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UTEP / Philosophy / PHIL 2306 / What are the types of moral knowledge?

What are the types of moral knowledge?

What are the types of moral knowledge?


School: University of Texas at El Paso
Department: Philosophy
Course: Intro to Ethics
Professor: Arruda
Term: Summer 2015
Tags: phil2306, ethics, introtoethics, religion, naturallawtheory, psychologicalEgoism, conceptualtruths, and empiricalknowledge
Cost: 25
Name: Intro to Ethics: Week 5 Notes
Description: These notes cover Natural Law theory, "Natural Goodness" by Philippa Foot, and Psychological Egoism.
Uploaded: 02/23/2018
4 Pages 35 Views 2 Unlocks

Week 5 Lecture

What are the types of moral knowledge?

Week 5/ Week 6: Normative Ethics Topic Reading 1. Morality and Religion Ctd. 

Moral reasons cannot be purely religious reasons.

Assumption #3: ​“Religion is an essential source of moral guidance.”

➔ In other words, God is the ultimate guide to moral law, even if he is not the creator of it.

➔ “​An act is morally required if God commands it, and is immoral if God forbids it” ➔ The commandments are our guide to decide how to act.

What is the function of human nature?

- ​Problems: ​1. There are still those who question if God even exists.  2. God could be a creator that is not invested in his creation.

3. The non believers could not be good people. You would have to follow God’s commands.

4. If God is the ultimate guide, we would have to locate his word. There are disagreements about where it is located.

5. God’s words can be interpreted in many different ways. The

bible is incredibly dependent on metaphors.

6. We can't rely on religious text. We have to create arguments

to rationalize the world around us.

2. Natural Law Theory 

Natural Goodness - Philippa Foot 

Natural Goodness​: A trait of living things only; and the parts and the operation of those parts, of living things.

What is the aristotelian categoricals?

Don't forget about the age old question of How does learning differ from maturation?

- Depends directly on the species description.

- Connected to maintaining the species.

- Can derive goodness and badness of human beings by describing our nature.


How we attribute natural goodness to individual members of a species:

1. State the aristotelian categoricals (propositions that state how members of a species naturally achieve the various needs that arise during their life). If you want to learn more check out How do catalysts or enzymes work?

2. Using the categoricals gives rise to rules by which we can evaluate individual organisms.

3. Now compare the action of the individual to those rules. If an action does not abide by the rules, then it is wrong.

**Evaluating goodness in humans is more complicated.

**According to the aristotelian categoricals, developing good character traits is part of being a good person. Don't forget about the age old question of What is a treasury bond auction?

Pros of the Natural Law Theory:

1. What we are as humans can be discovered by science, which makes human nature and morality objective.

2. Humans developed a brain and reasoning, which makes morality suitable for them. Animals do not have a sense of what is right or wrong, so it doesn’t apply to them.

3. The where and when of morality can be discovered by just knowing when our capacity for moral reasoning evolved.

4. Makes 2 types of moral knowledge possible:

- ​Conceptual Truths: ​“Propositions that are known simply by

understanding them” (Ex: To know that all bachelors are unmarried men, you need to know the concept of bachelor, man, and marriage). Conceptual truths cannot turn out to be false.

- ​Empirical Knowledge: ​“Propositions that require evidence from the 5 senses to be known.” (Ex: The capital of Texas, Austin, could change because you need to have experience of the world to understand it.) Empirical knowledge can turn out to be false.

Problem with moral knowledge: ​“Knowledge is either of conceptual truths or empirical truths, but moral propositions are neither.”

➔ Ex: Stealing is wrong. You ought not steal.

- This is not conceptually true nor empirically true.

2Don't forget about the age old question of What is the role of drawing?

➔ Creates the “is-ought” problem.

- Cannot go from a situation that is the case to what ought be the case. There is a difference between facts and values.

Solution to this problem: ​According to natural law theory we ​can ​give a description give a description of human nature, and you ​can ​derive an ought statement from it.

➔ We can give a description of what a good human is like, then derive rules on how they should act.

What is human nature?

1. Human nature is what is innately human. (Innately meaning what we are born with)

- ​Problem: ​Overcoming natural impulses. Their origins are irrelevant to guiding our actions.

 2. Human nature is what all humans have in common.

- ​Problem 1: ​There may be nothing that we have in common that is morally relevant.

- ​Problem 2:​ It could turn out that what we have in common won’t be relevant to moral rules. We also discuss several other topics like How is real gdp different from nominal gdp?
We also discuss several other topics like What is the radius of the conductors?

 3. Human nature is what we were designed to be and do.

 3.1 Humans were designed by God.

- ​Problem:​ Shares problems with the Divine Command Theory.

 3.2 Humans were designed by Nature.

❖ Two models of Natural Purpose (Identifying functions of organic matter)

i. ​The Efficiency Model: ​Natural selection is what we were developed by. We can create a set of rules from it.

- ​Problem:​ Moral systems will be based on what we are good at. How can these facts guide us on how we behave? It will not

guarantee that we will lead good lives.

ii. ​The Fitness Model: ​Human nature is our ability to survive and



- ​Problem:​ Things like contraceptives and abortion would be

immoral while actions such as rape would be right.

3. Psychological Egoism 

Altruism: ​When you perform the action to benefit someone else and you are motivated by that benefit.

Arguments for Psychological Egoism:

★ Argument from Our Strongest Desires:

1. Whenever you do something, you are motivated by your strongest desire.

2. Whenever you are motivated by your strongest desire, you are pursuing your self-interest.

3. Therefore, whenever you do something, you are pursuing your self-interest.

Problem with premise 2:​ It isn’t true. Your strongest desire doesn’t involve you as the action.

★ The Argument from Expected Benefit:

1. Whenever you do something, you expect to be better off as a result.

2. If you expect to be better off as a result of your actions, then you are aiming to promote your self-interest.

3. Therefore, whenever you do something, you are aiming to promote your self-interest.

Problem with premise 1:​ A soldier jumping on a grenade expects to suffer.

Problem with premise 2:​ An expectation is a prediction ​not​ a reason or motivation. We should be made happy and should benefit by being good people.

Another problem with P.E: ​“Are altruistic acts just the products of a desire to avoid feeling guilty?”

➔ So, isn’t the feeling of guilt a sign that we aren’t selfish?

➔ It proves the opposite. If we are truly selfish we wouldn’t feel guilty. ➔ It is a sign that you could’ve been altruistic but you weren’t.

The Psychological Egoist Dilemma: “​Is psychological egoism a scientific theory?”

➔ If yes, then it is false. (We can test for altruism and collect data) ➔ If no, then it cannot claim to be true. (We cannot test for something that's not there.)


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