Waller ch 12

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Waller ch 12

  1. 1. Chapter 12 Ethical Theories
  2. 2. Divine Command Theory • The Divine Command theory of ethics (theological voluntarism) makes ethics depend entirely on what God wills, on God’s voluntary choice. • Something is good because God wills it, not because God recognizes it to be good. • God’s will or God’s command is the whole of ethics: A law or principle is right if and only if it is willed or commanded by God.
  3. 3. Objections to Divine Command Theory • With the Divine Command model, humans cannot attempt to understand what is right and wrong, and we cannot carefully deliberate about our moral obligations. • Rather, moral acts must consist entirely in the unreasoning adherence to arbitrary rules. • One who unthinkingly follows another’s moral dictates—whether that other is divine or mortal— is an automaton rather than an ethical actor.
  4. 4. Objections (continued) • Plato’s Euthyphro • Is something moral because God commands it? or • Does God command something because it is moral?
  5. 5. Relativism in Ethics • According to one definition, relativism is the view that: • All ethical principles are true or false only relative to a given system • The basic principles of each system cannot be proven or disproven • Ethical systems are ultimately nonobjective.
  6. 6. Additional Definitions of Relativism • Sociological relativism: The view that different cultures sometimes have different values. • Cultural relativism: The view that ethical principles hold only within a given culture: • The ethical principles and cultural practices of each culture are right within that culture. • Ethical principles apply only within a culture; they are culturally relative rather than universal.
  7. 7. Objections to Cultural Relativism • Often we simultaneously live in many cultures. Which “cultural rules” should one follow when two sets of such rules are in conflict? • Cultural relativism morally condemns efforts at cultural reform (moral progress).
  8. 8. Egoism • Psychological egoism: A descriptive theory which claims that all people act strictly for their own benefit; everyone is fundamentally selfish. • Ethical egoism: A prescriptive theory which asserts that all people should seek exclusively their own interests; selfishness is a virtue.
  9. 9. Justification for Ethical Egoism • The most common justification for ethical egoism is a sort of social Darwinism: • When everyone strives for individual gain, showing no pity for the weak, then the strongest, most talented individuals will rise to the top and make the world, and our species, better. • The weaker and unfit will be weeded out.
  10. 10. Social Contract Ethics • Primarily a political theory • Refers to ethical systems in which the principles and rules of ethics are set by general enforced agreement among those who live under those rules: • The rules of ethics are rules that we make. • We may have ethical inclinations prior to or independently of the social contract, but the basic principles of ethics are constructed by human agreement and consent. • Sometimes called a constructivist view of ethics
  11. 11. Rawls’ Social Contract Theory • Consider what kind of society and what kinds of ethical rules we would favor if we could strip ourselves of all prejudices, biases, and special interests. • You will then arrive at standards, rules, and policies that are genuinely fair.
  12. 12. Criticisms of Social Contract Theory • Critics argue that social contract ethics entrenches the idea that as ethical agents we start from a position of strict individual self- interest. • This starting point fatally distorts our ethical perspective: ethics starts in our families and communities; social contract ethics neglects and devalues that essential ethical domain.
  13. 13. Criticisms of Social Contract Theory • Critics also argue that social contract ethics is an ethics for individuals in a competitive market type of setting in which everyone is working to maximize his or her own advantage. • Our relation with our friends and families is very different: a relationship of support and nurturing and cooperation rather than competition and contracts.
  14. 14. Criticisms of Social Contract Theory • Ethics is for rough equals: those who pose threats, can reciprocate benefits, and maintain agreements. • For large and important parts of our lives we are vulnerable and not rough equals—i.e., when we are children and when we are elderly. • Basing an ethical system on only one dimension of our lives, our lives as competent adults in impersonal interaction with other adults, results in an ethical system that is blind to some of the most important aspects of our lives.
  15. 15. Criticisms of Social Contract Theory • Social contract ethics conceptualizes humans as radically individual self-interested, independent operators; thus, it is based on a profoundly false view of human behavior and human needs. • The model implies that our “natural” state is as isolated individuals, but we are a profoundly social species.
  16. 16. Care Ethics • Ethics is rooted in care, affection, and personal relationships. • Ethical rules have their place, especially in the impersonal interactions of the marketplace, the legislature, the courtroom, the municipality. • But the foundation and heart of ethics is in our relations of friendship and affection, among our families, friends, lovers.
  17. 17. Care Ethics • Many important ethical issues are situated, and the details of the situation are of vital importance in determining what act is right • If we try to decide what is right by thinking of the people involved as abstract entities, we will neglect important ethical considerations.

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