Ethical Concepts and Ethical Theories (Ethicists vs. Moralists (Ethicists…
Ethical Concepts and Ethical Theories
Ethics and Morality
(Latin) are terms having to do with “custom,” ”habit,” and “behavior.
Ethics is the study of morality
What is Morality?
a system of rules for guiding human conduct, and principles for evaluating those rules.
(i) morality is a system
(ii) it is a system comprised of moral rules and principles.
moral rules can be understood as "rules of conduct," which are very similar to "policies."
Rules of Conduct as “Policies”
Policies range from formal laws to "informal, implicit guidelines for actions" (Moor, 1999)
Moor suggests that every act can be viewed as an instance of a policy.
two kinds of rules of conduct
1) Directives for guiding our conduct as individuals (at the micro-level)
2) Social Policies framed at the macro-level
Directives are rules (of conduct) that guide our actions and thus direct us to behave in certain ways.
Rules such as "Do not steal" and "Do not harm others" are both examples of rules of conduct that direct us in our individual moral choices at the "micro-ethical" level (i.e., the level of individual behavior).
Other rules of conduct guide our actions at the "macro-ethical" level by helping us frame social policies.
Rules such as "proprietary software should not be copied" or "software that can be used to invade the privacy of users should not be developed" are examples of rules of conduct that arise out of our social policies.
A correlation between directives and social policies (e.g., rules involving stealing).
The rules of conduct in a moral system are evaluated against standards called principles
For example, the principle of "social utility," which is concerned with promoting the greatest good for the greatest number, can be used to evaluate a social policy such as "proprietary software should not be copied without permission."
In the previous example, the social-utility principle functions as a kind of "litmus test" for determining whether the policy pertaining to proprietary software can be justified on moral grounds.
A certain policy could be justified (on utilitarian grounds) by showing that following the rule for not allowing the unauthorized copying of software would produce more overall social utility (greater good for society).
The term value comes from the Latin valere, which translates roughly into having worth or being of worth.
Values can be conceived as objects of our desires or interests.
Examples of values include very general notions such happiness, love, freedom, etc.
Moral principles are ultimately derived from a society's system of values.
Another approach to cataloguing values is to distinguish core values, some of which may or may not also be intrinsic values, from other kinds of values.
Moor (1998), for example, believes that values such as life, happiness, and autonomy are core values because they are basic to a society's thriving and perhaps even to a society's survival.
Not all core values are also moral values.
Intrinsic vs. Instrumental Values
Philosophers distinguish between two types of values: intrinsic and instrumental values.
Automobiles, computers, and money are goods that have instrumental value.
Any value that serves some further end or good is called an instrumental value because it is tied to some external standard.
Values such as life and happiness are intrinsic because they are valued for their own sake
Moral vs. Non-Moral Values
Morals and values are are not necessarily identical.
Values can be either moral or non-moral.
Reason informs us that it is in our interest to promote values that promote our own survival, happiness, and flourishing as individuals.
When used to further only our own self-interests, these values are not necessarily moral values.
When we frame the rules of conduct in a moral system, we articulate a system of values having to do with notions such as autonomy, fairness, justice, etc., which are moral values.
Grounding the Evaluative Rules in a Moral System
Approach #1: Grounding Moral Principles in a Religious System
From the point of view of institutionalized religion, then, stealing is wrong because of it offends God or because it violates the commands of a supreme authority.
Approach #2: Grounding Moral Principles in a Legal System
If stealing violates a law in a particular nation or jurisdiction, then the act of stealing can be declared to be wrong independent of any religious beliefs that one may or may not happen to have.
Approach #3: Grounding Moral Principles in a Philosophical System of Ethics
On this view, the moral "rightness" or "wrongness" of stealing is not grounded in some external authoritative source.
Does not appeal to an external authority, either theological or legal, for justification
Many philosophers and ethicists argue that, independent of supernatural or legal authorities, reason alone is sufficient to show that stealing is wrong.
They argue that reason can inform us that there is something either in the act of stealing itself or in the consequences that result from this kind of act that makes stealing morally wrong.
In the case of both law and religion, specific sanctions against stealing exists in the form of punishment.
In the case of (philosophical) ethics, the only sanction would be in the form of social disapprobation (disapproval) and possibly social ostracism. But there is no punishment in a formal sense.
External conditions or factors, in the form of sanctions, are irrelevant.
Ethicists vs. Moralists
Ethicists study morality from the perspective of philosophical methodology; they appeal to logical arguments to justify their positions.
Moralists often claim to have all of the answers regarding morality
Many moralists also exhibit characteristics that have been described as "preachy" and "judgmental."
Some moralists may have a particular moral agenda to advance.
Ethicists, who use the philosophical method in their analysis and investigation of moral issues, must remain open to different sides of a dispute.
An ethicist’s primary focus is on the study of morality and the application of theories.
Ethicists approach the study of moral issues and controversies by way of standards that are both rational (based on logic) and impartial (open to others to verify).