phil105 day2 - PHIL 105 Lecture 2: The Basics of Moral...

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PHIL 105 Lecture 2: The Basics of Moral Philosophy Wednesday, August 26, 2009
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Ethics and Determinism • In the most general terms, the subject matter that is studied in “ethics” is human behavior. • More specifically, it concerns behavior for which we can be held responsible. Determinism is the thesis that all of our actions are predetermined. – If the universe were deterministic, then by having 1) a complete knowledge of any state of the universe at a given time and 2) a powerful enough intellect to do the calculations, one could know everything that was ever going to happen. – If all human behavior was determined by genetics, one’s psychology, and one’s environment, then there would be no free choice. – Without free choice, no one can be held responsible for their actions and there would be no such thing as ethics.
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So what do you think… A. Yes, human beings have free choice and can be held accountable for their actions. B. No, human beings are completed determined by forces such as natural drives, genetics, and environmental conditioning. Since we are studying ethics, we are going to operate on the assumption that free, human action is possible. Note that most societies and individuals do in fact hold people accountable as if they were free and responsible, so the burden is on the “determinist” to prove to us that we are not free. Ethics concerns actions that are (or at least can be) free.
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The Subject Matter of Ethics • Not all free action (autonomous) is the subject of ethics. – Autonomy (adj. autonomous) literally = Self+law or self-directing • For example, I can freely choose to watch rather than …but that would not be an ethical choice or action nor would it be an unethical one. Ethics simply does not enter in to it. •So we might begin to define ethics by saying that it concerns “how one ought to live” or “the good life” for human beings. •Whether I watch one movie versus the other is not defined by an account of “how human beings ought to live generally” or what the “good life” is for us.
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The Notion of Normativity When I say that “you ought to do…” or “you should do…” then I am making a normative statement. Norms are different than facts (although there can be facts about norms). – Factual: The earth rotates around the sun. – Normative: Everyone ought to visit Paris once in their life. – Normative: No one ought to kill another person. – Fact about norms: When you are in the U.S., it is the norm to drive on the right side of the road. Norms are “practical”: they govern action – When philosopher’s use the word “practical” they do not mean “efficient.” • Ordinary use: It was practical for the family to euthanize their pet rather than pay the expensive medical bills to keep it alive. • Philosophical use: practical = action-oriented
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phil105 day2 - PHIL 105 Lecture 2: The Basics of Moral...

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