Most Appealing?

Posted On December 11, 2008

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Can any one ethicist be more appealing? The obvious answer is yes, but the problem is that through the years, after each ethicist has said their piece another comes in wuith a new idea that finds flaws with the previous and sets them right.  There is no perfect system of ethics because there is no one system that would do the job for each and every person in the world.  With so many different theories it isnt a matter of who is right and who is wrong, it should be more about whose got the most centrally right theory and work from that.  i think that each of the philosophers that we dealt with this year had some piece of wisdom or appealing notion, but as we saw, their system was flawed.  One theory does not suffice to be instituted globally or even naitionally because it isnt just one system that works, they all work and they are all flawed, but in order to have a cohesive and population fitting system , you need to piece together the good parts of the theory, each part that makes sense, isn’t contradictory and helps those under the law to be educated and naturally good. No one philosopher is right, and only through a collaborative effort can we create a funtional system of ethics.

Murderousness

Posted On December 8, 2008

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For Aristotle murder is bad.  This may sound like the essence of all that is moral, but when defining what is moral or not, we cannot go in with any preconceived notions about any action so murder is the same as any other action being considered.  For Aristotle virtues can be found to be in excess or lacking the certain balance desired.  In the case of fear, which isnt a virtue, but can create one, the lack of fear is recklessness, or no fear at all, and the overabumndance of fear is cowardess.  The balance that is desired is bravery.  This can fluctuate due to the person and the situation, but it is still considered bravery and a virtue.  In the case of murder, it is not one of these general principles that can be found in excess or lacking.  Can murder be in excess? Or is it just considered murder?  Likewise can murder be found lacking?  Murder is itself an excess of another general idea.  In this case, murder coudl be the excess of self preservation.  this requires a certain amount of ferosity, but also an amount of relaxing.  the excess of self preservation could lead to murder and the lack of preservation could lead to relxaing-or not fighting at all.  For Aristotle, murder is wrong because it can only be an excess and therefore not desirable as it is not a balnce between both sides.

Party!? For social contracts?

Posted On November 23, 2008

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Hobbes believes that he has a very solid basis for his social contract, but what about children?  Are they party to the social contract?  They are born and seem to be in a grace period where they are able to do almost whatever they want with no real sconsequences, they can say what they want, hit people, scream, and skip over their vegetables for the ice cream, but what about when they get older?  When does the gray are stop and the contract start affecting them?  As we grow we progressively get more of the rights that we are allowed:we get to drive, get a license, smoke, drink, enter the work force, pay taxes and go to school.  These rights are given to us when we are assumed to be capable of understanding and accepting the responsibility that these rights require, but we never accepted the contract, we were just born into it.  We never said I like this contract, the terms are fair and decent and I trust the people I am handing my rights to, so sign me up.  This wasn’t a step.  It is just assumed that we want to go along with everything.  This doesn’t go with Hobbes’ idea that all parties involved must consent to the contract.  Also the rationing of our rights to us as we grow up doesn’t go with the idea that we give up rights to hold on to other ones.  We give up rights when we are born, if a child kills someone then they still go to jail and are punished, less harshly, but punished none the less.  If we have given up certain rights then why are we allotted rights that are rightfully ours to begin with?  By Hobbes’ own standards, we are entitled to every right that is ours for our ceded rights.  Childrenhave found the gray area where they are neither considered fully in the contract because they dont have all of their rights, but are also party to the contract because they have already given up many rights.  This seems like a difficult argument, on one hand you could have children driving and drinking, smoking and voting while on the other, you have persons invovled in a contract without receiving the full benefits of the contract.  The first scenario is not the case because of responsibility issues, children are not responsible enough to receive all of their rights immediately so they are portioned out at appropriate ages.  This is the common sense solution, but by the Hobbesian theory, children, who are party to the contract because they ahve given up some of their rights, should receive benefits from the contract.

Morality of A Government?

Posted On November 20, 2008

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Are governments capable of being moral or immoral? It is clear through this calls that individuals are subject to moral judgement based upon the actions they perform, whether the motives, will, or the consequences of these actions.  This is undisputed, but what happens when an organization that you have surrendered your rights to and that is made up of a group of individuals performs an action that is “immoral”?  First is it really immoral, because our sense of morality is based and defined on the principle of one individual.  In order to be morally judged, a government would have to be lowered to an individual entity and not a group any more.  This would certainly make an organization capable of being judged, but is it acceptable?

Second, who is to blame in an organization?  You can punish all of the members, but in the case of governments can you really punish any of them?  You can punish certain members, but when it becomes such a big affair, punishing the government could negatively affect the structure of a country.  Even punishment is overseen by a government organization, the police, FBI, and other authorities. it doesnt seem effective to have a subdivision of the government punishing the larger entity for wrong doings.  There just seems to be something wrong with that.

Thirdly, if a government doesnt work, than can it be moral?  Likewise, if a government works can it be immoral?  If a government does its assigned task to the satisfaction of the goerned can it be immoral?   these two ideas are tied together.  If a government works then it is moral, while if it doesn’t work, then it is immoral.  There seems to be almost no difference between these two issues except that a government that is moral is seen as working while one that fails is seen as immoral.

Governments are subject to their own laws and cannot be lowered to the status reserved for individuals.  Governments are not thought of as moral or immoral, but rather as working and not working.  Governments are not subject to moral judgement in the ways of man.  A separate system is necessary to evaluate the actions of governments.

The State of Nature

Posted On November 17, 2008

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If the world was cast back into history to a time where we as people were only concerned with ourselves and with no one else, then things would be hard and difficult as Hobbes predicts, but would it be that bad?  Hobbes pictures an all out selfishness bordering on insanity taking hold of everyone like a virus.  This causes distrust and evil doings on everyones part because all are afraid of the limits of resources.  I agree that this would be the case, mankind would revert to a nasty life full of necessary paranoia-constantly trying to protect every tiny object of value, hordeing food to eat later, and general evil plotting.  There is a theory that this system would work itself out.  in order to overcome large obstacles, people are forced to work together-if ken and boones wanted the same apple stashed at another’s house and randomly met one night while trying to sneak in, chances are that they will join forces to acheive a common goal.  Through this temporary alliance, a small amount of acceptance is introduced and a relationship is begining to form.  This leads to a group or a band of individuals with the same casue workign together to make life easier for all.  The groups would be small because large groups are difficult to sustain, but it is still a group.  It then becomes easier to hold a group to a standard because of internal penalties and laws.  This is to me a necessary part in the progression from S.o.N. to giving up the right to other people’s property.    Another possibility is the introduction of family into the world and family ties-causing a unit or band through blood.

I dont think that Hobbes’ view of the S.o.N. is right, things probably wouldnt be that bad.  they would be dirty, evil and scary, but it wouldnt be a constant all out fight for one tiny apple, simply on the fact that that one apple would do little to nothing in the fight to keeping you alive that it would not be worth the energy to snatch it.  I thionjk that if the opportunity arose where it was easily accessible then it would be taken, but if someone had to fight through doors, a moat, anti air craft guns and so on for a tiny apple, there is no way that it is worth it.

The Lesser of Two Evils

Posted On November 13, 2008

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The main concern that has been evident from Kant’s writings is the idea of no leninecy in any of his moral duties.  It is never ok to go against any duty.  This seems to be too harsh of a theory for the human race.  Humans seem to require some amount of leniency in laws and other regulations that they are required to follow.  Nothing can just be black and white as there will always be some circumstance that will test the boundaries of these strict seperations.  Leniency is a necessary occurrence in the human world.  Kant allows for no such leniency, a duty must be followed no matter what the outcome.  Along with this is the idea of butting heads of duties.  If two duties are contradicting each other in the same situation, then which are you to follow?  You can’t break either of them so what do you do?  Kant presents no answer to this.

Mills has flaws as well, with his ideas of some leniency as long as it doesn’t become a normal habit.  Utilitarianism also doesnt present any time limit for the aquittal of responsibility for an action.  there is also the issue an inability to calcualte the consequences felt by the world in such a complex and populated world.  There is no way to tell if an action is going to increase overall happiness in this complicated and ever changing world.

It seems that if we could combine these two ideas and bring in a synthesis of these two theories, one that allowed for the following of duties but allowed some amount of leniency, was concerned with the consequences as well as the motives of an action, and considered happiness on some sort of scale.  Both have many qualities that seem necessary in the formation of a universal system of morality, but in choosing between them, utilitarianism seems the more fitting because of its leniency for specific situations.  Utilitarianism also doesnt have the butting heads problem of Kant’s theory.

Rationality

Posted On November 10, 2008

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In the thought experiment that we did in class about cultivating our natural talents, rationality deemed that it was immoral to not develop these talents.  This may be all well and good for Kant, but does allowing a talent to rest make this action immoral?  If it is rational to cultivate your talent because it will help you in the future, then it is based on self interest that Kant says this.  So Self interest is a large part of determining rationality of an action.  Self interest almsot leads rationality.  If it is not in the interest of the talented party, then would it be rational to not cultivate this talent?  If an action doesnt have self interest to the actor, then is this action rational?  Does kants rationality depend on self love or interest to make it rational?  That is to say that any action should only be performed if it has rationality in the sense that it is somehow serving the person doing the action?  This seems like a veryt limited vision of rationality.  if you don’t get something out of it then why do it doesnt seem to go well with our idea of morality.

Maxims that don’t work

Posted On November 2, 2008

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Categorical imperative states that the morality of an action depends on the extent that an action could become universal.  A maxim is the version of the law in your mind, so if you take your maxim or version of the law and make it universal, morality depends on the idea that everyone can follow it.  In the maxim of if I want a good grade, I will cheat, if one person followed this then everything would be ok: there would be only one person cheating.  If everyone followed this, there would be many problems.  If everyone cheated, then we would all presumably get the same answers and as soon as the test was handed in the teacher would see this.  After other tests and retests, when the answers were still the same, then the teacher would realize what was happening and figure out some way to make it impossible to cheat, or just stop giving tests all together.  In the instance that the teacher stops giving tests, then it makes it so that nobody can follow the maxim because no one can cheat now.  This maxim is immoral because there is no situation that everyone can follow the maxim.

My thought while we were going over this in class was that if everyone was cheating then nobody would have any answers so there would be no one to cheat off of.  If everyone was going to cheat then no one would study and no one would put down answers.  Cheating depends on someone writing down answers so that others can cheat off of them.  If no one writes anything down then no one can cheat.  This was just a different way to get to the answer that the maxim is immoral.

Happiness, really all its cracked up to be?

Posted On October 29, 2008

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Does happiness have intrinsic value? if the world is gone suddenly and all that is left is happiness does it still have value?  this is interesting because happiness depends on its opposite to be recognized.  If we never felt saddness or pain we would never be able to know happiness so if happiness was alone would we really know what it was?  If all we experienced was happiness would we be able to distinguish it?  Happiness only has value if we are there to experience it, in itself it doenst really have value.  happiness only matters if someone experineces it, it does no good if it just floats around avoiding people. For me happiness is not intrinsic, if we all unexpected left the planet never to return, and happiness was left here, it would be of no use because no one would be able to experience it and experience is all happiness is really good for..

A timeless flaw

Posted On October 26, 2008

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my question stems from the idea that we dont necessarily know the effects or consequences our actions can have on the happiness of the world.  In Mill’s time, there was limited interaction between nations so the consequences of actions would have had more of a domestic effect rather than global ones.  Nowadays when we as people cannot even seem to buy anything made in the US and countries trade constantly, what happens to them funnels to us.  This is in essensce the butterfly effect- and how do we know the full extent of our actions on a global scale?  There is almost no way to know how our actions will affect the people in the rest of the world.  How can we know the change in overall happiness if we cannot calculate it? If i decide to not buy a pair of shoes which causes a family somewhere to go hungry for weeks because they were laid off from the shoe factory?, my happiness didnt change really and the family was extremely unhappy.  Is my decision to not buy the shoes then a morally bad decison?  What if i decide to take the dollar I was going to give to charity and spend it on a whopper instead.  The person who would have ultimately received my dollar doesnt recieve the help he or she needs and as a consequence of my action cant go to school.  Is my refrain from donating perceived as a bad action?  So I ask Mill if he thinks that in this global market world, where all nations effect each other, utilitarianism can still be construed as a constructive and viable theory concerning the moral values of actions?

I think that Mill would pause and consider this theory and then try to talk his way around it.  It just seems that utilitarianism would lose a lot of its power.  For a world that has a limited amount of chain reactions ie: one action leads to another which leads to another, like Mill had, if we add a few billion people and even more chain reactions even the smallest decision could exacerbate and become some huge catastrophe.  I dont know what Mill would say, probably that there would still be a way to calculate your actions, but how would he view the idea that a small, everyday decision could be causing bad things to happen even though the action I took hurt no one directly? Are the changing times a problem for Mill and his utilitarianism?

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