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THEO 303 (Sp '16) T01 - Why study Ethics

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Hartmut Scherer

on 19 January 2016

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Transcript of THEO 303 (Sp '16) T01 - Why study Ethics

moral life
is behavior in which we have a sense of oughtness and obligation."
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
Doriani, Daniel M.,
Putting the Truth to Work
(P&R 2001), 97-116.
the discipline that studies the moral life
Hollinger, Dennis P.,
Choosing the Good
(Baker, 2002), 13.
Ethics provides good reason for why something is moral.
Arthur Holmes in Hollinger, Dennis P.,
Choosing the Good
(Baker, 2002), 14.
Making Moral Judgments
1) Consider the
itself (must have acted freely)
2) Evaluate the
of the person
(sense of duty, not self interest)
3) Evaluate the
of your actions
(act must be morally right to do)
[ 4) Attempt to evaluate the
of the moral actor ]
(4 specific considerations)
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.
#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.
(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.
(Virtue Ethics)
Mrs. Williams
ethical dilemma
: a conflict between two or more
value- or virtue-driven interests.
tries to provide guidance and perspective in making decisions and forming character
refers primarily to behavior and character
is about the good (that is what values and virtues we should cultivate)
is about the right (that is, what our moral duties may be)
examines alternative views of what is good and right
explores ways of gaining the moral knowledge we need
asks why we ought to do right
brings this to bear on the practical moral problems
4 Frameworks for Ethical Decision Making
Virtue Framework
The Virtue Approach
Consequentialist (teleological) Framework
Ethical Egoism
What makes an action right or wrong in this framework or system?
Ethical Relativism Framework
(deontological) Framework
We focus on the duties and obligations that we have in a given situation
The Divine Command
Natural Law
Ethical Rationalism
We try to identify the character traits (either positive or negative) that might motivate us in a given situation
We focus on the future effects of the possible courses of action, considering the people who will be directly or indirectly affected
We focus on right and wrong knowing that they are not absolute and unchanging.
This approach sees what is right as the same as what God commands.
This approach claims that objective moral values exist outside of and prior to God's commands given in special revelation.
This approach claims to know good and bad, right and wrong by reason alone.
This approach argues that ethical actions should be consistent with ideal human virtues.
This approach considers the consequences for large groups of people. The best action will be that which produces the greatest
balance of good over harm.
This approach holds that moral conduct ought to be judged through self-interest.
Cultural Relativism
Right and wrong are determined by cultural consensus.
Moral Subjectivism
Right and wrong are determined by one’s individual tastes and preferences.
Identify Ethical Frameworks
Ethical Relativism, Divine Command Theory, Utilitarianism, Deontology and Virtue Ethics
Case 2:
Rachel has fallen in love with Nathan, a schoolmate in a small religious school set up by a Christian sect. Her parents forbid a marriage with Nathan and make arrangements for Rachel to marry Peter, another youth in the church. Rachel married Peter.
Case 1:
Enu, the old grandmother of a Shoshone tribe, could no longer chew the buffalo hides to make them supple enough for making items of clothing. When winter came and food supplies were not sufficient for all, it was decided by the tribe that Enu would be left alone on a nearby hill to die.
Ethical Relativism
The decision was based on the mores or traditions of the tribe.
Divine Command Theory
The decision was based on one of the Ten Commandments honor your mother and father, for instance.
Ethical Relativism, Divine Command Theory, Utilitarianism, Deontology and Virtue Ethics
Case 3:
In Germany during 1942 a Christian soldier, whose close friend is imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp, finds himself in a crowd with his leader, Adolf Hitler. He views the Fuhrer as ruthless and dangerous to his country. Being armed, he considers killing Hitler. After a few moments of hesitation, the soldier assassinates Adolf Hitler.
The decision was based on the best consequence for the most people.
Ethical Relativism, Divine Command Theory, Utilitarianism, Deontology and Virtue Ethics
Case 4:
Ted, an insurance agent, receives a phone call from a fellow agent who works in the same office, asking for a ride to work because his car has broken down. Ted had intended to use the drive to work to view some property he would like to buy but picking up his coworker would not leave him time to do this. He decides not to refuse the coworker's request.
The decision was based on duty. Ted would want his decision to be universal.
Ethical Relativism, Divine Command Theory, Utilitarianism, Deontology and Virtue Ethics
Case 5:
Thomas, a missionary doctor in El Salvador, was told by the government to abandon his work and return to the United States. Thomas doesn't even consider stopping his work with the poor people of the countryside.
Virtue Ethics
The decision was based on wanting to continue doing good.
Ethical Relativism, Divine Command Theory, Utilitarianism, Deontology and Virtue Ethics
Case 6:
Rachel visited her friend Sarah in the hospital. Sarah had been badly burned and blinded in a car accident and seemed most concerned about how disfigured she might look. She asks Rachel how awful she looks. Rachel lies to Sarah and tells her the effects of the burn are not bad at all.
The decision was based on the best consequence for Sarah.
Ethical Relativism, Divine Command Theory, Utilitarianism, Deontology and Virtue Ethics
Case 7:
Art gets a new car and asks his good neighbor Sam whether he likes the color. Even though Sam knows the truth will hurt Art he believes in the ten commandments and so gives his honest opinion that the car would look better in a different color.
Divine Command
The decision was based on "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor."
Ethical Relativism, Divine Command Theory, Utilitarianism, Deontology and Virtue Ethics
Case 8:
Hank, who is not religious, witnesses a man known to be quite wealthy drop a money clip containing several large bills. Hank could definitely use the money to help buy clothes for his eight foster children but instead returns the money to the man.
The decision was based on the worth of the individual who should never be used as a means to an end.
OR Virtue Ethics:
He acts out of spontaneous goodness.
Ethical Relativism, Divine Command Theory, Utilitarianism, Deontology and Virtue Ethics
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