Utilitarianism 1

Utility= usefulness of actions and results of actions.

Principle of Utility= greatest happiness for the greatest number of people- qualitative (Bentham)

Act Utilitarianism - Bentham (book= 'Principles and Morals of Legislation') - the theory is based on ancient hedonism. Epicurus said that all of our actions are done to gain pleasure for ourselves. Bentham equated happiness with pleasure and the absence of pain.

''Nature has placed us under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. An act is 'right' if it delivers more pleasure than pain and 'wrong'; if it brings more pain than pleasure.''

Hedonic Calculus- Purity, Richness, Remoteness, Intensity, Certainty, Extent, Duration (P.R.R.I.C.E.D) this is used to measure how much pleasure or pain an action will create.

+ = consequentialist so flexible, objective as it is an independent way of deciding what is riight or wong.

- = tyranny over the minority, pleasure can be bad, future is unpredictable, the ends don't justify the means, there are other things of intrinsic worth such as freedom, human life.

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Utilitarianism 2

Rule Utilitarianism - Mill (book= 'On Liberty') - disagreed with Bentham,''it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.'' Mill believed in the quality rather than quantity of pleasure. In order to derive the principle of utility, you need universalisability. Everyone ought to aim for the happiness of everyone. Put the group interests above your own. VEIL OF IGNORANCE- imagine yourself in their position.

+ = encourages democracy, more deontological approach establishes universal standaards, gets rights for the minority.

- = difficult to define happiness, to invoke rules means the approach becomes more absolutist, people can be irrational (rule followers or modifiers).

Preference Utilitarianism - Singer (book= 'Practical Ethics') - considers the preferences of other conscious beings. It's about minimising suffering rather than maximising pleasure. ''Our own preferences cannot take priority over the preferences of others.''

R.M.Hare agrees with Singer, we need to ''stand in someone else's shoes'' so we should treat everyone with impartiality.

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Utilitarianism 3

Preference Utilitarianism-

+ = allows justice and equality, cultures can operate in parallel.

- = not everyone is willing to put others before themselves.

Extra Scholars-

Kant (disagreed with Utilitarianism) - the consequences of an action cannot make it right.

Sidgewick (agreed with Utilitarianism) - the intention to bring about the greater good is important - ''one has to kill a few of ones natural selves to let the rest grow.''

G.E.Moore (disagreed with Utilitarianism) - ''moral conduct is to select that action which will achieve more good than an alternative action.''

Popper (agreed with Utilitarianism) - ''the fight against avoidable misery should be the aim of public policy.''

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Natural Law 1

Aristotle - Natural Law was influenced heavily by Aristotle's four causes and the idea that everything has a final cause- for humans it is eudaimonia.

Aquinas (book= 'Summa Theologica') - created the Natural Law Theory that states morality involves working out what our purpose is as human beings and acting in a way that fufils that.

Synderesis Principle- ''that good is to be done and evil avoided.''

It is an absolutist approach through expressing that morality is innate from birth due to ''imago dei'' (Genesis 1:27) - God is good so humans must be.

Primary Precepts- Preserve life, ordered society, worship God, education and reproduction (POWER). These can be used  to decide if a moral action is right. For example, murdering someone would not be preserving life and therefore it is wrong.

Secondary Precepts- are derived by reasoning from the primary precepts and can be used in context for any situation. For example, ''theft is wrong'' is a secondary precept derived from 'ordered society' - if theft was allowed society wouldn't be ordered.

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Natural Law 2

Aquinas - ''To disparage the dictate of reason is equivalent to condemning the command of God.'' based on Jeremiah 31:33 -- 'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.''

Apparent Goods - our bad actions are something which might seem good or right but does not fit perfection.

Four Tiers of Law -

1. Eternal Law= only fully known to God, the principles that God has made.

2. Divine Law= the law of God revealed in the Bible.

3. Natural Law= the moral law of God within human nature discoverable through use of reason.

4. Human Law= the laws of the nations.

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Natural Law 3

Cicero - ''the law will not lay down one rule in Rome and amother in Athens... there is one eternal and unchanging binding at all times on all people.'' the natural law is unchanging and absolute.

Hume's criticism- THE NATURALISTIC FALLICY - people move too readily from observation of facts to judgements about values. In the case of primary precepts it raises the question,''Just because it is possible to have children does it mean people ought to have children?''

G.E.Moore (book- 'Principia Ethica') - ''Good cannot be defined through nature, it is a naturalistic fallicy. Goodness is unanalysable and cannot be defined by any reference of nature.''

Vardy and Grosch criticism - Aquinas' view of human nature is oversimplified and humans do not have one single 'fixed' nature.

Kai Nelson and Gareth Moore criticism - NLT completely disregards cultural relativism. Nielson questioned the unchanging nature of the primary precepts and the fact that they ignore different cultures views on the matters. Gareth Moore argued our nature is a product of culture so without culture, we wouldn't have our human nature. e.g. Aquinas condemns same sex marriages so NLT is outdated.

Augustine criticism (book- 'Confessions') - everyone is born sinful and has an urge to disobey God- man only seeks his own happiness.

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Kantian Ethics 1

Kant (book= 'Critique of Pure Reason') - hypothetical imperative is a moral obligation that applies only if one desires the implicated goal.

Rachels - ''hypothetical imperatives are ossible because we have desires, categorical imperatives are possible because we have reason.''

Kant - a categorical imperative is a command that must be followed, no matter what you desire. Moral obligations are derived from pure reason.

Ross - believes we have an absolute duty when all things have been considered but individual duties cannot be absolute- sometimes we have a duty to break a promise (disagrees with the categorical imperative).

Kant's 3 formulations of the Categorical Imperative=

1. ''act accordingly to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it be universal law.'' - when we act morally, our action must be something that we and anyone else would always do.

Constant - (disagrees with first formulation)- if applied to decision making, it argues we cannot lie because truth telling it the foundation of society. Costant believes that we need to tell white lies for good motives,''no-one has a right to a truth that harms others.''  (can't tell a murderer you are hiding the person that they are looking for)

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Kantian Ethics 2

2. ''act in such away that you always treat humanity, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.'' - humans have an intrinsic value and wehave to treat people with regard to their future life and integrity.

Bentham - (disagrees with second formulation) - it is the greatest happiness for the greatest number so morality is bsed on the majority fufilling their desires.

** (disagrees with second formulatn) - it is difficult to know which maxim to listen to when treating people as ends, ''If you have Jews in your attic, which maxim are you universalising, 'do not tell lies' or 'do not expose others to violence.' ''

WD Ross (disagrees with second formulation) - thinks we have an absolute duty when all things have been considered, but individual duties cannot be absolute, sometimes we hae a duty to break a promise.

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Kantian Ethics 3

3. ''act as if you were through your maxim a law making member of a kingdom of ends.'' - people should act as if their behaviour is setting the laws in an ideal kingdom.

- = unrealistic - if we follow maxims as if they were universal laws in an ideal kindom it is not guarenteeed that others will. e.g. pacifism makes sense as a lw of nature, but if we choose to be a pcifist w may find our community is wiped out by oppressors.

Mcintyre (book= 'After Virtue') - criticises utilitarianism for allowing horrific acts, he believes taht a stengh of kantian ethics is hthe categorical imperative. But he accuses Kant of being too worried about  little things and not worried about peoples' broader character.

Pojman (in support) - ''It is not out desires that ground us morally but our rational will. Reason is sufficient for establishing the moral law as someting transcendent and universally binding fr all rational creatures.''

Schopenhauer (against) - Kant assumes that morality must be perscriptive and thereater seeks the conditions for this He theefore assumes what he seeks to prove- which is moral laws.

Mill (against) - argued that kantian ethics becomes consequentialist when trying to universalise a maxim.

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Kantian Ethics 4

Kant's Three Postulates-

1. Freedom- we are all free to make moral decisions and do our duty.

2. Immortality- good people should be rewarded with happiness in the afterlife- this is the highest good- summum bonum.

3. God - Kant assumes there must be a God to bring about the afterlife.

Like Plato, Kant defines human nature in terms of reason and freedom of that reason makes it possible.

Like Aquinas, Kant believed that reasonis innate in mankind and it enables us to solve problems.

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Situation Ethics 1

Fletcher (book- 'Situation Ethics') - AGAPE= unconditional love. 4 working principles= pragmatism (must be practical), relativism (no fixed rules), positivism (put faith before reasoning) and personalism (people at the centre). 6 propositions= love is the only absolute, Christian decision making is based on love, justice is love distributed, love wants good for anyone (no matter who they are), only the end justifies the means, love is acted out situationally not prescriptivally. Believed in "pragma not dogma" - like liberation theologians who talk of replacing orthopraxis with orthodoxy. 

"Love relativises the absolute, it does not absolutise the relative.

  • Kant (agrees) - "treat people as ends, never as means to an end." (+= teleological- focuses on the outcome of an action).
  • Martin Luther King Jnr - described agape love as "creative, redemptive, goodwill to all mean."- he was a pacifist and didn't violate the oppressor. (+= social justice).

John 3:16 - 'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son." (shows agape).

Story of the parable son supports this also.

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Situation Ethics 2

  • Barclay (in response to Fletcher) - to discard rules is to discard experience- it is difficult for individuals to make their own moral decisions in every situation.
  • St Paul - Christians have died to the law and 'you are not under law, but under grace." - the law cannot condemn Christians as long as they are in Christ Jesus.
  • Pope Pius XII - to act on individual circumstances was to reject the law of the Bible (divine law- 10 commandments).
  • Tillich - "the law is the ultimate law because it is the negation of law." - the moral principle is based on Christian love. (Mark 2:27- 'Sabbath was made for man, not man for Sabbath.')
  • Robinson (book-'Honest to God') - "man come of age" - mankind has reached intellectual and rational maturity so we are able to make free moral decisions using agape.
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Situation Ethics 3


"The error lies in thinking of conscience as a noun instead of a verb." - Fletcher

arm chair philosophy- it is about what you do, not what you say.

Newman - believes the conscience is the voice of God.

Situation Ethics Evaluation - 

+ autonomous, up to date, not limited to reason, focuses on motive.

- Barclay believes it would only work is "all men were angels", ignores rules, allows evil in the name of love, idolises the individual (gives them more authority than the Bible.

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