Philosophy 160: Introduction to Ethics
Ben Eggleston: University of Kansas – Fall 2017
Exam 1: Meta Ethics
1. What are the three main areas of moral philosophy? How do they relate to one another?
a. Value Theory: The extent to which a person values something and thereby improves ones life. Explains the nature of ones well being
i. What is worth pursing for its own sake?
ii. How do we improve our lot in life?
b. Normative Ethics: the foundations of morality. Basic rule that guide ethical decisions
i. What are virtues? What are vices?
ii. Do the ends always justify the means, or are their certain types of actions that should never be done under any
c. Metaethics: Moral language and moral judgment. The subject matter of ethics (is it right to increase military funding? Is it right to kill in self defense?)
i. Asks questions about the status of ethical claims
ii. Can ethical theory, moral principles or moral verdicts be true?
iii. If so, what makes them true?
Identify what is valuable in life
relationships with one another. Who counts?
Ask about the status of the ethical claim/ who is the moral authority
What is moral skepticism and what are some reasons people give for being moral skeptics?
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a. People who disagree that there are any objective moral truths/standards If you want to learn more check out ncs week 1
a. Since people constantly disagree on what is right and wrong, even smart people, there are no objective truths in ethics
b. That are only universally correct moral standards if God exists. Since there is no proof that God exists, ethics is a human creation c. Science tells us truths- science says nothing about what is right and what is wrong
d. If there were universal ethics, then that would make it ok to impose their own views on others. That’s not ok
e. If there were objective moral truths, it would always be wrong to break them. But every rule seems to have exceptions; no rule is absolute.
3. How do moral standards differ from those of law, etiquette or tradition?
i. Some immoral acts (cheating on a spouse) are not illegal ii. Some illegal acts (standing up to a dictator) are not
i. Morality sometimes tells us not to be polite (ex. When
someone is making a racist or derogatory joke)
i. Morality can require a break from the past (ex. The
abolition of slavery)
4. What are the two ways that a moral argument can fail? Argument: Chain of thought where reasons support a conclusion i. Objectives when presenting an argument are to get it right and back it up with flawless reasoning We also discuss several other topics like candide notes
Validity: How well an argument premises (reasoning) support its conclusion
a. Two ways in which a moral argument can fail
a. Rely on invalid reasoning
i. We need to make sure all ethical claims are logically
b. Rely on false premises
i. You need to make sure that the information you’re
relying on is not only logical but also truthful
Example of a logically perfect argument
a. If it is morally acceptable for non human animals to kill and eat one another, then it is morally acceptable for humans to kill and eat nonhuman animals (underlining assumption)
b. It is morally acceptable for nonhuman animals to kill and eat one another
c. Therefore, it is morally acceptable for humans to kill and eat nonhuman animals
There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, four people are tied to the track. There is a leaver that will switch the direction of the train to a new track where one person is tied down
Moral Agents: can control their behavior through moral reasoning Moral reasoning: evaluating reasons that are meant to support moral conclusions If you want to learn more check out What is electronegativity?
Conventional Morality: traditional principle that are widely accepted in society. Differs between cultures Don't forget about the age old question of "already have an account? login here"
(For full definitions see the Glossary of the test book)
Chapter 5: Morality and Religion
1. What are the three central assumptions about Morality and Religion that underline the view that morality depends on religion?
a. Religious belief is needed to get us to do our duty (Pg 64) b. Morality must be created by someone and God is the best candidate for the job (pg 66)
c. Religious wisdom is the key to providing us with moral guidance (pg 71)
2. How might religion motivate people to be morally good? a. Fear of God and desire for a happy afterlife. Religious people want to do good deeds because they believe that justice will eventually be done, if not on earth then in heaven. Fear is effective but is not a good motivator.
b. Religious believers v nonbelievers
i. Atheism: the view that God does not exist
ii. Agnostics: those who are unsure if God exists or not
iii. Theists: those who believe in God’s existence
iv. Deists: believe God exists, but may not command us to do anything
3. What is an argument that proves the assumption that the existence of law imply the existence of a lawmaker? a. Every law required a lawmaker
b. Therefore, the moral law requires a law maker We also discuss several other topics like lqbe
c. Humans cannot be the author of the moral law (since we are imperfect in so many ways)
d. If humans cannot be the author of moral law, then God is the author
e. Therefore, God is the author of moral law
4. What is Divine Command Theory?
a. An act is morally required just because it is commanded by God, and immoral just because God forbids it.
b. Actions are morally right just because God insists that we perform them. If God lacks reasons for his commands-if there is no solid basis supporting His decisions to prohibit certain things and require others- then God’s decisions are arbitrary. If God was arbitrary that would mean he is imperfect which religion states is impossible. So we must assume that He commands based on plausible reasons.
c. God as a Determiner
i. What is right is what God commands because what God commands determines what is right
1. Implication: there could be no moral reasons behind
God’s decisions. God could grant someone the ability
to be a terrorist or murderer and it would be right
d. God as morally infallible
i. What is right is what God commands because God is an infallible guide to morality
1. This avoids the problems of the Divine command
theory. There are preexisting truths morally separate
from God but he has good guidance and can tell you
the right decision based on preexisting moral truths.
Chapter 19: Ethical Relativism
a. Moral Skepticism- the denial of objective moral standards which says that morality lacks any main authority
b. Objective moral standards- are those that apply to everyone, even if people don’t believe they do
c. Ethical Objectivism- is the view that some moral standards are objectively correct and that some moral claims are objectively true
d. Moral Nihilism- there are no moral truths
e. Ethical relativism- claim that some moral rules are correct and that those determine which moral claims are true and which are false
6. What are the two kinds of ethical relativism?
a. Cultural relativism: claims that the correct moral standards are relative to culture or societies
b. Ethical subjectivism: claims that the correct moral standards are those endorsed by each individual
7. What are the implications of Ethical subjectivism and cultural relativism?
a. Subjectivists are skeptical because they believe that societies can be deeply mistaken about what is right and wrong (honor
killings). Relativism states that it may be morally necessary for a man to kill his wife or daughters
b. Subjectivists make each person’s basic commitments morally infallible which denies that people can ever be false or moral c. The problem with both of these views is that they can be based on prejudice, ignorance, superficial thinking or brainwashing and still be correct
Chapter 7: Psychological Egoism
8. What is Psychological Egoism? It says that self-interest is the only thing that motivates human beings
a. If this theory is true, altruism (the direct desire to benefit others for their own sake, without any ulterior motive) does not exist. b. If this is true, then when people sacrifice themselves for others, there is an alternative motive that is rooted in selfishness
c. All human actions are aimed at avoiding some personal loss or gaining some personal benefit (or both), either in the sort run or in the long term or both
9. What does this theory say about the way that human beings make decisions?
i. That all humans, knowingly or unknowingly make decisions selfishly and rooted in self interest
b. Why is it relevant to ethics?
i. It brings the question to mind, “is it moral to be how we are” is acting purely with self interest in mind moral and
what God or the creator of morality had in mind
c. Why would a defender of this view use the strategy of
i. Because if you shed a seemingly unconscious good deed or act in the light of self-interest it proves psychological
egoism to be true