Justice as a Social Object
David Koepsell
TU Delft
Justice and Ethics
• Justice as a measure of the rightness of laws or legal
systems poses a problem: by what standard can ...
Implications
• If there are universal ethical values, what
would this imply?
– The good exists
– There is a universal meas...
Testing the hypothesis
• Consider first three major existing schools of
ethical theory.
– Is there vagueness?
– Are there ...
Virtue Ethics
• The good is defined as character traits
– There is vagueness: no bright lines between
virtues and vices. e...
Deontological Theories
• The good is defined as some group of duties
– There is less vagueness, especially in Kantian theo...
Consequentialism
• The good is defined as action that increases some
universally-agreed upon value, like happiness
– There...
Is There Overlap?
• Ethical theories above offer some overlap, but
incomplete.
– Les Miserables, example:
– Jean Valjean e...
Implications for Ethical Theories
• Ethical theories are only models, and thus
failure to give a consistent, non-vague,
sa...
Could there still be THE GOOD
• Universal ethical values may exist.
– Overlap among ethical theories may indicate
some com...
The Phenomenology of THE GOOD
• Hume, Reid, and others argue that moral
intuition points to the good in a way that
reason ...
The Phenomenology of THE GOOD
• We can access through empirical means,
primarily through introspection of our
intentional ...
The Phenomenology of THE GOOD
• There are many complex social objects that
are real, but extremely difficult to quantify
o...
Conclusions
• Existing ethical theories are imperfect models
of the good, and provide little compelling
evidence to accept...
Conclusions
• If the good exists, and there are some
universal ethical values, this might explain our
moral intuitions, an...
Conclusions
• We should remain skeptical about the existence
of universal ethical values. Skepticism is
necessary for inqu...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5
×

Are there universal ethical values

452 views

Published on

Published in: Education, Business, Technology
0 Comments
0 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Views
Total views
452
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
2
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
4
Comments
0
Likes
0
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Are there universal ethical values

  1. 1. Justice as a Social Object David Koepsell TU Delft
  2. 2. Justice and Ethics • Justice as a measure of the rightness of laws or legal systems poses a problem: by what standard can we measure? Can we find some objective standard? If not, then how do we deal with events like Nuremberg? Some Possibilities: (a) Nuremberg is just because the allies won (b) unjust because it had no basis in law or custom, or (c) just because of the existence of some objective measure of the good. (a) and (b) are unsatisfying Q: are there universal values by which justice can be measured?
  3. 3. Implications • If there are universal ethical values, what would this imply? – The good exists – There is a universal measure of the good – The good can be known by all • Moreover… – Ethical theory could describe the good and how to know it
  4. 4. Testing the hypothesis • Consider first three major existing schools of ethical theory. – Is there vagueness? – Are there counterexamples? – Are there unsatisfying cases? • Is there overlap?
  5. 5. Virtue Ethics • The good is defined as character traits – There is vagueness: no bright lines between virtues and vices. e.g. rashness-courage- cowardice. Also, arbitrary choices in choosing what counts as a virtue. – Counterexamples: virtue theory gives no guidance for action. – Unsatisfying cases exist: virtuous warriors may be vicious in other regards. How shall we weigh the importance of conflicting virtues?
  6. 6. Deontological Theories • The good is defined as some group of duties – There is less vagueness, especially in Kantian theory. The Categorical Imperative is just that: categorical, without exception. In rights-based theory, defining what counts as rights is potentially arbitrary. – Counterexamples abound: exceptions to general rules seem necessary = killing is justified in self-defense, lying is justified to prevent murder, etc. – Unsatisfying cases abound: rights seem worth bargaining away for certain securities and duties may conflict.
  7. 7. Consequentialism • The good is defined as action that increases some universally-agreed upon value, like happiness – There is vagueness: choosing a value is arbitrary, and defining it’s general character is impossible to judge. e.g. what counts as happiness? Over what time- frame? – There are counterexamples: for any universally- chosen value, there are some agents who do not prefer it. – There are unsatisfactory cases: slavery, wars, thefts, etc., can be justified if the hedonic calculus works out
  8. 8. Is There Overlap? • Ethical theories above offer some overlap, but incomplete. – Les Miserables, example: – Jean Valjean exhibits some virtues, but violates categorical duties. Happiness even harder to calculate, but let’s assume the theft of bread increases overall happiness. – Indeed there is often some overlap, but not always.
  9. 9. Implications for Ethical Theories • Ethical theories are only models, and thus failure to give a consistent, non-vague, satisfactory solution to particular cases does not imply that there is not THE GOOD • Major ethical theories cannot all be completely right • No major ethical theory solves the problem of the source of the good without assumptions
  10. 10. Could there still be THE GOOD • Universal ethical values may exist. – Overlap among ethical theories may indicate some common truth – The good may yet exist in some way that no ethical theory has solved or could solve – There are reasons to believe that certain values are at least important, perhaps even universally, based upon behaviors and institutions around the world and over time
  11. 11. The Phenomenology of THE GOOD • Hume, Reid, and others argue that moral intuition points to the good in a way that reason alone cannot • Institutions regard the good as knowable and expressible, for instance through the common law • The Nuremburg principles were expressed as though they were universal, and applicable post hoc. Where did they come from?
  12. 12. The Phenomenology of THE GOOD • We can access through empirical means, primarily through introspection of our intentional states, our considerations of the good a priori (if there is such a thing as the good) • We can also use cases to help develop a picture of the good that suits our common intuitions
  13. 13. The Phenomenology of THE GOOD • There are many complex social objects that are real, but extremely difficult to quantify objectively. – Consider a “reputation” or a “friendship” – These objects exist, they are real, but describing them is extraordinarily complex, and may depend upon vague and subjective intentional states. – There may be no general rule of how such objects exist
  14. 14. Conclusions • Existing ethical theories are imperfect models of the good, and provide little compelling evidence to accept their truth in light of contradictions, vagueness, and unsatisfactory cases • Some overlap among them suggests that there may be yet some “good” that each manages to capture, however imperfectly
  15. 15. Conclusions • If the good exists, and there are some universal ethical values, this might explain our moral intuitions, and the general feeling that things like the Nuremburg principles are just • The good may be a complex social object like friendships or reputations: real, but incredibly difficult to describe or develop rules for
  16. 16. Conclusions • We should remain skeptical about the existence of universal ethical values. Skepticism is necessary for inquiry. It seems unlikely that any one theory (at least among existing theories) can account for the good, if it indeed exists. • Nonetheless, there is reason to inquire, perhaps along some as yet untaken course of inquiry, to suit our tendencies to act as though there is a good and that it is worth pursuing.

×