Ethics: Critical Thinking And Ethics

Ethics: Critical Thinking And Ethics

Critical Thinking And Ethics

Chapter 1

Ethics and the Examined Life

Copyright © 2019 W. W. Norton & Company



Also called “moral philosophy”

The philosophical study of morality



What Does “Doing Ethics” Mean?

Deliberating about the rightness or wrongness of actions

Judging the goodness of your character or intentions

Examining the soundness of your moral outlook when it

conflicts with that of others •

Examining your own and other people’s moral outlook

Questioning whether your moral decision making rests on

coherent supporting considerations




Beliefs concerning right and wrong

These beliefs can include: o Judgments o Values o Rules o Principles o Theories

Morality helps o Guide our actions o Define our values o Give us reasons for being the persons we are



The Questions of Ethics – 1

What is the greatest good?

Also, What goals should I pursue in life?

What virtues should I cultivate?



The Questions of Ethics – 2

What duties should I fulfill?

What value should I put on human life?

How important is it to pursue the common good, do justice, and respect rights?



The Risks of Not Doing Ethics


Loss of personal freedom

Incomplete, confused, or mistaken responses

Stunted intellectual and moral growth

Although perhaps embodying an uncritically embraced

morality, one will be incapable of defending one’s beliefs by rational argument against criticisms

Of course, “[e]thics does not give us a royal road to moral truth. Instead, it shows us how to ask critical questions about morality and systematically seek answers supported by good reasons.”



Divisions of Ethics – 1

Descriptive ethics: the scientific study of moral beliefs and practices

Its aim is to describe and explain how people actually behave

and think when dealing with moral issues and concepts.

Philosophical divisions of ethics: Philosophers distinguish three major divisions in ethics, each one representing a different way to approach the subject. 1. Normative ethics 2. Metaethics 3. Applied ethics



Divisions of Ethics – 2

1. Normative ethics

The study of the principles, rules, or theories that guide


Purpose: to try to establish the soundness of moral norms

Questions include “Is happiness the greatest good in life?”

and “Should the rightness of actions be judged by their consequences?”



Divisions of Ethics – 3

2. Metaethics •

Study of the meaning and logical structure of moral


Purpose: to question assumptions that inform normative


Questions such as “On what grounds can a moral

principle be justified?” and “Is there such a thing as moral truth?”



Divisions of Ethics – 4

3. Applied ethics

Application of moral norms to specific moral issues or


Purpose: In applied ethics we study the results derived

from applying a moral principle or theory to specific circumstances. The purpose of the exercise is to learn something important about either the moral characteristics of the situation or the adequacy of the moral norms.

• Considers questions such as “Is physician-assisted suicide morally permissible?” and “Is the consumption of animal flesh morally wrong?”



Values and Obligation

Obligation: what is a duty, or what one should or ought to do

Kinds of value

Moral value: reference to a person as good in the moral


Nonmoral value: other uses of “good” that hold no moral

sense (e.g., a good work of art)

Extrinsically valuable: instrumentally valuable, or valuable

as a means to something else

Intrinsically valuable: valuable in themselves because of

what they are, without being a means to something else


The Elements of Ethics – 1

Also, The preeminence of reason: Ethics involves, even requires, critical reasoning.

The universal perspective: Logic requires that moral judgments follow the principle of universalizability—the idea that a moral statement that applies in one situation must apply in all other situations that are relevantly similar.



The Elements of Ethics – 2

The principle of impartiality: Also The welfare and interests of each individual should be given the same weight as those of all others.

The dominance of moral norms: When moral norms conflict with nonmoral norms, moral considerations usually win.



Religion and Morality – 1

Believers need moral reasoning. Many religious commandments and edicts on ethical issues are at best ambiguous, and at times contradictory. Only by doing ethics—thinking critically about the situation—can religious believers interpret religious directives and try to apply general rules to specific cases.



Religion and Morality – 2

Some typical examples of moral conflicts:

Adherents of one religion may disagree with adherents of


Believers within a religious tradition may disagree with one


Believers sometimes disagree with their religious leaders on

moral issues.

Sincere devotees in a religious tradition may wonder if its

moral teachings make sense.



Religion and Morality – 3

• Intelligent resolution of conflicts among moral claims can be achieved only by applying a neutral standard.

• Moral philosophy—the practice of doing ethics—provides that neutral standard in the form of critical thinking, well- made arguments, and careful analysis.



Religion and Morality – 4

Ethics enables productive discourse. Only with a common set of ethical concepts and agreed-upon procedures for deciding issues and making judgments can people from different religious traditions (or people from no religious tradition) talk fruitfully about moral issues.



The Rules of Fruitful and Moral Discourse

1. Moral positions should be explained.

2. Claims should be supported by reasons.

3. Reasoning should be judged by common rational standards.



Divine Command Theory – 1

• Right actions are those willed by God.

Both religious and nonreligious thinkers accept it.

Religious and nonreligious critics reject it. o The Euthyphro dilemma: Is an action morally right because

God wills it to be so, or does God will it to be so because it is morally right?



Divine Command Theory – 2

Criticism of the theory:

1. If actions are right only because God wills them, then many

evil actions would be right if God willed them (God’s commands would be without reason, or arbitrary).

2. But, many philosophers claim, God’s commands cannot be arbitrary.

3. Therefore, actions are not right only because God wills them (divine command theory is false).




This concludes the PowerPoint slide set for Chapter 1 Doing Ethics: Moral Reasoning and Contemporary Issues Fifth Edition (2019) by Lewis Vaughn.

Copyright © 2019 W. W. Norton & Company




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