Introduction to Normative Ethics

Introduction to Normative Ethics

Introduction to Normative Ethics Normative Ethics: Normative ethics is the study of right and wrong Seeks to arrive at moral standards that regulate right and wrong conduct

What we ought to do goes beyond, and cannot be justified by, statements about the facts of human behavior Presupposes freedom of choice If we are not free, we cannot be blamed or praised for our actions Major Systems: Virtue Ethics, Hedonism, Kantian Ethics, Consequentialism (Utilitarianism, Egoism, Social-Contract Theory, etc.)

Free Will vs. Determinism: Normative ethics presupposes freedom of choice If we are free to make choices, then we can be held responsible for what we do. Praise or blame are appropriate We can act on the basis of values that we hold In considering the moral implications of actions, we have to assess the degree of freedom available to the agent Though we are all conditioned by many factors, there

remains a measure of freedom exercised within the imposed constraints Free Will vs. Determinism (continued): Determinism - all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes external to the will. Determinists claim individual human beings have no free will and cannot be held morally responsible for their actions

No scope for human freedom/choice. We are automatons If we have no choice in what we do, it makes no sense to speak of moral action springing from choices and values, or action being worthy of praise or blame Moral Relativism: individual relativism - individual people create their own moral standards.

Nietzsche argued that the superhuman creates a morality distinct from the slave-like value system of the masses cultural relativism - morality is grounded in the approval of one's society. Denies the absolute, universal nature of morality Moral values change from society to society throughout time and throughout the world

Case Study #1: Why be moral? Many well-known answers to the question Why be moral? have been offered throughout history. All are subject to serious problems and objections. That we should be moral at all, given the hardships of life and pressures were often put under, is obvious only to the naive. The study of ethics is the systematic attempt to develop an ethical theory founded on sound reasoning and truth, rather than opinion, belief, or common sense. As an introduction to our ethics unit, answer the following question:

Why not shortchange a blind news vender by telling him he was paid with a five dollar, rather than a one dollar bill? In your answer, avoid cliches and flippant generalizations. Avoid vague pontificating and righteous knee-jerk moralizing. Use good reasoning and your powers of explanation to make your case. Warm-Up Question: In your view, what does it mean to be happy? What constitutes the good life for human

beings? How ought one to live? Virtue Ethics: Agent centered Sought to discover what makes for the good life,or a life of happiness What is happiness? An activity of the soul in accord with perfect virtue Eudaimonia =(Greek) having a good indwelling spirit or

being in a contented state of health, happiness, prosperity Happiness is not a goal; it is something that accompanies certain activities; it is a way of engaging in the various activities of life. Some Examples: Courage A person who engages in a course of conduct courageously does not arrive at a goal called courage; rather, its

a way of doing things, e.g. acting bravely Happiness is a way of engaging in the various activities of life--eating, working, making love, studying, etc. If one engages in such activities in a certain way, we can call that person happy Still... What is the good life? And how ought one to behave in order to be happy? Aristotles Strategy:

1. The good life for people is a life of happiness. 2. People ought to behave so as to achieve happiness. 3. The Doctrine of the Mean, or golden mean, is the formula one needs to follow in order to be happy. 4. The proper way for one to behave in the moral sphere is virtuously, in accordance with the

mean. Criticisms of Virtue Ethics: Golden Mean is not absolute, since how one should behave is relative. A philosophy of the good life cannot always help us make moral choices. Cannot answer moral questions in specific situations, as in, Should I keep a promise or not? Tell the truth or lie?

It is not always the case that happiness will result from moderate behavior. There are some cases where only immoderate behavior is proper. Ben Franklins 13 Virtues: 1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation. 2. Silence: Speak not but what may

benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation. 3. Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time. 4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve. 5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e., waste nothing.

Ben Franklins 13 Virtues: 6. Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions. 7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and if you speak, speak accordingly. 8. Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries or by omitting the benefits that are your duty. 9. Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10.Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes, or habitation. Ben Franklins 13 Virtues: 11.Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable. 12.Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or

reputation. 13.Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates. Journal #2: Virtue Ethics 1. Which of Ben Franklins virtues do you find compelling or important in the pursuit of a life well-lived? Why? Pick at least two (2) and explain. 2. Which of Ben Franklins virtues would you leave off of your list? Why. Pick at least one, preferably

two, and explain. 3. How/why is virtue ethics not a form of what philosophers call consequentialism? 1.Should Callie get to be a cheerleader at Andrews High School, even though she is disabled and unable to do gymnastics? Why? Why not? How can Aristotles virtue ethics help us decide what to do in this situation?

Telos, Honor, and Justice Justice is teleological and honorific. Defining rights and distributing justice requires determining the telos (purpose, nature, or end) of the social practice in question To reason about the telos of a practice is, in part, to reason about what virtues it should honor. For Aristotle, justice involves two factors: things, and the persons to whom things are assigned

What is the purpose of a flute? To be played well. The purpose of playing flute? To produce excellent music Who should receive an orchestra spot? The best players Telos and Honor: Considering Affirmative Action and Pot What should be the Telos of a university? And how can this help us decide whether or not affirmative action is just? What virtues should a university honor? Think Critically: Using the framework of Virtue Ethics, how

might it actually be wrong or ill-advised to legalize marijuana? On the flip side, how could Virtue Ethics support legislation to legalize marijuana? What should be the Telos of society? Hedonism/Epicureanism Hedonism is the doctrine that pleasure is the sole good. Epicurean Hedonism consists mainly in

advice for living moderately, but pleasurably. To live pleasantly without suffering from any of the undesirable effects of such living. Pleasure = Good; Pain = Bad If one engages in a life of pleasure that leads to pain, such a life would be regarded as a bad one. Passive vs. Active Pleasure

Active pleasures - those which are accompanied by pain Passive pleasures - those which are not accompanied by pain Examples of active pleasures - gluttony; fame through a life of public service or hard work; drinking; marriage; sex (leads to fatigue, remorse, depression) Examples of passive pleasures - friendship; conversation; thought; freedom; peace of mind

The Hedonic Treadmill: Concept in economics/philosophical discipline of happiness studies Beyond a certain point, as a person begins to make more money or experiences an increase in external pleasures, expectation and desire tends to rise in tandem with those external changes, in

turn leading to no permanent gain in happiness. Experiencing pleasure or making money is not intrinsically bad, but once our basic needs & wants are met, having more wont lead to greater happiness Relationship of Happiness to Money (for someone with friends, freedom, etc.) Happiness

and PerCapita Income in the U.S. (1946-91) Epicurus Answer: The key to a pleasurable existence is to have a peaceful and simple life, with friends. Rare, hard-to-obtain pleasures may be great, but think of all

you have to sacrifice to get them! Expensive tastes are developed. If happiness is bound up in being wealthy, fear/uncertainty begins to dominate life. Life becomes more and more about securing the resources that weve made our happiness depend on, and less about doing things that actually make us happy. To be happy & peaceful, live simply. Dont get too involved in wealth, politics, or physical desires like sex or food.

The Tetrapharmakos: Four Part Cure 1. God is nothing to fear. 2. Death is nothing to worry about. 3. It is easy to acquire the good things in life. 4. It is easy to endure the terrible things.

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