The Moral Perspective


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Based upon material by L. Hinman

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The Moral Perspective

  1. 1. The Moral Point of View K.D. Borcoman Embellished from template by Hinman©
  2. 2. Why Study Ethics? <ul><li>Moral concerns are unavoidable in life. </li></ul><ul><li>Analogy: morality is a lot like nutrition. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Principal concern: health </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The role of experts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Disagreement </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Ethics as an Ongoing Conversation <ul><li>Professional discussions of ethical issues in journals. </li></ul><ul><li>We come back to ideas again and again, finding new meaning in them. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Ethics and Morality <ul><li>Morality: first-order set of beliefs and practices about how to live a good life </li></ul><ul><li>Ethics: a second-order, conscious reflection on the adequacy of our moral beliefs. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Moral Health <ul><li>The goal of ethical reflection is moral health. </li></ul><ul><li>Thus we seek to determine what will nourish our moral life and what will poison it. </li></ul>
  6. 6. The Moral Point of View <ul><li>What makes something a moral issue? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Content: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>duties, rights, human welfare, suffering, character, etc. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Perspective: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>impartial, compassionate, etc. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Example: Cheating <ul><li>Imagine a situation in which you see a classmate cheating. There are several elements from a moral point of view: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Some people are hurt by the cheating </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>There is deception in the situation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cheating seems to be unfair to those who don’t cheat </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>There are conflicting values—honesty, loyalty, etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>There are questions of character. </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. The Language of Moral Concerns <ul><li>Some philosophers have argued that moral issues are characterized by a particular kind of language—terms such as duty, obligation, right, and good. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Impartiality <ul><li>Many philosophers have argued that the moral point of view is characterized by impartiality, that is, I don’t give my own interest any special weight. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Immanuel Kant </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>John Stuart Mill </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Compassion <ul><li>Other philosophers have seen the origin of the moral life to be in compassion, feeling for the suffering of other sentient beings. </li></ul><ul><li>Josiah Royce: “Such as that is for me, so is it for him, nothing less.” </li></ul>
  11. 11. Universally Binding <ul><li>Moral obligations, some philosophers maintain, are universally binding and that is what gives them their distinctive character. </li></ul><ul><li>Kant: morality is a matter of categorical imperatives. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Distinguish between hypothetical and categorical imperatives. </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Concern for Character <ul><li>Philosophers from Aristotle onward have seen the primary focus of morality to be character. </li></ul><ul><li>Two questions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What ought I to do? (Kant and Mill) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What kind of person ought I to be? (Aristotle) </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. The Focus of Ethics <ul><li>Ethics as the Evaluation of Other People’s Behavior </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We are often eager to pass judgment on others </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ethics as the Search for Meaning and Value in Our Own Lives </li></ul>
  14. 14. Ethics as the Evaluation of Other People’s Behavior <ul><li>Ethics often used as a weapon </li></ul><ul><li>Hypocrisy </li></ul><ul><li>Possibility of knowing other people </li></ul><ul><li>The right to judge other people </li></ul><ul><li>The right to intervene </li></ul><ul><li>Judging and caring </li></ul>
  15. 15. Ethics as the Search for Meaning and Value in Our Own Lives <ul><li>Positive focus </li></ul><ul><li>Aims at discerning what is good </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasizes personal responsibility for one’s own life </li></ul>
  16. 16. What to Expect from a Moral Theory <ul><li>Functions of theory: </li></ul><ul><li>Describe </li></ul><ul><li>Explain </li></ul><ul><li>Give strength (Stockdale) </li></ul><ul><li>Prescribe </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Open new possibilities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wonder </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. What to Expect from a Moral Theory, 2 <ul><li>What is ethics like? </li></ul><ul><li>Physics </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Clear-cut, definitive answers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Engineering </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Several possible ways of doing things, many ways that are wrong </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. The Point of Ethical Reflection <ul><li>Ethics as the evaluation of other people’s behavior </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Sources of mistrust about moral judgments </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Hypocrisy </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Knowing other people </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The right to judge </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Judging and intervention </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Judging and caring </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Ethics as the search for the meaning of our own lives </li></ul>
  19. 19. Conclusion: Ethics & Good Health <ul><li>Ethics is like nutrition </li></ul><ul><ul><li>One studies bodily health, the other moral health </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Significant disagreement in both fields </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Still there is a significant common ground. </li></ul></ul>