VI Philosophical Ethics

VI Philosophical Ethics - Fall 2009 Fall Final Exam...

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Unformatted text preview: Fall 2009 Fall Final Exam Tuesday, Dec 15 10:30 AM VI. Philosophical Ethics VI. A. Relativism 1. Ruth Benedict, “Morality is Relative” 2. James Rachels, “Morality is not Relative” B. Why Be Ethical? Plato, “The Ring of Gyges” C. Star Trek Voyager, “Tuvix” C. A. Relativism A. Relativism Benedict, “Morality is Relative” Benedict Benedict We should not think that the norms of We modern civilization are better than the alternatives alternatives There were many possible ways that the rules of There society might have come out society There is no reason to think that our norms are just There what any culture would come to if it tries hard enough over a long period of time over It’s not like climbing a mountain where everyone It’s gets to the same peak no matter where you start gets Norms in other cultures Norms Some of the very traits we think of as bad or Some abnormal work just fine in other cultures abnormal E.g., what we think of as sadistic behavior or E.g., persecution isn’t condemned in some cultures persecution Also, homosexuality was widely practiced in Also, ancient Greece with no stigma whatsoever ancient American Indians also found ways to incorporate American homosexuals into their society, rather than putting them in a category to be scorned them Examples Examples Benedict gives many more examples of Benedict different ethical ideals in different cultures different Give me some of your own that you know about Benedict A culture’s morality is something that develops unintentionally develops Like language From Latin to Spanish, Portuguese, French, etc. Fashion, architecture, economic transactions, Fashion, and morality all more or less evolve without rational consideration rational Merely a matter of preferences carried to greater Merely extremes, some become more important than others extremes, I.e., some become ethics others become style Normal Normal What it is to be “normal” is a cultural What fabrication fabrication What is normal is roughly the same as what is What good good It is whatever society approves of Today, this view of ethics is usually called Today, Cultural Relativism Cultural Normal Normal Humans will tend to conform to whatever Humans those norms are, regardless of their personalities personalities That’s why it doesn’t matter much about what the That’s norms are norms Most people are flexible enough to adapt, no matter Most what the ideals of society are what Rachels, Rachels, “Morality is not Relative” Cultural differences Cultural Rachels fully agrees about the examples From the ancient Persians to modern Eskimos, From there are many different views about what is ethically acceptable No disputing the anthropological facts No But, Cultural Relativism makes these differing beliefs into a doctrine about ethics itself beliefs What is it for some act x to be the right thing? According to CR, x is right if the majority of people in a According given culture approve of x This is a theory about the nature of ethics The anthropological examples are the data But like all theories, this one can be critiqued on But rational grounds rational The Cultural Differences Argument Differences CR’s make the following inference: People in Culture A believe that x is morally People permissible permissible People in Culture B believe that x is morally People impermissible impermissible Hence, x is morally permissible in A but not in B Problem: This inference contains a logical fallacy This Just because most people believe Just something, does that mean it’s true? something, No! What people believe about a claim has no bearing on What whether that claim is actually true or false whether Geocentrism, humor theory of medicine Moreover, the fact that people disagree doesn’t Moreover, mean there is no truth about that fact mean CR’s jump from the fact that people believe CR’s something is ethical to the conclusion that it must be ethical must What if CR were true? What 1. One could never say that even the most horrific practices of 1. other cultures are wrong other For example, slavery or the Holocaust According to CR, so long as the majority approves of According the practice, it really is the right thing to do is President Clinton should never have offered an President apology for slavery on behalf of the federal government government After all, it was the right thing to do! Moreover, the very idea of the Holocaust Museum Moreover, is mistaken is After all, the “Final Solution” was the right thing After to do! to Now, if that sounds crazy, it is it The problem is that, if you are a CR, your ethical The theory logically entails these conclusions theory To say anything else lands you in a contradiction 2. Right and wrong would be determined by the polls determined Was it right to go to war with Iraq? No debate was necessary. No If the majority approved at the time, it was the right thing If to do to Abortion? Stem cell research? Social security Abortion? reform? Same answer reform? There is no need to debate the ethics of any issue According to the CR, whatever the polls tells is According automatically the right answer automatically Think about what that means for highly controversial issues, Think where the majority view might go back and forth where 3. There is no moral progress over time over The CR can’t say that the United States has The made progress in terms of civil rights and women’s rights in the last 200 years women’s “Progress” implies that views held now are better Progress” than those held earlier than The CR cannot say that (Why not?) All he can say is that views held now are different, All but they are not better but Again, if that sounds crazy, it’s supposed to it’s Rachels is trying to show what CR logically entails entails It is crazy It is This also leads to the “Reformer’s Dilemma” Moreover, there is less disagreement disagreement about ethics than it seems about Many prima facie ethical differences are not Many prima about ethics, but about metaphysics or religion religion Reincarnation and treatment of animals Metaphysical difference Karma and treatment of people Religious difference You’d do the same things if you really You’d really believed it believed The point: The These differences seem to be ethical, when These in fact we all have the same ethical beliefs ethical It’s our differing beliefs about God, reincarnation, It’s and the acts of other people that drive the difference that support CR Universal ethical beliefs Universal Unqualified lying and murder cannot be Unqualified ideals in any society ideals Without the presumption of truth, there can be no Without communication communication If murder were an ideal, the society would kill If itself off itself Lessons from CR Lessons Not all of our preferences are matters of Not ethics ethics We may not like the idea of eating a dog, but is it We wrong? wrong? We cannot merely assume that our ethical We ideals are correct ideals If there is a disagreement, someone must be If wrong. wrong. It might be us! Do not rush to judgment too quickly Problem for Ethical Realism Problem Realism is the opposite of relativism Rachels is a realist Realism relies on non-relativistic notions of Realism ethics such as rights, justice, or greatest good good Problem: None of these can be proved or measured Realist reply Realist That’s right, and so arriving at ethical truths That’s is harder than those found in chem. lab is But there are lots of facts that have no proof and But cannot be measured cannot I cannot prove that you have a mind I cannot prove that God does or does not exist I cannot proved that this is not a Matrix world I cannot detect the block universe, even if there is one I cannot prove that collapsed neutron stars are found cannot in the middle of black holes in I cannot detect the pilot wave in Bohmian mechanics Does that mean there is no fact of the matter? fact Does the truth or falsity of any of these Does depend on how people feel about them? depend I.e., if they feel favorably, then it’s truth If they feel otherwise, then it’s false? Point: truth is not the same as proof There is far more in reality than we have proof or There evidence of evidence But those things are just as true as the things we can But measure and prove measure Plato, “The Ring of Gyges” Plato, “The Ring of Gyges” Socrates says that justice has intrinsic value justice We value justice not merely because of what We it produces it Unlike money that has merely instrumental value Note: ‘Justice’ here is a broad concept in the Note: Greek. It’s more or less the same as “doing the right thing” or “being ethical” right Glaucon is playing the “devil’s advocate” the He intuitively agrees with Socrates, but he He doesn’t have a good argument for backing it up up He’s going to challenge Socrates in order to see He’s if he can come up with reasons for thinking that justice is intrinsically good justice Glaucon: The common view Glaucon: Most of us think that others should be just Most toward us, but we want to be able to do whatever we want when it comes to other people people We don’t being constrained. We don’t like others judging us. Modern example: political powers that hold Modern the other party to strict ethical/legal standards, but never see their own side as doing wrong doing The common view The Since we can’t have both, we settle on a Since compromise compromise Namely, laws and covenants that force both Namely, people to honor their agreements, not steal, etc. people And that’s all there is to justice—whatever the And law permits law Justice (doing right) is thus involuntary— imposed from the outside If a person could get away with it, he would not If act justly toward others act Glaucon’s Illustration: the Ring of Gyges the Shepard turns the ring and becomes invisible Immediately seduces the queen, kills the king, Immediately and takes the kingdom and Glaucon claims that even the most just person would do roughly the same the If you knew you’d never get caught, you would If naturally do all kinds of things naturally If so, then people are just/good only because the authorities hold the sword over their heads authorities Doing right is something imposed from the Doing outside, not something that people intrinsically value value Socrates rebuttal probably doesn’t make sense to you make Animals with different heads and all that Here is the literal idea Plato is a dualist. The real you is your soul. The Moreover, your soul has parts Vegetable, animal, and rational Vegetable part is what we share with plants Very basic capacity for life Animal has more capacities Motion, senses But also “animal desires” Food, comfort, sex Rational part has uniquely human abilities Language, logic, mathematics, skills of various kinds Socrates’ argument: Socrates’ The unjust man is allowing himself to be The dominated by his animal nature dominated Sleeping with anyone he wants, stealing when Sleeping he wants, etc. he Healthy people, in contrast, are ruled by the rational parts of their souls by E.g., you might want to live on McDonalds, E.g., want ice cream, and beer ice But it wouldn’t be wise People who do not control the urges of the People animal parts of their soul have bad lives animal At least in the long run People whose souls are well-ordered see the People intrinsic value of doing right intrinsic If someone needs the risk of punishment in order If to do right, there is literally something wrong with them—something in their souls them—something Analogy: government is no different Analogy: A jjust/right society requires that the right ust/right people are in place people In healthy society, the leaders are competent In people with high integrity. people If, instead, society is run by those who are merely out If, for power, everyone suffers for Example: warlords in Somalia So, So, There is a completely objective sense in There which the goodness of society depends on the right people being in charge the In exactly the same way, being a good person In depends on whether the rational part of your soul is running your life is Note: modern marketing generally appeals to the Note: animal part—fear or pleasure C. Star Trek Voyager C. Star Trek Voyager “Tuvix” Utilitarianism Utilitarianism x is right if it brings about the greatest good for the greatest number of people It’s okay if x has some bad consequences so long as the good outweighs the bad Rights Rights x is permissible if one has a right to do x and x does not violate another person’s rights Problem with Utilitarianism Problem Exploitation of the few The Unwilling Organ Donor Slavery Child medical experimentation Most applied ethicists conclude, Most Utilitarianism is fine, but only within certain Utilitarianism boundaries boundaries E.g., bounds set by rights violations or E.g., considerations of justice considerations What are technically called Deontological Theories of What Ethics ...
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