nature life "is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short" (Leviathan 13:9).
Covenant with the Leviathan:
"I authorise and give up my right of governing myself, to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition, that thou give up thy right to him, and authorise all his actions in like manner" (Leviathan 17:13).
Response to:
Materialistic worldview -
does not have a rational ground for evaluations like good and bad.
Moral Rationalism
- Moral principles can be discerned and discovered through reason.
Hume's Moral Philosophy
Reason
cannot motivate us to action
Two types of reasoning: Logical and Empirical. Neither can compel us act.
Emotions or Passions
motivate us to act
Vice or Virtue
lie not in the act itself but in heart. (e.g. murder)
Sentiment
- What matters is what one feels!
Subjectivism/Objectivism
- Secondary qualities like color or sound.
Near universal effect of moral
- Just like we have a near universal experience of green grass, so too with moral situations.
Natural sentiment
of benevolence. Sympathy is the capacity to be affected positively or negatively by the happiness or suffering of others.
Ideal -
Sympathetic Dialogue
What motivates us to do good?
In the state of nature life "The intercourse of sentiments, therefore, in society and conversation makes us form some general unalterable standard, by which we may approve and disapprove of characters and manners" (
Enquiry
, 49).
Principle Work:
An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morality
"social contract"
"The sentimentalist"
"The call of duty"
What is a good motivation?
"Good will"
Discerning the Moral Law
The Moral Law
"Ought Implies Can"
What is my motivation?
Not from Duty
Mediate Inclination
Immediate Inclination
Duty
The Thief
The Humanitarian in it for the public praise
The Humanitarian in it because she enjoys people
Doing the right thing...
because it is the right thing.
Good traits vs. Good will
Formulation:
1. Categorical Imperative
2. Categorical Imperative Part II
3. Kingdom of ends
4. Principle of autonomy
"I must only act on that maxim that I can will to become a universal law."
"We ought to treat humanity in ourselves and others as ends and never merely as means."
"Act in such a way that the maxims proceeding from your own legislation can harmonize with a possible kingdom of ends."
"Everyone is a law unto themselves."
What is it?
Self
Others
Two Ends
Moral Faith:
God empowers
God rewards & Punishes
(Acting immorally is making exceptions for ourselves)
Utilitarianism
Late Modern Ethics
Ethical Egoism
Postmodern Ethics
How do we evaluate actions?
Kind of action - Rule/Duty
Character - Virtue/Function
Consequence - Utility
Utilitarianism
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
Consequentialist - views right action in terms of utility.
Assumption - "Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness" (Bentham, Utilitarianism, 7)
Judges pleasures by quality rather than quantity
One evaluates actions on the basis of a kind of mathematics.
Considers the pleasure and pain of every individual affected by an action.
Considers everyone to be equal; does not permit an individual to put his or her interests or relationships first.
Attempts to provide an objective, quantitative method for making moral decisions.
Connects with human psychology and the desire for happiness.
The good things about utilitarianism:
Cannot assign a quantitative measure to all pleasures and pains.
Cannot account for motivation or character.
Suggests the ends justify the means.
Can it arbitrate between the happiness and pain of people on conflicting sides?
Can it protect the minority or powerless?
The drawbacks of utilitarianism:
Jeremy Bentham
(1748-1832)
Derived by looking at nature.
Two masters: pleasure and pain
Response:
Moral consensus in the absence of authority
Motivation in the face of rationalism
Hedonism?
"It is better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied..." (Utilitarianism, p. 10)
Motivation? Irrelevant
Everyone counts as one.
Everyone is part of a whole not wholes in and of themselves.
Act Utilitarianism - Application of the principle of utility to every action (i.e., run through the calculation of the act).
Rule Utilitarianism - The principle of utility produces and set of rules that ensure social utility.
Two kinds of utilitarians
Modernist Challenge to Ethics
Is/Ought & the Fact/Value distinction
Is/Ought Fallacy
Is
Ought
Warrant
What grounds our moral principles?
Epistemology
Metaphysics
Ethics
Empiricism
Agnosticism
Relativism
Ideal
Purpose
Facts
Implicitly Theological
Social Contract -
When did I sign that contract?
Can the governing authority ever be wrong?
Utilitarianism -
Why ought pleasure and pain be our masters?
Why ought I be concerned with society's good?
Deontological -
Are the things I "will to be universal" just a reflection of my values and biases?
The Early Modern ethicists sought to maintain rather traditional morality in the new epistemological reality.
Embracing Rationalism and Empiciricism
Sentimentalism -
What about those who feel differently?
Don't our feelings just represent our values & biases?
Values
Objections
Darwinian Evolution
A new narrative.
A new view of human beings.
A new trajectory for investigating human behavior.
Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
Not an ethicist. Not the first naturalist. But provided an a mechanism that would explain our existence from purely natural processes.
His central idea is that new species arise from the result of blind mutations and competition for resources.
Challenges the idea that humans are rational or moral creatures with a divine origin.
Challenged the Design Argument of William Paley.
Central idea is that human beings are not unique among the animal world originating from less complex species.
Mind/Brain
Fact/Value
Challenges the idea that humans are free moral agents.
Central idea is that human beings biologically determined beings.
Implications
Søren Kierkegaard
(1813 – 1855)
Danish Philosopher
Reacts against Modern Philosophy
Considered the Father of Existentialism
Grounds his philosophy in relationship to Christ
Aesthetic Stage
Ethical Stage
Religious Stage
Driven by pleasure and pain
Freedom is an illusion
Boredom and Pain lead to despair
Turn to self-conscious choice and duty
In the exercise of our choice we are becoming more fully human
Failure leads to despair
Comes to the end of reason and the ethical
"Infinite Resignation" - dies to the world
Paradox is held together in faith.
Kierkegaard's Stages
Abraham is key figure
Friedrich Nietzsche
(1844-1900)
Son of a Lutheran Pastor
Educated in the Classics
Becomes fierce opponent to Christianity and Judeo-Christian values.
Grounds his philosophy in the will to power
Homer is key figure
Weakness of Modernity's Atheism
Life of passion and power
Slave vs. Master Moralities
Christianity is moral sickness
Create new values
Choice
Faith
Power
Transcend your nature vs. Embrace your nature
A.J. Ayer (1910-1989)
Emotivism
Based on empiricism
Necessarily true
Verifiable or Falsifiable
Ethical statements are emotional
Assumes naturalist worldview
Ethical statements are meaningless
Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
Egoism
It is rational to preserve one's self
Assumes naturalist worldview
One rationally chooses one's long term interest
Promotes justice and self-esteem
Psychological Egoism
Personal Egoism
Ethical Egoism
Postmodernity
Premodern
Modern
Postmodern
"Spirit of the Age"
Generally authoritarian view of knowledge
Sense of identity drawn from belief in the divine.
Rejection of authoritarian ideas of knowledge.
Exaltation of human reason and science.
Human society will move out of the dark and into the light.
Rejection of modernity's metanarratives
The individual becomes the locus of truth and morality.
Nothing is objective. Everything is subjective
Empire State Building (1931)
Nationale-Nederlanden Building, Prague (1992-96)
Modernity
Postmodernity
Truth to be known
Truth cannot be known
Truth is out there
Truth is in here
Reacting against the oppressive authorities of the pre-modern world (i.e., kings and priests).
Reacting against the oppression of modern project (i.e., scientists, industrialists)
Truth is liberating
Truth is oppressive
Values in factual terms
Values don't exist
Metanarrative
Rejects Metanarrative
Embrace pluralism
Implications for ethics:
Facts in public/Values in private
If the self is the source of truth and morality, then the self cannot be wrong.
Absence of metanarrative and human purpose
Morality divorced from human fulfillment
Activity: Postmodernism Worksheet
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