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Exploring Ethics An Introductory Anthology Steven M. Cahn
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Introduction
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Chapter 1: Morality and Moral Philosophy William H. Frankena Socratic approach to moral questions Follow reason, not emotions Think for yourself Never do what is immoral Ethics: Branch of philosophy dealing with morality, moral problems, and moral judgments Three kinds of ethical reflection Descriptive Normative Meta-ethical
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Chapter 2: Crito Plato Should Socrates flee his death sentence? Crito’s arguments for escape What will people think? It’s not fair! What will happen to your family? Socrates’ arguments for facing the music Who cares what people think? Always do what is right, regardless of the cost. Respect is owed to the state as parent and teacher To live in a state is to agree to obey its rules
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Part I: Challenges to Morality
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Chapter 3: How Not to Answer Moral Questions Tom Regan Four ways not to answer moral questions 1. Stating our personal preferences Moral judgments preferences 2. Stating what we think Thinking something is right does not make it so 3. Taking an opinion poll Statistics are irrelevant to ethics 4. Appealing to infallible moral authority (e.g., God) Infallible authority might not exist We might misunderstand the will of the authority No independent way to confirm the reasonableness of the authority’s judgments
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Chapter 4: God and Morality Steven M. Cahn Morality does not depend on God’s existence Uncertain whether God exists Granting existence of God, still uncertain what God wills us to do Serious conflicts over moral intuitions and scriptural interpretations Dilemma of Plato’s Euthyphro : Is something wrong because God says so, or does God say so because it is wrong? Cahn: What God commands must conform to independent moral standard to be right Religious beliefs alone do not settle moral questions
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Chapter 5: The Challenge of Cultural Relativism James Rachels Elements of Cultural Relativism 1. Different cultures have different moral codes 2. No objective way to judge one culture’s code superior to other cultures’ codes 3. Our society’s moral code has no special status 4. No universal truth in ethics 5. Moral code of a society determines what is right in that society 6. We should not judge the conduct of other peoples
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Chapter 5: The Challenge of Cultural Relativism (continued) Rachels’s objections to Relativism Cultural Differences Argument is unsound Consequences of Relativism are disturbing and implausible Cultural disagreements are not as deep as they seem Some values must be universal Valuable insights of Cultural Relativism Should not assume that our cultural values are based on some absolute standard Should keep an open mind toward other cultures
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Chapter 6: Right and Wrong Thomas Nagel It is wrong to hurt others But why care about others? Implicit argument in the question: “How would you like
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