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ETHICAL THEORY OUTLINES A. MORALITY : Socrates: “No small matter, but how we ought to live.” B. First and foremost morality is a matter of consulting reasons Establish facts Use moral principles Are the principles sound? Are they being intelligently applied? Every theory includes the idea of impartiality. (i.e. adopting a moral point of view) Conscientious moral agent: impartial, listens, gets facts. I. RELATIVISM: 1. Soundness of relativism: Claim: Different cultures have different moral values, and thus no universal standard. How much difference is there? Life forces may be different; religious beliefs differ; More “universal” than appears. Three values: 1. Care and protection of young. 2. Truthfulness 3. Prohibition of murder. Why? Necessary for any society to exist. So it is a mistake to overestimate the amount of differences. Can we criticize practices within a culture? Relativism undermines any criticism. Female excision: how is it justified? Beneficial—this is an independent standard. 2. Relativism’s lessons: Keep an open mind; Don’t assume our preferences as absolute standard II . A. Divine Command Theory: Something is morally right if it is commanded by God; morally wrong if forbidden by God. B. Dilemma: C. Is conduct right because God commands it? Or D. Does God command it because it is right? E. If right because God commands it, it makes his commands arbitrary. F. If God commands it because it is right, then there is some standard of right and wrong independent of God’s will. Thus, G. Right and wrong are not to be defined in terms of God’s will; morality is a matter of reason and conscience. H. Morality and religion then are different. (This does not assume that Christianity or any other religion is false, only that even if such a system is true, morality remains an independent matter.) III. UTILITARIANISM John Stuart Mill sets forth basic principles of Utilitarianism and Principle of Utility. Foundation of morality is “utility” or “Greatest Happiness Principle”
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Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to promote the reverse. Happiness: Intended pleasure and absence of pain Pleasures are the only things desirable as ends in themselves. But not just any pleasures—must include quality as well as quantity of pleasures. Otherwise a doctrine for swine. Human’s pleasure are not the same as a beast’s pleasure; Happiness is not “contentment” Standard of utility is not simply the agent’s own, but concerns all, impartially. Greatest happiness altogether.
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