• Created by: amyylanc
  • Created on: 20-04-19 12:34


- ‘True law is right reason in agreement with nature’ – Cicero

- ‘Man needs to be directed to his supernatural end in a higher way’ – Aquinas 

- ‘To disparage the dictate of reason is equivalent to condemning the command of God’ – Aquinas

- ‘The natural law is that which everywhere is equally valid’ – Nicomachean Ethics 

- St Paul mentioned a law that was ‘Written in the hearts’ of men

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- Natural Law is based upon the thinking of St Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274)

- in his text 'Summa Theologica', Aquinas describes it as a moral code which exists within the purpose of nature, as described by God

- 'Natural Law is the same for all men... there is a single standard of truth and right for everyone... which is known by everyone' - Aquinas

- he believed that the eternal law of divine reason can be understood through revelation, via the word of God in the Bible, and through using human reason

- reason allows us to determine out ultimate purpose, which is fellowship with God, to which we should strive

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- the theory is absolutist, meaning that it involves a set of rules that must be followed

- it's also deontological as it focuses on our duty to follow the guidance of natural law, in order to fulfil our purpose

- Aquinas builds upon some of the ideas of Aristotle in his Natural Law, as Aristotle had previously written, in 'Nichomachean Ethics', that, although laws vary between societies, natural justice applies to each and every person, regardless of where they are

- 'the natural is that which everywhere is equally valid' - Aristotle

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- St Thomas Aquinas used the thinking of Aristotle to develop his own ethical guide

- Aristotle proposed that something was good is it fulfilled its purpose

- he also said that it's in our human nature to do what we can do to achieve eudaimonia (happiness and flourishing) through acting morally

- Aquinas argued that, in order to make moral decisions, we must be genuinely free

- he argued that we make moral decisions using our reason, which is given to us by God

- he said that people need God's help to direct their actions, and make sure they do the right things for the right reasons

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- for Aquinas, our ultimate end or telos in life should be God, and that being in the presence of God is therefore the ultimate reason for existing

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- in 'Summa Theologica', Aquinas identifies four different types of law:

  • Eternal Law, which is the unchanging principles by which God made and controls the universe, and is the highest form of law which is known only to God
  • Divine Law, which is the law of God as revealed in the Bible, especially in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount
  • Natural Law, which is the universal moral law of God, that is percievable to humans through the use of reason, which makes Eternal Law accessible to people
  • Human Law, which is the laws that people come up with in response to the needs of their society, and is the lowest tier of God that can be broken if it conflicts with higher tiers of law
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- whether or not an act leads towards God depends on whether it fits the purpose that humans were made for

- the primary precepts outline the fundamental requirements of human life, whilst the secondary precepts give more specific guidance on what we should or shouldn't do depending on whether they uphold a primary precept or not

- the key precept of Natural Law is the rule of 'synderesis' (do good and avoid evil)

- Aquinas thought that all humans were inclined to do good, as all species want to survive and achieve their purpose in life

- he classified five primary precepts to thereby guide people in achieving the state of human flourishing

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- the primary precepts are:

  • to worship God
  • to live in an orderly society
  • to reproduce
  • to learn and teach others about God
  • to defend the innocent and preserve life

- the secondary precepts all derive from one of the primary precepts, for example, the secondary precepts that uphold 'defend the innocent and preserve life' would be:

  • do not murder
  • do not abort the unborn
  • do not commit suicide
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- real goods are those which are in accordance with the primary precepts and God's intentions for humanity

- human actions that are not in the pursuit of perfection can be explained as the pursuit of an apparent good (something which doesn't fit the perfect human ideal)

- to choose an apparent good is an error, because it isn't really good for us, and prevents the person from moving towards what God intended for us

- for example, an adulterer chooses to commit adultery because they believe that it is good and they enjoy doing so, however this does not bring a person closer to God's intention for them, and is thereby morally wrong

- to correctly distinguish between apparent and real goods we must use reason rightly and choose the right thing to do, which isn't always easy to do, as we are tempted by what we enjoy doing but may not actually be good for us

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- to act in a good way for the wrong reason is to commit a good exterior act but a bad interior act

- for example, giving money to a homeless person in order to impress onlookers is shows doing a good exterior act but a bad interior act

- furthermore, good interior acts don't justify bad exterior acts, for example, stealing money to give to a friend in need is a good interior act, but a bad exterior act as the intention of stealing the money doesn't justify the theft

- Aquinas believes that acts are intrinsically good or bad, because when humans carry out acts that fit in accordance with their ultimate purpose, they are glorifying God

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- Aquinas identifies four 'natural'/'cardinal' values which he believed were discovered by reason:

  • prudence (being cautious)
  • temperance (abstinence from alcohol)
  • fortitude (courage in times of adversity)
  • justice

- there are also other values to be discovered, which can be done through the use of the Bible, such as:

  • faith
  • hope
  • love

- to adhere to Natural Law, an individual should develop both types of values

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- Aquinas noted that, in certain situations, a single action can have multiple effects (eg. in the case of using self-defence against an attacker, which results in your safety but their death)

- he argues that intention is important, so if the intention was to do something good, then the action can't be deemed as bad, even if it has bad unintentional side effects

- this phenomenon is known as the Doctrine of Double Effect

- it can be applied to cases of euthanasia (eg. if the intention of administering a drug to a patient is to relieve their pain, the effect of that in ending their life is justified)

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- the absolutist deontological view of morality outlined in Natural Law offers a follower clarity and consistency in its guidance, which may be harder to come by when following more vague ethical systems, such as Situation Ethics

- furthermore, Natural Law has a universality that transcends any religion or culture, which is vital in a world suffering from intercultural disharmony, as it relieves tensions between groups with differing views if they can agree on certain moral principles

- examples of Natural Law being followed can be seen in nearly all societies, wherein the ideas of preserving life and building a society are fundamental, showing that it's a practical set of ethics that is already partly approved on an international level

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- Natural Law provides justification and reason for certain popular ideas nowadays, such as human rights and equality

- the clear focus on reason within Natural Law means that people have a certain degree of autonomy over decisions about right and wrong

- the use of secondary principles, which are highly specific and practical to everyday life means that Natural Law is less of a confining set of rules to follow, and more like a way of life

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- Aquinas' version of Natural Law presupposes a belief in God, which not everybody has, already limiting the significance of its guidance for many people

- sometimes Natural Law may be seen as too absolutist and not sympathetic enough to realistic circumstances

- some people question whether there's a common natural law that is apparent and self-evident, and whether, with the complexity of the human race, there can possibly be a 'one size fits all' set of ethics

- critics of Aquinas, such as Kai Neilson, argue that 'from the point of view of science, there is no such thing as an essential human nature', and that, as a result, deriving a set of ethics from within ourselves using our own reason is unreliable

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- there is evidence to suggest that our ideas of right and wrong have changed over time, and also vary between cultures, for example, in the past, executions were commonplace in Britain and people didn't believe them to be morally abhorrent, which, in comparison to a modern view of the topic, would suggest that our ethical outlook can change over time, and therefore doesn't come from our own reason or human nature

- additionally, although Aquinas' Natural Law is a Christian ethic, Jesus is seen as a strong opponent of legalistic morality, evidenced through his debates with the moral legalists of his time, the Pharisees, which would suggest that such an absolutist ethical guide would be unattractive and rejected by Jesus

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- ‘the law of love is the ultimate law because it is the negation of war’ – Tillich 

- ‘love thy neighbour as thyself is the ultimate duty’ – Bultmann 

- ‘the situationist follows a moral law or violates it according to love’s need’ – Fletcher

- ‘the only ethic for the man come of age’ – Robinson 

- ‘it is never right to go against a principle unless there is a proportionate reason which would justify it' – Hoose

‘nothing has ever been so intolerable to man and human society as freedom’ – Dostoyevsky (critic)

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- ‘there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death’ – Proverbs 14:12 (critic)

- ‘an individualistic and subjective appeal to the concrete circumstances of actions to justify decisions in opposition to the natural law or God’s revealed will’ – Pope Pius XII (critic)

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- Fletcher divides moral thinking into three types:

  • Legalistic ethics
  • Antinomian ethics
  • Situation ethics
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- Legalistic ethics has a set of prefabricated moral rules and regulations, as seen in both Christianity and Judaism

- Christianity has been focused on either natural law or biblical commandments

- For Fletcher, this can cause problems when the complex situations we encounter in life require additional laws (eg. with murder prohibited, there is still the question of whether this applies to killing in wars, abortion and cases of self-defence)

- From a legalistic point of view, either all these variations must be included in the law, or new laws must be created concerning them

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- Antinomian (literally ‘against law’) ethics doesn’t have a set ethical system, and a follower of this set of ethics enters decision-making as if each situation is totally unique

- ‘they are, exactly, anarchic’ – Fletcher 

- Fletcher therefore also rejects antinomianism for being unprincipled and basically having no ethical grounding at all

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- Situation ethics is an ethical system in which the situationist enters into the moral dilemma with the ethics, rules and principles of their community or tradition, however, which they are willing to set aside if love seems better served by doing so

- In this ethical system, all moral decisions are hypothetical and the best decision to make depends on what will best serve love (eg. instead of ‘lying is wrong’, a situationist would say ‘lying is wrong if…’

- Situation ethics is seen as having foundations in the New Testament; ‘Christ Jesus… abolished the law with its commandments and legal claims’ – St Paul

- Situation ethics is sensitive to the variety of life, and employs principles to analyse a situation, but not to guide an action

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- Agape love (derived from Greek), in a religious context, refers to the unconditional love that Christians must show their neighbours, and reflects the love of God

- This type of love differs distinctly from ****** or familial love, and is self-sacrificing not self-interested

- In situation ethics, this type of love must be at the centre of all decision-making, and must be the aim of all actions taken in moral situations

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- ‘only one thing is intrinsically good, namely love: nothing else at all’:

  • Actions aren’t inherently good or evil, they are good or bad depending on whether or not they promote the most loving outcome, however agapeic love is good intrinsically

- ‘the ruling norm of Christian decision is love: nothing else’

  • An example of this can be seen in the Bible, when Jesus chooses to heal others on the Sabbath day instead of rest, which goes against the Sabbath observance
  • This shows that laws are never absolute, and may be broken, as Jesus did, when love would be better served by doing so, showing that love has unrivalled influence over our actions
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- ‘love and justice are the same, for justice is love distributed, nothing-else’

  • Love and justice can’t be separated from one another, and justice may simply be seen as love at work in the whole community
  • ‘justice is Christian love using it’s head’ – Fletcher 

- ‘love wills the neighbour’s good, whether we like him or not’

  • In Fletcher’s eyes, love is less about feelings and more about attitude, and a desire for the good of another person
  • Your neighbour is anybody and agape love applies universally and unconditionally to everyone
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- ‘only the end justifies the means, nothing else’

  • For Fletcher, moral actions should exclusively be seen as a means to an end
  • In situation ethics, the end must be the most loving outcome

- ‘love’s decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively’

  • Jesus was opposed to the rule-based, legalistic morality that he observed in Jewish groups around him
  • Whether an action is right or wrong depends from situation to situation, and if an action will bring about the most loving result, it’s the right thing to do in that situation
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- Fletcher came up with four basic principles before outlining situation ethics theory:

  • Pragmatism
  • Relativism
  • Positivism
  • Personalism
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- Pragmatism is about practicality in the real world, and ensuring that the proposed course of action will work in practice, and will work towards the end of love

- Relativism is the idea that although there are no fixed rules to be obeyed, all decisions must be relative to Christian love

  • ‘the situationist avoids words like “never” and “perfect” and “always” and “absolute” as he avoids the plague’ – Fletcher
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- To Fletcher, conscience isn’t a set of reliable rules and principles to tell you what to do, and cannot be used to guide human action

- Instead, for the situationist, it is a verb, and can be seen as process of weighing up the possible action before it’s taken

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- Situation ethics provides an alternative Christian ethic that is consistent with the Gospel representation of Jesus, developed from a principle similar to that of Jesus when he broke the Sabbath rule

- Situation ethics is different to the legalistic ethical system that is adopted by Orthodox Christianity today, which seems to be more like the Pharisaic Judaism that Jesus opposed

- Therefore, situation ethics is arguably more consistent with the teachings of the New Testament than Natural Moral Law, and so may be a better solution to making ethical decisions using this theory or other legalistic approaches

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- It allows people autonomy by leaving them with the responsibility of making their own decisions on how to act, and without having to refer to a set of rules to guide this decision

- This also means that decisions can be made quickly, as instead of considering numerous rules to follow, people simply do whatever they think will serve agape love best

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- Situation ethics is subjective, as decisions must be made from within the situation as it’s perceived to be, and different people will have different perceptions of a situation, leaving opportunities for disagreements about the right thing to do

- If we don’t have an objective view, we could fall into the trap of justifying immoral actions on the basis of loving outcomes that never actually come into fruition

- Therefore, as it’s impossible to pre-determine the outcomes of an action, situation ethics may be hard to apply to everyday life

- Situation ethics can be perceived as ideological as there is a danger that, in reality, the ideals of unconditional love may be polluted by an intrinsic human tendency to be selfish

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- Attaining and striving towards agape love is fundamental to situation ethics, yet agape love is an ideal, and in practice carries with it many complexities, such as ‘when is love conditional?’ and ‘who judges whether love is agape love or love of a different kind?’

- Furthermore, situation ethics seems almost too liberal, as, within the boundaries of being the most loving thing to do, any action can be justified under these pretences

- Therefore, horrific actions (eg. genocides of minority groups) could, in theory, be justified, and as many people would argue that these things are intrinsically wrong, people may oppose situation ethics as being too flexible

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- Situation ethics and Natural Moral Law are opposed, largely due to the fact that in Natural Law, actions are intrinsically good or bad according to laws, whereas in situation ethics, actions are extrinsically good or bad depending on their outcome and whether it brings the most love or not

- Bernard Hoose’s proportionalism is a middle-way between the two theories, which combines elements of both

- In proportionalism, there is a maxim to describe the way it decides moral situations ‘It is never right to go against a principle unless there is a proportionate reason which would justify it’ – Hoose

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- Proportionalism has similarities with Aquinas’ ‘just war’ theory, in which the basic rule of ‘don’t kill’ generally applies, but there are instances when it is justified to overrule the moral principle

- Proportionalism could be a solution through which Christian morality could resolve the different approaches currently used

- A weakness of the theory is that it’s not always obvious when a moral law can be put aside, making proportionalism rather inconsistent

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- This can lead to a puritanical web of laws which place restrictions on people’s everyday lives, which is an error that has been made by Catholics closely adhering to Natural Moral Law and Protestants through close observation of the Bible

- For this reason Fletcher rejects legalistic ethics

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- Fletcher suggested six propositions to consider when making moral decisions:

  • ‘only one thing is intrinsically good, namely love: nothing else at all’
  • ‘the ruling norm of Christian decision is love: nothing else’
  • ‘love and justice are the same, for justice is love distributed, nothing-else’
  • ‘love wills the neighbour’s good, whether we like him or not’
  • ‘only the end justifies the means, nothing else’
  • ‘love’s decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively’

- These propositions make it clear that Fletcher’s moral theory is hugely different from a traditional set of Christian ethics

- In situation ethics, actions are justified as being right or wrong by their result, and the best result is that which serves agape love best, regardless of the means by which it is achieved 

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- Positivism is using Christian principles of love to make a value judgement on a moral decision, and can be split into natural positivism and theological positivism

  • With natural positivism, reason deduces faith from human reason
  • With theological positivism, faith statements are made, and people act in a way which is in accordance with these statements

- Personalism is the notion that people should be put first in ethical situations, with their needs holding greater importance than the influence of laws, and we must make the decisions with outcomes which will help humans best

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- ‘In law a man is guilty when he violates the rights of others. In ethics he is guilty if he only thinks of doing so.’ - Kant

- ‘Live your life as if every act were to become a universal law’ - Kant

- ‘A categorical imperative would be one which represented an action as objectively necessary in itself, without reference to any other purpose’ - Kant

- ‘Always recognise that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end.’ - Kant

- ‘It is not God’s will that we should merely be happy, but that we should make ourselves happy.’ -  Kant

- ‘Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe… the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me’ - Kant

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- ‘Good will shines forth like a precious jewel’ – Kant 

- ‘It is impossible to conceive anything at all… which can be taken as good without qualification, except a good will’- Kant 


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- in his text, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant argues that the highest form of good is good will

- to have good will is to do one’s duty, and to do one’s duty is to perform actions that are morally required whilst avoiding actions that are morally forbidden

- to perform a moral action out of a desire for the good consequence it brings is to act in self-interest, and is therefore not a moral action

- the only way to perform a morally sound action is to do it out of duty, as duty is good in itself

- Kant acknowledged that happiness is also good, and that it can come as a reward of acting according to our good will, but maintains that duty is the highest good

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- Kantian Ethics is based upon the thoughts of Immanuel Kant, a highly influential German philosopher of the 18th century

- Kant proposed that there is a universal objective moral law, which is accessible through reason

- Kant's ethics is deontological, because it focuses on acting in accordance with our duty regardless of the consequences

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- According to Kant, knowledge can be divided up into two types, a posteriori and a priori:

  • A posteriori knowledge is that which comes through experience (eg. the bowl is on the table)
  • A priori knowledge is that is knowable prior to reference or experience (eg. 1 + 1 = 2)
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- Furthermore, he claims that knowledge can again be divided into analytic and synthetic

  • Analytic knowledge is that which is something necessarily true about a subject (eg. all widows are women), which needs no further corroboration from other exterior sources, as we accept it to be true by its own authority
  • A priori knowledge is also analytic as we don’t require further knowledge to prove it’s true
  • Synthetic knowledge is that which requires observations, measurements or experiments to prove its validity (eg. Sam is a builder), which isn’t necessarily true, and we will require more exterior information to support the claim
  • Synthetic statements can be true or false, and it can only be known which of these they are after looking at information from exterior sources
  • Synthetic statements are often a posteriori as they’re knowable after experience 
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- Kant believed that factual statements are always either a priori analytic or a posteriori synthetic, however moral knowledge falls into a different category

- According to Kant, moral knowledge is a priori synthetic

- This is because, we can’t prove what people ought to be doing by looking, only by pure reasoning, so moral statements must be a priori

- However, as moral statements can be right or wrong, they must be synthetic, so moral knowledge is a priori synthetic

- This view places Kant directly in opposition to utilitarians, who believe that the consequences of an action are fundamental in deciding what is moral or not

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- 'if the action would be good simply as a means to something else, then the imperative is hypothetical' - Kant

- the hypothetical imperative refers to rules that we should follow if we want to achieve particular results

- for example, if i want to achieve X then I must do Y, but if I don't want to achieve X I don't have to do Y

- moral rules are not included under the hypothetical imperative

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- 'if the action is represented as good in itself... then the imperative is categorical'    - Kant

- the categorical imperative refers to rules which must be followed without exception

- moral laws fall under this definition, and therefore must be adhered to regardless of what we hope to achieve with the result of our actions and our own personal preferences

- there are three formulations within the categorical imperative:

  • formula of the law of nature
  • formula of the end in itself
  • formula of the kingdom of ends
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- 'act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law' - Kant

- moral laws must be applied in all situations to all rational beings universally, without exception

- if an action is right for an individual to do, it is right for everyone to do, and if it's wrong for one person, it's wrong for everyone

- Kant argued that exceptions to this absolutist approach would harm people and erode the moral standard of society

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- 'so act that you treat humanity... never merely as a means, but always at the same time as an end' - Kant

- you can never treat people as a means to an end, meaning that you can never use them for another purpose, exploit them, or enslave them

- humans are the highest point of creation, and so demand unique treatment and moral protection

- this opposes Utilitarianism, in which it is acceptable to sacrifice the few for the greater good of the greater number

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- the Categorical Imperative provides a powerful set of moral principles that prohibit acts that would be commonly considered wrong or immoral such as theft, murder, and sexual abuse

- Kantian Ethics corrects the Utilitarian presumption that the punishment of the innocent can be justified if the majority benefit, which protects minorities whose desires may otherwise be overlooked

- Kant's theory thereby gives humans intrinsic worth as the rational high point of creation, which means that they can't be treated as means to an end, which clearly prevents certain inhumane practices such as slavery or exploitation

- Kant's absolutist approach to morals can be appealing and makes sense, as morals are not something that we expect to be subjected to tastes or fashions, and therefore should apply the same to every situation

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- Kant's emphasis on the use of human reasoning in determining moral dilemmas gives people autonomy over their actions

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- Kant's refusal to allow exceptions in using people as a means to an end can cause tensions in real life, for example, in times of war, the loss of a number of soldiers is generally seen as justified as it results in the protection of a much larger group of civilians

- the concept of universalisability is also a weakness of Kantian Ethics, as it assumes that all moral dilemmas are the same, however we may argue that this isn't the case, and that in fact, all moral are diverse enough to deserve their own individual ethical consideration

- some may argue that the deontological nature of Kantian Ethics takes the compassion out of acting morally, and makes ethical decisions extremely reason-based, rather than depending on human empathy

- due to the absolutist nature of Kantian Ethics, it can appear like we are being encouraged to follow rules even if they are likely to lead to undesireable outcomes

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- Kant doesn't give advice of what to do when duties conflict, and which duties to prioritise over others if it's only possible to achieve one

- followers of religion may argue that Kant gives more value to the role of human reasoning in morality than God

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- 'rules and models destroy genius and art' - William Hazlitt

- 'the good of the people is the chief law' - Cicero

- quotes from Bentham's 'Principles of Morals and Legislation':

  • 'nature has places mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do'
  • 'by utility is meant that property in any object, whereby it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good, or happiness'
  • 'an action is right if it produces the greatest good for the greatest number'
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- 'laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law' - Oliver Goldsmith

- 'pleasure after all is a safer guide than either right or duty' - Samuel Butler

- quotes from John Stuart Mill's 'Utilitarianism':

  • 'to suppose that life has no higher end than pleasure, no better and nobler object of desire and pursuit, they designate as utterly mean and grovelling'
  • 'it is quite compatible with the principle of utility to recognise the fact, that some kinds of pleasure are more desireable and more valuable than others'
  • 'it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied'
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- the theory of Utilitarianism was developed by Jeremy Bentham

- in the historic climate of revolutions in France and America during the 1700s, Bentham lived at a time where demands were being made for human rights and greater democracy

- Bentham wrote 'The Principles of Morals and Legislation' in 1789, in which he proposed the theory of Utilitarianism

- the theory can be split into three distinct parts:

  • his view on what drove humans to act as they do
  • the principle of utility
  • the hedonic calculus

- the theory is teleological and relativist

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- in Utilitarianism, the rightfullness or wrongfullness of an action is determined by its utility

- the principle of utility is that 'an action is right if it produces the greatest good for the greatest number', wherein the greatest good is the greatest pleasure or happiness and the least pain or sadness, for the biggest majority of people

- good is the maximisation of pleasure and the minimisation of pain

- the fact that the pleasure is intended for the greatest number makes his theory democratic, as it can't be intended to serve one person alone

- in order to determine the utility of an action and ensure that it will bring the greatest good for the greatest number, Bentham devised the hedonic calculus

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- Bentham devised the hedonic calculus as a way of measuring the possible pleasure or pain to be generated by the available moral actions, in order to determine the best action to take

- the balance of pleasure and pain brought about through each option is compared, and the best action to take thereby chosen

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- the hedonic calculus considers seven factors:

  • intensity (will the pleasure be intense or mild?)
  • duration (how long will the pleasure last?)
  • certainty/uncertainty (how likely is it to bring pleasure?)
  • propinquity (how distant in the future is the pleasure or pain?)
  • fecundity (is the pleasure likely to lead to other pleasures too?)
  • purity (will the pleasure have some pains involved with it too?)
  • extent (to how many people will the pleasure extend?)
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- John Stuart Mill was arguably the greatest British philosopher of the nineteenth century, and proposed his own version of Utilitarianism in his text 'Utilitarianism', published in 1861

- he agreed that the well-being of the individual was of greatest importance, and that happiness is most easily achieved when individuals pursue their own ends

- however, Mill was concerned by difficulties in the theory, raised in examples such as that of the sadistic guards, in which some cruel guards torture a wrongly imprisoned innocent man, as according to Utilitarianism, this action would be justified as it technically brings the greatest amount of good to the greatest number

- if the greatest good for the greatest number was purely quantitative, then individuals' pleasure could be completely ignored and people could be exploited to serve the pleasure of the masses

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- to address this issue, Mill focused on qualitative pleasures

- he developed a system of higher and lower pleasures, in which higher pleasures are more valuable than lower pleasures

- Mill argued that pleasures of the mind were higher than those of the body, yet there's a link between the two, and we need to pursue both to survive

- higher pleasures include playing an instrument, reading poetry, attending the theatre and philosophising

- lower pleasures include food, drugs, drink and sex

- when confronted with a choice of following higher or lower pleasures, we should prefer and strive towards achieving higher pleasures

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- act utilitarians argue that, wherever possible, the principle of utility must be directly applied to each individual situation

- when faced with a moral choice, we should decide which action will lead to the greatest good in this particular situation

- according to act utilitarians, when determining whether the act is right, it is the value of the consequences of the particular act that matter, and not the predisposed morality of the action itself (eg. lying can be justified in one situation if it brings the greatest pleasure, but not in another if it doens't do so)

- this makes act utilitarianism very flexible, as individual situations can be taken into account at any given moment and used to determine the most justified course of moral action to take

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- however, a weakness of Utilitarianism is that it has the potential to justify any act, even those which are commonly deemed as immoral, if they bring the greatest good for the greatest number in that particular situation

- furthermore, it can be seen as impractical to suggest that we should measure each moral decision to be made every time, and that we should be able to predict how much pleasure each of these actions will bring, especially if we don't have all the information required to use the hedonic calculus

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- rule utilitarianism focuses on general rules that everybody should follow to bring about the greatest good for the community

- it establishes such rules by deciding the course of action that, if pursued by the whole community, would lead to the best result

- therefore, in any given situation, we must follow that rule even if it doesn't lead to the greatest pleasure for ourselves personally in that particular situation

- this means that acts such as lying are never justified, as, for the general community, this doesn't bring about the greatest good

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- rule utilitarianism doesn't share many of the weaknesses of act utilitarianism, however it does also create some problems of its own

- it holds us to following certain moral courses of action, even if they appear innapropriate in the situation (eg. lying to protect another)

- it also doesn't completely prevent certain immoral practices being carried out (eg. slavery if there are less slaves than there are people 'benefitting' from the slavery),and so there's no guarantee of the protection of minority interests

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- it seems logical and also a popular idea to link morality with the pursuit of happiness and the avoidance of pain

- also, the teleological nature of the theory is a strength, as it makes sense to consider the outcomes of our actions in deciding what to do

- Utilitarianism doesn't support individual pursuits that are at the expense of the majority, so it's an arguably democratic theory

- Utilitarianism is also a theory that can be useful in the case of organisations aswell as individual situations (eg. hospitals can use it to help in allocating their budget to different peoples' needs)

- Utilitarianism doesn't rely on an external religious source of wisdom to abide by, so people can make their own decisions and those who aren't followers of a religion can use it also

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- the use of the hedonic calculus provides us with a practical way of making decisions about the utility of every moral decision

- the principle of utility can be seen as more of a simple ethical guide to follow than other ethical theories, such as Natural Moral Law, which have many specific laws that must be followed

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- as the theory is teleological and focuses on the outcomes of the action, this can cause issues as it's not possible to be completely sure about the outcomes due to humans lacking perfect foresight, therefore, we can't use this to determine if an action is moral or not

- some people also argue that morality should not be decided by the outcome of a situation, but by one's intention in doing a certain action

- there's also problems with the need to measure pleasure, as it seems impossible to compare the pleasure brought about by seeing your child graduate to the pleasure of eating a chocolate bar, and the hedonic calculus is therefore more complex than it appears

- it can be seen that, although the hedonic calculus is a practical aspect of Utilitarianism, it is too much of an empirical test to measure something as abstract as pleasure

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- Utilitarianism can also justify situations which go against the course of justice, as, although it ensures the provision of pleasure for the most people, it doesn't specify how the pleasure should be distributed, so minority interest are often overlooked

- this means that, technically, the total sacrifice of an individual's or small group's pleasure can be justified if that will result in the greater pleasure of the majority

- Alastair MacIntyre argues that this can be used to justify abhorrent acts 

- Utilitarianism also fails to consider diverse views on what happiness is, and asserts that there's some kind of universal understanding of what pleasure is, yet this is not the case in reality, as people all have different tastes and preferences

- as humans don't all have the same concept of happiness or pleasure, the fundamental premise on which Utilitarianism is built is seriously weakened

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- 'I will not prescribe a deadly drug to please someone, nor give advice that may cause his death' - Hippocrates

- 'it is a question of the violation of the divine law, an offence against the dignity of the human person, a crime against life, and an attack on humanity' - the Roman Catholic Church

‘your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God’ - Corinthians 6:19-20

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- 'over himself, over his body and mind, the individual is sovereign' - John Stuart Mill

- 'in my view, the highest principle in medical ethics, in any kind of ethics, is personal autonomy' - Jack Kervorkian

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- euthanasia derives from the Greek words 'eu' and 'thanatos' to mean 'good death'

- it is an often controversial topic which raises the question of whether people should have the right to end their own lives at the time of their choosing

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- the sanctity of life is a principle of implied protection of sentient life due to the fact that it is said to be holy, sacred, or otherwise of such value that it is not to be violated, and has an intrinsic worth

- often, believers of the sanctity of life do so for religious reasons, and might think that life is sacred as it is God-given, or because people are all made in God's image

- 'so God created mankind in his own image' - Genesis 1:27

- non-religious people may also agree with the sanctity of life principle because people have reason and free-will

- some people believe that the sanctity of life principle transcends the human race, and also applies to all other living things

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- the sanctity of life principle can be used to justify an argument against euthanasia, on the grounds that nobody has the right to take away human life if it has intrinsic value

- this is also where the 'slippery slope' argument comes into play, which argues that, once human life is considered to have less value in some cases, it begins to undermine all human dignity and lead to a devaluation of human life

- however, it could be argued that the sanctity of life is not an absolute moral law, but in some cases can be overriden if it's moral to take a life (eg. killing a mass murderer to prevent the murder of innocent people)

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- ideas about quality of life are often brought into euthanasia debates in order to support the process, and are sometimes used against sanctity of life arguments

- the idea of quality of life comes from how much enjoyment and fulfilment a person gets, and takes into account how this may be affected as their mental or physical health changes in the future

- such discussions about the quality of life consider whether life is worth living, or whether it would be preferable to bring about a controlled death

- some would argue, that if people have a debilitating or painful terminal condition, then they shouldn’t be required to live out the rest of their lives until their natural death, as they have such a low quality of life

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- the issue of personhood concerns what makes a living thing a person, as, if not considered a person, perhaps the patient would be subject to different rights

- some argue that the characteristics to make a person are awareness of self and one’s surroundings, along with an ability to interact with the world, whilst others believe that the only requirement is that you are human

- personhood generally depends on capacities and functions, which thereby raises the question of whether a foetus, or a person with severe brain damage which limits their abilities, has the same rights as a person

- if a patient thereby doesn’t qualify as a person, there may be a greater moral leniency about euthanising them, whilst still not damaging ‘human’ life

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- voluntary euthanasia:

  • when a person's life is ended by a third party at the person's request

- non-voluntary euthanasia:

  • when a person cannot express their wish to die but there's clear reason to

- involuntary euthanasia:

  • when a person is killed against their wishes (eg. Nazis killing disabled people)

- active euthanasia:

  • a deliberate action by a third party to end someone's life

- non-treatment decision

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- voluntary euthanasia is when a patient's life is ended at their own request by a third party

- it's a practice that is illegal in the UK and most other countries around the world, but is often the focus of legal challenges by people in cases where they believe that a patient should have the right to end their own life in a dignified way

- Jonathan Glover published the text 'Causing Deaths and Saving Lives' in 1977, in which he supports the idea of euthanasia, by giving weight to personal autonomy and rejecting the idea of the absolute sanctity of life

- the ancient Hippocratic Oath, which still influences medical action today, ensures that doctors strive to do good and avoid evil, which can be interpreted in various ways with regards to euthanasia

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- non-voluntary euthanasia is when a patient is euthanised without their explicit consent

- this can be necessary in cases such as brain damage, or when babies who can't yet talk have serious medical problems

- medical developments mean that people who have a severely reduced brain function can be kept alive artificially for a long time, but many argue that their quality of life is so low at this point that it's more humane to euthanise them

- some people write 'living wills' which outline their wishes in the case of them losing brain function and the ability to communicate

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- some argue that ending someone's life is the most compassionate thing to do in the case of there being no possibility of them returning to a good level of brain function

- others argue that it's not up to us to decide what constitutes a good level of brain function, and that such decisions should be left to God

- people also claim that medical staff can never be completely sure that a degree of brain function won't return to patients

- a distinction is often made between deliberate active euthanasia, and a non-treatment decision, with some people claiming that they both require separate ethical deliberation

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- in Natural Moral Law, an action is morally good if it accords with eternal law, divine law, natural law, and human law

- one of the primary precepts of Natural Law is to preserve life

- human life is considered sacred and God-given, and divine law teaches that God creates every person in his own image

- Natural Law has been hugely influential on Catholic morality, and as the Catholic Church has openly condemned euthanasia, it seems that Natural Law would oppose it also

- euthanasia is an apparent good, as it seems to provide a good outcome to an issue, but isn't a real good as it doesn't serve God's intention for the human race, and opposes precepts such as preservation of life and reproduction

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- Natural Law promotes an absolutist attitude towards ethics, and doesn't allow for compromise in certain situations, which means it would only accept a complete blanket ban of euthanasia

- however, there is no requirement under Natural Law to go to extreme lengths to keep people alive if such treatment may be burdensome, so a non-treatment decision may be permitted

- also, as Natural Law's stance on euthanasia is focused on the sanctity of life, if people are said to be lacking personhood and therefore do not have sanctity, it may be permissable to euthanise them following Natural Law

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- its absolutism gives clear guidance on what they deem to be the moral thing to do, without there being any doubt

- it respects the views of those with a belief in the sanctity of life, meaning that it would be appealing to religious people

- it doesn't leave sick patients vulnerable to selfish relatives who may wish for them to have an early death for their benefit (eg. claiming from a relative's will)

- it avoids a 'slippery slope' situation wherein human life progressively devalues over time

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- the absolutist nature of Natural Moral Law could be seen as uncompromising and therefore unsympathetic to certain situations of euthanasia wherein ending somebody's life is clearly the most ethical thing to do

- medical advances have made it more difficult to judge between which treaments are extraordinary or common (eg. life support is both common and extraordinary), so although Natural Law may allow for the removal of extraordinary treatment to keep a patient alive, it's hard to determine what exactly this entails

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- in 2017, terminally-ill man Noel Conway lost his high court fight for the right to have an assisted death with the help of doctors

- he suffered from motor neurone disease, and was thought to live for no longer than another 12 months at the time of the case, and therefore wanted to be euthanised to have a 'peaceful and dignified' death

- however, due to current laws in place, specifically the Suicide Act of 1961, this was ruled as being illegal

- the only way Noel could have his life ended would be by doctors removing his ventilator, which may be permissable under Natural Law, however wouldn't be ethical or humane as it would leave Noel to suffocate, possibly for a sustained amount of time, to his death

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- Joseph Fletcher, the leading proponent of Situation Ethics, was in favour of legalising euthanasia, and even became president of the Euthanasia Society of America in 1974

- as Situation Ethics rejects absolutist rules, it doesn't approve of an absolute blanket ban of euthanasia

- for Fletcher, the ethical thing to do was to take into account each individual situation and act accordingly

- Situation Ethics advocates choosing the course of action which will bring about the most loving consequence and serve Agape love the best, and so, euthanasia can be justified if it brings about the most loving consequence (eg. if a pregnancy that was placing the mother at risk was terminated to keep her safe)

- Fletcher thought that quality of life was more important than the sanctity of life

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- it can be seen as much more compassionate and empathetic to the difficult situations people face in reality, and the working principle of personalism means that people are valued above laws in Situation Ethics, so it recognises that sometimes it's more ethical to allow people their wishes of ending their lives

- it's less discriminatory towards disabled people, as it gives them as much of an opportunity to end their lives as able-bodied people do, if they so choose

- it places greater emphasis on human autonomy, which, along with the widespread legalisation of abortion in quite recent years, is a popular concept in the modern day

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- it could be criticised, especially by religious people, as not giving enough recognition to the sanctity of human life, and therefore running the risk of a 'slippery slope' situation occuring

- furthermore, as Situation Ethics focuses on the outcome of an action to see if it's the most loving thing to do or not, this can cause issues as it's not always possible to determine, especially when the patient can't communicate their wishes explicitly

- deciding on the morality of euthanasia on a case-by-case basis makes legislation difficult to pass, as it doesn't give a blanket answer to whether it's ethically permissable or not

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- business ethics focuses on the moral justification of economic systems and practices, the responsibilities of businesses and corporations, and the rights of workers

- it is seen in terms of ethical and unethical behaviour of corporations with regards to workers, consumers, the community, general society, and the environment

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- corporate social responsibility is the principle that businesses should be held accountable for their actions, and the resulting impacts

- businesses have responsibilities to various groups, such as their shareholders, employees, and the local community

- the business has a responsibility to pay dividends to their shareholders, and maximise the return they get on their investments

- Milton Friedman argued that businesses only have a responsibility to their shareholders, which is to make a profit for them

- others argue that businesses also have responsibilities to the community in which they operate, by limiting the negative impact that the business' actions have on the environment 

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- if businesses don't abide by the conditions of their corporate social responsibility, they risk damaging their reputations by doing things which have a negative impact on their stakeholders (eg. damaging the environment)

- many businesses find that the interests of their stakeholders may be in conflict (eg. paying workers a fair wage and maximising profit)

- businesses often try to improve their public image by contributing to the community (eg. by sponsoring local charity events)

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- according to Kant, an action is only truly good if it derives from an acceptance of our duty to do good, and nothing else

- therefore, when companies sponsor charity events or contribute to the community to improve their image and appear as if they are accepting their corporate social responsibility, this isn't actually very ethical at all

- this would also apply if they are doing things such as reducing pollution or caring for the wellbeing of staff in order to improve their public image and therefore gain more profit, rather than to follow their corporate social responsibility

- according to Kant, the only way for a business to act in a truly ethical way, would be to act in accordance with their duty

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- from a Utilitarian perspective, it's important to weigh up the potential pleasure or pain that acting in accordance with corporate social responsibility would bring

- therefore, in most cases, Utilitarianism would probably determine that a business should act in accordance with its corporate social responsibility, as this is most likely to generate pleasure for the greatest number (eg. by looking after the needs of workers in a factory, or by minimising pollution)

- however, in certain cases, a Utilitarian would rule that it would be justified to act in a way that may be seen as generally irresponsible (eg. underpaying a small supplier to reduce costs and therefore provide higher dividends to a large group of shareholders)

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- whistle-blowing is when an employee of a business publicises the unethical actions of their business

- people tend to whistle-blow when the problems require external help

- sometimes whistle-blowers are seen as unethical, if they could've avoided such a scandal by handling the problem more dicreetly, or if they only present one side of the story to the public

- in 1994, Jeffrey Wigand exposed that his company, the Brown and Williamson tobacco company, had knowingly altered the nicotine content of their cigarettes to make them more addictive

- this is a clear example of whistle-blowing wherein the results seem to make the action ethical, as it provided the larger society with information that they could use to make healthier choices

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- for Kant, whistle-blowing could pose difficulties

- on one hand we have a duty to tell the truth, and therefore to be honest and fair towards the business' customers, which may therefore be seen as a justification of whistle-blowing under Kantian ethics

- the categorical imperative in Kantian ethics would seem to imply that regardless of internal pressure within the business to withold compromising information, and employee should use their own rationality to realise that they must tell the truth, and expose the business' wrongdoings

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- a Utilitarian would have to weigh up whether whistle-blowing in this instance would be likely to bring about the greatest pleasure for the greatest number

- in some cases, it would (eg. if the company needed some action to be taken in order to reform their safe working standards)

- however, in other cases, it wouldn't (eg. if whistle-blowing brought about the end of a company, resulting in job losses and a loss of profits for shareholder)

- act Utilitarians would  treating each case of whistle-blowing uniquely and rule Utilitarians would form rules about what to do in such situations

- in 2007, a survey commissioned by the US Democracy Corps found that 70% of people interviewed supported the protection of whistle-blowers, which suggests that it's often in the best interests of the greatest number of people for people to become whistle-blowers

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- 'good ethics is good business' is a phrase which suggests that doing the right thing will result in greater success of the business as more people will want to buy from an ethical company

- it also demonstrates that acting ethically in business is just as important as acting ethically in any other circumstance

- some people also interpret this to mean that businesses only present themselves as acting ethically in order to increase their profits

- good ethics can be difficult for businesses to achieve because there are so many stakeholders in a business, and so it can be impossible to keep everybody's best interests served (eg. keeping milk prices low is good for customers who pay a lesser price, but bad for milk farmers who recieve less profits for their goods)

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- sometimes this phrase proves to be untrue, as following good ethical practices can sometimes make it more difficult for a business to compete (eg. if it pays its workers above the minimum wage to improve their wellbeing, they may have to raise their prices to facilitate having higher costs, which makes their products less desireable)

- it's often difficult to know how 'good ethics' will affect stakeholders or the business itself in the long-term

- some people think that a compromise situation is best, in which ethics are only seriously taken into consideration for big, influential decisions

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- Kant would approach 'good ethics is good business' by saying that, businesses, like everybody, should do the right thing by accepting that it's their duty, irrelevant of the fact that this may improve their business' success

- however, this view is highly unrealistic in a competitive, capitalist market, wherein businesses have to think about how their acts will impact their success

- it can be difficult to avoid treating people as means to an end in business, because the ultimate purpose of suppliers and employees for a company is to help them make a profit

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- a Utilitarian approach to 'good ethics is good business' would be generally more appropriate

- in the text 'Business Ethics: a European Perspective', Andrew Crane and Dirk Matten claim that there are links between a Utilitarian approach and a consideration of economics, as in both cases, you would want to choose the most beneficial outcomes

- conflicts can arise when applying Utilitarianism to 'good ethics is good business' however (eg. the number of employees and the number of customers involved can both be large and of similar size, and so the intention would be to do whatever will bring them the greatest amount of pleasure, yet this would be impossible as customers would want low prices which would result in poorer wages and conditions for the employees)

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- globalisation covers the topics of the integration of business, economics, industry and culture internationally

- through developments in communication and transport, people no longer need to confine business to their own geographical region, which results in many people globally being affected by a business' actions

- globalisation poses an ethical issue as it's cheaper for companies to hire workers in countries where wage rates are lower, however these are also the countries which have the lowest standards of workers' rights

- although companies who use such labour may be helping workers by providing them with employment, they may also disadvantage them by having them work in unsafe conditions

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- people in developed countries often put pressure on businesses to improve the conditions of their factories in developing countries to protect the rights of workers there

- the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh in 2013 is a clear example of when businesses fail to protect their workers in developing countries

- in the tragedy, when the building collapsed, 1129 people lost their lives

- after this, many people boycotted companies related to the factory, including huge clothing retailer Primark, which demonstrates that globalisation can have unpopular and unethical consequences

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- in the text 'Business Ethics: a Kantian Perspective', Norman Bowie proposes rules for a business so that they may act in accordance with Kantian Ethics, such as protecting the autonomy and rationality of every worker, providing a salary sufficient for comfortable independent living, and the work should be meaningful

- Kant would disagree with businesses using cheap labour abroad in countries like India and China

- this is because the point of using cheap labour is to cut costs and maximise profits and Kant said you cannot use these workers as a means to an end

- furthermore, due to the principle of universalizability, they should be treated equally to workers in the UK, as, if workers were exploited globally, peoples' quality of life would be poor and there would undeniably be great global unrest

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- from a Utilitarian perspective, the good effects of globalisation are arguably more numerous than its negative impacts

- customers of the business benefit from globalisation as it means that their products are cheaper to buy, and those living in developing countries benefit from being employed and paid a wage, when their other alternative may be extreme poverty

- however, it could be argued that the rich benefit a lot more than the poor labourers do through globalisation, and although the 'greatest happiness' is achieved, the minorities involved are exploited

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- 'corporate social responsibility is a hard-edged business decision' - Niall Fitzgerald, former CEO of Unilever (supports CSR)

- 'we know that the profitable growth of our company depends on the economic, environmental, and social sustainability of our communities across the world' - Travis Engen, CEO of Alcan (globalisation)

- 'people are going to want, and be able, to find out about the citizenship of a brand, whether it is doing the right things socially, economically and environmentally' - Mike Clasper, Proctor and Gamble (whistle-blowing)

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