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Morals and Society September notes and midterm studyguide

by: Brandon Veloz

Morals and Society September notes and midterm studyguide APHI 114

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These notes cover what is gonna be on our first midterm
Morals and Society
L. Chad Horne
Study Guide
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This 11 page Study Guide was uploaded by Brandon Veloz on Wednesday October 5, 2016. The Study Guide belongs to APHI 114 at SUNY Albany taught by L. Chad Horne in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 15 views. For similar materials see Morals and Society in Arts and Humanities at SUNY Albany.


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Date Created: 10/05/16
Morals and Society 8/29/16 Descriptive ethics  Based on upcoming can be seen in other areas (Sociology, Anthropology)  How we think we should live Philosophical ethics  Right or wrong normative: having to do with norms or standards  How we should live Moral Philosophy is divided into 3 branches A. Applied ethics = B. Normative Ethics(moral theory) = what are the ethics C. Meta ethics = Most Abstract form of philosophy what is morality? Morals and Society 8/31/16 Meta ethics I. Socrates (469 –399 BCE)  Social Guy  Was executed a) Sources : Aristophanes (c.450-c.386) b) Xenophon(c.425 – c.386) ; Plato (c.429-347) i. “Aporia” Impasse; Puzzlement b. Executed in 399 for impiety, for refusing to recognize the gods of the city and introducing new gods. II. The Socratic Method (“elenchus”. Refutation) a) Socrates request a definition: “what is a piety?” b) His Interlocutor gives examples: “Piety is prosecuting murder and temple theft and the like”. c) Socrates re-asserts his request for definition. d) His interlocutor e) Definitions Inadequate f) The interlocutor revises his definitions “ Piety is what all god’s love” g) Socrates still says revision is inadequate: Is it pious because the gods Lovestor do they have it because it is pious.” h) Steps found are repeated until the interlocutor is exhausted Morals and Society 9/2/16 I. Euthyphro proposes that “Piety is what all god’s love”’. a. Socrates rejects this definition because it isn’t explanatory : “It is loud (by the gods) because it is holy, not holy because it is loved” II. The divine command theory of morality: morally right acts are right because they have been commanded by god and morally wrong act are wrong because they have been prohibited by god. III. The Euthyphro dilemma for divine command theory.” Are morally rights acts right because God commands them. Or does god command them because they were right?” a. The Divine Command Theorist is committed to the first option, i.e the view that right are right because god commands them. i. Problem: God’s commands seem arbitrary. ii. Morality is made contingent. If god commanded torture, then it would be morally right. b. Socrates likes option 2 i. For the theist, this makes God to moral law. ii. Theist deny Gods Omnipotence. There is at least one thing god cannot do. iii. Denial of God’s freedom. III. In the Christian tradition the dominant moral theory has been natural law theory. a. Natural law theory begins from Aristotle’s Idea that “nature does nothing in vain” The world is a rational order with built in purpose. b. Thus the laws of nature describe not just law things are but how they ought to be; things ought to serve their natural purpose. c. Human beings can know what is right and wrong by observing and reflecting on the natural order. IV. Problems with natural law theory : a. Things can have more than one purpose b. Natural law theory rest on a conception of nature that does not fit with modern society. c. Natural law theory appears to confuse “is” and “ought”. V. Can objective morality exist without God? a. What is objective morality?” i. A statement is subjective when its truth (or falsehood) depends on facts about the mental states of the person uttering it.) (WHO) ii. A statement is relative when its truth (or false hood) depends on facts about the context in which is uttered. (Where) iii. A statement is objective when it’s truth (or falsehood) in mind Intendent and context – Independent. b. In asking whether objective morality can exist without God, we are asking whether without God there can be any true moral statements that are neither subjective nor relative. Morals and Society 9/9/16 I. “Atheistic moral realism”. The View that objective moral values and duties exist and are not dependent on God. II. Craig argues that, if god does not exist: a. Moral Values cannot exist b. Even if moral values exist, they cannot impose duties on us. c. Even if moral values exist and impose duties on us, we cannot reliably know what those duties are. III. How do we know our moral obligations? a. Craig suggests that atheist must believe that our beliefs about morality are merely products of evolutionary processes. b. But just because a belief has a cultural or biological origin. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true. IV. How do moral values lay obligation on us? a. Craig suggest that duties are not owed to values; they are owed to people. b. But there is no reason why atheist must deny this. c. “What’s Immoral about causing serious harms to other people without justification?” Note that the theistic answer to this question is not very good. i. The theist can say that it is immoral because it contrary to God’s commands but we can still ask: Why is it moral to obey Gods? ii. This just the Euthyphro Problem again! V. How can moral values “Just exist”? a. Atheist can agree with Craig that they don’t know what it means. Morals and Society 9/12/16 I. Cultural relativism: the view that all moral truths are relative to the moral code of some culture. II. According to cultural relativism, whatever is socially approved is also morally good. a. It follows that we can’t consistently disagree with the oral code of our own culture. b. Thus cultural relativism can’t make sense of key features of our everyday moral experience, such as how we teach children about morality or how we reason about what we do. III. Cultural relativism assumes that each culture has a settled moral code, and that each person belongs to a single culture. a. But both these assumptions are false. IV. Arguments of cultural relativism: a. “Since, morality is a product of culture, there can’t be objective moral truths”. i. The genetic fallacy again. b. “Since cultures disagree about morality there can’t be objective moral truths.” i. The mere fact of disagreement does not prove that there is no truth of the matter. Morals and Society 9/14/16 I. Prinz argues that children acquire moral values by emotional conditioning attaching a negative emotional response to a punished behavior and a positive emotional response to a rewarded behavior. a. Moral reasoning can only draw attention to values that a person has already internalized through emotional conditioning. b. The chief moral emotions are anger and disgust when an act is performed by someone else and guilt and shame when an act is performed by oneself (me). i. Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundation theory: care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority, and purity. “The Righteous Mind” (2012) c. Two Implications i. Some moral debates cannot resolved because the two sides have different basic values. ii. Reason alone cannot give us new values or tell us which values we should have. II. But as we saw last time the fact that morality has a biological basis does not prove that there can’t be objective moral truths. This is the genetic fallacy. III. But what basis could there be for objective morality? Prinz claims that: a. God fails to provide such a basis because we don’t know what God wants us to do. b. Human nature fails because human nature lacks normative import. c. Reason fails because reason never adds up to a value. IV. Prinz closes by responding to some of the common charges against cultural relativism. a. “Relativism entails that we have no way to criticize Hitler.” “The problem with Hitler was not that his values were false, but that they were pernicious (bad). b. “Relativism doesn’t allow moral progress:” “moral values do not become truer. But they can become better by other criteria.” More conducive to social stability, e.g. Morals and Society 9/16/16 I. Cultural relativism, again: a. The relativist and objectivist agree that we can explain people’s actual moral values and beliefs through the methods of science. b. The relativist and objectivist also agree that, just because we can explain people’s actual moral beliefs and values through the methods of science, that doesn’t mean there are no objective moral standards. c. The relativist urges that the objectivist owes us a conclusive account of the objective basis of morality. In the absence of such an account, relativism should be the default position. d. The objectivist urges that the relativist owes us a conclusive argument against the objectivity of moral values. In the absence of such account, objectivism should be the default position. II. Enoch proposes three tests to shed some light on what it means for a belief or judgement to be objective, and to provide intuitive support for the idea that moral beliefs and judgements are objective: a. The Spinach Test. b. The Disagreement Test c. The Counterfactual Wrongness Test (i.e., “Would it still have been wrong if…?”) III. By all three of these tests, moral disagreement seems to fail on the objective side. a. At the very last, this shows that morality aspires to objectivity. 9/19/16 I. We saw last time that morality aspires objectivity a. Enoch argues that objectivism about morality should be the default position. II. One worry about the objectivity of morality comes from the fact of moral disagreement. a. How do we distinguish objectivity-undermining disagreement from non-objectivity-undermining disagreement b. If morality is objective, then shouldn’t disagreement ultimately lead to agreement? c. We need moral epistemology! i. Epistemology: Theory of knowledge. ii. Moral Truths appear to be a prior: III. A priori vs a posteriori a. A posteriori proposition is a proposition that is known on the basis of experience. b. An a priori proposition is a proposition that is not known at the basis of experience. n.b. This is not a distinction concerning how one knows its justification. c. Same a posteriori propositions “it is raining today;” “the earth is the third planet from the sun;” “LeBron James is taller than Steph curry.” d. Some priori propositions “Triangles have three sides’” “all bachelors are unmarried,” “Either LeBron James is taller than Steph curry or he’s not. IV. Morality seems to be a priori in at least these senses. a. We cannot see or otherwise observe moral facts b. We cannot settle moral ethics using empirical methods. c. For an observable property; it is always an open question whether that property is good. Morals and Society 9/21/16 I. Psychological Egoism: The Theory that each person seeks only his/her self- interest. a. Psychological egoism is a descriptive theory, a theory of human nature or human psychology. b. It should not be confused with ethical egoism, the theory that everyone ought to pursue only their own self-interest c. Psychological egoism is a challenge to morality because of the maxim “ought implies can.” II. Psychological egoism requires a theory of self-interest or welfare. a. Hedonism identifies welfare with pleasure and absence of pain. b. Other views hold that welfare consists of the satisfaction of desires or preferences. n.b. Most of Feinberg’s arguments are directed against egoistic hedonism. III. Intuitive support for the theory of psychological egoism: a. Every action of mine is prompted by motives or desires that are mine. This sounds like selfishness. b. Whenever I get what I want, I feel pleasure. Perhaps pleasure is the ultimate end of my actions. c. We often deceive ourselves into thinking we act from noble motivations when what we really want is praise or reward. Perhaps we always deceive ourselves in this way. d. We teach morality by inflicting pleasure and pain on children. Perhaps this shows that all behavior is motivated by the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain. IV. These arguments are quite confused, according to Feinberg. a. It is true that every action of mine is prompted by motives or desires that are mine. i. But what egoism asserts it that every act of mine is selfish. This is a claim about the content of my desire, not its source. b. It is true that we often get pleasure when we get what we want. i. But the fact that something usually (always?) accompanies something else does not show that the first “something” is the purpose or motivation for the second. ii. In fact, the fact that we derive pleasure from fulfilling our unselfish desires proves that we care about things other than our own self-interest. c. It is true that we teach children morality by conditioning them to feel pleasure and pain at right things. i. But the relentless pursuit of pleasure is likely to be self- underming because of the so-called “paradox of hedonism” V. Note an ambiguity in the word pleasure: it can refer to certain physical sensations (or a certain quality of physical sensations), or it can refer to the feeling of satisfaction one derives from getting what one wants a. If the psychological egoist means to say that the ultimate goal of all human action is pleasure in the sense of pleasant sensations, then that is manifestly false. b. If the egoist means to say that he ultimate goal of all human action is pleasure in the sense of satisfaction, then she is caught in an infinite regress. I. We saw last time that psychological egoistic hedonism is not a very plausible view. a. If the egoist means to say that the ultimate goal of all human action is pleasure in the sense of pleasant sensation, then that seems obviously false. b. If the egoist means to say that the ultimate goal of all human action is pleasure in sense of satisfaction, then she is caught in an infinite regress. II. The egoist might still maintain that there is some other sense in which all voluntary actions are selfish. Two questions: a. Is this claim true? b. In virtue of what is this claim meant to be true? Specifically, is it meant to be true in virtue of certain empirical evidence, or in virtue of the meaning of words? III. Feinberg explains this in terms of the difference between analytic and synthetic propositions. a. Analytic propositions are those that are true (or false) due to the meaning of the concepts involved. “All bachelors are unmarried,” e.g. b. Synthetic propositions are those that are true (or false) due to more than the mere meaning of the concepts involved. “Many bachelors live in New York,” e.g. Is the analytic-synthetic distinction the same as the priori-a posteriori distinction? IV. Does the egoist mean the proposition “al voluntary behavior is selfish” as an analytic or synthetic proposition? a. Empirical (synthetic) hypotheses ought to be falsifiable in principle: we ought to be able to specify what would count as evidence against an empirical hypothesis. b. A person who will cling to the idea that “all voluntary behavior is selfish” in the face of all possible counterexamples is treating “selfish” is part of the definition of voluntary behavior. c. Doing this inflates the concept of “selfish” behavior to the point that it consumes its opposite; now there are no theoretically possible cases of unselfish voluntary actions. V. Ethical Egoism: the moral theory according to which each person ought to pursue only her own self-interest. a. One (apparent) argument for egoism: i. We ought to do whatever will promote the best interests of everyone alike. ii. The interests of everyone will best be promoted if each of us adopts the policy of pursuing our own interests exclusively. iii. Therefore, each of us should adopt the policy of pursuing our own interest exclusively. 9/26/16 I. Ethical egoism: the moral theory according to which each person ought to pursue only her self-interest. II. One (apparent) argument for egoism: a. We ought to do whatever will promote the best interest of everyone alike. (Moral claim) b. The interests of everyone will best be promoted if each of us adopts the policy of pursuing our own interests exclusively. (Empirical claim) c. Therefore, each of us should adopt the policy of pursuing our own interest exclusively. III. Consider an argument that runs in something like the opposite direction: a. Each of us ought to pursue only our own self-interest. (Moral Claim) b. Our own self-interest will be best promoted if each of us accepts certain constraints on our behavior. (Empirical claim) c. Therefore, each of us ought to accept certain constraints on our behavior. IV. This view is sometimes called contractarianism, because it attempts to derive moral constraints from the agreement of rational, self-interested individuals. a. For an elaboration and defense, see David Gauthier, “Why Contractarianism?” (571-580.) b. One problem for contractarianism: even if it is generally preferable from the point of view of self-interest to accept and abide by certain moral constraints on my behavior, it is not always preferable to do so. c. Another problem: even if it is true that it is in my self-interest to accept and abide by certain moral constraints, that does not mean that self-interest is the only (or even the most important) reason to do so. V. Some theorists have tried to show that egoism is self-contradictory because it entails that the same action can be morally wrong and not morally wrong. a. Suppose it is in A’s interest to kill B and it is in B’s interest to prevent A from killing B i. Then (according to ethical egoism) it is right for B to prevent A from killing B (because it is in B’s interest). ii. But is also wrong for B to prevent A from killing B (because it is wrong to prevent someone from doing their duty, and it is A’s duty to kill B) b. But the egoist need not accept that it is wrong to prevent someone from doing their duty. VI. Rachel argues that the fundamental problem with ethical egoism is that arbitrary assigns greater importance to the interest of one group over another (in case, “me” versus you”) a. Rachel: “We can justify treating people differently only if we can show that there is some factual difference between them that is relevant to justifying the difference in treatment. b. Rachel’s argument against egoism (p.199) i. Any moral doctrine that assigns greater importance to the interests of one group than to those another is unacceptably arbitrary unless there is some difference between the members of the groups that justifies treating them differently ii. Ethical Egoism would have each person assign greater importance to his or her own interests that to the interest of others. iii. But there is no general difference between oneself and others to which each person can appeal, that justifies this difference in treatment. iv. Therefore, Ethical Egoism is unacceptably arbitrary. 9/28/16 I. Utilitarianism: the moral theory according to which an action is right if only if it produces the greatest possible net balance of utility. a. Utility: human welfare/well-being/happiness. II. Utilitarianism is a consequentialist moral theory. a. A consequentialist moral theory is one of that holds that the rightness (wrongness) of actions depends solely on their consequences. b. More technically, we stay that a consequentialist moral theory is one that (1) defines the good independently of the right and (2) defines the right as promoting (maximizing) the good. c. Non-Consequentialist moral theories do not deny that consequences matter, but they hold that other things matter, too-like the intrinsic nature of certain acts. d. It is natural to assume that we ought to make the world better whenever we can. In that sense, consequentialism seems like the default starting position. III. All consequentialist theories define the right as promoting (maximizing) the good. Such theories are distinguished by their different accounts of the good: a. Utilitarianism is the view that the good is utility of human welfare/happiness. i. The classical utilitarians (Bentham, Mill) were hedonist, identifying the good with (human) pleasure and the absence of pain. ii. Many contemporary utilitarians are preference-satisfactions, identifying the good with satisfaction of preferences. b. Perfectionism is the view that the good is human perfection or human excellence. c. Intuitionism is the view that “the good” includes a diverse and incommensurable set of things. IV. The classical utilitarians were progressive reformers as well as philosophers and economists. a. The impulse behind utilitarianism is a humane and progressive one: legal and moral rules should be tested for their consequences for human welfare. Exam 8/29 – 9/23 material 9/30/16 I. Utilitarianism: an act is right if only if it produces the greatest bet balance of utility. Two features of Unitarianism: a. Utilitarianism is consequentialist is defining right action wholly in terms of their consequences (i.e., it is consequentialist in defining the right as maximizing the good). b. Classical Utilitarianism is hedonist in identifying pleasure and the absence of pain as the consequence matter, morally speaking (i.e., it is hedonist in identifying the good with pleasure). II. Mill emphasizes that the principle of utility is put forward as a standard of rightness, not a motive of action or a decision procedure. a. Utilitarianism does not require that people always act from a desire to promote thee general welfare. i. The motive from which an agent acts is relevant to assessing how virtuous her character may be, but not how right her action is. b. Nor do utilitarians believe that individuals should decide what to do by calculating the hedonic consequences of every possible action. c. Indeed, utilitarianism does not require that people make “maximizing utile “maximizing utility may prove to be self-undermining (cf. the paradox of altruism). i. Aiming directly at utility-maximizing may prove to be self- undermining (cf. the paradox of altruism). III. How do we evaluate moral theories? a. A moral theory should provide a coherence between our considered judgements about particular cases and our more general moral principles. b. A Moral theory should provide the best explanation of our judgements about particular cases. c. This method is called the method of reflective equilibrium. It involves working back and forth between judgements about particular cases and general principal or rules, revising any of them as necessary in order to achieve an acceptable coherence among our moral beliefs.


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