Week4MoralTheory

Week4MoralTheory - Is Moral Theory Useful in Applied...

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Is Moral Theory Useful in Applied Ethics?
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Recall Common Morality: Don’t kill Don’t steal Don’t deceive (lie) Keep your promises Don’t cheat Obey the laws Express gratitude (e.g. parents) Help others (within limits) Make restitution for wrongs done Improve yourself Act justly towards others
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Question: Is there a common theme underlying all these rules? Note: This is not the question as to the ultimate foundation or basis for the validity of these rules. Example: We might say that the will of God is the ultimate basis of common morality. What we say here neither affirms nor denies this claim.
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Analogy: In science, when we look for a law that underlies various phenomena (law of gravitation), we neither affirm nor deny that this law is what it is because God ordains it. We are not addressing the question of the ultimate foundation of the law of gravity.
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Four Levels of Moral Thinking In order to get a clear picture of what we are looking for, let’s make a distinction between four levels of moral thinking. 1. Particular Moral Judgments Moral judgments about particular actions. “Engineer Mike should not have specified these bolts from a firm in which he has a vested interest.”
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2. Moral Principles Moral judgments about classes of actions, not particular actions. “A professional should not engage in undisclosed conflicts of interest.” “Whenever possible, engineers should specify recyclable materials in their designs.”
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3. Moral Rules Still more general rules about larger classes of action. Don’t kill (It is wrong to kill.) Don’t steal (It is wrong to steal.) Etc. 4. Moral standards The most general moral principles that claim to give the basic idea underlying the rules of common morality. This is what we are looking for!
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5. Reminder Remember that moral judgments, principles and rules can classify actions as: Permissible Impermissible Obligatory Supererogatory
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Two Moral Standards (Theories) I. Utilitarianism (Ut) “Those actions are right that maximize human well-being.” (The function of morality is to promote human well-being.) II. Respect for Persons (RP) “Those actions are right that respect the equality of people as moral agents.” (The function of morality is to protect people from others who might interfere with their ability as moral agents to pursue their own goals and purposes.
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Anticipation of where we are going: Both standards explain much of common morality and give plausible accounts of the function of morality. However, each standard has problems explaining some aspects of common morality. (The Problem of Incomplete Extension) This theoretical bifurcation (split) suggests that there is a tension within common morality between the promotion of human well- being and the protection of individuals.
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Respect for Persons Utilitarianism A B C D Common Morality
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This note was uploaded on 09/11/2010 for the course ENGR 482 taught by Professor Russell during the Fall '08 term at Texas A&M.

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Week4MoralTheory - Is Moral Theory Useful in Applied...

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