OCR A2 R.S. Ethics notes

These are the notes I made using 5 different sources for A2 Ethics. It covers all areas and is enough to get you an A or A*

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  • Created on: 27-01-16 00:20
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Meta-ethics ­ analyses the use of ethical language, such as what is good/bad
Normative ethics ­ analyses the moral value of an action/thing
Cognitivism ­ ethical statements are meaningful as they can be proved or falsified
Non-cognitivism ­ ethical language does not give information and thus cannot be proved, instead it
merely expresses emotions it wishes of the person using it
Teleological ­ concerned with achieving a desirable end (e.g. Utilitarianism)
Deontological ­ ethics based on duty (e.g. Kant, Christian ethics)
Analytical statements ­ true by definition (e.g. a triangle has 3 sides)
Synthetic statements ­ can only be verified by senses (e.g. it is raining outside)
Objective ­ there is a universal and common understanding of what is good
Subjective ­ good is only known to the individual; what is good varies for each individual
Developed from empiricism
o We observe the world around us and create moral theories that fit our observations
"good" exists and can be seen/described empirically
Moral language is an objective fact; moral statements are objective as they can be measured
empirically, so are applicable to all
o Statements are either analytic or synthetic ­ Hume's fork
o Moral language is neither, so it has no inherent meaning and cannot be analysed the same way
It is therefore subjective (take this as a challenge to the objective claims of naturalism)
o So the only way to understand moral statements is by experiencing good/bad
o This essentially is making an "is" from an "ought", which leads to the naturalistic fallacy
Naturalistic fallacy ­ challenge to naturalism
o Naturalism and Hume derives an `ought' (a moral judgement) from an `is' (a fact)
Making an ethical judgement factual
o G.E. Moore­ this is a fallacy as "to define an ethical judgement as a statement of fact is an
Ethical statements can't be proved with reference to facts
o Hume­ attempting to derive an "ought" from an "is" is illogical as values are applied to facts,
not discovered among them
In light of this,Hume
is not doing this with his approach to naturalism; instead he is
saying that moral language is subjective an and expression of feelings based on
Ethical language/morality is objectiveand cognitive
G.E. Moore­ (Principa Ethica)
o Good can't be defined in terms of natural phenomena (which is what naturalism claims)
Goodness is something we use to describe an object/action, not what we discover in it
o We intuitively know what is right and wrong, not from experience
" Good is good, and that is the end of the matter"
Moral truths are universal and beyond human experience, and we know these
intuitively and gain our morality from these
Need to use logic and mind to discover these truths

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Therefore morality is objective and cognitive
o We work out what is good by looking at the impacts of our actions. Whatever brings about
good (which will be intuitively recognised) is good ­ therefore teleological
o Two types of moral ideas/statements:
Complex idea ­ can be broken down into simpler parts, e.g. "horse" can be broken
down to mammal, quadruped etc.
Simple ideas ­ cannot be defined/broken down any further, e.g.…read more

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Moral statements cannot be verified, therefore they are not true facts but expressions
of preference or emotions
o Moral statements come from our emotional response to situations
Based on what makes us go "boo" (I don't like this therefore this is bad) and "hurrah"
(I like this therefore it is good)
E.g. "Giving to charity is good" means "I think giving to charity is good"
o They also serve the purpose of arousing feelings and stimulating actions
C.L.…read more

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Hare believes in no true or false morality, meaning that, for example, Hitler's universalised hatred of the
Jews was not right or wrong
disregards the logic and reasoning behind moral statements in favour of recommendation
Hare's logic means that any ridiculous theory could be moral.…read more

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Choices are completely free based on free will and not determined by anything
o Based on observation that because we can feel guilt for actions, we must have chosen them
o Example of growing up in poverty and drugs etc, determinism would suggest that this person
would also end up in these conditions, but a person deciding to leave has done so of their own
conviction, therefore libertarianism.…read more

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Values, desires and prior experiences can determine how we act in situations but we can choose to go
against them and also their influences are random and uncertain so do not necessarily coerce choices
o We may be compelled to act in a certain way but we are still free to choose.
Actions are governed by causes, of which there are two types:
o Internal causes ­ lead to voluntary actions of free will; the result of wishes or desires, e.g.…read more

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No human responsibility as it is beyond us to act otherwise to how we do.
o Freud
Experiences in childhood determine our behaviour in later life
Repressed traumas give rise to later problems e.g. falling off a horse when little, won't
remember it but in adulthood develop phobia of horses
o Sowell
Social conditioning ­ actions are define by societal factors e.g. laws, religion
"the Human self is infinitely plastic"
Upbringing, education etc.…read more

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Man is "condemned to be free"
o Humans have free will because there is no God to fall back on and guide
o Therefore fully responsible for actions
o There is no predestination, so there is no other option than to be free
o Anything else is just an excuse to pass off responsibility
Christian attitudes
Gift from God, following Divine Law
St Paul
o Conscience is "the requirements of the law are written on their hearts" ­ Romans 2-15
o This means know…read more

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o Conscience is a construct of the mind
o The id (selfish desire), ego (realistic faculty) and superego (moral conscience) are in constant
conflict, sometimes id overpowers superego ­ this leads to an immoral conscience
o Humans have no direct control over these faculties, so can have an immoral conscience without
o Conscience is learnt from external sources
o Heteronymous morality ­ up to the age of 10, gain conscience and morality from parents
o Autonomous morality ­ after age of 10,…read more

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Golden mean/doctrine of the mean
o Avoid the vices; deficiency and excess of virtues
o Virtue is the balance of two extremes; the desirable middle
Virtue ethics appeals to both religious and secular approaches to morality; no need for faith/religion
It doesn't have strict prescriptive rules (such as Kantian ethics or Natural Law), so avoids pitfalls of
absolutist theories such as being forced to do something despite a negative outcome
Aimed at helping society as it tries to eliminate vices that could harm society…read more


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