Meta-ethics Free Will and Determinism The nature and role of the conscience Virtue Ethics Environmental ethics Business ethics Sexual ethics
What is meta-ethics?◦ Meta-ethics is the study of what our ethical languagemeans; what do we mean by “good” or “bad” or “right” or“wrong”? It goes beyond the reaches of normative ordescriptive ethics and tries to understand what ethicalstatements are really saying. It looks at what the wordsmean, how people use them and how they work.
What is the is/ought controversy?◦ An “is” statement is a statement of fact e.g. Eilidh hit Siobhan.◦ An “ought” statement is a statement of value e.g. Eilidh ought notto have hit Siobhan.◦ Hume’s argument was that you cannot go from an is to an oughtwithout a proper explanation, e.g. “The Bile says homosexuality iswrong therefore homosexuals cannot get married”.◦ People who believe that there are moral facts are called ethicalnaturalists. People who follow natural law or utilitarianism arenaturalists because they believe define goodness as somethingnon-moral, e.g. the will of God, pleasure, nature etc. They believethat there doesn’t need to be a gap between is/ought statements◦ What is the Naturalistic Fallacy? Those who think thatmoral statements can’t be called fact and that goodness cannotbe defined are called non-naturalists. They believe that is/oughtstatements cannot go together. Moore called putting is and oughtstatements together the “Naturalistic Fallacy”
How does meta-ethics differ from normative ethics?Normative Ethics discusses:Is morality decided by what is produces the greatest good forthe greatest number?Is it decided by a list of unbreakable rules?Is it decided by a list of character virtues?Seeks to provide action guides – guidelines for what we should doMeta Ethics discussesWhat does moral language mean?Do moral facts exist?How can we know whether moral judgements are true or false?Is there a connection between making a moral judgement and abiding byit?Normative Ethics Meta EthicsIs morality decided by whatis produces the greatestgood for the greatestnumber?What does moral languagemean?Is it decided by a list ofunbreakable rules?Do moral facts exist?Is it decided by a list ofcharacter virtues?How can we know whethermoral judgements are trueor false?Seeks to provide actionguides – guidelines for whatwe should doIs there a connectionbetween making a moraljudgement and abiding byit?
Ethical Naturalism is all about defining good as something non-moral, for example:Good = Conducive to social stabilityGood = What the Bible saysGood = Happiness Naturalists believe that moral truths are facts. Moral facts are not views or opinions, nor are they based onintuition. When I observe that something is wrong, it is a moral fact of the universe. For example, when Iobserve a murder, I do not just observe that fact that someone has been killed. I also observe the fact that itis morally wrong. Naturalism is the theory which states that ‘Good’ used in a moral sense, can be defined in natural or non-moral terms e.g. good = happiness. Naturalists could say that good is what brings happiness, helping others brings happiness, therefore helpingothers is good. A moral conclusion (it is good) has been obtained from a non-moral premise (happiness). ExampleNaturalistic principle – Good = successFact – Doing well at school brings success.Evaluative fact – Therefore doing well at school is good.Strengths WeaknessesIt’s based on what isnatural – everyone canunderstand it andexperience it.Naturalistic Fallacy: Wecannot use facts (is) towork out how we shouldbehave (ought).Presents a solid guidelinethat ethics follows inevery situation.Right and wrong aresubjective not objective.
G.E.Moore famously refuted Naturalism, saying that you can’t move from an is to an oughtwithout proper explanation: the Naturalistic Fallacy. He said “We know what good is, but we cannot actually define it”, just as everybody knows what‘yellow’ is but would not be able to define it. ‘Good’ is not a complex term that can be brokendown further, you just recognise that something is good by intuition. If ‘good’ was a complex idea, we could ask of it whether it was itself good. For example,Bentham defined good as pleasure (the greatest pleasure for the greatest number). But you canask “Is pleasure good?” Because the question makes sense, pleasure can’t mean the same asgood. Intuitionism is the view that moral values are known directly, by rational insight. Moral values areself evident to rational beings. Everyone can see that theft is wrong. No proof or reasoning, orexplanation is necessary.Strengths WeaknessesKeeps moral debate open: the statement“homosexuality is wrong” cannot be verified in thesame way as “Paris is the capital of France”.Clearly, there are some moral statements that areuniversally accepted and seem like facts, e.g. “thetorture of innocent children is wrong”.We do seem to just know when things are right andthings are wrong.It allows us to make mistakes to easily, all based onwhat we think.Obviously, it does not make sense to say “is goodgood?”, whereas it does to say “is good happiness”.Moore does not explain where our moral intuitionscome from, reducing morality to guess work.
Emotivism is the view that the main function of moral statements is to express the emotions or attitudesof the speaker and arouse similar feelings, emotions and attitudes within their audience. Ayer says that goodness is ‘a mere pseudo-concept’. To say that something is good is not provide anyinformation about it, or to make a factual statement. In fact, ethical statements have no truth value asthey cannot be verified or falsified either analytically of synthetically. E.g. Giving to charity is good means that I like giving to charity and I want you to know that I like givingto chariThis theory is also known as “boohurrah” theory because we are either saying “boo” to what wethink is wrong or “hurrah” to what we see as right – nothing more. Stevenson develops Ayer’s theory of emotivism by suggesting that ethical language is meaningfulbecause it tells us something about a person’s personal beliefs and principles and also becausewhenever we make ethical statements there is an element of persuasion. When we say that somethingis good, we are hoping to influence our audience to come to the same conclusion as us. E.g. Giving to charity is good means that I like giving to charity and I want you to know that I like givingto charity because it might make you feel the same way.Strengths WeaknessesEmotivism has showed us the strong connectionbetween morality and emotionsPeter Vardy – Aers emotivism is an “ethical non-theory” which just discusses feelings, not ethicsIt requires us to think about how we use ethicalstatements to motivate or persuade othersIt leaves us without any moral facts: those whofollow religious ethical systems would claim thatthere are moral facts and that other people can bemorally in the wrong
Prescriptivism is the view that moral statements are not only descriptive butare also primarily action guiding, so ‘theft is wrong’ really means ‘do notcommit theft’. R.M. Hare stated that moral judgements contain both a prescriptive anduniversal element. Hare believes emotivism gives an understanding ofmoral language which is too subjective. He argues that although morallanguage is still non cognitive it is also objective because it guides ourbehaviour and command our actions. Hare believes that moral actions are universal when we act in a certain way,we should be able to state that everyone in the same situation ought tomake the same moral decision and act in the same way. In this way Hareargues that ethical language is sensible and meaningful as it makes sensefor us to prescribe moral advice to others.Strengths WeaknessesIt explains why people might disagree sostrongly over ethical issuesThese prescriptions could justify nearlyanything.It makes people think more about ethicalvalues – “do unto others as you wouldhave done unto yourself”They are totally based on opinion andsubjective – do we have the right and theexpertise to recommend ethics to others?
Free Will and Determinism is an important issuebecause it has implications for:◦ Judgement◦ The goodness of God◦ Conscience◦ Moral responsibilityThere are 3 possible positions people can take with regard toFree Will and Determism:◦ Libertarianism◦ Hard Determinism◦ Soft Determinism/Compatibilism
Hard DeterminismHard DeterminismHard determinists argue that all human action is causally determined, and thattherefore we never act freely and cannot be held morally responsible for ouractions. The different arguments for determinism come from a number ofperspectives, but they are all based around the same main principle: UniversalCausation.•What is universal causation?This means that all events are caused. In principle, all actions and decisionscan therefore be predicted. This is how science works e.g. Friction causesheat. We live with and observe the cause and effect rule, in fact we assume it.We assume that if we let go of something we are holding in the air, gravity willcause that thing to fall, for example. Hard determinists believe the same thing,except they claim that we should assume cause and effect is also true formoral decisions. Doctors will admit there are diseases with unknown causes,but it would be hard to find a doctor who would admit there is a diseasewithout a cause.
Psychological Behaviourism This is a form of hard determinism that states that our actions are not controlled by ourselves butare determined by our environment. Its rationale is that there is always a cause – it looks atpeople’s behaviour and tries to work out the cause of that behaviour. John Watson, a psychologist and behaviourist, famously boasted:“Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up inand Ill guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist Imight select – doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief,regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.”The theory is that humans will respond in a certain way to certain stimuli, and if you can controlthe stimulus, you can control the response. Hence the response is conditional. Skinner agreed with Watson, saying that our thoughts and feelings are not causal, but they aresimply learned responses to external factors. According to Skinner and Watson, there are twomain causal factors; heredity and environment. By manipulating a man’s surroundings, we cansignificantly alter his behaviour. The process of the environment affecting behaviour is called conditioning because it means wecan condition a response. Pavlov’s dogs give evidence for Skinner’s idea of “operant conditioning” which says that we canuse positive and negative reinforcement to condition responses.
Genetic Determinism This form of hard determinism states that our actions are controlled by ourgenes. Richard Dawkins in his book “The Selfish Gene” writes “we aresurvival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve theselfish molecules known as genes”. However, later Dawkins may be retracting his belief in genetic determinismby saying “we have the power to defy the selfish genes of birth”. Eugenics is based on the idea that we can maintain or improve our speciesand create stronger and stronger versions of human beings by altering theirgenes. Positive eugenics is the creation of a gene pool that allows certaininherited capacities to continue into the future. Negative eugenics is aimedat eliminating genes which carry disease or disability.
Theological Determinism Within Christianity, there are a few thinkers who have defended belief in akind of Theistic Determinism. Thinkers who took the view that God is theultimate cause who determines all human actions include Martin Luther,Jonathan Edwards and Calvin. Calvin wrote “not a drop of rain may fall without the express command ofGod” Edwards argued that all actions are caused, since it is irrational to claim thatthings arise without cause. But for him, a self-caused action is impossiblesince a cause is prior to an effect and one cannot be prior to oneself.Therefore all actions are ultimately cause by a First Cause, God. Free choice for Edwards is doing what one desires, but since God is theauthor of our desires, all human actions must be determined by God.
Libertarianism Libertarianism (or incompatibilism) argues that determinism is not compatible withfreedom and moral responsibility, that freedom is real and therefore determinism (atleast as applied to human behaviour) must be wrong. This has been justified in many ways, but the most common defence is this:◦ Nothing can be more certain than what is given in immediate experience. Iexperience myself making free choices and this is far easier to believe than somecomplicated theory, no matter how eminent the supporters of that theory may be.◦ Our experience of freedom is a fact of our existence, while determinism is at besta complicated theory. If the two conflict, this indicated that there must besomething wrong with determinism.◦ It is true that sometimes we make mistakes in our judgements of perception e.g.we might look at an object from a distance and think it is black, but on closerinspection it turns out to be red.◦ BUT the case of freedom is different. Here, further experience only serves toconfirm our conviction: on every new occasion when I am confronted with severalalternatives, I once again experience my freedom.
SoftDeterminism/Compatibilism William James made the distinction between hardand soft determinism. The latter includes all thosetheories which basically accept determinism butstill retain some notion of human freedom andresponsibility. Generally, these soft determinist theories relyupon a certain definition of freedom that allowsfreedom and determinism both to be true. Thereare several such theories, the main ones comingfrom Hobbes, Hume, Frankfurt and Mill.
Approaches to Compatibilism Frankfurt: Freedom is believing you have a free choice, even if you don’t. If you believe you arefree then you are. Compatibilism can therefore work because there are times when we are freeand times when we are determined, depending on what we believe to be the case at the time.Our choices are free and so we are morally responsible for those; we have freedom of choice,but not necessarily freedom of action. Hobbes: We are free as long as there is nothing stopping us from acting. It is all about whetheryou are free to do something, not just free to choose it. For Hobbes, compatibilism can workbecause sometimes we are able to act unimpeded, and other times something impedes ouraction. We have no moral responsibility. Classical compatibilism: “Free will is the unencumbered ability of an agent to do what she wants”.It is plausible to assume that free will is compatible with determinism since the truth ofdeterminism doesn’t entail that no agents ever do what they wish to do unencumbered. Hume: A person’s action is free if, and only if, had the person wanted to do otherwise than theact, the person would have had the power to do otherwise than the act. He did not agree with therule of cause and effect. He felt that we link two events together in our minds, calling them causeand effect (e.g. I let go of the pen I am holding in the air, it falls) because the regularity of ourworld makes it happen every time. We are both free and determined because we choose to letgo of the pen, and then the pen seems determined to fall.
Key figuresClarence Darrow Darrow was a hard determinst lawyer whowas the lawyer for Nathan Leopold andRichard Loeb when these 2 young men hadkilled a boy but it had gone wrong. Heaccepted that the two men were guilty andinstead of giving them the death penalty, hepleaded for them to be given lifeimprisonment. He said “what has this boy to do with it? Hewas not his own father; he was not his ownmother, he was not his own grandparents.All of this was handed to him. He did notsurround himself with governesses andweakth. He did not make himself. And yet heis to be compelled to pay.” Darrow meant that the boys were not morallyresponsible for what they did, they wereconditioned to behave in that specific way.Ted Honderich Honderich claims that everything is determined,both internally and externally. He denies that wehave any choice, and therefore disagrees that wehave any moral responsibility. Whatever I do, Icould not have done otherwise - I was determined.If I could not have done otherwise, I cannot be heldresponsible for my actions, and should not bepunished just for the sake of it (although it doesmake sense to punish people as a deterrent or toprotect society from someone who is dangerous). Honderich sounds like an incompatibilist, but heactually claims that the very idea of free will ismeaningless, so it doesnt make any sense to claimthat free will is incompatible with determinism. Hesays both compatibilism and incompatibilism areincoherent and meaningless.John Locke Locke gave the example of a man who wakes up in a room that, unknown to him, islocked from the outside. He chooses to stay in the room, believing he has chosenfreely. In reality, he has no option. However, his ignorance of this gives him an illusionof freedom. His famous quote is: “Freedom of choice is an illusion”
Sexual Ethics The contextual questions of sex are:◦ What is sex for?◦ Is sex a matter of ethical discussion?◦ Should it be?◦ Can we control sexual desire or inclination?◦ Should we?◦ Is sex like a runaway car? Cynics:When it comes to sex, there is nocontrol and nor should there be.Sex is human nature like eating,drinking, washing etc. It isn’t a goodthing, but its not a bad thing –it’sjust something we do. Rape andsexual attack is not includedbecause this doesn’t come from alack of control but from angerbecause of too much control. Rapeis not about sex, it is about violenceand violence comes from the otherside; the anger and pressure ofhaving too many rules.Dualists:We are not mere animals, we have a spirit.If we want to be human, we have to fullycontrol our bodies. This gives the negativeside of sex – it is just a pull to our animalside and we need to control that.
Approaches to sexual ethicsKant:We should be ruled by our reason,not by our feelings. The actual actof sex is amoral, it is the will thatmatters. Are you doing it out of asubjective animal desire or becausereason dictates that you do it?Otherwise you are not exercisingyour choice and you end up beingdetermined by your desires.Aquinas:Sex must have the potential forprocreation as sex is for thepurpose of having children only. It isentirely associated with conception,pregnancy and childbirth and anysexual acts that are not open to thispossibility are intrinsically evil asthey go against nature and preventus from closeness with God.Utilitarianism:As long as nobody is injured,offended or psychologicallydamaged by a sexual ecounter,there is no problem with sex. It doesneed to be consensual and allinvolved must have the power andright to stop things before thesituation goes any further. Thisapproach is all about minimisingpain and behaving responsibly.Virtue Ethics:Sex is about the emotional desireand instinct but its also aboutfinding the balance between thecynics and the dualists. We mustembrace the desire, but we alsohave to have some kind of rationalcontrol over it. It’s ultimately allabout flourishing and growth.Situation Ethics:It recognises that, whilst rules canexist they are not immovable aslove is the only (rule) and is goodin itself.Personalism, which tells us youneed to put the people first,Positivism, which means to do themost loving thing and thePragmatism of the facts, which areRelative to the case, show us thatlove, not the rule, is absolute.CynicsDualistsUtilitariansKantAquinasVirtue EthicsSituation Ethics
Environmental Ethics The is/ought controversy:The environment is changing quickly/ being treated unsustainably. Does this “is” lead to an“ought”?The environment as we know it is being destroyed by greenhouse gases. We ought to stop driving cars.There’s a big jump there between the “is” and the “ought”.HumanNon-humansNon-animalsThis diagram shows the differentlevels of care for theenvironment.If you are here, you care aboutnon-animals, non-humans andhumansIf you are here, you care fornon-humans and humans, butnot non-animalsIf you are here, you only care about humansWilliam’s Effects:William says that when we are approachingthe environment then it is necessary toconsider the possible effect of damageto the environment:1) Unallocated Effects: The effect on futuregenerations (economic effects)2) Experiential Effects: How is myexperience affected by the activities ofothers (What we do in Britain has effectselsewhere)3) Non-human Effects: The effects onanimal (the removal of their habitat)4) Non-animal Effects: Trees, flowers,mountains, deserts etc
Secular approaches to theenvironment There’s no relationship between “is”and “ought”◦ It is a mistake to think there is alink/relationship, that view is a fallacy.◦ Fundamental Christians say thisbecause God gave humans dominionover all the environment.◦ Dominion in this case is defined as“power and choice”, like “it’s yours, dowhat you like with it”◦ This idea is backed up by Revelation,where it says “there will be a new earth”.If there will be a new earth, why botherabout this one? Shallow Ecology/Utilitarian◦ If the environment isn’t working for us,we ought to make it work for us.◦ We need to be sustainable andcomfortable.◦ We would only look after theenvironment because it helps ourselves.◦ This is completely anthropocentric – wehelp the environment because then wecan reap the benefits.◦ There is a link between “is” and “ought”;we use the environment for our benefit.◦ It only has value as long as it is useful tous.
Secular approaches to theenvironment Deep Ecology◦ This is the mainstream Christian viewwhich says that the environment hasintrinsic value.◦ Christians believe that we do not havedominion over the environment, butstewardship; “This is valuable, look afterit until I get back”◦ The environment is intrinsically valuablebecause God created it.◦ The environment is good, not because itdoes a job for us, but because it just isgood.◦ We therefore have a duty to theenvironment, meaning there must be anis/ought link in this theory Gaia Hypothesis◦ Gaia is the universe, but it is a living,breathing whole, which we are justanother part of.◦ This is an eccentric view which put tofocus on the ongoing ecosystem, not onthe human race.◦ It states that we serve the ecosystemand therefore we are subject to it.◦ According to Lovelock, we are just hereto look after the ecosystem. If we don’t,we become a kind of virus and theecosystem will then reject us anddestroy us.
Relationship betweenbusiness and environment “Environmental ethics is becoming an important issue for many companies andbusinesses as there is a greater push for corporate responsibility” Any business needs to think about the environment as they use lots of electricity,power, paper, and often work within poorer communities where the environment isstruggling. Leaders of big businesses do have a responsibility to be aware of the effects theyhave on the environment. Smaller businesses have responsibility too, but it is on a smaller level. There is still no global initiative or code aimed at improving the situation concerningenvironment and business. There should be no confusion about what is good for business versus what is goodfor the environment. “The consensus must be that there should be a hierarchy ofinterests – one which places environmental and sustainability concerns at the peak” Big businesses have to set a good example and encourage others to follow suit. Ifthey behave in an unethical way towards the environment, so will smaller businesses.
Business EthicsWhat responsibilities does a business have?EnvironmentEmployeesEconomyClientsShare holdersLocal CommunityGlobal CommunityBusiness + Environment relationship is often testedWhat is business ethics?A business is an organisation that provides goods andservices to customers. Every business has stakeholders(groups affected by the business) including people whowork for the business, suppliers, consumers and groupslike local residents to whom they have a responsibility.Business Ethics is all bout thinking about how tobalance the rights and responsibilities of these differentgroups E.g. if a business can save money by employingchildren in India, is that wrong?Is business all about profit?Yes Companies have to adopt ethical practices toattract more customers but businesses will only surviveif they are essentially selfish. If you’re running abusiness, you have to make money.No Businesses have a profound impact on theenvironment, lives of workers, on society and on theworld as a whole. They therefore have very importantresponsibilities. A company can value its workers,genuinely care about the environment and still makemoney.Examples of moral issues for businessesWhistle blowing: Sometimes businesses end up actingunethically (e.g. taking unnecessary risks). When thishappens, an individual may need to inform theauthorities. Does the individual have the authority to dothis? They may lose their job, harm their business andtheir co-workers may suffer. Espionage: Some companies pay lots of money forpeople to spy on competitors and copy their ideas.Phones are hacked, offices bugged and employeesfollowed. Because this problem exists, lots of companiespay for really good security.
Key approaches to business Business’ only business is profit:◦ “We will do things in the cheapest possible way, andthen we will use the moeny we earn to do what wefeel is important e.g. expand the business to get moremoney.”◦ The puspose of the business is to make a profit – thisis the capitalist model.◦ A business is founfef for the purpose of profit makingand this should be its only concern.◦ It could work because if a business is making a profit,people are getting paid, therefore they are spendingmoney and the economy works.◦ BUT this approach does not take into account humangreed – people end up wanting more and more moneyand lose sight of other important things in life e.g.environment, local community, employees etc.◦ There is no intrinsic value involved with business, abusiness proves its value by earning a profit,otherwise the business is worthless.◦ This might be Kant’s position: business is not a moralissue so we use the hypothetical imperative. If I wantto make a profit, I should... The mutual benefit model◦ “We might not make a profit if we chop down treesbecause people care about the environment, se wewill plant some more trees when we chop themddown so that people like us again”◦ If people shop with a business, it should be anadvantage to them and an advantage to thebusiness.◦ Many companies sell fairtrade tea and coffee, butthey aren’t fairtrade members and don’t pay moneyto fairtrade. They keep the profit on fairtrade items.◦ The will do whatever keeps their customers happybecause if they don’t look after their customers,their customers wont look after them.◦ Again, nothing has intrinsic value, a business needsto prove its value by making money.◦ This is the utilitarian approach to business.
Key approaches to business Sustainable Practice◦ Business is not just for profit: “The environmentis important in its own right and we shouldspend profits on making the business moresustainable so that the environment benefits”◦ A business has other duties aside from profitmaking.◦ Regardless of whether it makes a profit or not,it still has a duty to care for its employees andtreat them fairly.◦ These businesses were founded to make aprofit, but also to improve lives in the localcommunity.◦ Here, society becomes an important part oftrade.◦ This is similar to Natural Law, which sayseverything has intrinsic value (e.g.environment, employees etc) so these factorsshould be respected, but at the same time, thebusiness itself has intrinsic value and should besuccessful. Socialist Ideal◦ Business serves society: “We have businessand it can profit but the business is actuallythere to improve the environment, or lives forlocal people, or the standard of living for itsemployees. Obviously, that will make lessprofit, but we have a duty to the environmentand we will all work together to improve things”◦ Business has to make profit to continue servingthe community, but that is not the purpose orthe goal of it.◦ When the co-op was founded, it was founded toserve society and they have decided that assoon as it stops serving society, it will close.◦ This approach is most similar to Virtue Ethicsas it is all about relating to each other andbecoming a better community that can developand grow together.
Virtue Ethics Aristotle based his moral theory “Virtue Ethics” on his father, and introduced it to theworld in his second book, Nicomachean Ethics. Virtue Ethics is not about what we do, it’s about who we are. Goodness is all about characteristics, not about actions It is about practice, not about rules. “Virtue” means a perfection. The aim is to become perfect and reach Eudaimonia,living the good life. For Aristotle “living the good life” is the correct application of reason in order to fulfilyour purpose. We all have a purpose, a job to do, a final cause etc according toAristotle. My Nature: I have emotions. To become perfect, I have to practise using my emotionwith the correct application of reason. Anger: You don’t completely control it, but you don’t just let it go. You have to wonderhow much of the feeling of anger would it be correct and appropriate to apply? You have to change and adjust your behaviour and reactions based on the situation,just like a bicycle.
The Golden Mean Your reason, emotion, intuition etc have got to be in balance so that you can fulfil your potential.This comes with practice, not from simply following rules. If you don’t apply reason, you become less of a good person and begin to fall into bad habitsinstead of good ones. The Golden Mean has 3 sections:◦ The Vice of Excess: When you apply too much of an emotion or a virtue to a situation.◦ The Vice of Deficiency: When you do not apply enough of an emotion or virtue to a situation.◦ The Golden Mean: When you apply just the right amount of an emotion or virtue to a situation.The Vice ofDeficiencyThe Golden Mean The Vice of ExcessCowardice Courage RecklessnessShamelessness Modesty BashfulnessVirtue Ethics worked in Aristotle’s time because purpose was more clear then. You were a warrior,politician, philosopher or craftsman, and just applied VE to that. Now, it’s harder to apply becausewe don’t really know our purpose. This theory is not relative or absolute, it’s not subjective orobjective, teleological or deontological – it doesn’t really fit into any of these categories.
Aquinas Virtue Ethics Applying reason to our nature is important, but we also need to applyreason to our relationship with God. He changed Eudaimonia to Beatitudo, “christianising” Virtue Ethics. He also added theological virtues such as hope (you can reasonably hope),faith and charity. After the Enlightenment, Virtue Ethics didn’t make so much sense any more– as there were more job choice, people were less sure of their truepurpose. Societies and groups had some very different rules to others about what agood person was, so changes needed to be made for Virtue Ethics to fit inwith our modern lives.
1950s onwards Anscombe wrote a book called Modern Ethics. She deconstructed “deontological andprescriptive” ethics. She was trying to change the course of ethics, saying it’s aboutwho we are, not what we do. She was the first of the modern virtue ethicists. MacIntyre wrote a book “Beyond Virtue” in the 1960s. His big phrase was “Perfectwithin our own narrative”. We’re not like the ancient Greeks and nobody who doesn’tlive in our narrative can tell us what to be like. We have to become experts about ourown culture and about our own history. Being virtuous is understanding who you arethen growing in that culture, using reason to become perfectly who you are. To bevirtupus is to perfectly fir into your own story. This is as relative as you can get. Philippa Foot – One of the founders of Oxfam, she said “Making the world a betterplace” is what virtue ethics is all about. You have to apply your reason to yourself tomake the world a better place. If you do this, you will become a better person.Someone who has practised virtue will flourish and grow. Nassbaum – He wanted to revert to Aristotle and reinforced the idea that there is ahuman nature. His view is essentially the same as Aristotle’s.
The role and nature ofconscience Conscience can be understood to mean different things both to religious and to non-religious groups. Where religious groups are concerned, conscience has God as its core, but its natureand purpose can be understood in different ways. For non-religious people, conscience can be understood as simply being our moralsense and for others it is little more than an emotional response. Conscience can bedescribed as:◦ Our capacity to know, or awareness of, basic moral principles◦ A reasoning process◦ A judgement terminating a reasoning process (the deciding element)◦ A disposition of will (choosing)◦ A mode of self-awareness (no reasoning involved)
Aquinas on Conscience Conscience is “the mind of man making moral decisions” Aquinas thought that practical reason, through reflection on human nature, can determine primary moralprinciples (which he called the Primary Precepts). Our conscience then derives secondary principles(Secondary Precepts) which are applied. As we practice balancing our needs against the needs of others, wedevelop Prudence. Synderesis - an innate knowledge of human nature and primary precepts through practical reason Conscientia - deriving secondary precepts, and applying them Prudence - the virtue of right-reasoning in moral matters, balancing ours and others needs Aquinas said that a persons conscience could err (go wrong), either invincibly, through no fault oftheir own, or vincibly - through our own fault. For example, if I give money to a man who is begging on thestreets, I have good intentions, but my actions are actually unhelpful. If I had considered my actions carefully, Iwould have seen that I wasnt helping him to improve his situation - if anything, my actions would keep him onthe streets longer. I erred vincibly, as I would have done differently if Id thought about it. Imagine if Id giventhe money instead to a homeless charity, who would be able to help this man to find accommodation, helpconquering his addictions etc. A much better thing to do. However, I did not know that workers at this charitywere abusing the homeless people in their care. Supporting the charity was actually the wrong thing to do, but Icouldnt have known this - I erred or got it wrong invincibly - it wasnt my fault. Conscience needs to be formed and educated. There are many sources of education, e.g. the Bible,authority figures etc that can help us to make sound moral judgements by giving us access to the knowledgewe need. This explains why different people make different judgements Conscience binds us, we have to follow it. Since we have synderesis, it follows that we must alsochoose to do what our conscience tells us is the right thing in a certain case. Otherwise, we are disobeying themost basic moral principle of all; we choose evil even though we know we should choose good. Christiansbelieve that, because our basic awareness of moral principles comes from God, disobeying conscience istantamount to disobeying God.
Butler on Conscience Butler was a Bishop in the Church of England. He believed, as Aquinas did, that wehave a God-given ability to reason. For Butler, conscience seems to be a combination of the cognitive faculty (a facultythat gives knowledge of what is right and wrong, although it is unclear how) and anemotive faculty (this creates feelings of obligation, remorse etc). Conscience does not speak to us in general rules and formulas, it just gives us theability to use reason to weigh up factors in a moral decision. Butler says we have a number of influences, but the conscience should not be seenas merely one among many drives or passions. The conscience should have ultimateauthority over all of our instincts: “Had it strength, as it has right; had it power, as ithas manifest authority, it would absolutely govern the world”. You might sum up Butler’s view by saying that a good person is someone who hashis or her priorities well sorted, with the promptings of conscience ranking highestamong them.
Butler’s Conscience:Problems How can he explain why different people’s consciencesconflict if conscience is a moral sense through which wejust know what is right and wrong? Since conscience is tobe the supreme moral authority, its dictates must belegitimate by definition. If conscience is an infallible guide from God, why would weneed any sort of moral reasoning? Butler says that conscience can lead to decision that arenot “agreeable to truth and virtue”If conscience is only rightif it conforms to what we know of truth and virtue, then ourknowledge of truth and virtue is the ultimate authority, notconscience.
Newman on Conscience Newman was an Anglican theologian who converted to Roman Catholicism and became a Cardinal. Newmansview on the conscience can be seen as intuitionist, which makes his approach quite different from Butler andAquinas. He says that our conscience is "the voice of God" completely distinct from our will or desires. It is an innateprinciple planted in us before we had the ability to reason. A law of the mind Newman described conscience as a law of the mind, but he did not see it as giving us commandments to follow.The conscience is not a set of rules, a feeling of guilt or something that we obey in order to gain a reward fromGod. It is a clear indication of what is right: It was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise... Newman is often quoted as saying he would drink a toast to the Pope, but to the conscience first. Seeing the fullquote, this is an unfortunate epitaph, as Newman wasnt about to drink to either: Certainly, if I am obliged to bring religion into after-dinner toasts, (which indeed does not seem quite the thing) Ishall drink to the Pope, if you please, still, to Conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards . Newman was merely saying, like Butler and Aquinas before him, that the conscience should have ultimateauthority. BUT there are problems with this:◦ Where is the proof for this theory?◦ Why would people’s views conflict if conscience is the voice of God?◦ What about autonomy and free will?
Freud According to Freud, we have 3 structures to our personality:◦ The id – an unconscious reservoir of instinctual drives largely dominated by the pleasureprinciple◦ The ego – the conscious structure that operates on the reality principle to mediate thedemands of the id, society and the physical world. It puts rules upon and controls the id.◦ The superego – the ego of another superimposed on our own to regulate our behaviour usingguilt. This is usually the ego of our parents or authority figures.It is important to remember that Freud never set out to make a theory on conscience. The super-ego IS NOT the same as a conscience.The formation of the superego begins when we are just children. As we develop, the need to beloved is a basic need and drive. We fear punishment as it represents a withdrawal of love. Toprotect ourselves, we internalise the rules and standards given to us by anyone who hasauthority over us. They become like a “moral policeman” to us.This moral policeman (super-ego) tells us we have been good when we do what we have beentold us to do, and makes us feel guilty when we do not do what we should.
Freud An example of this: “Look both ways before crossing”. When we hear this as children, we do notfollow it because we have learnt the value of safety enshrined in the command, but because ofthe authority of the person telling us to do it. The superego is therefore an internalised mechanism to regulate behaviour so as to avoidpunishment and stay safe. It acts out of the fear of punishment and the need for acceptance. The superego and conscience are very different things. When we act out of fear of losing love orout of our need to be accepted and approved, the superego is at work. When we act out of lovefor others and in response to the call to commit ourselves to values, the moral conscience isinvolved. Perhaps we have both a conscience and a superego. The superego in children is not the same as it is in adults. In children it is a primitive butnecessary stage on the way to a true moral conscience. In adults, it works well in conjunctionwith a mature conscience so we just have to make decisions once and then learn. To be able to say we are acting in conscience, there must be a greater influence of theinternalised values we own over the superego and the pull of social pressure to conform.
Superego ConscienceCommands us to act for the sake of gaining approval orout of fear of losing love.Responds to an invitation of love, which creates self-value and love for others.Encourages us to act with the aim of making others loveus.More oriented towards other people and encourages usto think of others’ needs.You merely repeat a prior command and you’re unableto function creatively in a new situation. You just followthe rules.You can combine the rules with your own values inorder to respond in new waysLegalistic – you simply do what the authority figures sayand blindly obeyYou can ignore the commands of authority figures ifvalues override the commands.Each separate action is judged on its own merits andthey are not seen in the larger context or pattern ofactionsOur actions make up one big pattern which is to bejudged all togetherIt is oriented toward the past – all about the way wewere and how we will never changeOriented toward the future – the person one ought tobecome. You add to what you learnt as a childPunishment plays a big role in reconciliation: If I amseverely punished, I will never do it againYou are allowed to make mistakes. If I did somethingwrong in the past, I can plan to do it right from now onwhich means its ok that I did wrong in the first place.You can easily get rid of your guilt by confessing youractions to an authority figureGuilt lasts longer because you have to take the time togrow and changeThe significance of authority figures matters more thanthe rule itself. E.g. my Mum tells me to wash my hands,my little sister tells me to be kind. I may feel more guiltyfor disobeying Mum’s command even though it holdsless real value.The value is the thing that really matters. Experience ofguilt is proportionate to your knowledge and freedom aswell as the value at stake.