Moral Philosophy aka Theories of Ethics

Moral Philosophy aka Theories of Ethics - Moral Philosophy...

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Moral philosophy, aka Theories of ethics: Edward R. Morey, February 5, 2009 1 Moral Philosophy aka Theories of Ethics: the foundations of “good” and “bad”, and the foundation of economic policy? Edward Morey – draft: February 5, 2009 As a moral philosophy, is economics bad or baaad? Assume The New York Times Sunday Magazine fired Randy Cohen, their ethics columnist, and is considering replacing him with an economist, maybe even an environmental economist. You have applied for the job, and must now take the following true-false ethics quiz to see if you really are an economist. Answer each question true or false. 1. Shifting highly-polluting industries to developing countries is bad. 2. Killing and barbequing the last flying DooWap bird might be the right thing to do. 3. We must do whatever it takes to reduce pollution. 4. Fairness is in the eye of the beholder. 5. The process is as important as the outcome. 6. It is sometimes good to kill a crying baby. 7. The optimal number of ax murders is zero. 8. It’s great that poor people have the option of working in highly toxic environments. 9. Selling permits to do bad things is always a bad idea. 10. Clean air is more important to the rich than to the poor.
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Moral philosophy, aka Theories of ethics: Edward R. Morey, February 5, 2009 2 Most economists would prefer to answer “it depends” to each question. But, if forced to choose between true and false, many would answer false to the odd- numbered questions and true to the even-numbered questions. Do you have the ethics of an economist? Put simply, economists think an act if good if the benefits of doing it are greater than the costs, and evil, if the reverse is true. From an economic perspective, the Jewish father who suffocates his crying baby to save the family from being discovered by the Nazis is on solid moralistic grounds. But, then again, so is the guy who barbeques the DooWap to extinction as long as the enjoyment of the DooWap last supper exceeds the costs. All this obviously begs the question of the benefits and costs to whom, and the question of how one measures those benefits and costs.
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Moral philosophy, aka Theories of ethics: Edward R. Morey, February 5, 2009 3 Numerous old guys, including a few economists, have spent considerable time over thousand years considering how one might distinguish between “good” and “bad” One could simply make two lists: the “list” of “good acts” and the “list of bad acts”. The list would be hard to defend, and, besides, the list would be very long. 1 So, that is what you do. You build a theory. You list a bunch of assumptions that you feel capture the underlying principles of good and bad, and then logically determine from that set of assumptions (hopefully all consistent with one another) whether a particular action or outcome is good or bad.
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Moral Philosophy aka Theories of Ethics - Moral Philosophy...

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