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10 Moral Philosophy Happiness, then, is something final and self-sufficient, and is the end of action.
-Aristotle Morality is not properly the doctrine how we should make ourselves happy, but how we should become worthy of happiness.
-Immanuel Kant dvice is something you never stop getting, although good, sound advice isperhaps not too common.
Most advice you get-and give-is of a practical nature: “If you want to live longer,” someone will say, you should stop smoking. Or: If I were you, I would buy life insurance now while you are young.”But advice is not always intended to be merely practical. Sometimes it is moral advice. Someone-a friend, your minister, a relativemay suggest that you should do some thing not because it will be in your own best interest to do it but because doing it is morally right. You should donate money to a charity, the person might say. Or: You should be kind to animals. These suggestions express moral judgments. Ethics, or moral philosophy, is the philosophical study of moral judgments-value judgments about what is virtuous or base, just or unjust, morally right or wrong, morally good or bad or evil, morally proper or improper. We say morally right and morally good and so on because terms like right and good and proper (and their negative correlates, wrong and bad and improper) can be used in nonmoral value judgments, as when someone speaks of a bad wine or of the right or proper way to throw a pass. Many questions can be asked about moral judgments, so ethical philosophers discuss a wide array of issues. One basic question they ask is, What is a moral judg.
ment? In other words, exactly what does it mean to describe something as morally right or wrong, good or evil? What is it to say that one thing ought to be done and another thing ought not be done? Or they might ask, What makes a moral judgment a Aristotle, and almost every other thinker covered in As you read about the moral philosophics of Plato, Part Two, you might note their concern with the ques good life consist? Maybe this question is not the central tion, In what does human happiness or well-being or the question of ethics, but it is close to the center. Almost The God philosophers ask.
every philosopher we cover in this part of the bo offers an alternative answer to this question. The gu tion is also of considerable practical importance worth considering now, while there still is time to something about it.
moral judgment? How do moral judgments differ from other value judgments, factual assertions, and pieces of practical advice? What distinguishes reasoning about moral issues from reasoning about other things (from reasoning about the structure of matter, say, or about the qualities of good art)? These are some of the questions ethica lThe most important question of ethics, however, is simply, Which moral judgments are correct? That is, what is good and just and the morally right thing to do? What is the “moral law,” anyway? This question is important because the answer to it tells us how we should conduct our affairs. Perhaps it is the most important question not of ethics but of philosophy. Perhaps it is the most important question, period. A less obvious question of ethics, though logically more fundamental, is whether there is a moral law in the first place. In other words, do moral obligations even exist?
Are there really such things as good and bad, right and wrong? And if there are, what is it that makes one thing right and another wrong? That is, what is the ult imate justificat ionIn what follows, we will examine some of these issues and related questions as they have been treated throughout the history of philosophy. However, before we begin, we need to discuss concepts that have been important throughout the history of moral of moral standards?
SKEPTICISM, RELATIVISM, AND SUBJECTIVISM Many beginning students in philosophy accept one or more of three important ideas about morals. The first, ethical skepticism, is the doctrine that moral knowledge is not possible. According to the skeptic, whether there are moral standards is not knowable, or, alternatively, if there are any moral standards, we cannot know what they are. You should be aware that the beliefs that there is no right or wrong and that everything is permissible (which we encountered in the previous chapter) are not skeptical beliefs. A person who makes either of these claims implies that he or she does have moral knowledge. Another popular idea about ethics is called descriptive relativism, according to which the moral standards people subscribe differ from culture to culture. Seems obvious, 210 Part Two Moral and “culture” obviously have different moral standards, and perhaps they do. On the other hand, they might both accept the standard that it is wrong to kill a living person but just standards. For example, it might seem disagree about whether a fetus counts as a living person.
people in different cultures have different beliefs about what is morally right an dIn any case, descriptive relativism is not an ethical doctrine. It says merely that wrong. It says nothing about what is morally right and morally wrong. The idea that what a culture believes is morally right or wrong is morally right or wrong for people ning philosophy students. Many tend to think, for example, that whether or not you in that culture is known as cultural relativism, and it is a popular idea among beginshould act selfishly is entirely determined by whether or not your culture thinks you sometimes also advocate being accepting toward the practices of other cultures.
should act selfishly. Beginning philosophy students who are cultural relativists ing toward another culture’s practice if her or his own culture thought that practice However, it would be inconsistent for a cultural relativist t o advocate being a cceptAnother relativist doctrine is known as individual relativism, according to which view, then you would have to say that nobody ever acts wrongly, provided he or she is what is right or wrong is what each individual believes is right or wrong. If you hold this doing what he or she thinks is right. Both individual relativism and cultural relativism are depends entirely on what a person (i. e., a subject) or a culture (i. e., a group of sometimes spoken of as subjectivist ethical philosophies, in that what is right or wrong does it? You must remembe was wrong.
subjects) thinks is right or wrong.
EGOISM life Egoism is another popular ethical doctrine, but there are two types of egoism. First, there is descriptive egoism, the doctrine that in every conscious action you seek to promote your self-interest above all else. Then there is prescriptive egoism, the doctrine that in every conscious action you ought to seek your self-interest above all else. The Epicurean ethical philosophy, for example, was a version of prescriptive egoism. Often, beginning philosophy students accept descriptive egoism as almost selfevidently true. Many also favor prescriptive egoism as an ethical philosophy. Of course we always act to further our own ends! And that is exactly what we ought to do, right? But some philosophers see a difficulty in accepting both prescriptive and descriptive egoism in that it seems trivial or pointless to tell people they ought to do what you think they are going to do anyway. That is like advising someone that she or he has a moral obligation to obey the laws of physics or to remain visible at all times or to occupy space, these philosophers say. A further comment: If you find yourself subscribing to prescriptive egoism (one ought to seek one’s self-interest above all else), as many do, then you should consider this: Does it make sense for you to advocate your own egoistic philosophy? If you ought to seek your own self-interest above all else (as prescriptive egoism says), then should you tail differentthe pro-life On the other son but just merely thatright and e idea that for people eng begin er not you hinks you elativists cultures.
2 acceptpractice which old this r she is ism are wrong up of here note at in ean elf rse sig ethically meany devilish selfish interests are more high-minded ties: Prescriptive egoism is that you ought to act in self-interest.
o around telling others to seek their self-interest above all else? Is telling them that best interests? Might it not be better for your interests to urge others to promote mn good?
sember these doctrines.
HEDONISM Edirnism is the pursuit of pleasure. Philosophers distinguish between the descriptive docsite known as psychological hedonism, according to which the ultimate object of a peras desire is always pleasure, and the ethical doctrine known as ethical hedonism, Acording to which a person ought to seek pleasure over other things. You shoul dIt may seem to you that the ultimate object of a person’s desire is always pleasure, to think again. As the British moralist and clergyman Bishop Joseph Butler (1692ser than pleasure, because pleasure consists in satisfying these desires. And then, too, 52) observed, we could not seek pleasure at all unless we had desires for somethingpleasure of virtue,” as Irish historian W. E. H. Lecky wrote, is one which can only z obtained on the express condition of its not being the object sought. In other words, gur motive in acting virtuously is to obtain the pleasure that accompanies virtuous s, then you are not being virtuous and will not get that pleasure. As for ethical hedonism (the idea that we ought to seek pleasure over other things), breze are two kinds: egoistic ethical hedonism, according to which one ought to seek his u her own pleasure over other things, and universalistic ethical hedonism, otherwise known as utilitarianism, according to which one ought to seek the greatest pleasure for the peutest number of people over other things. One difficulty utilitarians face is in explaining why pleasure for others is something one should seek. One common answer is that only by seeking others’ pleasure can you sperience a full allotment of pleasure for yourself. But this answer seems to assume that me’s primary ethical duty is to oneself after all.
ive nk b e, e r t 12 Part Two Moral and Political Philosophy THE FIVE MAIN ETHICAL FRAMEWORKS Moral philosophers these days often regard ethical or moral theoriesas falling into one of the five following ethical frameworks or perspectives as to what one fundamentally ought to do. We list them in no particular order.
First, divine-command ethics: What ought I to do? What God ordains, I ought to do.
Augustine and Aquinas are good examples. Second, consequentialism: What ought I to do? Whatever has the most desirable consequences. The Epicureans, Stoics, and utilitarians are good examples. Third, deontological ethics: What ought I to do? Whatever it is my moral duty to do (in at least some cases, regardless of consequences). Kant is a good example. Fourth, virtue ethics: What ought I to do? What the virtuous person would do, (For virtue ethics, the primary question is not, What ought I to do? but rather, What kind of person ought I to be?) Plato and Aristotle are good examples. Fifth, relativism: What ought I to do? What my culture or society thinks I ought to do. None of the philosophers covered in this chapter are relativists (though many students are).
Sometimes contractarianism (or contractualism) is mentioned as a basic ethical theory. However, more often it is treated as a theory of social justice, the theory that principles of justice are best constructed through negotiations among impartial, informed, and rational agents. We’ll discuss this idea in Chapter 11, which deals with political philosophy. Let’s now take a closer look at these five various ethical perspectives as they debuted in the history of moral philosophy.
THE EARLY GREEKS It was od with it that good is ruthless Socrat words like various sp example something sorry to has an est That moral judgments must be supported by reasons is an idea we owe to the Sophists, those professional teachers of fifth-century B. C. E. Greece, and to Socrates (c. 470-399 B. C. E.). The Sophists, who attacked the traditional moral values of the Greek aristocracy, demanded rational justification for rules of conduct, as did Socrates. Their demands, together with Socrates’s skillful deployment of the dialectical method in moral discussions, mark the beginning of philosophical reasoning about moral issues. Maybe it was not inevitable that a time would come when someone insisted that moral claims be defended by reasons. When children ask why they should do something their parents think is right, they may be content to receive, and their parents content to give, the simple answer, Because that is what is done.” In some societies, evidently, values are accepted without much question, and demands for justification of moral claims are not issued. In our society it is frequently otherwise, and this is the legacy of the Sophists and Socrates, made by Plato’s, aSocy of virtue result of shared, Plato moral to all make deed tic P sons exer agal tha cal TH FO of into one mentally ht to do sirable Futy to do.
What bught any ethical ry that partial Is with ebuted hists, -399 pracy, is, tosions, that thing nt to val aims Philosophie the Power ofisins Tonth Botion Chapter 10 . Moral Philosophy 21 was Socrates especially who championed the use of reason in moral deliberation MAWs what pleases, that might makes right, and that happiness comes only to thewith raised good questions about some still popular ideas about moralis, such a sSocrates was also concerned with the meanings of words that signity moral virtues werus ke sions and cont Because a moral term can be correctly applied to example Socrates believed that all acts characterized by a given moral term must have a specific acts-many different types of deeds count as courageous deeds, formon. He therefore sought to determine (without notable success, we are svio report) what the essential commonality is Socrates’s assumption that a virtue made by many philosophers and is central to several famous ethical theories, includingas an essential nature, an essence that may be disclosed through rational inquiry, is still Po as you will see shortly. Socrates also assumed that any sane person who possessed knowledge of the essence virtue could not fail to act virtuously. He thus believed that ignoble behavior, if not the result of utter insanity, is always the product of ignorance. This is also a view that Plato shand, and it has its adherents today.
Plato pato accepted the Socratic idea that all thngs named by a given term, including any given moral term, share a common essential or “defining” feature. For example, what is common o all actions called heroic is that they all have a feature or property-heroiones that makes it possible for us to refer to them by the same name. What is common to all brave deeds is that feature that qualifies them all as brave. This essential or defining characteris tic Plato referred to as the form of the things in question; and, for various plausible rett sens, he regarded this Form as possessing more reality than the particular things that exemplified it. We talked about this in Chapter 3, but let’s look into Plato’s reasoning again, for this bears closely on Plato’s ethics. For a thing to be a chair, we think you must agree, it must possess that feature that qualifies a thing as a chair. That feature-let’s call it chairnessis what Plato called the Form. And so, for a thing to quality as a chair, it must possess chairness.
Thus, the form chairness must exist if anything at all is to quality as a chair. So the Form is more fundamental and “real” than even the chair you are sitting on or any other chair. Forms, Plato held, are not perceptible to the senses, for what the senses perceive are individual things: particular chairs, particular people, particular brave deeds, and so forth. We do not perceive the Forms through the senses. We cannot see chairness and we cannot reach out and grasp bravery or humanity. Thus, Forms, he maintained, are known only through reason. Further, according to Plato, the individual things that we perceive by sense are for ever changing. Some things-rocks, for example-change very slowly. Other things, suroh as people, change a good bit more rapidly. That means that knowledge by sense percepledge of the Forms, by contrast, is certain and 316 214 HUMANITIES 1101 Part Two Moral and Political Philosophy Creatas/Getty Images What do these objects have in common that makes them all chairs? Arms? Legs? Wood? No.
What makes them all Chairs is that they share the same Form.
Now the various Forms, Plato maintained (and here we will see what all of this has to do with ethics), constitute a hierarchy in terms of their inherent value or worth. It is easy enough to understand his point. For example, does not the Form beauty (i. e., the essence of beautiful things) seem to you to be inherently of more worth than the Form wartness (i. e., the essence of warts)? At the apex of all Forms, Plato said, is the Form goodness, or (as it is often expressed) the Good, because it is the Form of highest value. Thus, for Plato, because a. the Forms define true reality, and because b. the Form of the Good is the uppermost of all Forms, it follows that c. individual things are real only insofar as they partak e of or exemplify this ultimat eForm.
A corollary of (c) is that things are less real the less they partake of the Good.
Another corollary is that evil is unreal. Make a mental note of the second corollary. Because the form of the Good is the source of all value and reality, Plato believed, we must strive to obtain knowledge and understanding of it. Therefore, he maintained, because (remember) Forms can be apprehended only by reason, we should govern ourselves by reason. Similarly, the state should be ruled by intellectuals, he said, but more of this in Chapter 11. So, to summarize to this point, according to Plato, the true reality of individual things consists in the Forms they exemplify, Forms that are apprehended by reason and not by the senses; and the Form highest in value is the form of the Good. One should, therefore, strive for knowledge of the Good and be ruled by reason.
abor ple the Philosophy The Power of ideas, Tenth Edition 317 But how eonsider this moral edlet that Plato vas in effet laid down. “Be governe dChapter 10. Moral Philosophy 215 A renson/” is this not a little too abstraet? Does It not fall to enjoin anything specific will what the individual should or should not du? Male would have answered “no” to both questions. The human soul, he said (acou ple of thousand years before Freud proposed his analogous theory of the ld, the eyo, and the superego), has three different elements an element consisting of raw appetites, an al element of thought or reason). For each of these elements, there is an excellence of element consisting of drives (like anger and ambition), and an intellectual element (1..
pern yourself by reason. When our appetites are ruled by reason, we exhibit the virtue Willie thai obtains when reason is in charge of that element, as is the case when you of wine when our drives are governed by reason, we exhibit courage, and when the mwly itself is governed by reason, we exhibit wisdom.
our cardinal virtues of temperance, courage, wisdom , and “justice.” How did justice yetThus, Plato held, the well-governed person, the person ruled by reason, exhibits the in the list? Justiee is the virtue that obtains when all elements of the soul function as they should in obedience to r easonGiven Plato’s understanding of the soul, the principle “Be governed by reason.” which follows from the theory of Forms, dictates that you be temperate, courageous, wise, and just. And what, in turn, these dictates mean more specifically was much dis.
cussed by Plato, though we will not go into the details. Further, he said, only by being virtuous–that is, by possessing these four virtuey can you have a well-ordered soul and thus have the psychological well-being that is true happiness. In this way Plato connected virtue with happiness, a connection we still a cknowledge by saying, “Virtue is its ownBut is a well-ordered, just, or virtuous soul really required for happiness? Plato did not merely assert that it is and expect us to close our eyes and blindly swallow the assertion. He knew as well as anyone that exactly the opposite seems to be true that the peo the matter rather carefully, especially in the Republic. In that dialogue, Plato has various reward.” characters explain and defend the view that the life of the person who cleverly and subtly Plato and Divine Command Ethics Plato examined the idea that what is morally right and good is determined by divine command, that is, by the edict or decree of God-a popular idea today in Western (and other) societiesand the result of that ex amination was a question: Is something right or good because the gods (or God) decree that it is, or is it decreed by the gods (or God) as right or good because it is right or good? (If the question interests you, you might wish to read Plato’s very short dialogue Puthuphro.) theories in an awkward position. If you say that God decrees something because it is good, then you seem to imply that God is not the ultimate authority of the ultimate source of goodness: you seem to imply that there is something beyond God that makes good things good things. But if you say that something is good because God decrees it, you seem to imply that God’s decrees are arbitrary; he could just as well have decreed that the thing was not good. In short, the question implies-so it is argued-either that God’s moral prescriptions are arbitrary or that God is not the ultimate source of goodness, mand” theories of ethics these 318 216 Part Two Moral and Podmiend Winter The Good Willy Motion Mew), while won psd methou dat we offerent to Vied App www wys www to down the worlotem w many lower protesti ter s prible, w wo em plan on when menos plenwes end to empow, they would who wow, he wild, we without please on pain was wwelcomiwa ww Vlowes are chines, we w Miippw, when one is Aerate more meterse the front en tellpowe plecare created into senader mense wat nie gewees watson to much ww may be the one piemones bila oru enda m the expense of other people is eterise to the We of the time con porn. Huo (w the person eh he esmer character does thank that the view momaken und wenn i anaderade Venecks to explain what is wrong with Walion tempt notally w the main theme of the Republe Whether he sucserta you may nohymeldet ton you call a une sind. In any case, u mene womenta delens sewe una und unirtunus than the one Vuo wa forth cand tries t o redus) in the kepitie kas Ker been der iHow you may wgree with me senclusion, that the virus cemia od uction is the one mom na to produce your own wel teine trauss you believe that of will reward you in un mierile you are virtuou here and now and punish you if you are non. Molek, though, what you are wwwumia w you see this belieh, namely, that virtuous set does not promene its own reward (ie, Happiness in the lite Water, though, boieretta your welding in this life is ten promenad by virtuous actives, See the box Play and Divine Command Ethies”)We will conclude by mentioning that plan was interested in such popular views (popular both then and now and perhaps forevermore) as that wodness is the same thing na pleasure, that self-control to not the best way to ya happiness, and that it is better to exploit other than to be explored by them. He found, when he considered these ideas cancilly, that they are mistaken. So if you are temple to ugres with any of these ideas, we ten mend that you read the Republie and another famous Platonic dialogue, the Cargas, be fore arranging your affairs in the belief that they are true. You should also read the box “The Goform Philosophy of Aristippus.” We present a briel excerpt from the Gorgasa the end of the chapter hesara, the Lucanian A strong echo of Maonie ethical themes may be found in the work of Aesara u SAH why, a Greek philosopher from Lucania (in southern Italy), who probably lived around 350 Cz. Only a fragment of her original work survives, Aesara has been mentioned only rarely in textbooks in philosophy, perhaps because of the scanty remains of her work, perhaps owing to other reasons. But she is interesting and worth reading, well-functioning soul.
Chapter 10 Moral Philosophy 217 Like Plato, Aesara was concerned with the nature of human well-being, or the good life. And like Plato, she saw the key to this to be the well-ordered, virtuous, or saw that the well-functioning state replicates the balance and order that exists in the “just” soul-the balanced and harmonious ly functioning psyche. Also like Plato, sh eAesara’s analysis of the human psyche or soul was very similar to Plato’s. She ideas and reaches decisions. Spiritedness is the part of the soul that gives a person the thought the soul has three parts: the mind, spiritedness, and desire. The mind analyzes ability to carry out decisions; we might cal l it the will. The element of desire con tainsIt is worth noting that the role of women in ancient Greek society was to stay at home and raise virtuous, rational offspring, the male versions of whom would run the world of government and the marketplace-the world outside the home. As a woman, Aesara was keenly aware that men, even men philosophers, sometimes tended to think that justice applied only to the world outside the home. Are two different approaches to moral philosophy needed, one for inside the home and another for dealings with people outside the family and for public institutions? We will encounter this question again in more recent moral emotions such as love.
times, but it seems clear that Aesara’ s answer would be “no.” All morally sign ificantOnly a fragment of Aesara’s original work remains. Even though Aesara’s influence on the history of philosophy was less than that of, say, Plato or Aristotle, we remain convinced of the value of including Aesara’s thoughts here. A more elegant statement than Aesara’s cannot be found for two ancient Greek ideas-the idea that from the wellordered soul, the soul characterized by the harmonious functioning and proper proportioning of its elements, springs virtue, and the idea that the human soul is the model for society. Human nature,” she said, provides the standard for law and justice for both the home and the city. If you understand the nature of the soul, you understand how society and social justice ought to be.
proportions of reason, will power, and such positive affective emotions as love.
Aristotle The ultimate source of all value for Plato was the form of the Good, an entity that is distinct from the particular things that populate the natural world, the world we perceive through our senses. This Platonic idea, that all value is grounded in a nonnatural source, is an element of Plato’s philosophy that is found in many ethical systems and is quite recognizable in Christian ethics. But not every ethical system postulates a nonnatural source of value. Those systems that do not are called naturalistic ethical systems. According to ethical naturalism, moral judgments are really judgments of fact about the natural world. Thus, Aristotle, for instance, who was the first great ethical naturalist, believed that the good for us is defined by our natural objective. Now, what would you say is our principal or highest objective by nature? According to Aristotle, it is the attainment of happiness, for it is that alone that we seek for its own cake And henonce the attainment of happiness is naturally our highest object ive, it 9 Part Two Moral and Political Philosoph yIn what does happinew, our highest wad, umehull potenciano hoteles, to now we must consider the human being’s function to diserter What Wednese te for was chle, or anything whatsoever, we must consider its function, what woully des Ang when we consider what the human animal derus, ue # human and we see that, toe essentially, it (9) lives and (b) ress onsThus, happiness conuius of two things, Armente concluded enpyment (thensures and the exercise and development as the capacity to reason hente in part en entryman because the human being as a wing thing, hus wetendent needs and imples the sati boulon of which is pleasurable. And a constate in part of developing and exercising the eapaelly to reason, because only the human belte, us diminet from other living things, has that eapaelty, Because this eapachy differemiues humans from other living things, 1 exereise was stressed by Aristotle as the mou important component of happiness, Pleasure alone does not constitute happiness, he wed, The exercise of our unique and distinctive empany to turn was verned by Animele virnue thus Aristotle’s famous phrase that happiness is ativity in wundanes with vie tue. There are two different kinds of virtues. To enerchus netively out reasoning abilities, as when we study nature or cogliate about something, is to be intellectually virtuous, but we also exereise our rational espacity by moderating our Impulses and appetites, and when we do t his, we were said by Aristotle to be morally vir tuousThe largest part of Aristotle’s major ethical work, the Nicomachean Pahies, is deveres to analysis of specifle moral virtues, which Aristotle held to be the mean between extremes (e, courage is the mean between fearing everything and fearing nothing). He emphasized as well that virtue is a matter of habits just as an ax that is only occasionally sharp does not full its function well, the human who exercises his rational capacities only occasionally does not fulni his function, that is, is not virtuous, Aristotle also had the important insight that a person’s pleasures reveal his true moral character, “He who faces danger with pleasure, or, at any rate, without pain, is courageous,” he observed, “but he to whom this is painful is a coward. Of course, we might object that he who is willing to face danger despite the pain it brings him is the most courageous, but this is a quibble, Another distinction made by Aristotle is that between instrumental ends and intrin sie ends. An Instrumental end is an act performed as a means to other ends. An intrinsie end is an act performed for its own sake, For example, when we sat down to write this book, our end was to finish it. But that end was merely instrumental to another end to provid e our readers with a better understanding of phi losophyBut now notice that the last goal, the goal of providing our readers with a better understanding of philosophy, is instrumental to a further end, namely, an enlightened society. Notice, too, that when your teacher grades you and the other students in the class, that act is instrumental to your learning, and that end also is instrumental to an enlightened society. As a matter of fact, all the activities in the university are aimed at producing an enlightened society. For example, your teacher may recently have received a promotion.
Promotions are instrumental to effective teaching in your university, and effective teaching also is instrumental to an enlightened society, But notice that that end, an enlightened society ie mavels
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