Moral Decisions

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  • Moral Decisions
    • Utilitarianism
      • 'The greatest happiness for the greatest number'
      • Act Utilitarianism
        • An action is right if it leads to the greatest happiness of all those it affects, which can only be calculated through assessing the overall sum of pleasure over pain
          • Naturalistic Fallacy: may be accused of making an ilogical move from the fact that humans seek pleasure and avoid pain to the assumption that our laws should be based around this
          • It combines the desire for the end with the end itself
          • Too demanding
          • Interested in the overall result and does not give sufficient weight to the responsibility that an individual has
          • Providing the overall consequences of our actions are beneficial, we can employ any means to achieve them
            • 'Robin Hood approach underlines that no action in itself is wrong if it leads to the greatest happiness for the majority
            • It can sanction any behavior provided that it brought about the most happiness
          • The utility monster (Nozick) means that it is not sufficiently focused on the moral character of the agent but simply who will gain the most happiness
          • Trying to work out the value of happiness precisely is absurd
          • Can threaten a person's moral integrity if it demands a person to do something they think is immoral but brings about the most happiness
        • The Hedonistic Calculator
          • Intensity
          • Duration
          • Certainty
          • Fecundity
          • Purity
          • Extent
          • Remoteness
      • Rule Utilitarianism
        • An action is only right if it complied with a set of rules by which if everyone followed it would bring about the greatest amount of happiness
          • 'Rule fetishism': a dependence on rules that might not always being about the greatest happiness in all situations if they were kept
          • Foot: too impersonal
          • Has to rely on act utilitarianism when rules clash
        • Do not need to try to calculate happiness like act utilitarians because through the course of history humanity has discovered moral rules which we should always obey
      • Preference Utilitarianism
        • Claims that we should aim to maximize the satisfaction of other peoples' preferences
          • It is easier to know someone's preference than know hoe much pleasure someone experiences
          • It can be right to satisfy someone's preference even when they don;t know this has happened and so dont gain any pleasure from it
          • The distribution of happiness is irrelevant which fails to respect justice
          • Kant: satisfying other people's preferences may not always be the moral thing to do
          • There are other values which may be important not because they generate happiness but for the value itself (justice, freedom)
          • Preferences of people may clash
        • Universalistaion: the basis of moral behaviour involves consideration of other people as well as oneself
    • Deontology
      • Duty-based: morality is a matter of duty. Whether something is right or wrong doesn't depend on its consequences
        • Good will
          • Our motivation should be doing the right thing for its own sake, to perform our duty
        • Categorical Imperative
          • "We should act in such a way that our actions can be made into universal laws"
            • It can be argued that no action is universifiable; there will always be a time in a place when an act may be morally justifiable
        • Two tests of duties:
          • Contradiction in conception
            • A duty is wrong if the situation in which everyone acted on that maxim is somehow contradictory
          • Contradiction in the will
            • It is logically possible to univeralise the maxim but we cant want this because it would be self-defeating
        • Ross: some duties are prima facie duties
          • Fidelity
          • Reparation
          • Gratitude
          • Justice
          • Beneficence
          • Self-improvement
          • Non-maleficence
        • Types of duties
          • Perfect duty
            • A duty that permits no exceptions
          • Imperfect duty
            • Are overrided by perfect duties in a conflict
            • Can be forsaken in the event of a clash; one will give way and no longer be a duty in that situation
        • Could lead people to doing things not because they actually think it's right, but because it is their duty that motivates them
        • Could make people into 'moral machines' by making choices narrow-mindedly on duty, without considering reason and emotion
        • The 'types of action' problem shows that it does not take into account the intention of the agent and so may be unreasonable
      • Kant outlined two types of duties:
        • Primary duty
          • These are the duties we have generally to other people
        • Secondary duty
          • These duties arise out of the choices we make and the duties that come with these choices
    • Virtue Ethics
      • "a true and reasoned state of capacity to act with regard to the things that are good or bad for man"
        • Not only the knowledge of what is good or bad, but the ability to act on such knowledge
        • Can be found guilty of naturalistic fallacy
      • Features
        • A general conception of what is good and bad
        • The ability to perceive what is required of feeling, choice and action in light of the conception of what is good and bad
        • The ability to deliberate well
        • The ability to act on that deliberation
      • Practical wisdom is demanding
      • It cannot be taught but learned through experience
      • Only good people can know what is truly good
        • Not everyone can know good
          • Knowledge of good comes in degrees; can try to improve knowledge by becoming better people
        • Moral elitism
      • Context sensative
        • There are no rules for applying knowledge of the good life to a situation
        • What is good can vary from one occassion to another
          • Makes it impossible to make true generalisations about what is right and wrong
      • The Doctrine of the Mean
        • Te best way to behave lies between the two extremities as the intermediate
        • Virtues tend to lie between two opposing vices
        • A virtuous person will just know how to act when a situation arises and will not act unreasonably or in the extreme

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