Normative ethics

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  • Created on: 02-04-13 10:55

Act utilitarianism

Bentham - consequentialist, based on one universal rule

Good = greatest good for greatest number (GGFGN)

based on hedonism good = pleasure

all pleasures equal

Criticisms - how do we know what will maximise happiness - response - does not matter as long as we take action that we believe will maximise happiness

No action is actually definitely immoral 

Too demanding - should only live to help others - e.g. could not buy CD should give to charity instead

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Rule Utilitarianism (+preference)

Mill - actions is right if it complies with rules which if everybody followed them would lead to greatest happiness - Means don't have stupid rules to give happiness

Don't have to work out consequences to all actions - As everyone should be acting that way only have to do your fair share e.g. with charity

Problem - actions e.g. white lying is wrong even if it might promote happiness, and if we go to each individual situation we just go to rule - Response - overall if everyone acts that way it would be better

Preference utilitarianism - not maximise pleasure but satisfaction of people's preferences  - better as easier to know if someone's preference has been fulfilled than amount of pleasure - also can be right to encourage someone's preferences even when they don't know it has appened so they do not get any pleasure - e.g. doing something for someone when they die

Problem - is happiness best way to decide morality, Who should get happy, can have morally bad happiness, other values that might be better e.g. justice, how do you decide who is involved in your morality 

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Duty - have moral duties to do things that are right and duties not to do what is wrong

Discovering duties - Ross (prima facia duties) - actions that self-evidently are right - duties can be ordered in order to settle disputes 

Aquinas - look at human nature and it becomes obvious what is right by what will help flourishing

Scanlon - moral principles are principles of behavious which no one can reasonably reject to

conflicts of duties - resolved 'prima facie' (at 1st sight)

Utilitarianism - deontolgoy is irrational - how can justify not saving one for many - surely if I reject to murder I reject to killing, so should kill one to save

How do you distinguish between different types of action? e.g. killing/murder - response, should judge by intention

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Kant's imperatives

Kant's categories - universilisation, people as ends not means, kingodm of ends

Tests for universilisation - contradiction in conception - e.g. if admitted stealing would say that everyone effectively own everyone elses things, but this would mean stealing would be impossible 
contradiciton in will - e.g.helping others, if the will was not to help others, you could not achieve your wills Categorical imperitave based on reason -  2 ways of motivation - reason and happiness but happiness cannot be basis of morality because - what makes people happy differs and even if you say it is about promoting general happiness that does not motivate me, also happiness not always morally good e.g. **** therefore morality rational - lots of parallels between rationality and morality e.g. universal, also morality does not apply to non-rational beings, dogs misbehave they aren't immoral  objections - easy to overcome the categories for yourself e.g. only people with your name and birth date - you become exempt - response, not the actual maxim, - technically morally wrong to do anything other than basically getting enough food for yourself to survive 

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Kant - respecting humanity and importance of motiv

Formula of humanity - act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means but always at the same time an end

have to respect their humanity - allow them to make an informed choice e.g. lying does not do this

Importance of motive - what is right for Kant is to act from motive of duty e.g. 2 shopkeepers 1st gives exact change as is worried of getting caught, other gives change because they believe it is right - only one is motivated by duty 

objection - often we do things for people as we like them, not because we feel we have a duty to 

response - does not stop us being motivated by feelings, could be argued duty should not motivate us to do the right thing, only not to do the wrong thing

Does not apply to e.g. Aquinas 

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practical wisdom - capaciy to make informed rational judgements without recourse to a formal decision procedure

needs - general conception of what is good or bad (human flourishing)

ability to perceive what is required in terms of feeling

ability to deliberate and act on that deliberation

for Aristotle cannot be taught

Insight - needs insight into what is good and bad for someone, what is required in a certain situation and what is a virtue 

The mean - do not want to be rash or cowardly but courageousb - means you will be virtuous - knowledge of what is the right time, objects, people, motive and way for certain emotions or choices is practical knowledge of how to live a good life

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Criticisms of virtue ethics and modern alternative

Criticisms - does not tell you what to do

How do we know what is virtuous, people can act virtuous without trying to be, depends on there being a end for our lives to strive for

Slote - moral rightness based on motives which are not only necessary but sufficient for well being, based on common-sense intuitions of what traits are admirable, about motives more than consequences

Macintyre - looks at virtue in relation to our own culture, function is relative to when and where we live

Hursthouse - imagine what the perfect virtuous person would do - problem if we knew that we would be virtuous

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Different types:
assisted suicide - X gives Y means to kill themselves

Passive euthanasia - X lets Y means by removing life support
doctrine of double effect - doing something that may lead to or hasten their death but with the intention of relieving pain not with the intention of ending life 

Active - X does something to Y to directly cause death
Voluntary - Y gives permission to X to let Y die
Involuntary - Y does not give permission

Euthanasia: well death - to cause someone's death with the intention of relieving terminal and/or excessive pain and suffering

Questions raised:
- is it ever right to end someone's life?
- is it murder, suicide or something else
- How soon is too soon? should be done before pain is experienced- When does someone's personhood end? life vs. alive 

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Virtue ethics + euthanasia

When voluntary:

for patient - stops flourishing, might be cowardly, conversely might be self-sacrificing, against virtue of fortitude

For doctor/relative - compassions is a virtue, Slote - fine assuming motives are e.g. compassion and not e.g. wanting to save resources, 

When involuntary:

Hard to argue that ending someones life is going to lead to flourishing 

Phronesis - more experience you have easier it is to make decisions (though euthanasia is generally once in a life time except for Dr)

Hursthouse - how would virtuous person act?

Aristotle - importance of flourishing in society - impact in wider society

Macintyre - consider in context of society e.g. may be right in UK but not in Saudi Arabia 

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Strengths/weaknesses of Virtue ethics approach

Strengths - Considers all involved
Focusses on character of patient and treats as individual
Adaptable - recognises emotional difficult nature of decisions, needs a personal approach
Use golden mean euthanasia can be approached reasonably with no excess or deficiency in feeling/response
Use motives not consequence - good intentions

Weaknesses - no definite response given - response Hursthouse virtuous person - problem is subjective how they would act

Conflict of virtues e.g. fortitude and compassion

easy to manipulate - could appear to be considering motives but actually using consequence

Based on metaphysical speculation e.g. do we have a function

naturalistic fallacy - just because human nature is does not mean ought to act similarly 

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Kantian Ethics and Euthanasia

What are we universalising?

Active voluntary - ending someones life to relieve pain if asked - can be universalised as treating someone as ends not means, and if universalised not everyone would want to die

Involuntary - treating as someone as means to an end - you will be doing it for e.g. ease your pain or save resources

though if like suicide - ending ones life is illogical so wrong

Duty to relieve pain - emotional and not rational

are non-rational people counted - potential for rationality

W.D Ross - prima facie duties - preserve life vs. duty of care

Cannot say that you always have to respect choice e.g. do not respect a murderer's choice

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Strengths/weaknesses of Kantian ethics approach

Strengths: values life - treats as ends

Same in all circumstances and across cultures

actions justified as based on reason

Weakness - euthanasia isn' t always the same

Conflicting duties to preserve life vs. respecting someone + their dignity

Kant's ethics is relative to his culture

Do non-rational people count

If it is right whenever people want to die then does it extend to people who are depressed

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Utilitarianism approach to euthanasia

Killing someone to relieve pain - does this produce GGFGN - yes, strain on medical care + suffering of family - No ending someones life is always wrong

Future happiness of individual 

Implicatiosn for wider societ

Act - allow each case to be seen on own merits

Rule - difference between euthanasia + murder

How do we judge GGFGN

Preference - satisfying preferences of those involved 

who's happiness should be considered 

If involuntary - going against their wishes - removing their happiness 

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Strengths/weaknesses of Utilitarianism approach

StrengthsGGFN ensures majority are happy
Moral dillemmas never about one person
Act utilitarianism considers each case by its own merit
In democracy most decisions made by GGFGN - popularity of this view may suggest this is what morality is like
Simple to use

Weaknesses - shouldn't kill to save strain on health service otherwise would be ok to e.g. kill someone with no family/friends to give food to

People treated as means not ends - not valuing human life

might be allowing involuntary euthanasia

Not actually simple raises questions e.g. who should be considered, how much does pain + pleasure count, higher vs. lower pleasure, is someone in a vegetative state cound and should we count their pain/pleasure, if not surely we should not consider a dead person's depression - problem of majority vs. minority patient seems to count more but their pain/pleasure is = to the doctors 

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