ETHICS-FINALEXAM.pdf PHIL 160
Popular in Philosophy 160 Intro to Ethics
Popular in PHIL-Philosophy
This 2 page Class Notes was uploaded by Grant Peterson on Monday December 21, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to PHIL 160 at Kansas taught by Dale Dorsey in Fall 2015. Since its upload, it has received 19 views. For similar materials see Philosophy 160 Intro to Ethics in PHIL-Philosophy at Kansas.
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Date Created: 12/21/15
1. Kant says there is a distinction between what happens in the world and how we talk about these events. He proposes two different thoughts, one is a priori, which is knowledge known prior to the experience. The other is a posteriori, which is knowledge gained through experience. Kant believes morality must be a priori, knowledge accessible prior to experience, to ensure that universal laws encompasses all rational beings. There are two different ways to think that apply to language claims of the world, analytic and synthetic. Analytic says the truth of a sentence and only depends on the meaning of words, such as the statement “bachelors are unmarried men.” This sentence is true because of the definitions of the words pertaining to the setence. Synthetic means the truth is not dependent solely on the meaning of words, such as the statement “the chair is black.” You have to physically see the chair in order to make this determination; the word chair only informs what the object is, it does not define the color. A posteriori can only come from experience and be synthetic because you have to be there and make the observation first hand. A priori could be either analytic or synthetic. Most are in a priori and analytic because you don’t have to do something to know it’s true. Moral laws though cannot be under the analytic category because if this were true, we would settle controversial moral problems just by analyzing our concepts. According to Kant there are things in the a priori and synthetic category that you do not need to be there to prove. Kant goes onto state that a priori and synthetic knowledge expresses our own capacities to process information. Consulting rational thought is how we discern moral questions and morality, to effectively do this, morality must be a priori. Practical anthropology, which is a metaphysics or morals, is the determination of what other people believe is right. Of course, this is flawed because it only provides what other people believe is right, and not necessarily what is right. A body of this knowledge is called metaphysics; meaning if everything has a cause then this truth is part of the metaphysics of nature. A right 2 2 2 triangle is an example of a priorisynthetic. a + b = c is always true, but how do you know that what c is without looking? Kant believes that this is the most fundamental problem for philosophy; you cannot know something about the world without knowledge. Kant believes that the principles of morality are a priori because you don’t have to go into the world to know extreme principles of morality. He claim that the principles of morality come from our own rational nature as rational beings, and as rational beings, we are subject to moral law. Morality has to do with how things should be, not how they are. While a posteriori is something you figure out with real world experience. 2. Utilitarianism accepts the idea of negative responsibility, which states that you are held responsible for what you fail to prevent. According to this principle, there is no difference between the actions that you yourself do or fail to prevent because the consequences are the same. Williams argues that utilitarianism is too demanding on people because it asks people to be ready to give up their commitments at any time. By agreeing to negative responsibility, you must be able to give up your life meaning in order to prevent something from happening. In Kant’s “murderer at the door” case, you are hiding your friend in your house in order to escape a murderer. When the murderer approaches your door and asks where your friend is, Kant believes that it is impermissible to lie to the murderer because you would be using the murderer as a means to your ends, the end being to save your friend’s life. According to Kantain ethics, lying to the murderer would be exploiting the murderer’s rational nature and using it against him/her to get what you want. Negative responsibility is asking a person in this situation to give up their commitment and lie in order to prevent a bad situation. It seems more plausible to approach the situation by slamming the door or running away rather than having to give up what makes your life meaning, such as being truthful. Negative responsibility fails in this case. It is irrational to accept negative responsibility because being responsible for the murder of your friend simply by telling the truth or when you yourself did not actually commit the crime seems to be a harsh consequence. Utilitarianism threatens people’s integrity because of this. I do not think we should accept that negative responsibility plays a role in morality. It is too much stress placed upon someone to have to be responsible for what they fail to do. A world that followed this principle would be very difficult to maintain because people would constantly be responsible for the faults and shortcomings of other people’s actions. Telling the murderer the truth disproves negative responsibility and should not play a role in morality since we are not responsible for other’s actions. 4. Kant created a moral point of view that can be used when determining the motives of our morals. Williams provides his argument against Kantianism by focusing on a personal point of view. The moral point of view says that it is impartial in that you are not able to treat your own interests as morally more significant than anyone else. Every person has the same status as a rational being equally worthy of respect. The view is also overriding such that moral obligations always are foremost and always win. It is never the case that you act in a justifiable way if you fail to conform to your moral obligations. Lastly, you are required to act from the motive of duty. The moral worth of something resides entirely in motive of duty. This is said to be the biggest hurdle for Kant because it is horribly unreasonable to demand. Williams argues with Kant’s point of view by saying that it is implausible to disregard yourself and what gives your life meaning. The famous example discussed in class is if you are on a boat with two people overboard who are drowning, one being your spouse and the other a complete stranger, who do you save? The obvious answer is if you could only choose one it would be the person who you love and would truly want to save. Kant says that it does not matter whom you decide to save. What matters is the motive to what lead to your decision. Williams has a problem with this impartial view because according to Kant, if you saved your spouse you would have done so out of motive of duty, meaning you did not save your spouse because you wanted to out of love. By accepting Kant’s view, you would have saved your spouse simply because you had to save one so it was good that one of the options was them, but your motives had to stay impartial. Williams argues that the personal point of view, especially in this case, is more important than morality. If you are saving your spouse it would most likely be out of love not duty like Kant believes, and Kantianism cannot reject one of his claims or his argument would be disproved. If it is ever the case that you must act from another motive (motive of love), the moral point of view must win. Kant requires us to act from one thought too many. Williams believes that taking the Kantian view requires you to disregard your individuality, such as in cases like this, and that is wrong. He says that Kant does not give enough importance to individual character and personal relations in moral experience. 5. There are many arguments about whether or not death is considered bad. William’s view on death is that it is bad in the sense that it the end to certain life goals or accomplishments. He says that through your life you are trying to complete these ground projects, and when death happens these ground projects in our lives are interrupted. He believes these projects are what give our lives meaning. They are meaningful because it is what we did with the time we spent living. By death taking away our meaningful life projects, it makes our lives lack a sense of worth. You have been working on your own individual ground project and will only be satisfied if you complete it. Williams says that if you were to die and someone else solves your ground project, it would have no affect on you and would not make your life happy or complete because you are dead. Epicurus has a different point of view about death. He says that death is meaningless, and that the only good thing in life is pleasure and the only bad is pain. Only experiences can be pleasant or painful, and death entails the absence of experience. Therefore if death cannot be an experience it is neither good nor bad, it simply has no significance. Both philosophers share practical views on death making it difficult to determine which view makes the most sense. I believe most people associate death with fear, and for that reason death is viewed as bad. People fear death because they believe it will be painful, whereas some fear it simply because it is treated as an end to a life that has been lived. Both Epicurus and William’s viewpoints on death are relevant and must be taken into consideration when discussing if death is truly “bad”. In my opinion, I do not see death as something to be considered good, which leads me to believe if it is not good then it must be bad. 6. Categorical imperative is Kant’s fundamental law and says that we all have moral obligations. Categorical imperative commands that our actions should have the form of moral conduct and are derivable from universal principles. What is important is not the action and it’s results, but the form and principle the action comes from. Kant says there are different ways of stating a categorical imperative. The first is that it must come from universal law, which says you should act in a way that the maxim of your action can conform to duty. For example, if your maxim involves breaking a promise then it is impossible to will this maxim to be a universal law because it no longer becomes possible to act on it since promises do not exist anymore. The next part is the formulation of humanity. This has two different imperatives, a hypothetical and a categorical command. The categorical commands are the ones that apply to you and hold true no matter what you want. These are grounded in ends in themselves. Kant says that as long as you are a rational being you are committed to valuing your rationality and this should be treated as an end. In class we discussed the case of suicide. If a person is struggling and wonders if killing themselves would be morally permissible, Kant would say that it is impermissible for the person to kill themselves to save humanity because the person is killing the rational part of themself as a means to end their own suffering. That would treat humanity merely as a means to that person’s own relative ends. Categorical commands are the ones you must do. Hypothetical imperatives are relative to people and are grounded by these relative ends. The formula of humanity says that you should act such that you use humanity always as an end and never merely as a means. Kant comes to a single categorical imperative that states you should act only in accordance with the maxim through which can become a universal law. I believe Kant offers a plausible principle for morality because it asks us to be the best person we can aim to be. For Kant, morality commands us to follow the moral law. Always treat humanity (rational beings) as an end in itself, never merely as a means. It stops us from committing harm to others, and to ourselves, which can be considered to be the basis of survival for humanity. 7. In the moral point of view, one of the three aspects is that it is overriding and morality always wins. Susan Wolf objects to this saying morality should not be overriding. She uses the example about moral saints. These moral saints are people like Mother Teresa who do everything they can to help others at all times. Wolf argues that although this person is great for helping others, no one truly wants to be the moral saint. Kantian moral theory would believe in the Rational Saint that always acts so that the maxim of their action always conforms to duty. They would always have to put others in need ahead of anyone else, denying the personal point of view that says that you can put people that you know ahead of strangers. Moral saints take on partial morality where they treat everyone around them partially, and Wolf believes that we should reject any partial morality to take the personal point of view. Sometimes morality asks too much of us, wanting us to put everyone else before ourselves because you would always have to act from maxims that one could will to be universal law. In reality sometimes you need to put yourself and those around you as number one priority by ignoring some of moralities demands. Ethics has control over what we want to do, and Wolfe’s view says that it should merely guide our life, not control it. I think Wolfe’s view is very plausible. It is reasonable to assume that morality being overriding can be too demanding on a person, and sometimes what should be most important to someone is his or her personal life. In my opinion, what makes a good life is one where we are guided by moral obligations but do not strictly behave in a way that takes away our personal freedom. Phillipa Foot offers a common ground to the both sides taken by Kant and Wolfe. She says that we should combine these two perspectives. When you act out of caring rather than out of obligation that is morally better. She believes that sometimes morality itself requires us to act because we care to a certain extent about how we treat others and ourselves. In my opinion, this would make a life good for the person who lives in it because they have the freedom to care for themselves as well as others and do so because it is truly what they want to do.
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