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Ethics Positions Summary Notes

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Contents Agent-centred morality..............................................................................................................3 Projectivism................................................................................................................................3 Quasi-realism.............................................................................................................................3 Particularism..............................................................................................................................3 Virtue ethics...............................................................................................................................3 Mackie's comment on the virtue-ethical position..................................................................3 Virtue......................................................................................................................................4 Phronesis................................................................................................................................4 Eudaimonia............................................................................................................................4 Cognitivism................................................................................................................................4 Non-cognitivism.........................................................................................................................4 Internalism..................................................................................................................................4 Externalism................................................................................................................................5 Supererogation...........................................................................................................................5 Egoism........................................................................................................................................5 Psychological egoism.............................................................................................................5 The argument for psychological egoism............................................................................5 Rejecting the argument for psychological egoism.............................................................5 The confusions of psychological egoism...........................................................................6 Psychological egoism as an empty doctrine.......................................................................6 Ethical egoism........................................................................................................................7 Arguments for Ethical Egoism...............................................................................................7 Argument from knowledge of the self...............................................................................7 Argument from common practice......................................................................................7 Arguments rejecting ethical egoism.......................................................................................8 Kurt Baier's 'conflict' argument........................................................................................8 The lesson from Baier's conflict argument: self-defeating................................................8 An argument against ethical egoism underlying morality.................................................9 Baier's inconsistency argument.........................................................................................9 Rachels' argument from non-discrimination....................................................................10 Rachels' argument and moral alienation..........................................................................10 1

Ethical egoism and moral non-realism: ducking Rachels' argument...............................10 Other problems for ethical egoism...................................................................................11 Consequentialism.....................................................................................................................11 Forms of consequentialism...................................................................................................11 Utilitarianism....................................................................................................................11 Utilitarianism............................................................................................................................11 Arguments for utilitarianism in general...............................................................................11 Objections to act utilitarianism............................................................................................12 Objections to rule utilitarianism...........................................................................................12 Objections to utilitarianism in general.................................................................................12 Bernard Williams' objections in 'Morality'.....................................................................12 Realism.....................................................................................................................................13 Anti-realism..............................................................................................................................14 Morality....................................................................................................................................14 Rachels' 'minimum conception of morality'.......................................................................14 Theory of self-interest..............................................................................................................14 Local vs global theories.......................................................................................................14 Summative theories..............................................................................................................14 Types of theory of self interest.............................................................................................14 Hedonistic: narrow and preference..................................................................................14 Desire-fulfilment: unrestricted, success theory................................................................15 Objective list....................................................................................................................15

2 Agent-centred morality focusses on the obligation of an agent to bear responsibility for their own actions. According to this view, the agent ought never to do harm - to be responsible for causing harm - even if that harm is caused to mitigate or prevent the harm caused by another. Proponents: Thomas Nagel.

Projectivism is the view that, as David McNaughton puts it in 'Moral Vision', "we project, as it were, our valuational response on to the object of our experience so that the response becomes an integral part of that experience (p.78)." Proponents: Simon Blackburn.

Quasi-realism attempts to explain features of our moral thought that appear to support realism on a non-cognitivist basis. As David McNaughton puts it in his 'Moral Vision', "according to the quasi-realist our present moral thought is not infected with error. Noncognitivism does indeed unmask an error, but it is not in our moral thought but in the conclusions we are tempted to draw from it (p.99)." The quasi-realist, then, attempts to present an alternative ontology to realism that still grounds our moral practice.

Particularism is the view that disavows the notion of moral principles. According to the particularist, our moral actions and reactions must be sensitive to the particular situation before us, and need not admit of any generalisation to similar cases. In his 'Moral Vision', David McNaughton emphasises that for the particularist, such generalisations are at best unhelpful, and at worst harmful.

Virtue ethics is the view that the proper approach to life and to moral problems requires that we (strive to) become the right kind of moral agent, namely a virtuous one. Rosalind Hursthouse separates out three key notions of within virtue ethics in her SEP entry 'Virtue Ethics': virtue, phronesis or moral wisdom, and eudaimonia or an appreciation of the good things in life. Proponents: Rosalind Hursthouse, Aristotle, Confucius.

Mackie's comment on the virtue-ethical position In his 'Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong', Mackie notes the Aristotelian claim that the fundamental moral concern is some notion of the good, or a general end to human life, and that moral reasoning consists partly in understanding this end and partly in realising it. Mackie then distinguishes between two possible claims about the notion of good: a normative, prescriptive one ('one ought to desire X') and a descriptive one ('humans in fact desire X'). Mackie points out that one must be cautious of the slide from one to the other - he notes that the prescriptive claims often gains an (illegimate) sense of objectivity by sliding into the descriptive one. Moreover, he points out that the claim that there is an objective good would come within the scope of his anti-realist arguments (see here). 3

Virtue The first key notion is virtue. As Rosalind Hursthouse puts it in her SEP entry 'Virtue Ethics', "to possess a virtue is to be a certain sort of person with a certain complex mindset." Virtue goes beyond surface character traits to something deeply entrenched in its possessor. Possessing virtue leads an agent to have the right kinds of reactions to situations, to deplore badness and praise and be pleased by goodness - however one wishes to flesh out the virtues and vices inherent in each of these qualities.

Phronesis A virtuous agent also requires phronesis: practical moral wisdom. A virtue makes its possessor good but - as Rosalind Hursthouse notes in her SEP entry 'Virtue Ethics' - we can be good 'to a fault'. Taken beyond their proper extent, virtues can become faults. Phronesis, then, is the wisdom that allows us to go beyond attempting to do the right thing with no notion of its effects or context: Hursthouse uses the example of the well-meaning adolescent who, for example, buys their parents the present they themselves would like. According to Hursthouse, phronesis comes with experience of life; it allows for the appreciation of some aspects of a situation as more important than other. As Hursthouse puts it, "given that good intentions are intentions to act well or 'do the right thing', we may say that practical wisdom
[phronesis] is the knowledge or understanding that enables its possessor, unlike the nice adolescents, to do just that, in any given situation."

Eudaimonia The virtuous agent, then, requires a proper understanding of how to bring about the right kind of result. But for this to be properly directed, they must also have an appreciation for what is truly important, truly worthwhile; for what constitutes - to use Aristotle's term - eudaimonia. This is standardly translated as happiness, flourishing, or well-being. As Hursthouse emphasises, eudaimonia is strongly value-laden. It is not a shallow notion of happiness: it encompasses what to is to live a good life. Disagreements about what constitutes a good life or what constitutes happiness reveal a lack of understanding of the nature of eudaimonia.

Cognitivism is the view that moral opinions are solely cognitive: that, they are "simply and solely beliefs", as David McNaughton puts it in his 'Moral Vision'. For the cognitivist, there is no divide between fact and value: our moral opinions can be fully specified by our knowledge of the facts.

Non-cognitivism is the view - often traced back to Hume - that moral opinions are not solely beliefs about the facts, but also come with an attitude (favourable, unfavourable,...) towards the facts. The non-cognitivist, then, distinguishes between fact and value, between the factual question - 'what are the facts of the matter?' - and the evaluative question - 'what is my reaction to the facts?'. For the non-cognitivist, moral opinions are not purely cognitive: as well as a reaction to the answer to the factual question, they contain an answer to the evaluative question.

Internalism is the view that there is a direct connection between moral views and reasons for action. According to this view, a moral opinion is of itself (possibly when coupled with 4

certain beliefs) sufficient to provide a reason to act. As David McNaughton puts it in his 'Moral Vision', "[internalism] postulated an internal or conceptual connection between an agent's moral attitude and his choice of action (p.22)."

Externalism is the view that an agent may fully aware of the moral requirements upon him and yet see no reason to fulfil those requirements. Under this view, the agent requires something external to motivate him to act. A prominent example is the Humean belief-desire theory, according to which desires provide an agent with the motivation to act (the 'motive force') and beliefs provide the direction that action ought to be channelled in. According to this theory, beliefs alone do not motivate; desires alone are directionless.

Supererogation is the act of going 'above and beyond', of acting in a morally commendable way beyond what is morally required. An act is superogatory if it is morally commendable and exceeds the requirements set by morality.

Egoism is the view that focusses on solely concern for the self. As James Rachels spells it out in his 'Elements of Moral Philosophy', it can be either a psychological thesis or an ethical one.

Psychological egoism According to psychological egoism, all our actions are in fact driven by concern for the self. We are, by our very nature, egoistical beings. The argument for psychological egoism The most common argument is one based on reinterpreting motives. This tactic aims to show that any action in particular - however virtuous or altruistic it may seem - is in fact done from egoistical motives. This argument goes back at least to Hobbes in his attempt to show that altruism could be eliminated from our understanding of human nature. At best, however, this establishes that psychological egoism is possible, not that it actually exists. The second stage, then, is to show that all motives must be reinterpreted egotistically. Rachels suggests two versions of this argument:?

No act can be altruistic because in such cases the agent is simply doing what they want: A cannot be acting altruistically in giving to famine relief because he is fulfilling his own desire to give to famine relief; People act unselfishly to achieve the pleasant state of mind that comes from it, and to avoid the guilt that comes from not doing it.

Rejecting the argument for psychological egoism As a first approach, we can simply note that we often do things we thing we ought to do, even if we do not want to do them. Consider the person who decides to tell the truth about something he has done to prevent an innocent party being blamed, despite the fact he knows he will be punished.

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