Notes for Consequentialism, Kantianism, & Virtue Ethics Consequentialism: Some philosophers, among them, J. S. Mill, believe that the moral value of an action derives entirely from the value of its consequences. In other words, they think that the ends justify the means. For example, Mill thinks that happiness is the greatest good and that actions are right or wrong in proportion, as they tend to promote happiness. So long as the harm is less (harms less people) than the benefits to other people? then harm is acceptable and, in fact, usually a ?normal? result in your choices. The overall consequences are all that matters. In Other Words: Utilitarianism decides ?the right action? based on whatever action produces "the greatest happiness for the greatest number." Refined types of Consequentialism state that Consequences are all that matter when deciding what the right thing to do is. However - you have the additional rule that everyone?s happiness counts the same and that happiness is not just a feeling, but something that is ?better for you.? For example, having patience in a stressful or irritating situation might not bring about immediate happiness to you (because it would make you more immediately happier to yell), but the moral thing to do is keep your patience, because it will bring about more positive outcomes for everyone involved. Good Outcomes = Right Action/ Moral Act. Bad outcome = Bad Action/ Immoral Act Utilitarianism is a theory that will weigh the pros and cons of the situation. ** This theory is the most flawed of the three that we cover. Even though you will see this theory used as justification for many acts in your public and private life. ** Kantianism: Other philosophers, among them, Immanuel Kant, believe that the moral value of an action derives entirely from the value of its motives. In other words, they think that the ends never justify the means; whether an action is right or wrong depends entirely on the motives from which it was done. Kant thinks that it is your moral duty to always tell to the truth, regardless the consequences. For example, if your partner asks you straight out whether you have been cheating on them, it is your moral duty to tell them the truth, regardless of how much it will hurt them. Kant believes that an action is morally good if, only if, it was done from the motive of duty. For example, if Amanda tells the truth because doing so will make her look good in the eyes of her friends, her action has no moral value. Kant?s Categorical Imperatives: An imperative is a (rational) command. Categorical imperatives are commands which are authoritative or binding independently of the desires of any individual agent. They are inescapable, binding requirements. For example: 'Tell the truth!' In the 'Groundwork,' Kant discusses five different forms of the categorical imperative. The first formulation of the Categorical Imperative is the formula of universal law: 'Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.' Kant presented a second formulation of the Categorical Imperative because of people had some confusion regarding the first formulation ? they were justifying immoral acts by manipulating and twisting the first formulation. (also an unethical act!) The Second Formulation of the Categorical Imperative is 'Always threat others, whether yourself or others as an end in themselves and NEVER as a mere means.' You cannot separate these ideas. They are always used together to determine the right thing to do. In Other Words: The first formulation is most clearly encapsulated in The Golden Rule ?Due unto others as you?d have done unto you.? Or We are required to act only in ways that we can universalize and reverse (we can only do what we?d want everyone else to do) The second formulation is most clearly encapsulated in the rule ?Don?t use people? and ?Humans are owed your respect simply because they are human.? The categorical imperative procedure is a procedure which can used to test whether or not a moral action is dutiful. It has three stages: (1) identify the maxim of the action; (2) perform a thought experiment: imagine what the world would be like if everybody acted according to that maxim; (3) if you can imagine such a world without contradiction and can want such a world to actually exist, then the action is your duty. In the former case, it is a perfect duty (a duty to perform a particular action such as keeping a promise); in the latter, an imperfect duty (a duty to promote a particular outcome such as being kind to people). Virtue Ethics: Virtue Ethics is the ?newest of moral theories and combines several ideas. Here are a few of the more well-known: Michael Slote has developed an account of virtue based on our common-sense intuitions about which character traits are admirable. Slote makes a distinction between agent-focused and agent-based theories. Agent-focused theories understand the moral life in terms of what it is to be a virtuous individual, where the virtues are inner dispositions. Aristotelian theory is an example of an agent-focused theory. By contrast, agent-based theories are more radical in that their evaluation of actions is dependent on ethical judgments about the inner life of the agents who perform those actions. There are a variety of human traits that we find admirable, such as benevolence, kindness, compassion, etc. and we can identify these by looking at the people we admire, our moral exemplars. Rosalind Hursthouse developed one detailed account of eudaemonist virtue ethics. Hursthouse argues that the virtues make their possessor a good human being. The good life for humans is the life of virtue and therefore it is in our interest to be virtuous. It is not just that the virtues lead to the good life (e.g. if you are good, you will be rewarded), but rather a virtuous life is the good life because the exercise of our rational capacities and virtue is its own reward. It is important to note, however, that there have been many different ways of developing this idea of the good life and virtue within virtue ethics. Philippa Foot, for example, grounds the virtues in what is good for human beings. The virtues are beneficial to their possessor or to the community Rather than being constitutive of the good life, the virtues are valuable because they contribute to it. (Note: this is similar to Alistair MacIntyre's argument that the virtues enable us to achieve goods within human practices). Another account is given by perfectionists such as Thomas Hurka, who derive the virtues from the characteristics that most fully develop our essential properties as human beings. Individuals are judged against a standard of perfection that reflects very rare or ideal levels of human achievement. The virtues realize our capacity for rationality and therefore contribute to our well-being and perfection in that sense. In short, the concept of Virtue Ethics is a different type of Ethics, instead first focused on what the right thing to do is, it is focused on being the right kind of person. Ultimately the used of virtues like Integrity, Responsibility, Respect for Persons, Justice, Beneficence and Nonmaleficence, and Compassion are important and valuable virtues for individuals to posses and ultimately act on. In Other Words: Virtue Ethics first want you to be the right kind of person and then your right actions will follow. You can be the right kind of person by embodying virtues and role-modeling yourself after those ideals or by role-modeling the virtues you see in others. Ask yourself, ?What Would a Virtuous Person Do??
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