Rae, Moral Choices: Ch1 - why study ethics
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Rae, Moral Choices: Ch1 - why study ethics

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Notes from Rae's Moral Choices - as used at LTCi, Siliguri

Notes from Rae's Moral Choices - as used at LTCi, Siliguri

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  • 1. Scott Rae Moral Choices Chapter 1 Introduction: why study ethics?Friday 11 May 2012
  • 2. Why be moral? Websters dictionary has a number of definitions for moral including: - of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior - conforming to a standard of right behavior This is an important question for a course on ethics - is being moral important to you, why (or why not)? Most people think doing well in life is associated with being “good”Friday 11 May 2012
  • 3. For example: do you think a person who gains money dishonestly is a success? Is a politician who beats his wife and children a success? Is Mother Theresa a success - she had very few of the things society commonly associates with doing well. Most people like fairness, justice, truthfulness, compassion in society. Ethics help give direction to societies and people who think they cannot flourish without some form of morality.Friday 11 May 2012
  • 4. Morality is said to be breaking down in society today - juvenile crime, drug abuse, alcoholism, teenage pregnancies, crime rates - all seem to indicate the moral fabric of society is breaking down. Moral questions are at the heart of life’s vital issues - including those affected by the actions above. “Morality is primarily concerned with the questions of right and wrong, the ability to distinguish between the two, and the justification of the distinction.”Friday 11 May 2012
  • 5. Morality is said to be breaking Out of this we ask questions like: down in society today - juvenile What is a good person? crime, drug abuse, alcoholism, What things are morally teenage pregnancies, crime rates - praiseworthy? all seem to indicate the moral What is a good life? fabric of society is breaking down. What would a good society look Moral questions are at the heart of like? life’s vital issues - including those These questions are fundamental affected by the actions above. to your worldview - to what you “Morality is primarily think the world should look like. concerned with the questions Political science, medical science, of right and wrong, the business practices, economics etc, ability to distinguish between (and of course religion), have a the two, and the justification great affect on such thinking. of the distinction.”Friday 11 May 2012
  • 6. Every day you face moral choices - many decisions involve “right and wrong” - ethics provides a basis for making such decisions, in fact the basis for the way you make these decisions is vital for your life, why you think something is right or wrong is important. Ethics involves many issues - abortion, euthanasia, war, same sex marriage - these will be spoken of for years, as the fundamental issue is the ground for moral authority to make decisions about them.Friday 11 May 2012
  • 7. Every day you face moral choices - many decisions involve “right and Where does moral wrong” - ethics provides a basis authority come from? for making such decisions, in fact the basis different sources What for the way you make these you think of? your can decisions is vital for life, why you think something is right or wrong is important. Ethics involves many issues - abortion, euthanasia, war, same sex marriage - these will be spoken of for years, as the fundamental issue is the ground for moral authority to make decisions about them.Friday 11 May 2012
  • 8. Every day you face moral choices - many decisions involve “right and Where does moral wrong” - ethics provides a basis authority come from? for making such decisions, in fact the basis different sources What for the way you make these you think of? your can decisions is vital for life, why you think something is - it is a wrong is important.the right or construction of human heartmany issues - Ethics involves abortion, euthanasia, war, same sex marriage - these will be spoken of for years, as the fundamental issue is the ground for moral authority to make decisions about them.Friday 11 May 2012
  • 9. Every day you face moral choices - many decisions involve “right and Where does moral wrong” - ethics provides a basis authority come from? for making such decisions, in fact the basis different sources What for the way you make these you think of? your can decisions is vital for life, why you think something is - it is a wrong is important.the right or construction of human heartmany issues - Ethics involves - from aeuthanasia, war, same sex abortion, transcendent marriage somethingbe spoken of source, - these will that we for years, as God. might call the fundamental issue is the ground for moral authority to make decisions about them.Friday 11 May 2012
  • 10. Every day you face moral choices - many decisions involve “right and Where does moral wrong” - ethics provides a basis authority come from? for making such decisions, in fact the basis different sources What for the way you make these you think of? your can decisions is vital for life, why you think something is - it is a wrong is important.the right or construction of human heartmany issues - Ethics involves - from aeuthanasia, war, same sex abortion, transcendent marriage somethingbe spoken of source, - these will that we for years, as God. might call the fundamental issue is the ground for moral authority to make decisions about them.Friday 11 May 2012
  • 11. The debate over these issues rages on and seems no closer to being resolved than 10 years ago. Now we increasingly add technology to the debate - the use of genetic testing for diseases, of stem cells for treatments. The need for moral parameters for their use is obvious, but making such decisions is hard as the issues are very complex. Values are taught and character emphasised more in some areas of society like education and business.Friday 11 May 2012
  • 12. There is debate these issues there The debate overover whetherrages is genuine moral knowledge. on and seems no closer to being Philosophical 10 years ago. Now resolved than questioning has moved towards naturalism which includes we increasingly add technology to the debate - the use of genetic sensed idea that only what can be testing what cannot be stem cells not is real, for diseases, of sensed is for treatments. The need forreal verifiable and therefore not moral parameters Thistheir use is knowledge. for then excludes obvious, but making such decisions religious beliefs - theists, argue that is hardknowledge is real very that the moral as the issues are and complex. murder is wrong is not idea that Values are opinionand character argue subjective taught but true, they emphasised more in some areas of that no one always lives as if morality society like education and is entirely subjective and that moral business. and can be known. truths existFriday 11 May 2012
  • 13. Introducing key terms and distinctions in ethics “Morality refers to the actual content of right and wrong, and ethics refers to the process of determining right and wrong - morality deals with knowledge and ethics deals with reasoning. Ethics is therefore an art and a science - it involves some precision like sciences, but also it can be an inexact and intuitive discipline. Morality is the end of ethical deliberation - the determining of right and wrong.”Friday 11 May 2012
  • 14. Major categories Traditionally ethics has had four broad categories: 1. Descriptive ethics A sociological discipline describing the morals of a society, often by studying other cultures. Often used by anthropologists in their field work describing the moral distinctives of other cultures.Friday 11 May 2012
  • 15. 2. Normative ethics Refers to the discipline that produces moral norms or rules as its end product. So normative ethics is prescriptive whilst descriptive ethics simply describes moral behaviour. This is an area of great debate and one that we shall look at in the specific issues addressed later in this course.Friday 11 May 2012
  • 16. 3. Metaethics Is the area that investigates the meaning of moral language, or the epistemology of ethics, and also considers the justification of ethical theories and judgements. So it looks at terms used like right, good, and just. This has become more important as people are now claiming terminology like right and wrong are merely an expression of personal preference. E.g. Saying homosexuality is wrong is an expression of preference not of it being right or wrong.Friday 11 May 2012
  • 17. 4. Aretaic ethics Focusses on the virtues produced in individuals not on the morality of specific acts.it is also called virtue theory and is growing in popularity today. In seeing that there is more to a moral life than simply making the right decisions, many people believe that matters of virtue and character are of equal, if not greater, importance than the way we resolve moral dilemmas.Friday 11 May 2012
  • 18. Rae suggests four guidelines for making moral decisions: 1. Consider the action itself - evaluate it before you judge it 2. Evaluate the motive for the action - two identical actions can be taken for very differing reasons - what is the difference between a gift and a bribe?Friday 11 May 2012
  • 19. 3. Evaluate the consequences of your decisions and actions - an action can be inherently wrong regardless of the consequences - you might benefit economically from slavery but that can never make it right 4. Harder to do, is to evaluate the character of the moral actor (person doing the thing) - Rae defines character as “the tendency of a person to act in predictable ways over time” This removes ethics from being solely about actions - in fact we often judge character, e.g. who we trustFriday 11 May 2012
  • 20. Ethical systems Are classified as action-oriented or virtue-based. There are then 3 categories within each classification: 1. Deontological - based on principles in which actions (or character or intentions) are inherently right or wrong. Within this there are 3 deontological systems; a. Divine command theory b. Natural law c. Ethical rationalismFriday 11 May 2012
  • 21. Ethical systems Christians naturally tend to be more deontological as they look to the absolutes of the commands of God for moral absolutes and guiding principles. However there is also strong weight given to virtue based ethics as we value character, like the fruit of the SpiritFriday 11 May 2012
  • 22. 2. Teleological systems - based on the end result produced by an action. The consequences are important here, not what is inherently right or wrong within an action. If the consequences are more beneficial than harmful, then it is ok to take the action, ie. it is moral, if not it is immoral. The primary form of this is utilitarianism - the action that produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people is the moral choice. (Good is considered to be greatest pleasure or preference satisfaction.)Friday 11 May 2012
  • 23. A development of this is ethical egoism which says the right thing to do is that which is in the person’s self interest - the only consequence is what is in the persons self interestFriday 11 May 2012
  • 24. 3. Relativism - right and wrong are not absolute and unchanging but relative to your own culture (cultural relativism) and personal preferences (moral subjectivism). Both forms are common today. Multiculturalism accepts all cultures as equally valid whilst moral subjectivism says “that might be right for you, but something else is right for me”. This is often associated with postmodernism where objective truth and objective morality are called into question.Friday 11 May 2012
  • 25. 3. Relativism - right and wrong are not absolute and unchanging but relative to your own culture (cultural relativism) and personal preferences (moral subjectivism). Both forms are common today. Multiculturalism accepts all cultures as equally valid whilst moral subjectivism says “that might be right for you, but something else is right for me”. This is often associated with postmodernism where objective truth and objective morality are called into question.Friday 11 May 2012
  • 26. Relativism: The theory that Philosopher Peter Kreeft said denies that humans can possess any that"No culture in history has objective, universally meaningful ever embraced moral relativism knowledge, that there are any and survived." ultimate and unchanging Whats the problem (God, persons, metaphysical realities with moral space, time, Greg Koukl gives 7 relativism? natural laws) or that there are You Cant Do asHence Things any moral absolutes. a meaning and truth are relative to Moral Relativist: each culture and historical period or Relativists Can’t situation, relationship to each person, Accuse Others of and outcome. Wrong-Doing 1. Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Relativists Can’t Complain About the Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary Problem of Evil of Theological TermsFriday 11 May 2012
  • 27. Philosopher Peter Kreeft said that"No culture in history has ever embraced moral relativism and survived." Whats the problem with moral relativism? Greg Koukl gives 7 Things You Cant Do as a Moral Relativist: Relativists Can’t Accuse Others of Wrong-Doing Relativists Can’t Complain About the Problem of EvilFriday 11 May 2012
  • 28. Relativists Can’t Place Blame or Accept Praise Relativists Can’t Claim Anything Is Unfair or Unjust Relativists Can’t Improve Their Morality Relativists Can’t Hold Meaningful Moral Discussions Relativists Can’t Promote the Obligation of ToleranceFriday 11 May 2012
  • 29. Friday 11 May 2012
  • 30. Morality and the law There is a great area of overlapping between what is legal and what is moral. Laws about driving on one side of the road have an element of respect for people and property. Most people think valid laws hold to some common element of shared moral principles.Friday 11 May 2012
  • 31. Rae assumes that the law is the moral minimum - it is the beginning of moral obligations, not the end. Not all that is legal is morally right - adultery might not end you in jail but cheating on your spouse would not be morally acceptable for believers. In some instances people might be required to act in line with the law but against their conscience - eg a nurse required to assist in an abortion. Christians often then claim they must obey God not men - Acts 5:29Friday 11 May 2012
  • 32. So if the law is the floor not the ceiling - how far above the law should we go in fulfilling Christian morality? Where the law is not definitive or is silent there is potential for unethical activity. Moral beliefs and motives cannot be legislated - but moral actions or behaviour can be, in fact most laws are in some way an imposition of someones morality. Many areas of concern for Christians are a question of whether we can legislate our moral position...Friday 11 May 2012
  • 33. So if the law is the floor not the Abortion far above the law ceiling - how Assisted go in fulfilling Christian suicide should we CloningWhere the law is not morality? Same sex marriage etc. definitive or is silent there is Remember a unethicalof interest potential for number activity. groupsbeliefs and motives Moral campaign about such issues - not only Christians. but moral cannot be legislated - (FYI: In the USA the first amendment actions or behaviour can be, in protects the separation of church and fact most laws are in some way an state primarily on the basis of imposition of someones morality. protecting the right to exercise Many areas of concern for religious freedom and free speech, so Christians are a question of that the state did not impose beliefs whether we can legislate our on its citizens.) moral position...Friday 11 May 2012
  • 34. Review questions 1. How are ethics important in business, politics and medicine? 2. How would you distinguish between ethics and morality? 3. What are descriptive, normative, metaethics and aretaic ethics? 4. When a moral assessment is made what should be considered? 5. How would you describe the relationship of morality and the law?Friday 11 May 2012
  • 35. Review questions 1. How are ethics important in business, politics and medicine? 2. How would you distinguish between ethics and morality? 3. What are descriptive, normative, metaethics and aretaic ethics? 4. When a moral assessment is made what should be considered? 5. How would you describe the relationship of morality and the law?Friday 11 May 2012