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What are the three classic theories?

  1. Aristotle's virtue-based ethics
  2. Kant's duty-based ethics
  3. Mill's utilitarianism


What is Aristotle's chief work of ethics?

Nichomachean Ethics


What is the function (end, aim, purpose) of the good according to Aristotle?

  • "The good has roightly been declared to be that at which all things aim."
  • Happiness!
    • What is happiness?
      • "the many do not give the same account as the wise"
      • the answer varies


Happiness depends on what your view of life is. What are the three conceptions/types of life?

  1. Pleasure (the masses, the "vulgar")
    • life of enjoyment
    • the sensual type of life
  2. Honor (the wealthy)
    • political type of life
  3. Man's chief good (for Aristotle)
    • "leading a good life"
    • life of thought, contemplative life
    • in pursuit of knowledge


What is man's chief good for Aristotle?

  • Happiness is "activity of soul in accordance with perfect virtue"
    • soul = that part of us that makes us capable to reason


How is happiness achieved according to Aristotle?

  • We use reason in order to discover what we OUGHT to do


What are the requirements to achieving happiness?

  • Some external goods
    • Necessities of life
      • shelter, food, clothing
  • Action
    • practice something rather than receiving
    • doing just things, brave things, we become just and brave
  • Use of reason
    • reason is the essence of the soul
  • Virtue
    • two types


What are the two kinds of virtue?

  1. Intellectual virtue ("theoria")
    1. Highest intellectual virtue is contemplation.
      • The desire to know for the sake of knowledge
    2. attained mainly through teaching
  2. Moral virtue ("praxis")
    1. they are determined by a rational principle
      1. "the golden mean"
    2. attained mainly through doing virtuous acts


What is the golden mean?

  • "The mean between the extremes"
    • between deficiency and excess, which are both vices
    • using reason to discover what the mean is
    • Fear: over confident/mean: courage/cowardice


Who was Immanuel Kant?

  • German
  • Epistemology: Critique of Pure Reason
  • deontological ethics (duty-based ethics)
    • Foundation of the metaphysic of morals


What are duties?

  • What is their ontological status?
    • It is some action I should but might not do.
  • The is/ought problem: 
    • It doesn't follow that we ought to do something because they are done that way.
    • The fact that things are done one way does not follow that they are ought to be done that way.


What is Kant's understanding of duty?

  • the moral worth of an action lies NOT in its expected effect, but from the duty upon which moral actions are engendered.
  • two kinds of duties:
    • to ourselves
      • fulfill your potential
      • develop your faculties
      • secure one's own happiness
    • to others
      • to keep our promises
      • to render assistance


How do we determine our duties according to Kant?

  • By religion? which one?
  • By intuition? whose intuitions?
  • By reason? Yes!
    • via reason each person can determine what are its duties.


What is Kant's rational principle?

  • The Categorical Imperative
    • "act only on that maxim [rule of action] whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should be a universal law."


What are the two conditions of the categorical imperative?

  • You should act in accordance with duty, and you know that doing such-and-such is your duty if and only if
    1. you are willing to allow everyone to do such-and-such
    2. you feel that doing such-and-such should be an unconditional universal law binding on the will of every rational person (you and they must do this)


What, then, is a categorical imperative?

  • A command which does possess universality, and as such, is not grounded upon subjective interests.
  • A moral duty willed by a person for its own sake, not for the sake of the agent


What is Kant's hypothetical imperative?

  • a command in the form of a hypothetical proposition (if... then), and is usually formulated for some specific reason.
  • Kant does not consider such imperatives to be applicable to morality, since they may be predicated solely upon subjective inclinations, not universal duty.


What are some problems of Kant's categorical imperative?

  1. All form of consequentialist thinking involve and implicit criticism of Kant because he simply ignored the consequences (which are irrelevant)
  2. Categorical imperative is a purely formal principle, it fails to tell us what they should actually be.
  3. Kant held that moral rules are absolutely binding in all circumstances
    1. Murderer is there to kill your friend. "Is your friend in the house?" What will you say?
    2. Kant says that you must tell the truth


Who was John Stuart Mill?

  • british
  • political philosophy, logic, philosophy of science, ethics
  • outspoken feminist
  • essay "Utilitarianism" (1863)


What is the rational principle in utilitarianism?

  • GHP (greatest happiness principle)
    • "actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness."


What is happiness for utilitarians?

  • a utility - names the positive effects of actions
    • the maximization of pleasure and the absence of pain


What is the "quantitative" sense of "greatest happiness principle"?

  1. Whose happiness matters? the individual
    1. No. 
    2. What maximizes happiness to the greatest number of people. Your happiness is irrelevant.
  2. "actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness in the greatest number of people, and wrong as they tend to produce unhappiness in the greatest number of people."


What is the "qualitative" sense of "greatest happiness principle"?

  • "actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote the highest kinds of happiness in the greatest number of people, wrong as they tend to produce unhappiness in the greatest number of people."
  • "highest kinds of happiness" is not sensual happiness


What are the two types of utilitarianism?

  1. Act utilitarianism
  2. Rule utilitarianism


What is act utilitarianism?

  • the view that we should think about actions one by one, consider the expected consequences of each action, and in light of the felicific calculus, perform the "act" that maximizes happiness for the greatest number of people.
  • Problems?
    • takes too long
    • what happens if the majority is wrong?


What is rule utilitarianism?

  • the view that we should think about actions in terms of the consequences of adopting certain rules, and in light of the felicific calculus,  act in accordance with the "rule" that maximizes happiness for the greatest number of people.