PHIL153  Ethics

Review for final exam


What is “ethics”?

            Distinction between descriptive claims and normative claims

            Why people have a belief vs Whether belief is true

Objectivity in ethics

            Distinguished from cultural relativism

            Distinguished from subjectivism

            Arguments for and against

Why be moral?

            Is there opposition between justice and self-interest?  Between expedience and morality?

            Nietzsche’s “genealogy” of morals – rejection of nihilism and authorship of values

            Plato on rational self-interest

Morality and religion

            Plato: is it good because God loves it or does God love it because it’s good?  A question about whether goodness is intrinsic.

            Natural Law: there are objective truths about morality/justice discoverable by human intellect.  Manmade laws must conform to natural law to be valid.

                        Plato and Cicero on virtues

                        Thomas Aquinas on virtue and knowing the divine

                        Martin Luther King, Jr. – modern use of natural law theory; civil disobedience

Rationalist constructivism: Kant’s theory
            Categorical imperative. 

Utilitarianism:  Bentham version, Mill version
            Greatest good for the greatest number
            Hedonistic conception of pleasure in Bentham; Mill disagrees
            Mill defines distinction between deontological theories and consequentialist theories
            Act-utilitarianism vs rule-utilitarianism


Scottish enlightenment tradition
            Hutcheson and the “moral sense”
            Hume and Smith on sympathy
            Smith’s “impartial spectator”

Contractarianism: Gauthier
            Relationship between self-interest and cooperation
            Prisoner’s Dilemma
            “Morals by Agreement”

Virtue ethics

                        Virtues as states of character conducive to human flourishing
                        Doctrine of the mean
                        Human flourishing distinguished from mere pleasures/contentment

            Contemporary virtue ethics
                        Philippa Foot
                        Elizabeth Anscombe
                        VE helps solve motivational problem for felt obligations
                        VE gives us a way to avoid Kant vs Utilitarian dilemmas

Readings:  assigned selections from ch. 1; chapters 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10; Richter handout; Regan handout; Foot handout; King handout, Smith reading on website, Taylor videos

See also: slides