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Introduction to Ethical Theory

by: Gonzalo Lubowitz

Introduction to Ethical Theory PHIL 22

Gonzalo Lubowitz
GPA 3.87


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This 14 page Study Guide was uploaded by Gonzalo Lubowitz on Monday September 7, 2015. The Study Guide belongs to PHIL 22 at University of California - Santa Cruz taught by Staff in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 34 views. For similar materials see /class/182333/phil-22-university-of-california-santa-cruz in PHIL-Philosophy at University of California - Santa Cruz.


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Date Created: 09/07/15
Aristotle 1 Perfectionism Human good is doing or excelling at things worth doing The promotion of human excellence 2 Aristotle s three lives 1 Life dedicated to pleasure hedonism Physical pleasures and amusements of all sorts are desirable in themselves7 and therefore have some claim to be our ultimate end But pleasure cannot be our ultimate target because what count as pleasure must be judged by some standard other than pleasure itself 2 The life of Political Activity Exercises justice and need to promote the common good Second best because it is a life devoid of philosophical understanding and activity This life is unleisurely They are needed when something has gone wrong7 or threatens to do so 3 The Life of philosophy The activity of someone who has already achieved theoretical wisdom The happiest life is lived by someone who has the resources needed for living life devoted to the exercise of that understanding The life of Virtue too incomplete for it seems possible for someone to posses virtue but be asleep or inactive throughout his life7 and moreover7 to suffer the worst evils and misfortunes77 The Moneymaker7 s life Aristotle doesn t count this as a life because he sees it as merely the means to other lives 3 Eudaimonia To be eudaimon is to be living in a way that is well favored by a god Happiness or flourishing 4 The Human Function 1 Life of nutrition and growth is not our function because living is shared with plants 2 Life of sense perception is not our function because this life is shared with animals 3 Life of reason thus this must be our function because it is a life of action that has reason In order to live a full and satisfying life7 Aristotle believes humans need to exercise all their capacities Our good must entail the use of reason to some degree 5 What is Happiness Eudaimonia Happiness lies in virtuous activities 6 Highest virtue It is desirable for itself it is not desirable for the sake of some other good and all other goods are desirable for its sake Epicurus 1 Hedonism Psychological hedonism that we are in fact motivated exclusively by pleasure and pain Evaluative hedonism the thought that pleasure and the absence of pain is what we ought to pursue 2 The Life of Blessedness Some desires are natural others vain and of the natural some are necessary and others merely natural and of the necessary some are necessary for happiness others for the repose of the body and other for very life Avoid pain and pleasure 3 Fear of Death He fears death not because it will be painful when it comes but because it is painful in anticipation So long as we exist death is not with us but when death comes then we do not exist We have a fear of non existence 4 Freedom from pain When we do not feel pain we no longer need pleasure From pleasure we begin every act of choice and avoidance and to pleasure we return again using the feeling as the standard by which we judge every good 5 Freedom from desire Plain savors bring us a pleasure equal to a luxurious diet when all the pain due to want is removed To grow accustomed to simple and not luxurious diet gives us health to the full and makes a man alert for the needful employments of life Epictetus 1 Asceticism It is the renunciation of bodily pleasures and comfort for religious or moral reasons Doing so might be seen as necessary for contemplation or the attainment of enlightenment It is thought to be the antithesis of hedonism An example is a person who leads their life in strict self discipline 2 Want what you get Do not seek to have everything that happens happen as you wish but wish for everything to happen as it would actually does happen and your life will be serene Don7t make things that aren t under your control your control or what is not your own your own The Buddha 1The Middle Path Devotion to the pleasure of sense a low and pagan practice unworthy unprofitable the way of the world and the devotion to self mortification which is painful unworthy and unprofitable are two extremes By avoiding the two extremes he who won the truth has gained knowledge to the middle path which gives vision knowledge and causes calm insight enlightenment and Nibbana Rejecting pleasure and pain by the coming to an end of the joy and sorrow which he had before he enters on and remains in the Fourth musing which is free from pain and free from pleasure but is a state of perfect purity of balance and equanimity Mill 1 The Principle of Utility The right action is that action which produces the maxim overall utility Actions are said to have utility in proportion to their usefulness in producing good consequences Where by good consequences might be meant pleasure happiness and preference satisfaction 2 Higher pleasures Some pleasures are higher than others for example an education is a higher pleasure than eating chocolate 3 The judge A person who has experienced both lower and higher pleasures can make the distinction of what is a higher pleasure 4 Better a Socrates dissatisfied Better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied because a human can learn to bear its imperfections and he knows both sides rather than just his own James 1 The Last Person Argument Suppose you were the last person on earth and knew you were about to die as well but you had it in your power to press a button that would destroy all the beautiful things that would other wise be left behind Would you do so If people wouldn t this means that there is an objective intrinsic value to nature Those that claim that the items in question have intrinsic value would argue that it would be immoral to do so even though it would have no effect on human beings 2 James argument against Mind independent values Physical facts simply are or are not and neither present or absent can they be supported to make demands No world composed merely of physical facts can possibly be a world to which ethical propositions apply 3 The Value of satisfying demands Any desire is imperative to the extent of its amount it makes itself valid by the fact that it exists at all 4 Another argument for demand satisfied Take any demand however slight which any creature weak may make Ought it not for its own sake to be satisfied 5 The Absolutely Ideal System A world in which every demand was gratified as soon as made It would need not only space but a time of n dimensions to include all the acts and experiences incompatible with one another here below which would go in conjunction spending money yet growing rich gaining no end of experience yet keeping our youthful freshness of heart and the like Frankfurt 1 Mistaken Wants The philosophy of liberalism is distinctively preoccupied with defining and defending the ideal of a society that maximizes the freedom of its members to do what they want One argument is that permitting people to do as they please enhances the likelihood that they will get what they want so that ensuring their freedom facilitates their success in the pursuit of happiness77 Two observations 1 To be sure the connection between doing what we please and getting what we want is not very reliable 2 But what is perhaps even more problematic is the is the connection between getting what we want and actually being happy 2 Desires as problems Some philosophers maintain that just in virtue of having a desire a person necessarily has a reason for trying to satisfy it The reason may not be a very strong one there may be much better reasons to perform another action instead Nevertheless it counts for something The mere fact that a person has a desire does not give him a reason What it gives him is a problem He has a problem of whether to identify with the desire and thus validate it as eligible for satisfaction or whether to dissociate himself from it treat is as categorically unacceptable and try to suppress it or rid himself of it entirely 3 First and Second Order Desires 1 First order desires are desires that can potentially move us to action eg the desire to be vegetarian 2 Second order desires are desires that some but maybe not others of our first order desires be effective eg a desire to be moved when considering what to eat only by my desire to be a vegetarian Say that over time I developed a deep affection for animals and so decided that such affection implies that they be treated in certain ways inconsistent with using them as a source of protein Thus I came to want to be a vegetarian We are reflective creatures that is we can reflect on the motives we have for action and form desires about which motives we want to be ours For instance althoughI consider being a vegetarian extremely importantI find thatI have these nagging desires to eat meat And we might think that in those calm cool and collected moments to use Smith7 s construction when I think back on those occasions in whichI succumbed to the meat eating desire I may feel thatI really had no reason to eat it I simply gave into a passion In those cases Frankfurt would say thatI acted against my will 4 The Four characteristics of love 1 To love something is to value it as an end 2 Disinterested sel ess concern 3 Non substitutability cannot be replaced 4 Non voluntary cannot chose to fall in love Moore 1 The Argument for the independent value ofbeauty Imagine the most beautiful world and the ugliest it is irrational to hold that it is better that the beautiful world exist than the one which is ugly Such mere existence of what is beautiful has value so small as to be negligible in comparison with that which attaches to the consciousness of beauty Nozick 1 The Experience machine We want to do certain things and not just have the experience of doing them We want to be a certain way to be a certain person The machine limits us to a man made reality to a world no deeper or more important than that which people can construct there is no actual contact with any deeper reality Parflt 1 Preference Hedonism Satisfaction of preferences eg Freud preferred not to take pain killer towards the end of his life because he preferred to think clearly though in torment his life went better if it went as he preferred It would be better ifI believe thatI am not being deceived 2 The Unrestricted theory The unrestricted theory consists of all desires yours and everyone else s eg wish for stranger to be better stranger gets better but you don t know the unrestricted theory would say your life is better even though you don t know the change 3 The Success Theory Appeals to all of our preferences about our own lives It would be worse ifI believed thatI am not being deceived because I didn t succeed in having people not deceive me 4 The thoughts on Desire Satisfaction 1 On the one hand we can say that for desire fulfillment is required the relevant change in the world 2 On the other hand we can say that for desire fulfillment is required the relevant change in the mind 5 The objective list theory Some things are better or worse eg mathematician counting grass counting grass made him happy but is objectively worse because the greater good would be helping the world with his math skills 6 The composite Theory Welfare consists in wanting and getting and or enjoying the things on the objective list Locke 1 The Argument from Creation 1 Human beings are the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise maker 2 Any being created by another is that other7 s servant 3 Servants are obligated to do the will of their master 4 God our master wills that we be subject to natural law Thus human beings are subject to natural law 2 Natural Law The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it No one ought to harm another in his life health liberty or possessions All men may be restrained from invading others rights Everyone has a right to punish transgressors Naturally there is no superiority or jurisdiction of one over another 3 The Lockean State of Nature All men may be restrained from invading others rights 4 Property Rights Earth belongs to everyone Mixing labor with resources eg any lumber you chop is yours 5 The Compact That is the State of Nature everyone has the executive power of the law of nature I doubt it will be objected that it is unreasonable for men to be judges in their own cases that self love will make men partial to themselves and their friends And on the other side that ill nature passion and revenge will carry them too far in punishing others And hence nothing but confusion and disorder will follow and that therefore God hath certainly appoint government to restrain the partially and violence of men Civil government is the proper remedy for the inconveniences of the state of nature It is not every compact that puts an end to the state of nature between men but only this one of agreeing mutually to enter into one community and make one body politic 6 Priority Right vs Priority of the Good Not Locke7 s View 1 Teleological principles such as the principle of utility give the priority to the good in the sense that the good is specified independently of the concept of the right and then the rightness of actions is defined in terms their contribution to the good 2 Deontological principles give priority to the right such as Kant s categorical imperative Locke and Nozick s natural rights or Rawl s principles of justice by specifying the right independently of the good and then setting it as a constraint on the pursuit of the good Nozick 1 Instrumental vs Natural Rights Natural status based Rights 1 Moral rights based on for instance the value of humanity Nozick 2 Rights following from Natural Law humanity as God7 s creation Locke Instrumental useful Rights Rights based on their contribution to some other good Two such accounts a Rule utilitarianism there are general rules that generate happiness more often than not If you need to think quick you have a set of rules that you can follow to generally maximize happiness b Rawls Contractualism A contract for which rights a society has 2 Positive vs Negative Rights 1 Positive Rights are rights to assistance eg unemployment compensation 2 Negative Rights are rights of non interference eg the right not to be assaulted 3 Natural Rights and the Ultra minimal State Since Nozick posits pre institutional rights his worry is that any form of government potentially violates those preexisting rights An ultra minimal state maintains a monopoly over all use of force except that necessary in immediate self defense and so it excludes private retaliation for wrong and exaction of compensation but it provides protection and enforcement services only to those who purchase its protection and enforcement policies If we are endorsing an ultra minimal state in the name of avoiding the violation of rights by avoiding redistribution principle say then it may be complained that we are being inconsistent by endorsing a state in which some people s rights go unprotected That is how can we support the ultra minimal state in the name of the non violation of rights 4 Nozick s Account of Distributive Justice j Queen j Merchant j Serf j Queen j Merchant j Serf 30 30 30 33 1 1 Nozick7 s analysis of which of the two societies displays a just distribution would not take as important the end state but only the history of how it came about On his account it would turn out that society B displays the just distribution For example if the distribution of society A was achieved by taking goods from some citizens in form of taxes say without their consent and distributing them to others Nozick would judge the distribution in society A unjust That is nonconsensual redistribution based on for instance concerns of social welfare is unjust 5 The Non violation of Rights as a Goal Nozick would pick the course of action that violates the least amount of rights We do not hold the nonviolation of our rights as our sole greatest good eg if there is some desirable society we would choose to inhabit even though in it some rights of ours sometimes are violated rather than move to a desert island where we could survive alone Utilitarianism doesn t take rights and their nonviolation into account 6 Side Constraints Rights are side constraints because they limit the means we can use Side constraints upon action reflect the underlying Kantian principle that individuals are ends not merely means they may not be sacrificed or used for the achieving of other ends without their consent 7 The Rationality of Side Constraints Side constraints express the inviolability of other persons 8 Inviolability Act in such a way that you always treat humanity whether in your own person of any other never simply as a means but always at the same time as an end 9 The Analogy to the Greatest Good Why not hold that some persons have to bear some costs that benefit other persons more for the sake of the overall social good e g we go to the dentist to avoid worse suffering later on Kant The first formulation of the Categorical Imperative 1 Identity the maxim 2 Universalize the maxim 3 Law of Nature 4 Examine and adjust the social world 2 The Second Formulation of the Categorical Imperative If there is to be a categorical imperative for the human will it must be one that forms an objective principle of the will form the conception of that which is necessarily an end for everyone because it is an end in itself Rational nature exists as an end in itself Act so that you treat humanity whether in your own person or in that of another always as an end and never as a means only 3 The Supposed Right to Lie To tell the truth is a duty but it is a duty only toward one who had a right to the truth Def1nition of a lie as merely an intentional untruthful declaration to another person does not require the additional condition that it must harm another Sidgwick 1The Reach of Utilitarianism We have to consider whom the all77 are whose happiness is to be taken into account Are we to extend our concern to all the beings capable to please and pain whose feelings are affected by our conduct It seems arbitrary and unreasonable to exclude from the end as so conceived any pleasure of any sentient being 2 The Comparison Problem If it is difficult to compare the pleasures and pains of other en accurately with our own a comparison of either with the pleasures and pains ofbrutes is still more obscure So it is hard to reach overall utilitarianism to all sentient beings Even if we limit our attention to human beings the extent of the subjects of happiness is not yet quite determinate 3 The Problem of Maximization If we take Utilitarianism to prescribe happiness on the whole it would follow that if the additional population enjoy on the whole positive happiness we ought to weigh to the amount of happiness gained by the extra number against the amount lost by the remainder Population ought to be increase is not that at which average happiness is the greatest possible but that at which the product formed by multiplying the number of persons living into the amount average happiness reaches its maximum 4 The Esoteric Morality Theories people can be judged by even if they don t know about it 5 The Distributive Justice Problem Suppose that for a given society the total balance of agons to hedons is positive in favor of hedons90 There are three individuals in each society a queen a merchant and a serf The total for the second row is 91 hedons A B 30 88 30 30 881 On considerations of utility there is no way to distinguish society A from society B in the first row Both have the same total and average utility and thus both are equally good Society B in the second row is obviously best 6 Rule Utilitarianism Rule utilitarianism is based on the thought that certain rules of conduct if followed generally have the effect of maximizing utility So we might think of always tell the truth77 a rule the adherence to which will on average have a positive effect on social welfare Smart 1Argument for Preferring Utilitarianism over Deontology The chief persuasive argument in favor of utilitarianism has been that the dictates of any deontological ethics will always on some occasions lead to the existence of misery that could on utilitarian principles have been prevented 2 Desert Island Promise I have promised a dying man on a desert island from whichI alone am rescued to give his hoard of gold to the South Australian Jockey Club On my return I give it to the Hospital which badly needs the money for a new x ray machine Only I knew the promise and so my action will not weaken the general confidence in the social institution of promising Could anybody deny thatI had done rightly without being open to the charge of heartlessness The good in this case will benefit society and give maximum utility than the right which is keeping your promise and giving the money to the club Williams 1 Internal and External Reasons Remember for Williams having a desire is a necessary and sufficient condition for having a reason 1 If X has a reason to do Y X has a reason that will be satisfied by doing Y having the desire is a necessary condition for having a reason 2 If X has a desire that will be satisfied by doing Y X has a reason to do Y having the desire is a sufficient condition for having a reason One can deny the sufficient condition and still be a reasons intemalist Frankfurt does this On the other hand to deny the necessary condition is to be a reasons extemalist Desires are what Williams refers to as one7 s subjective motivational set77 Besides desires an agent s subjective motivational set might include dispositions of evaluation patterns of emotional reaction personal loyalties and various projects embodying commitments of the agent 2 The Kantian Comparison Williams points out that If we define consequentialism as claiming that the only things of intrinsic values are state affairs eg experiences of happiness in the utilitarian case then it seems Kantian collapses into a form of consequentialism where the valuable states of affairs in the Kantian case would be just those in which agents do their duty for duty7 s sake A non consequentialist can hold all the following while a consequentialist could not 1 It is better state of affairs in which more rather than less people keep their promises for the right reasons 2 That keeping my promise would consist in doing some action A 3 That several other people would in fact keep their promises and for the right reasons only ifI do not do A 4 In that situation I would do the right thing only ifI kept my promise by doing A Thus the non consequentialist can hold both that it is a better state of affairs in which more people keep their promises7 and the right thing for me to do is something which brings it about that fewer promises are kept Rawls 1 The Separateness of Persons The correct distribution is that which yields the maximum fulfillment But in itself no distribution of satisfaction is better than another except that the more equal distribution is to be preferred to break ties Thus there is no reason in principle why the greater gains of some should not compensate for the lesser losses of others or why the violation of the liberty ofa few might not be made right by the greater good shared by many The most natural way7 of arriving at utilitarianism is to adopt for society as a whole the principle of rational choice for one man It is by the conception of the impartial spectator and the use of sympathetic identification in guiding our imagination that the principle for one man is applied to society The impartial spectator is the perfectly rational individual who identifies with and experiences the desires of others as if these desires were his own 2 The Purpose of the Contract The guiding idea is that the principles of justice for the basic structure of society are the object of the original agreement First choose a conception of justice then choose a constitution and a legislature to enact laws7 and so on7 all in accordance with the principles of justice initially agreed upon 3 Procedural Justice Perfect Procedural Justice PIE There is a standard for fair and just outcome You can formulate a fair or just procedure The person who cuts the pie receives the last piece so he tries his best to cut even slices so he doesn t get an unfair slice Imperfect Procedural Justice Criminal Trial There is a standard for fair or just outcome But there is no procedure to guarantee the fair or just outcome The criminal justice system has a standard but not everyone gets convicted justly Pure Procedural Justice Gambling There is no standard but a procedure to produce fair outcomes The procedure for determining the just result must actually be carried out 4 The Original Position In justice as fairness the original position of equality corresponds to the state of nature in the traditional theory of the social contract It is understood as a purely hypothetical situation characterized so as to lead to a certain conception of justice The original position is the appropriate initial status quo and thus fundamental agreements reached in it are fair 5 The Circumstances of Justice 1 The objective circumstances of Justice The objective circumstances of justice are those natural background conditions that make human cooperation both possible and necessary eg many individuals coexist together at the same time on a definite geographical territory These individuals are roughly similar in physical and mental powers or at any rate their capacities are comparable in that no one among them can dominate the rest There is a limiting condition of the moderate scarcity of resources 2 The Subjective Circumstances of Justice On the other hand the subjective circumstances of justice follow from the fact that people have differing and sometimes conflicting conceptions of the good conflicting either as such or in the means required to realize them Some people have similar needs and interests which make cooperation possible they still have their own plans in life These plans or conception of the good lead them to have different ends and purposes and to make conflicting claims on the natural and social resources available 6 The Fact of Pluralism There is a plethora of comprehensive doctrines each recommending different and sometimes incompatible conceptions of the good This is notjust a temporary state of modern society The diversity of doctrines the fact of pluralism is not mere historical condition that will soon pass away it is a permanent feature of the public culture of modern democracies Comprehensive Doctrines Rawls labels a doctrine comprehensive when it includes conceptions of what is of value in human life ideals of personal virtue and character and the like that inform much of our nonpolitical conduct in the limit our life as a whole 7 The Veil of Ignorance The principles ofjustice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance because this ensures that no one is advantaged or disadvantaged in the choice of principles by the outcome of natural chance or the contingency of social circumstances 8 Conception of the Person 1 Person is instrumentally rational finds most efficient means to given ends 2 Disinterested not interested in the interests of other people 3 Reasonable reasonable person has a sense ofjustice they seek and honor fair terms ofjustice 9 The Primary Goods 139 The basic human liberties freedom from psychological oppression and physical assault freedom of thought and liberty of conscience etc 139139 Income and wealth are all purpose means having an exchange value for achieving directly a wide range of ends whatever they happen to be iii The social bases of self respect are those aspects of basic institutions that are normally essential if citizens are to have a lively sense of their own worth as moral persons and to be able to realize their highest order interests and advance their ends with self confidence 10 Two Roles for Practical Reason 1 The rational involves furthering the good or the advantage of oneself or of each person cooperating It s rational advantage So we can use rational to refer to what is instrumentally rational in Hobbe7 s and Hume s sense 2 The reasonable involves fair terms of social cooperation of just terms of cooperation We can use reasonable to refer to those actions that pass Kant7 s CI test 1 1 How the Reasonable follows from the Rational 1 For Rawls each person in the original position is out to secure for him or herself as much of the primary goods as possible as a means to pursuing his or her personal conception of the good 2 To the extent that he or she is successful the principles adopted are Rational But given the constraints on the parties bargaining for the principles they are the result of a fair procedure 3 Rawls supposes further that the parties are also reasonable So I should accept the agreement because it is Rational for me to do so andI should honor it in those cases when it does not further my purposes because I am Reasonable and the principles are Reasonable due to the specifications of the original position 12 The Two Principles of Justice 1 An interpretation of the initial situation and of the problem of choice posed there 2 A set of principles which it is argued would be agreed to 13 The Publicity Condition


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