AQA Moral Philosophy A2 Notes

Can't believe I've finished with Philosophy A2 now! - Here are my complete revision notes which are comprised from textbook and mark scheme information :)

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  • Created on: 13-06-13 19:33
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Meta-Ethics: the study of the meaning of ethical terms; i.e. asking what do we mean by `good, do
such concepts exist independently and how can discover them if they do?
The concept of universal objective god-transcendent knowledge
General Arguments
- Mistakes not possible: without morals how can anyone be right or wrong, thus mistakes
- Progress: If we cannot deem one moral to be `more right' then another then how can
society ever progress.
- Reasoned argument: the fact that reasoned argument is possible in ethics means there
must be something real we are arguing about. Moral judgements must be descriptive of
some moral reality.
Moral truth can be derived from natural facts in life
Empirical ­ `X makes everyone happy' = X is good
Simon Blackburn : a natural world and patterns of reactions to it
ARISTOTLE: just like plant flourishing, human flourishing can be measured & analysed
MILL: utilitarian's measure happiness ­ good can also be measured
Problems specific to Naturalism
- Open Question Argument: good is indefinable ­ yellow analogy
E.G. `does being good make everyone happy?' = yes
Turns into `does being happy make everyone happy' = illogical
Goodness cannot be derived from anything but itself ­ it is indefinable
- Naturalistic Fallacy: there is a gap between is-ought that needs to be bridged, just because
something is a fact does not mean we can imply an ought to do something.
E.G. you see a homeless man ­ he IS homeless ­ you think I OUGHT to give him money ­
Moore would say NO you are wrong, there is a logical gap that needs to be crossed ­
weighing up both sides and then crossing it.
Theory of Forms - once you know of the form of the good then you can have moral truth
Maths analogy ­ 2+2=4 is not a physical existing thing, as a `2' isn't an object - yet we know it
is true.
Knowledge is virtue
If you do not act with morality when knowing the good you are succumbing to weakness of
the will
Weakness of the Will: to know the `good' thing to do but to take an opposite route
SOCRATES: to act morally is to act in your own self-interest and people act with self-interest
and therefore w.o.w impossible. If people do know good and act a different way, they have

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ARISTOTLE: to act with virtue is not just to have moral knowledge, but to exercise it in the
right way ­ w.o.w is possible
Problems specific to Plato:
Moral elitism
The Sun as an analogy of what is good is mystical and provides no real explanation
Good does not equal identical `goodness'; e.g. a good horse is one that runs well, a good
food is one that tastes good ­ these are not the same qualities.…read more

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Problems specific to Relativism:
If disagreement of cultures: is evidence of no objective universal moral truth, then
agreement becomes evidence of objective universal moral truth
If we cannot judge from outside a culture: then we cannot condemn things like the
holocaust- C.A. comes up later under tolerance
Cultural difference: overplayed by the relativist as all humans share certain core values and
any one of these would mean that relativism is untrue. E.G.…read more

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BENTHAM ­ teleological (consequence)
To live by the principle of utility ­ the greatest happiness for the greatest number
Happiness can be measured, according to Bentham on the Hedonic calculus
When making moral decisions, look at what would make the greatest amount of people
happy ­ simple
Problems specific to Act Utilitarianism
Personal preference: Bentham's hedonic calculus does not account for this and will put other
actions above others. This does not account for personal preference.…read more

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We should aim to maximise the satisfaction of others preferences
Free from bias as you can satisfy someone's preferences without them having to be awatre
of it
It is easier to know whether someone is satisfied rather than how much happiness they have
Relies on maximising others preferences which may lead to happiness ­ preference
utilitarianism does not calculate happiness/sadness etc.
Simple Mechanism: provides simple way of measuring the consequences and deciding right
outcome.…read more

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It is not about the consequence, but the doing of a duty because it is good will ­ the intrinsic
good in actions rather than whether they bring about good
Strengths with Deontology
Intentions: an action that brings about good consequences is not considered morally
praiseworthy unless the person had honourable intentions to begin with. E.G.…read more

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Doctrine of the mean ­ Aristotle's doctrine on how to behave
The best way to behave is the intermediate ­ between extremes
E.G.…read more


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