Religious Studies A2 (ETHICS)

A quick overview of most relevant ethical theories (not detailed)

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Meta Ethics

Meta ethics is a branch of ethics that looks at whether we can know ethical language, such as, 'good', 'bad', 'right', 'wrong'. There are three main theories within meta ethics:

  • Inutitionism - a cognitive theory that says we know moral language intuitvely. Main scholars - G.E. Moore, W.D. Ross, Pritchard
  • Emotivism - a non-cognitive theory (also known as the boo-hurrah theory) which says we cannot know moral language, and that it is simply an expression of our emotions. Main scholars A.J. Ayer, C.L. Stevenson
  • Perscriptivism - a non-cognitive theory which says that moral statements are perscriptive and that when we use them you are stating something which you think everyone should follow. Main scholar R.M. Hare.
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Free Will and Determinism

Free will is the view that we are free to make whatever choices and decisions we like without influence from anything else.

Determinism is the view that our choices and decisions are pre-determined by things out of out controll.

  • Hard Determinism - arugues that all human action is causally determined and therefore we have no free will. Main scholars, John Hopsers, Ted Honderich.
  • Soft Determinism - arugues that our actions are determinded to a certain degree, we are free to choose within certain limits. Main scholars, David Hume
  • Libitarianism - People are free to make decisions and therefore have free will.
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The conscience is an inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one's behavior.

  • Aquinas - the conscience is God created, but not God directed, it is the result of moral reasoning. Conscience is not always right, but should always be followed. (learn synderesis and conscientia distinction)
  • Butler - the conscience is our God given moral guid, we have an obligation to follow our conscience.
  • Freud - the conscience is part of the personality called the superego, it is driven by suppressed guilt. We should not follow our conscince, a mature person learns to make their own decisions.
  • Piaget/Kohlberg - the conscience is learned and develops over time, it is made up of the heteronomous morality and the autonomous morality. More important to develop an autonomous morality and do the right think because it is right.
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Virtue Ethics

Looks at the virtue or moral character of the person carrying out an action, rather than at ethical duties and rules.

  • Aristotle - eudaimonia is the supreme goal pf human happiness. There are 4 cardinal virtues among 12 other virtues that need to put into practice, the golden mean applies.
  • Anscombe - rejects traditional normative theories that rely on duties an moral obligations; instead autonomous moral agents should discover their own values and act morally.
  • Foot - virtues are human excellences of character that aee necessary for our well being, we should use them as 'correctives', they need to be developed and nurtured over time.
  • MacIntyre - he calls virtues 'internal goods' and that they have 'relative value'. Historical and social context is important
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Thanks! Very helpful :3

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