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Chapter 3 Evaluating Moral Arguments

Chapter 4 The Power of Moral Theories

The textbook we will be using: Lewis Vaughn, Doing Ethics, 5th edition. Use it to complete your scheduled assignments. When you use it, cite the author and the page number(s). If you use an outside source, quote it and cite it appropriately.

DOING
ETHICS
‘’
Moral Reasoning and Contemporary Issues
FIFTH EDITION
Lewis Vaughn
n
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CONTENTS
‘’
Preface x i x
PART 1: FUNDAMENTALS
CHAPTER 1
Ethics and the Examined Life
3
The Ethical Landscape 5
The Elements of Ethics 6
The Preeminence of Reason 6
Quick Review 7
The Universal Perspective 7
The Principle of Impartiality 7
The Dominance of Moral Norms 8
Religion and Morality 8
Believers Need Moral Reasoning 9
When Conflicts Arise, Ethics Steps In 9
Moral Philosophy Enables Productive Discourse 9
Critical Thought—Ethics, Religion,
And Tough Moral Issues 10
SUMMARY 1 1
KEY TERMS 1 2
REVIEW QUESTIONS 12
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 12
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 13
FURTHER READING 13
READINGS
What Is the Socratic Method? by Christopher Phillips 14
The Euthyphro by Plato 16
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CONTENTS
CHAPTER 2
Subjectivism, Relativism, and Emotivism
20
Subjective Relativism 21
Quick Review 21
Judge Not? 2 2
Cultural Relativism 2 3
Critical Thought—“Female Circumcision”
And Cultural Relativism 24
Emotivism 2 8
SUMMARY 3 0
KEY TERMS 3 1
REVIEW QUESTIONS 3 1
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 31
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 3 2
FURTHER READING 3 2
READINGS
Anthropology and the Abnormal by Ruth Benedict 33
Trying Out One’s New Sword by Mary Midgley 35
PART 2: MORAL REASONING
CHAPTER 3
Evaluating Moral Arguments
Claims and Arguments 41
Arguments Good and Bad 43
Critical Thought—The Morality
Of Critical Thinking 44
Implied Premises 4 7
Quick Review 47
Deconstructing Arguments 48
Moral Statements and Arguments 51
Testing Moral Premises 54
Assessing Nonmoral Premises 55
Quick Review 55
41
CONTENTS
Á
v
Avoiding Bad Arguments 56
Begging the Question 56
Equivocation 5 7
Appeal to Authority 57
Appeal To Emotion 57
Slippery Slope 5 8
Faulty Analogy 5 8
Appeal to Ignorance 58
Straw Man 5 9
Appeal to the Person 59
Hasty Generalization 59
Quick Review 60
Writing and Speaking about Moral Issues 60
SUMMARY 6 2
KEY TERMS 6 2
REVIEW QUESTIONS 63
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 63
ARGUMENT EXERCISES 63
FURTHER READING 64
CHAPTER 4
The Power of Moral Theories
Theories of Right and Wrong 65
Moral Theories Versus Moral Codes 66
Major Theories 6 7
Consequentialist Theories 67
Nonconsequentialist Theories 68
Quick Review 69
Evaluating Theories 70
Criterion 1: Consistency with Considered Moral Judgments 71
Considered Moral Judgments 72
Criterion 2: Consistency with Our Moral Experiences 72
Critical Thought—A 100 Percent All-Natural Theory 73
Criterion 3: Usefulness in Moral Problem Solving 73
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CONTENTS
Quick Review 74
Devising a Coherent Moral Theory 74
Moral Common Sense 74
Building a Moral Theory 75
Prima Facie Principles 76
Three Rules 7 7
Self-Evidence 8 0
SUMMARY 8 1
KEY TERMS 8 1
REVIEW QUESTIONS 8 1
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 82
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 8 2
FURTHER READING 8 2
PART 3: THEORIES OF MORALITY
CHAPTER 5
Consequentialist Theories: Maximize the Good
85
Ethical Egoism 8 5
Applying the Theory 86
Evaluating the Theory 87
Can Ethical Egoism Be Advocated? 89
Quick Review 91
Utilitarianism 9 1
Applying the Theory 94
Peter Singer, Utilitarian 95
Quick Review 96
Evaluating the Theory 96
Learning from Utilitarianism 100
Social Contract Theory 100
Critical Thought—Cross-Species Transplants: What Would A
Utilitarian Do? 101
Hobbes’s Theory 1 0 1
Evaluating the Theory 102
CONTENTS
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SUMMARY 1 0 4
KEY TERMS 1 0 5
REVIEW QUESTIONS 105
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 105
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 106
FURTHER READING 106
READINGS
Egoism and Altruism by Louis P. Pojman 107
Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill 111
A Theory of Justice by John Rawls 115
The Entitlement Theory of Justice by Robert Nozick 122
CHAPTER 6
Nonconsequentialist Theories: Do Your Duty
Kant’s Ethics 1 3 2
Critical Thought—Sizing Up The Golden Rule 134
Applying the Theory 135
Evaluating the Theory 136
Kant, Respect, And Personal Rights 137
Learning from Kant’s Theory 138
Natural Law Theory 139
Applying the Theory 141
Quick Review 141
Critical Thought—Double Effect
And The “Trolley Problem” 142
Evaluating the Theory 142
Learning from Natural Law 143
SUMMARY 1 4 4
KEY TERMS 1 4 4
REVIEW QUESTIONS 144
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CONTENTS
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 145
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 1 45
FURTHER READING 1 4 6
READINGS
Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals
by Immanuel Kant 146
Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas 155
Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives by Philippa Foot 165
CHAPTER 7
Virtue Ethics: Be a Good Person
The Ethics of Virtue 1 72
Critical Thought—Learning Virtues
In The Classroom 173
Virtue in Action 1 7 4
Evaluating Virtue Ethics 174
Critical Thought—Warrior Virtues And Moral
Disagreements 176
Quick Review 177
Learning from Virtue Ethics 177
SUMMARY 1 7 7
KEY TERMS 1 7 8
REVIEW QUESTIONS 1 78
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 178
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 1 78
FURTHER READING 1 7 9
READINGS
Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle 179
The Need for More Than Justice by Annette C. Baier 188
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CONTENTS
CHAPTER 8
Feminist Ethics and the Ethics of Care
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Feminist Ethics 1 9 7
Critical Thought—Feminist Ethics In History 197
The Ethics of Care 198
Quick Review 199
SUMMARY 1 9 9
KEY TERMS 1 9 9
REVIEW QUESTIONS 199
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 200
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 200
FURTHER READING 200
READINGS
Feminist Ethics by Alison M. Jaggar 201
The Ethics of Care as Moral Theory by Virginia Held 209
PART 4: ETHICAL ISSUES
CHAPTER 9
Abortion
Issue File: Background 221
Abortion In The United States: Facts And Figures 223
Moral Theories 2 2 4
Majority Opinion In R oe V. W ade 225
Abortion And The Scriptures 226
Moral Arguments 2 27
Quick Review 227
State Abortion Laws 229
Critical Thought—Fact-Checking Abortion Claims 231
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CONTENTS
SUMMARY 2 3 3
KEY TERMS 2 3 4
REVIEW QUESTIONS 2 34
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 234
FURTHER READING 2 3 5
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 2 35
READINGS
A Defense of Abortion by Judith Jarvis Thomson 237
On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion by Mary Anne Warren 247
Why Abortion Is Immoral by Don Marquis 256
Virtue Theory and Abortion by Rosalind Hursthouse 268
Abortion Through a Feminist Ethics Lens by Susan Sherwin 274
CHAPTER 10 Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide
The Death Of Karen Ann Quinlan 286
Issue File: Background 286
Landmark Court Rulings 288
Quick Review 289
Moral Theories 2 8 9
Critical Thought—Dr. Kevorkian
And Physician-Assisted Suicide 291
Moral Arguments 2 9 1
Public Opinion And Euthanasia 293
SUMMARY 2 9 5
KEY TERMS 2 9 6
REVIEW QUESTIONS 2 96
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 296
FURTHER READING 2 9 6
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 2 97
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CONTENTS
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READINGS
Active and Passive Euthanasia by James Rachels 300
The Wrongfulness of Euthanasia by J. Gay-Williams 304
Voluntary Active Euthanasia by Dan W. Brock 307
Euthanasia by Philippa Foot 315
Killing and Allowing to Die by Daniel Callahan 329
Euthanasia for Disabled People? by Liz Carr 332
CHAPTER 11 Delivering Health Care
Issue File: Background 334
Health Care By Country 336
Critical Thought—Comparing Health Care Systems 337
Moral Theories 3 3 8
Moral Arguments 3 39
Quick Review 340
SUMMARY 3 4 0
KEY TERMS 3 4 1
REVIEW QUESTIONS 341
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 341
FURTHER READING 342
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 342
READINGS
Autonomy, Equality and a Just Health Care System by Kai Nielsen 344
The Right to a Decent Minimum of Health Care by Allen E. Buchanan 350
Is There a Right to Health Care and, If So, What Does It Encompass?
by Norman Daniels 363
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CONTENTS
CHAPTER 12 Animal Welfare
37 1
Issue File: Background 372
Critical Thought—Using Animals To Test Consumer
Products 3 7 4
Moral Theories 3 7 5
Critical Thought—Should We Experiment
On Orphaned Babies? 377
Quick Review 378
Moral Arguments 3 7 8
SUMMARY 3 7 9
KEY TERMS 3 8 0
REVIEW QUESTIONS 3 80
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 380
FURTHER READING 3 8 0
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 3 81
READINGS
All Animals Are Equal by Peter Singer 384
The Case for Animal Rights by Tom Regan 394
Difficulties with the Strong Animal Rights Position
by Mary Anne Warren 401
The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research by Carl Cohen 407
How to Argue for (and Against) Ethical Veganism by Tristram McPherson 414
CHAPTER 13 Environmental Ethics
Issue File: Background 430
Climate Change—How We Know It’s Real 432
Moral Theories 4 3 4
Quick Review 435
Moral Arguments 4 3 5
Critical Thought—Should Pandas Pay The Price? 436
SUMMARY 4 3 8
KEY TERMS 4 3 8
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CONTENTS
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xiii
REVIEW QUESTIONS 439
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 439
FURTHER READING 439
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 440
READINGS
People or Penguins by William F. Baxter 442
It’s Not My Fault: Global Warming and Individual Moral Obligations by Walter
Sinnott-Armstrong 446
Are All Species Equal? by David Schmidtz 458
The Land Ethic by Aldo Leopold 465
CHAPTER 14 Racism, Equality, and Discrimination
470
Issue File: Background 471
Critical Thought—White Privilege 474
Critical Thought—Are Legacy Admissions Racist? 479
Moral Theories 4 8 0
Critical Thought—Are Whites-Only Scholarships Unjust? 481
Quick Review 482
Moral Arguments 482
SUMMARY 484
KEY TERMS 485
REVIEW QUESTIONS 485
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 486
FURTHER READING 486
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 486
READINGS
Racisms by Kwame Anthony Appiah 489
Racism: What It Is and What It Isn’t by Lawrence Blum 499
Dear White America by George Yancy 508
Uses and Abuses of the Discourse of White Privilege by Naomi Zack 511
The Case Against Affirmative Action by Louis P. Pojman 514
In Defense of Affirmative Action by Tom L. Beauchamp 526
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CONTENTS
CHAPTER 15 Sexual Morality
536
Issue File: Background 536
Sexual Behavior 5 3 6
Vital Stats—Sexual Behavior 537
Campus Sexual Assault 538
Critical Thought—Proving Sexual Assault 540
Moral Theories 5 4 1
Moral Arguments 5 4 2
Quick Review 544
SUMMARY 5 4 4
KEY TERMS 5 4 5
REVIEW QUESTIONS 5 45
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 545
FURTHER READING 5 4 6
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 5 46
READINGS
Plain Sex by Alan H. Goldman 548
Sexual Morality by Roger Scruton 557
Why Shouldn’t Tommy and Jim Have Sex? A Defense of Homosexuality
by John Corvino 5 6 4
Seduction, Rape, and Coercion by Sarah Conly 571
Sex under Pressure: Jerks, Boorish Behavior, and Gender Hierarchy
by Scott A. Anderson 582
CHAPTER 16 Free Speech on Campus
Issue File: Background 590
Critical Thought—Who Can Say The N-Word? 591
Microaggressions 593
Moral Theories 5 9 4
Critical Thought—Is Hate Speech Violence? 595
College Students And Free Speech 596
Quick Review 597
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CONTENTS
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Moral Arguments 5 97
SUMMARY 5 9 7
KEY TERMS 5 9 8
REVIEW QUESTIONS 598
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 598
FURTHER READING 599
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 599
READINGS
Why It’s a Bad Idea to Tell Students Words Are Violence
by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff 601
Restoring Free Speech on Campus by Geoffrey R. Stone and Will Creeley 605
Speech Codes and Expressive Harm by Andrew Altman 606
What “Snowflakes” Get Right About Free Speech by Ulrich Baer 615
The Progressive Ideas behind the Lack of Free Speech on Campus
by Wendy Kaminer 618
CHAPTER 17 Drugs, Guns, and Personal Liberty
621
Issue File: Background 621
Drugs: Social Harms versus Personal Freedom 621
Critical Thought—Does Legalizing Medical Marijuana
Encourage Use Among Teenagers? 622
Diverse Views On Legalizing Marijuana 623
Gun Ownership: Security versus Individual Rights 624
Vital Stats—Guns In The United States 625
Survey—Views Of U.S. Adults On Gun Policy 626
Moral Theories 6 2 6
Moral Arguments 6 28
Quick Review 630
SUMMARY 6 3 1
KEY TERMS 6 3 1
REVIEW QUESTIONS 631
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CONTENTS
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 632
FURTHER READING 6 3 2
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 6 32
READINGS
The Ethics of Addiction by Thomas Szasz 634
Against the Legalization of Drugs by James Q. Wilson 643
Gun Control by Hugh LaFollette 652
Political Philosophy and the Gun Control Debate: What Would Bentham,
Mills, and Nozick Have to Say? by Stacey Nguyen 663
CHAPTER 18 Capital Punishment
Issue File: Background 666
Moral Theories 6 6 8
Critical Thought—The Morality Of Botched
Executions 6 70
Quick Review 672
Moral Arguments 6 7 3
Critical Thought—Different Cases,
Same Punishment 674
SUMMARY 6 7 5
KEY TERMS 6 7 6
REVIEW QUESTIONS 6 76
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 676
FURTHER READING 6 7 6
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 6 77
READINGS
The Ultimate Punishment: A Defense by Ernest van den Haag 679
Justice, Civilization, and the Death Penalty: Answering van den Haag
by Jeffrey H. Reiman 684
The Case Against the Death Penalty by Hugo Adam Bedau 690
A Life for a Life by Igor Primoratz 698
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CONTENTS
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CHAPTER 19 Political Violence: War, Terrorism, and Torture
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705
Issue File: Background 705
Critical Thought—Preemptive War On Iraq 708
Moral Theories 7 1 5
Moral Arguments 7 17
Quick Review 721
SUMMARY 7 2 1
KEY TERMS 7 2 2
REVIEW QUESTIONS 722
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 722
FURTHER READING 723
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 723
READINGS
Reconciling Pacifists and Just War Theorists by James P. Sterba 726
Drones, Ethics, and the Armchair Soldier by John Kaag 735
Can Terrorism Be Morally Justified? by Stephen Nathanson 737
The Case for Torturing the Ticking Bomb Terrorist by Alan M. Dershowitz 745
My Tortured Decision by Ali Soufan 754
CHAPTER 20 The Ethics of Immigration
Issue File: Background 756
Critical Thought—Deporting Children 760
Quick Review 760
Moral Theories 7 6 1
Critical Thought—Accepting Or Rejecting Refugees 761
Moral Arguments 7 62
SUMMARY 7 6 3
KEY TERMS 7 6 3
REVIEW QUESTIONS 763
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 763
FURTHER READING 764
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 764
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CONTENTS
READINGS
The Morality of Migration by Seyla Benhabib 766
The Moral Dilemma of U.S. Immigration Policy Revisted: Open Borders vs. Social
Justice? by Stephen Macedo 768
Selecting Immigrants by David Miller 781
Immigration and Freedom of Association by Christopher Heath Wellman 787
Freedom of Association Is Not the Answer by Sarah Fine 808
CHAPTER 21 Global Economic Justice
820
Issue File: Background 820
Moral Theories 8 2 2
Vital Stats—The Planet’s Poor And Hungry 822
Moral Arguments 8 2 3
Quick Review 825
SUMMARY 8 2 6
KEY TERMS 8 2 6
REVIEW QUESTIONS 8 26
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 826
FURTHER READING 8 2 7
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 8 27
READINGS
Famine, Affluence, and Morality by Peter Singer 829
Lifeboat Ethics by Garrett Hardin 835
A Critique of Lifeboat Ethics by William W. Murdoch and Allan Oaten 841
The Case for Aid by Jeffrey Sachs 850
G LOSSARY G – 1
A N S WE R S T O ARG U MENT EXERCISES A– 1
NOTES N – 1
INDEX I – 1
PREFACE
‘’
This fifth edition of Doing Ethics contains the most
extensive additions, updates, and improvements
of any previous version. The aims that have shaped
this text from the beginning have not changed: to
help students (1) see why ethics matters to society
and to themselves; (2) understand core concepts
(theories, principles, values, virtues, and the like);
(3) become familiar with the background (scientific,
legal, and otherwise) of contemporary moral problems; and (4) know how to apply critical reasoning
to those problems—to assess moral judgments and
principles, construct and evaluate moral arguments,
and apply and critique moral theories. This book,
then, tries hard to provide the strongest possible
support to teachers of applied ethics who want students, above all, to think for themselves and competently do what is often required of morally mature
persons—that is, to do ethics.
These goals are reflected in the book’s extensive
introductions to concepts, cases, and issues; its
large collection of readings and exercises; and its
chapter-by-chapter coverage of moral reasoning—
perhaps the most thorough introduction to these
skills available in an applied ethics text. This latter
theme gets systematic treatment in five chapters,
threads prominently throughout all the others,
and is reinforced everywhere by “Critical Thought”
text boxes prompting students to apply critical
thinking to real debates and cases. The point of all
this is to help students not just study ethics but to
become fully involved in the ethical enterprise and
the moral life.
NEW FEATURES
• A new chapter on campus free speech, hate
speech, speech codes, speech and violence,
and news-making conflicts: Chapter 16—Free
Speech on Campus. It includes five readings by
notable free speech theorists and commentators.
• A new stand-alone chapter on an increasingly
influential approach to ethics: Chapter 8—
Feminist Ethics and the Ethics of Care. It
includes two new readings by important
theorists in the field.
• A new chapter on the justice of health care—
who should get it, who should supply it, and
who should pay for it: Chapter 11—Delivering
Health Care.
• A new chapter on immigration, immigration
policy, and contemporary conflicts over the
treatment of immigrants: Chapter 20—The Ethics of Immigration. It includes recent research
on some widely believed but erroneous ideas
about U.S. immigration, as well as five readings
that represent contrasting perspectives on the
subject.
• A substantially revised chapter on social
equality, now covering race, racism, racial
prejudice, discrimination, white privilege,
and affirmative action: Chapter 14—Racism,
Equality, and Discrimination. It includes
four new readings on racism and inequality
by prominent participants in the ongoing
debates.
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PREFACE
• A revised chapter on sexuality, now including
examinations not only of sexual behavior but
also of campus sexual assault, rape, harassment, and hookup culture: Chapter 15—Sexual
Morality.
• A greatly expanded chapter on personal liberty,
now including discussions and readings on
using drugs and owning guns: Chapter 17—
Drugs, Guns, and Personal Liberty.
• New sections in Chapter 4—The Power of
Moral Theories, on social contract theory and
one called “Devising a Coherent Moral Theory”
that shows by example how one might develop
a plausible theory of morality.
• A new focus on climate change in the environmental ethics chapter and more emphasis
on torture and drone warfare in the political
violence chapter.
• Eleven new readings by women writers.
• Thirty-seven new readings in all to supplement
the already extensive collection of essays.
• New pedagogical elements: the inclusion of key
terms at the end of each chapter; the addition
of end-of-chapter review and discussion questions; and several new “Cases for Analysis”—
now called “Ethical Dilemmas.”
ORGANIZATION
Part 1 (Fundamentals) prepares students for the tasks
enumerated above. Chapter 1 explains why ethics is
important and why thinking critically about ethical
issues is essential to the examined life. It introduces
the field of moral philosophy, defines and illustrates
basic terminology, clarifies the connection between
religion and morality, and explains why moral reasoning is crucial to moral maturity and personal
freedom. Chapter 2 investigates a favorite doctrine
of undergraduates—ethical relativism—and examines its distant cousin, emotivism.
Part 2 (Moral Reasoning) consists of Chapters 3
and 4. Chapter 3 starts by reassuring students that
moral reasoning is neither alien nor difficult but
is simply ordinary critical reasoning applied to
ethics. They’ve seen this kind of reasoning before
and done it before. Thus, the chapter focuses on
identifying, devising, diagramming, and evaluating moral arguments and encourages practice and
competence in finding implied premises, testing
moral premises, assessing nonmoral premises, and
dealing with common argument fallacies.
Chapter 4 explains how moral theories work
and how they relate to other important elements
in moral experience: considered judgments, moral
arguments, moral principles and rules, and cases
and issues. It reviews major theories and shows how
students can evaluate them using plausible criteria.
Part 3 (Theories of Morality, Chapters 5–8) covers key theories in depth—utilitarianism, ethical
egoism, social contract theory, Kant’s theory, natural law theory, virtue ethics, feminist ethics, and
the ethics of care. Students see how each theory is
applied to moral issues and how their strengths and
weaknesses are revealed by applying the criteria of
evaluation.
In Part 4 (Ethical Issues), each of thirteen chapters explores a timely moral issue through discussion and relevant readings: abortion, euthanasia
and physician-assisted suicide, health care, animal
welfare, environmental ethics, racism and equality,
sexual morality, free speech on campus, drug use,
gun ownership, capital punishment, political violence, terrorism, torture, immigration, and global
economic justice. Every chapter supplies legal,
scientific, and other background information on
the issue; discusses how major theories have been
applied to the problem; examines arguments that
have been used in the debate; and includes additional cases for analysis with questions. The readings are a mix of well-known essays and surprising
new voices, both classic and contemporary.
PREFACE
Á
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PEDAGOGICAL FEATURES
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
In addition to “Critical Thought” boxes and “Ethical Dilemmas,” the end-of-chapter questions, and
the key terms, there are other pedagogical devices:
The silent partners in this venture are the many
reviewers who helped in countless ways to make
the book better. They include Marshall Abrams
(University of Alabama at Birmingham), Harry
Adams (Prairie View A&M University), Alex Aguado
(University of North Alabama), Edwin Aiman
(University of Houston), Daniel Alvarez (Colorado
State University), Peter Amato (Drexel University), Robert Bass (Coastal Carolina University),
Ken Beals (Mary Baldwin College), Helen Becker
(Shepherd University), Paul Bloomfield (University of Connecticut), Robyn Bluhm (Old Dominion
University), Vanda Bozicevic (Bergen Community
College), Brent Braga (Northland Community and
Technical College), Joy Branch (Southern Union
State Community College), Barbara A. Brown
(Community College of Allegheny County),
Mark Raymond Brown (University of Ottawa),
David C. Burris (Arizona Western College), Matthew Burstein (Washington and Lee University),
Gabriel R. Camacho (El Paso Community College),
Jay Campbell (St. Louis Community College at Meramec), Kenneth Carlson (Northwest Iowa Community College), Jeffrey Carr (Illinois State University),
Alan Clark (Del Mar College), Andrew J. Cohen
(Georgia State University), Elliot D. Cohen (Indian
River State College), Robert Colter (Centre College), Timothy Conn (Sierra College), Guy Crain
(University of Oklahoma), Sharon Crasnow (Norco
College), Kelso Cratsley (University of Massachusetts, Boston), George Cronk (Bergen Community
College), Kevin DeCoux (Minnesota West Community and Technical College), Lara Denis (Agnes
Scott College), Steve Dickerson (South Puget Sound
Community College), Nicholas Diehl (Sacramento
City College), Robin S. Dillon (Lehigh University),
Peter Dlugos (Bergen Community College), Matt
Drabek (University of Iowa), David Drebushenko
(University of Southern Indiana), Clint Dunagan
(Northwest Vista College), Paul Eckstein (Bergen
Community College), Andrew Fiala (California
• “Quick Review” boxes that reiterate key points
or terms mentioned in previous pages
• Text boxes that discuss additional topics or
issues related to main chapter material
• Chapter summaries
• Suggestions for further reading for each issues
chapter
• Glossary
RESOURCES
This Fifth Edition is accompanied by InQuizitive, Norton’s award-winning formative, adaptive
online quizzing program. InQuizitive activities,
written by Dan Lowe of University of Colorado
Boulder, motivate students to learn the core concepts and theories of moral reasoning so that they’re
prepared to think critically about ethical issues.
The text is also supported by a full test bank, lecture
slides, and a coursepack of assignable quizzes and
discussion prompts that loads into most learning
management systems. Access these resources at
digital.wwnorton.com/doingethics5.
EBOOK
Norton Ebooks give students and instructors an
enhanced reading experience at a fraction of the
cost of a print textbook. Students are able to have
an active reading experience and can take notes,
bookmark, search, highlight, and even read offline.
As an instructor, you can even add your own notes
for students to see as they read the text. Norton
Ebooks can be viewed on—and synced among—all
computers and mobile devices. Access the ebook
for Doing Ethics at digital.wwnorton.com/
doingethics5.
xxii
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PREFACE
State University, Fresno), Stephen Finlay (University of Southern California), Matthew Fitzsimmons
(University of North Alabama), Tammie Foltz (Des
Moines Area Community College), Tim Fout (University of Louisville), Dimitria Gatzia (University
of Akron), Candace Gauthier (University of North
Carolina, Wilmington), Mark Greene (University
of Delaware), Kevin Guilfoy (Carroll University),
Katherine Guin (The College at Brockport: SUNY),
Meredith Gunning (University of Massachusetts,
Boston), Don Habibi (University of North Carolina,
Wilmington), Barbara M. Hands (University of
North Carolina, Greensboro), Craig Hanks (Texas
State University), Jane Haproff (Sierra College), Ed
Harris (Texas A&M University), Carol Hay (University of Massachusetts Lowell), Blake Heffner (Raritan Valley Community College), Marko Hilgersom
(Lethbridge Community College), Andrew J. Hill
(St. Philip’s College), John Holder III (Pensacola
Junior College), Mark Hollifield (Clayton College
and State University), Margaret Houck (University
of South Carolina), Michael Howard (University of
Maine, Orono), Frances Howard-Snyder (Western
Washington University), Kenneth Howarth (Mercer County Community College), Louis F. Howe, Jr.
(Naugatuck Valley Community College), Kyle Hubbard (Saint Anselm College), Robert Hull (Western
Virginia Wesleyan College), Amy Jeffers (Owens
Community College), Vicki Jenkins (Ivy Tech
Community College, Timothy Jessen (Ivy Tech
Community College, Bloomington), John Johnston (College of the Redwoods), Marc Jolley (Mercer University), Frederik Kaufman (Ithaca College),
Thomas D. Kennedy (Berry College), W. Glenn
Kirkconnell (Santa Fe College), Donald Knudsen (Montgomery County Community College),
Gilbert Kohler (Shawnee Community College),
Thomas Larson (Saint Anselm College), Matt
Lawrence (Long Beach City College), Clayton
Littlejohn (Southern Methodist University), Jessica Logue (University of Portland), Ian D. MacKinnon (The University of Akron), Tim Madigan
(St. John Fisher College), Ernâni Magalhães (West
Virginia University), Daniel Malotky (Greensboro College), Luke Manning (Auburn University), Ron Martin (Lynchburg College), Michael
McKeon (Barry University), Katherine Mendis
(Hunter College, CUNY), Joshua Mills-Knutsen
(Indiana University Southeast), Michael Monge
(Long Beach City College), Louisa Lee Moon (Mira
Costa College), Eric Moore (Longwood University), Jon S. Moran (Southwest Missouri State University), Dale Murray (Virginia Commonwealth
University), Elizabeth Murray (Loyola Marymount
University), Richard Musselwhite (North Carolina
Central University), Thomas Nadelhoffer (Dickinson College), Jay Newhard (East Carolina University), Marcella Norling (Orange Coast College),
Charles L. North (Southern New Hampshire University), Robert F. O’Connor (Texas State University), Jeffrey P. Ogle (Metropolitan State University
of Denver), Don Olive (Roane State Community
College), Leonard Olson (California State University, Fresno), Jessica Payson (Bryn Mawr College),
Gregory E. Pence (University of Alabama), Donald
Petkus (Indiana University School of Public and
Environmental Affairs), Trisha Philips (Mississippi
State University), Thomas M. Powers (University of
Delaware), Marjorie Price (University of Alabama),
Netty Provost (Indiana University, Kokomo), Elisa
Rapaport (Molloy College), Michael Redmond
(Bergen Community College), Daniel Regan (Villanova University), Joseph J. Rogers (University of
Texas, San Antonio), John Returra (Lackawanna
College), Robert M. Seltzer (Western Illinois University), Edward Sherline (University of Wyoming),
Aeon J. Skoble (Bridgewater Community College),
Eric Snider (Lansing Community College), Eric Sotnak (University of Akron), Susanne Sreedhar (Boston University), Piers H.G. Stephens (University of
Georgia), Grant Sterling (Eastern Illinois University), John Stilwell (University of Texas at Dallas),
Tyler Suggs (Virginia Tech), Michele Svatos (Eastfield College), David Svolba (Fitchburg State University), Allen Thompson (Virginia Commonwealth
University), Peter B. Trumbull (Madison College),
PREFACE
Donald Turner (Nashville State Community College), Julie C. Van Camp (California State University, Long Beach), Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda
(Tallahassee Community College), Kris Vigneron
(Columbus State Community College), Christine
Vitrano (Brooklyn College, CUNY), Mark Vopat
(Youngstown State University), Matt Waldschlagel (University of North Carolina, Wilmington),
Steve Wall (Hillsborough Community College), Bill
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Warnken (Granite State College), Jamie Carlin Watson (Young Harris College), Rivka Weinberg (Scripps
College), Cheryl Wertheimer (Butler Community
College), Monique Whitaker (Hunter College,
CUNY), Phillip Wiebe (Trinity Western University),
Jonathan Wight (University of Richmond), John
Yanovitch (Molloy College), Steven Zusman (Waubonsee Community College), and Matt Zwolinski
(University of San Diego). Thank you all.
PART
1
‘’
Fundamentals
CHAPTER 1
‘’
Ethics and the Examined Life
Ethics, or moral philosophy, is the philosophical study of morality. Morality refers to beliefs
concerning right and wrong, good and bad—
beliefs that can include judgments, values, rules,
principles, and theories. These beliefs help guide
our actions, define our values, and give us reasons
for being the persons we are. (Ethical and moral,
the adjective forms, are often used to mean
simply “having to do with morality,” and ethics
and morality are sometimes used to refer to the
moral norms of a specific group or individual, as
in “Greek ethics” or “Russell’s morality.”) Ethics, then, addresses the powerful question that
Socrates formulated twenty-four hundred years
ago: how ought we to live?
The scope and continued relevance of this
query suggest something compelling about ethics:
you cannot escape it. You cannot run away from all
the choices, feelings, and actions that accompany
ideas about right and wrong, good and bad—ideas
that persist in your culture and in your mind. After
all, for much of your life, you have been assimilating, modifying, or rejecting the ethical norms you
inherited from your family, community, and society. Unless you are very unusual, from time to time
you deliberate about the rightness or wrongness of
actions, embrace or reject particular moral principles or codes, judge the goodness of your character or intentions (or someone else’s), perhaps
even question (and agonize over) the soundness
of your own moral outlook when it conflicts with
that of others. In other words, you are involved
in ethics—you do ethics. Even if you try to remove
yourself from the ethical realm by insisting that
all ethical concepts are irrelevant or empty, you
assume a particular view—a theory, in the broadest
sense—about morality and its place in your life. If
at some point you are intellectually brave enough
to wonder whether your moral beliefs rest on some
coherent supporting considerations, you will see
that you cannot even begin to sort out such considerations without—again—doing ethics. In any
case, in your life you must deal with the rest of the
world, which turns on moral conflict and resolution, moral decision and debate.
What is at stake when we do ethics? In an
important sense, the answer is everything we hold
dear. Ethics is concerned with values—specifically,
moral values. Through the sifting and weighing of
moral values we determine what the most important things are in our lives, what is worth living for,
and what is worth dying for. We decide what is the
greatest good, what goals we should pursue in life,
what virtues we should cultivate, what duties we
should or should not fulfill, what value we should
put on human life, and what pain and perils we
should be willing to endure for notions such as the
common good, justice, and rights.
Does it matter whether the state executes a
criminal who has the mental capacity of a tenyear-old? Does it matter who actually writes the
term paper you turn in and represent as your own?
Does it matter whether we can easily save a drowning child but casually decide not to? Does it matter
whether young girls in Africa undergo painful genital mutilation for reasons of custom or religion? Do
these actions and a million others just as controversial matter at all? Most of us—regardless of our
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opinion on these issues—would say that they matter a great deal. If they matter, then ethics matters,
because these are ethical concerns requiring careful
reflection using concepts and reasoning peculiar to
ethics.
But even though ethics is inescapable and
important, you are still free to take the easy way
out, and many people do. You are free not to think
too deeply or too systematically about ethical concerns. You can simply embrace the moral beliefs
and norms given to you by your family and your
society. You can accept them without question
or serious examination. In other words, you can
try not to do ethics. This approach can be simple
and painless—at least for a while—but it has some
drawbacks.
First, it undermines your personal freedom. If
you accept and never question the moral beliefs
handed to you by your culture, then those beliefs are
not really yours—and they, not you, control the path
you take in life. Only if you critically examine these
beliefs yourself and decide for yourself whether they
have merit will they be truly yours. Only then will
you be in charge of your own choices and actions.
Second, the no-questions-asked approach increases the chances that your responses to moral
dilemmas or contradictions will be incomplete,
confused, or mistaken. Sometimes in real life moral
codes or rules do not fit the situations at hand,
or moral principles conflict with one another, or
entirely new circumstances are not covered by any
moral policy at all. Solving these problems requires
something that a hand-me-down morality does not
include: the intellectual tools to critically evaluate
(and reevaluate) existing moral beliefs.
Third, if there is such a thing as intellectual
moral growth, you are unlikely to find it on the safe
route. To not do ethics is to stay locked in a kind of
intellectual limbo, where exploration in ethics and
personal moral progress are barely possible.
The philosopher Paul Taylor suggests that there
is yet another risk in taking the easy road. If someone blindly embraces the morality bequeathed
to him by his society, he may very well be a fine
embodiment of the rules of his culture and accept
them with certainty. But he will lack the ability to
defend his beliefs by rational argument against criticism. What happens when he encounters others
who also have very strong beliefs that contradict
his? “He will feel lost and bewildered,” Taylor says,
and his confusion might leave him disillusioned
about morality. “Unable to give an objective, reasoned justification for his own convictions, he may
turn from dogmatic certainty to total skepticism.
And from total skepticism it is but a short step to
an ‘amoral’ life. . . . Thus the person who begins by
accepting moral beliefs blindly can end up denying
1
all morality.”
There are other easy roads—roads that also
bypass critical and thoughtful scrutiny of morality.
We can describe most of them as various forms of
subjectivism, a topic that we examine closely in the
next chapter. You may decide, for example, that
you can establish all your moral beliefs by simply
consulting your feelings. In situations calling for
moral judgments, you let your emotions be your
guide. If it feels right, it is right. Alternatively, you
may come to believe that moral realities are relative
to each person, a view known as subjective relativism (also covered in the next chapter). That is, you
think that what a person believes or approves of
determines the rightness or wrongness of actions. If
you believe that abortion is wrong, then it is wrong.
If you believe it is right, then it is right.
But these facile roads through ethical terrain are
no better than blindly accepting existing norms.
Even if you want to take the subjectivist route,
you still need to examine it critically to see if there
are good reasons for choosing it—otherwise your
choice is arbitrary and therefore not really yours.
And unless you thoughtfully consider the merits of moral beliefs (including subjectivist beliefs),
your chances of being wrong about them are
substantial.
Ethics does not give us a royal road to moral
truth. Instead, it shows us how to ask critical
CHAPTER 1: ETHiCS AND THE ExAMiNED LiFE
questions about morality and systematically seek
answers supported by good reasons. This is a tall
order because, as we have seen, many of the questions in ethics are among the toughest we can ever
ask—and among the most important in life.
THE ETHICAL LANDSCAPE
The domain of ethics is large, divided into several areas of investigation and cordoned off from
related subjects. So let us map the territory carefully. As the term moral philosophy suggests, ethics
is a branch of philosophy. A very rough characterization of philosophy is the systematic use of critical
reasoning to answer the most fundamental questions in life. Moral philosophy, obviously, tries to
answer the fundamental questions of morality. The
other major branches of philosophy address other
basic questions; these branches are logic (the study
of correct reasoning), metaphysics (the study of the
fundamental nature of reality), and epistemology
(the study of knowledge). As a division of philosophy, ethics does its work primarily through critical reasoning: the careful, systematic evaluation of
statements, or claims. Critical reasoning is a process
used in all fields of study, not just in ethics. The main
components of this process are the evaluation of logical arguments and the careful analysis of concepts.
Science also studies morality, but not in the
way that moral philosophy does. Its approach is
known as 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. This
kind of empirical research is usually conducted
by sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists. In contrast, the focus of moral philosophy is
not what people actually believe and do, but what
they should believe and do. The point of moral philosophy is to determine what actions are right (or
wrong) and what things are good (or bad).
Philosophers distinguish three major divisions
in ethics, each one representing a different way
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5
to approach the subject. The first division is
normative ethics—the study of the principles,
rules, or theories that guide our actions and judgments. (The word normative refers to norms, or
standards, of judgment—in this case, norms for
judging rightness and goodness.) The ultimate purpose of doing normative ethics is to try to establish
the soundness of moral norms, especially the norms
embodied in a comprehensive moral system, or
moral theory. We do normative ethics when we use
critical reasoning to demonstrate that a moral principle is justified, or that a professional code of conduct is contradictory, or that one proposed moral
theory is better than another, or that a person’s
motive is good. Should the rightness of actions be
judged by their consequences? Is happiness the
greatest good in life? Is utilitarianism a good moral
theory? Such questions are the preoccupation of
normative ethics.
Another major division of ethics is
metaethics—the study of the meaning and logical structure of moral beliefs. It asks not whether
an action is right or whether a person’s character is
good. It takes a step back from these concerns and
asks more fundamental questions about them: What
does it mean for an action to be right? Is good the
same thing as desirable? How can a moral principle
be justified? Is there such a thing as moral truth? To
do normative ethics, we must assume certain things
about the meaning of moral terms and the logical
relationships among them. But the job of metaethics is to question all these assumptions, to see if they
really make sense.
Finally, there is applied ethics—the application of moral norms to specific moral issues or cases,
particularly those in a profession such as medicine
or law. Applied ethics in these fields goes under
names such as medical ethics, journalistic ethics,
and business ethics. 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
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the adequacy of the moral norms. Did the doctor
do right in performing that abortion? Is it morally
permissible for scientists to perform experiments
on people without their consent? Was it right for
the journalist to distort her reporting to aid a particular side in the war? Questions like these drive
the search for answers in applied ethics.
In every division of ethics, we must be careful to
distinguish between values and obligations. Sometimes we may be interested in concepts or judgments of value—that is, about what is morally good,
bad, blameworthy, or praiseworthy. We properly
use these kinds of terms to refer mostly to persons,
character traits, motives, and intentions. We may
say “She is a good person” or “He is to blame for
that tragedy.” At other times, we may be interested in concepts or judgments of obligation—that
is, about what is obligatory, or a duty, or what we
should or ought to do. We use these terms to refer
to actions. We may say “She has a duty to tell the
truth” or “What he did was wrong.”
When we talk about value in the sense just
described, we mean moral value. If she is a good person, she is good in the moral sense. But we can also
talk about nonmoral value. We can say that things
such as televisions, rockets, experiences, and works
of art (things other than persons, intentions, and
so forth) are good, but we mean “good” only in a
nonmoral way. It makes no sense to assert that televisions or rockets in themselves are morally good
or bad. Perhaps a rocket could be used to perform
an action that is morally wrong. In that case, the
action would be immoral, while the rocket itself
would still have only nonmoral value.
Many things in life have value for us, but they
are not necessarily valuable in the same way. Some
things are valuable because they are a means to
something else. We might say that gasoline is
good because it is a means to make a gas-powered
vehicle work, or that a pen is good because it can
be used to write a letter. Such things are said to be
instrumentally, or extrinsically, valuable—
they are valuable as a means to something else.
Some things, however, are valuable for their own
sakes. They are valuable simply because they are
what they are, without being a means to something
else. Things that have been regarded as valuable in
themselves include happiness, pleasure, virtue, and
beauty. These things are said to be intrinsically
valuable—they are valuable in themselves.
THE ELEMENTS OF ETHICS
We all do ethics, and we all have a general sense of
what is involved. But we can still ask, What are the
elements of ethics that make it the peculiar enterprise that it is? We can include at least the following factors:
The Preeminence of Reason
Doing ethics typically involves grappling with our
feelings, taking into account the facts of the situation (including our own observations and relevant
knowledge), and trying to understand the ideas
that bear on the case. But above all, it involves, even
requires, critical reasoning—the consideration of
reasons for whatever statements (moral or otherwise) are in question. Whatever our view on moral
issues and whatever moral outlook we subscribe to,
our commonsense moral experience suggests that
if a moral judgment is to be worthy of acceptance, it
must be supported by good reasons, and our deliberations on the issue must include a consideration
of those reasons.
The backbone of critical reasoning generally, and
moral reasoning in particular, is logical argument.
This kind of argument—not the angry-exchange
type—consists of a statement to be supported (the
assertion to be proved, the conclusion) and the
statements that do the supporting (the reasons
for believing the statement, the premises). With
such arguments, we try to show that a moral judgment is or is not justified, that a moral principle
is or is not sound, that an action is or is not morally permissible, or that a moral theory is or is not
plausible.
CHAPTER 1: ETHiCS AND THE ExAMiNED LiFE
’
QUICK REVIEW
ethics (or moral philosophy)—The philosophical
study of morality.
morality—Beliefs concerning right and wrong,
good and bad; they can include judgments,
values, rules, principles, and theories.
descriptive ethics—The scientific study of moral
beliefs and practices.
normative ethics—The study of the principles,
rules, or theories that guide our actions and
judgments.
metaethics—The study of the meaning and logical structure of moral beliefs.
applied ethics—The application of moral norms
to specific moral issues or cases, particularly
those in a profession such as medicine or law.
instrumentally (or extrinsically) valuable—
Valuable as a means to something else.
intrinsically valuable—Valuable in itself, for its
own sake.
Our use of critical reasoning and argument helps
us keep our feelings about moral issues in perspective.
Feelings are an important part of our moral experience.
They make empathy possible, which gives us a deeper
understanding of the human impact of moral norms.
They can also serve as internal alarm bells, warning us
of the possibility of injustice, suffering, and wrongdoing. But they are unreliable guides to moral truth. They
may simply reflect our own emotional needs, prejudices, upbringing, culture, and self-interests. Careful
reasoning, however, can inform our feelings and help
us decide moral questions on their merits.
The Universal Perspective
Logic requires that moral norms and judgments follow the principle of universalizability—the idea that
a moral statement (a principle, rule, or judgment)
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that applies in one situation must apply in all other
situations that are relevantly similar. If you say, for
example, that lying is wrong in a particular situation, then you implicitly agree that lying is wrong
for anyone in relevantly similar situations. If you
say that killing in self-defense is morally permissible, then you say in effect that killing in selfdefense is permissible for everyone in relevantly
similar situations. It cannot be the case that an
action performed by A is wrong while the same
action performed by B in relevantly similar circumstances is right. It cannot be the case that the
moral judgments formed in these two situations
must differ just because two different people are
involved.
This point about universalizability also applies
to reasons used to support moral judgments. If reasons apply in a specific case, then those reasons also
apply in all relevantly similar cases. It cannot be
true that reasons that apply in a specific case do not
apply to other cases that are similar in all relevant
respects.
The Principle of Impartiality
From the moral point of view, all persons are considered equal and should be treated accordingly. This
sense of impartiality is implied in all moral statements. It means that the welfare and interests of
each individual should be given the same weight as
the welfare and interests of all others. Unless there
is a morally relevant difference between people, we
should treat them the same: we must treat equals
equally. We would think it outrageous for a moral
rule to say something like “Everyone must refrain
from stealing food in grocery stores—except for
Mr. X, who may steal all he wants.” Imagine that
there is no morally relevant reason for making
this exception for stealing food; Mr. X is exempted
merely because, say, he is a celebrity known for
outrageous behavior. We not only would object to
this rule but might even begin to wonder if it was
a genuine moral rule at all, because it lacks impartiality. Similarly, we would reject a moral rule that
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says something like “Everyone is entitled to basic
human rights—except Native Americans.” Such
a rule would be a prime example of discrimination based on race. We can see this blatant partiality best if we ask what morally relevant difference
there is between Native Americans and everyone
else. Differences in income, social status, skin color,
ancestry, and the like are not morally relevant.
Apparently there are no morally relevant differences. Because there are none, we must conclude
that the rule sanctions unfair discrimination.
We must keep in mind, however, that sometimes there are good reasons for treating someone
differently. Imagine a hospital that generally gives
equal care to patients, treating equals equally. But
suppose a patient comes to the hospital in an ambulance because she has had a heart attack and will die
without immediate care. The hospital staff responds
quickly, giving her faster and more sophisticated
care than other patients receive. The situation is
a matter of life and death—a good reason for not
treating everyone the same and for providing the
heart attack patient with special consideration. This
instance of discrimination is justified.
The Dominance of Moral Norms
Not all norms are moral norms. There are legal
norms (laws, statutes), aesthetic norms (for judging
artistic creations), prudential norms (practical considerations of self-interest), and others. Moral norms
seem to stand out from all these in an interesting
way: they dominate. Whenever moral principles
or values conflict in some way with nonmoral principles or values, the moral considerations usually
override the others. Moral considerations seem more
important, more critical, or more weighty. A principle of prudence such as “Never help a stranger” may
be well justified, but it must yield to any moral principle that contradicts it, such as “Help a stranger in
an emergency if you can do so without endangering yourself.” An aesthetic norm that somehow
involved violating a moral principle would have to
take a backseat to the moral considerations. A law
that conflicted with a moral principle would be
suspect, and the latter would have to prevail over
the former. Ultimately the justification for civil disobedience is that specific laws conflict with moral
norms and are therefore invalid. If we judge a law to
be bad, we usually do so on moral grounds.
RELIGION AND MORALITY
Many people believe that morality and religion are
inseparable—that religion is the source or basis of
morality and that moral precepts are simply what
God says should be done. This view is not at all surprising, because all religions imply or assert a perspective on morality. The three great religions in
the Western tradition—Christianity, Judaism, and
Islam—provide their believers with commandments
or principles of conduct that are thought to constitute
the moral law, the essence of morality. For their millions of adherents, the moral law is the will of God,
and the will of God is the moral law. In the West, at
least, the powerful imprint of religion is evident in
secular laws and in the private morality of believers
and unbelievers alike. Secular systems of morality—
for example, those of the ancient Greek philosophers,
Immanuel Kant, the utilitarians, and others—have
of course left their mark on Western ethics. But they
have not moved the millions who think that morality is a product exclusively of religion.
So what is the relationship between religion and
morality? For our purposes, we should break this
question into two parts: (1) What is the relationship between religion and ethics (the philosophical
study of morality)? and (2) What is the relationship
between religion and morality (beliefs about right
and wrong)? The first question asks about how religion relates to the kind of investigation we conduct
in this book—the use of experience and critical
reasoning to study morality. The key point about
the relationship is that whatever your views on
religion and morality, an open-minded expedition
into ethics is more useful and empowering than
you may realize, especially now, at the beginning
CHAPTER 1: ETHiCS AND THE ExAMiNED LiFE
of your journey into moral philosophy. You may
believe, for example, that God determines what is
right and wrong, so there is no need to apply critical
reasoning to morality—you just need to know what
God says. But this judgment—and similar dismissals of ethics—would be premature, as we will see.
Believers Need Moral Reasoning
It is difficult—perhaps impossible—for most people
to avoid using moral reasoning. Religious people
are no exception. One reason is that religious
moral codes (such as the Ten Commandments)
and other major religious rules of conduct are usually vague, laying out general principles that may
be difficult to apply to specific cases. (Secular moral
codes have the same disadvantage.) For example,
we may be commanded to love our neighbor, but
what neighbors are included—people of a different religion? people who denounce our religion?
the gay or lesbian couple? those who steal from us?
the convicted child molester next door? the drug
dealers on the corner? the woman who got an abortion? Also, what does loving our neighbor demand
of us? How does love require us to behave toward
the drug dealers, the gay couple, or the person who
denounces our religion? If our terminally ill neighbor asks us in the name of love to help him kill
himself, what should we do? Does love require us
to kill him—or to refrain from killing him? And, of
course, commandments can conflict—as when, for
example, the only way to avoid killing an innocent
person is to tell a lie, or the only way to save the life
of one person is to kill another. All these situations
force the believer to interpret religious directives,
to try to apply general rules to specific cases, to
draw out the implications of particular views—in
other words, to do ethics.
When Conflicts Arise, Ethics Steps In
Very often moral contradictions or inconsistencies
confront the religious believer, and only moral reasoning can help resolve them. Believers sometimes
disagree with their religious leaders on moral issues.
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Adherents of one religious tradition may disagree
with those from another tradition on whether an
act is right or wrong. Sincere devotees in a religious
tradition may wonder if its moral teachings make
sense. In all such cases, intelligent resolution of the
conflict of moral claims can be achieved only by
applying a neutral standard that helps sort out the
competing viewpoints. Moral philosophy supplies
the neutral standard in the form of critical thinking, well-made arguments, and careful analysis. No
wonder then that many great religious minds—
Aquinas, Leibniz, Descartes, Kant, Maimonides,
Averroës, and others—have relied on reason to
examine the nature of morality. In fact, countless
theists have regarded reason as a gift from God that
enables human beings to grasp the truths of science, life, and morality.
Moral Philosophy Enables Productive
Discourse
Any fruitful discussions about morality undertaken
between people from different religious traditions
or between believers and nonbelievers will require
a common set of ethical concepts and a shared procedure for deciding issues and making judgments.
Ethics provides these tools. Without them, conversations will resolve nothing, and participants will
learn little. Without them, people will talk past
each other, appealing only to their own religious
views. Furthermore, in a pluralistic society, most
of the public discussions about important moral
issues take place in a context of shared values such
as justice, fairness, equality, and tolerance. Just as
important, they also occur according to an unwritten understanding that (1) moral positions should
be explained, (2) claims should be supported by
reasons, and (3) reasoning should be judged by
common rational standards. These skills, of course,
are at the heart of ethics.
Now consider the second question introduced
above: What is the relationship between religion
and morality? For many people, the most interesting query about the relationship between religion
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’
CRITICAL THOUGHT: Ethics, Religion, and Tough Moral Issues
How can we hope to grapple with complex moral
issues that have emerged only in recent years? Can
religion alone handle the job? Consider the following case:
According to a report by CNN, Jack and Lisa Nash
made history when they used genetic testing to
save the life of their six-year-old daughter, Molly,
by having another child. Molly had a rare genetic
disorder known as Fanconi anemia, which prevents
the generation of bone marrow and produces a
fatal leukemia. Molly’s best chance to live was to
get a transplant of stem cells from the umbilical
cord of a sibling, and Molly’s parents were determined to give her that sibling, brother Adam.
Through genetic testing (and in vitro fertilization),
Jack and Lisa were able to select a child who would
not only be born without a particular disease (Fanconi anemia, in this case) but also would help a sibling combat the disease by being the optimal tissue
and morality is this: Is God the maker of morality?
That is, is God the author of the moral law? Those
who answer yes are endorsing a theory of morality
known as the divine command theory. It says that
right actions are those that are willed by God, that
God literally defines right and wrong. Something
is right or good only because God makes it so. In
the simplest version of the theory, God can determine right and wrong because he is omnipotent.
He is all-powerful—powerful enough even to create
moral norms. In this view, God is a divine lawgiver,
and his laws constitute morality.
In general, believers are divided on whether the
divine command theory gives an accurate account
of the source of morality. Notable among the theory’s detractors are the great theistic philosophers
Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716) and Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274). And conversely, as odd as it may
sound, some nonbelievers have subscribed to it. In
match for a transplant—a historic combination. As
Lisa Nash said, “I was going to save Molly no matter
what, and I wanted Molly to have siblings.”*
Is it right to produce a child to save the life or
health of someone else? More to the point, do
the scriptures of the three major Western religions
provide any guidance on this question? Do any
of these traditions offer useful methods for productively discussing or debating such issues with
people of different faiths? How might ethics help
with these challenges? Is it possible to formulate a
reasonable opinion on this case without doing ethics? Why or why not?
*“Genetic Selection Gives Girl a Brother and a Second
Chance,” CNN.com, October 3, 2000, http://archives.cnn
.com/2000/HEALTH/10/03/testube.brother/index.html
(December 8, 2005).
The Brothers Karamazov (1879–1880), the character Ivan Karamazov declares, “If God doesn’t exist,
everything is permissible.” This very sentiment
was espoused by, among others, the famous atheist
philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.
Both religious and secular critics of the divine
command theory believe that it poses a serious
dilemma, one first articulated by Socrates two and
a half millennia ago. In the dialogue Euthyphro,
Socrates asks, 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? Critics say that if an action is
right only because God wills it (that is, if right and
wrong are dependent on God), then many heinous
crimes and evil actions would be right if God willed
them. If God willed murder, theft, or torture, these
deeds would be morally right. If God has unlimited
power, he could easily will such actions. If the rightness of an action depended on God’s will alone, he
CHAPTER 1: ETHiCS AND THE ExAMiNED LiFE
could not have reasons for willing what he wills. No
reasons would be available or required. Therefore,
if God commanded an action, the command would
be without reason, completely arbitrary. Neither
the believer nor the nonbeliever would think this
state of affairs plausible. On the other hand, if God
wills an action because it is morally right (if moral
norms are independent of God), then the divine
command theory must be false. God does not create
rightness; he simply knows what is right and wrong
and is subject to the moral law just as humans are.
For some theists, this charge of arbitrariness is
especially worrisome. Leibniz, for example, rejects
the divine command theory, declaring that it
implies that God is unworthy of worship:
In saying, therefore, that things are not good according to any standard of goodness, but simply by
the will of God, it seems to me that one destroys,
without realizing it, all the love of God and all his
glory; for why praise him for what he has done, if
he would be equally praiseworthy in doing the contrary? Where will be his justice and his wisdom if he
has only a certain despotic power, if arbitrary will
takes the place of reasonableness, and if in accord
with the definition of tyrants, justice consists in
that which is pleasing to the most powerful?2
Defenders of the divine command theory may
reply to the arbitrariness argument by contending that God would never command us to commit
heinous acts, because God is all-good. Because of
his supreme goodness, he would will only what is
good. Some thinkers, however, believe that such
reasoning renders the very idea of God’s goodness
meaningless. As one philosopher says,
[O]n this view, the doctrine of the goodness of God is
reduced to nonsense. It is important to religious believers that God is not only all-powerful and all-knowing,
but that he is also good; yet if we accept the idea that
good and bad are defined by reference to God’s will,
this notion is deprived of any meaning. What could it
mean to say that God’s commands are good? If “X is
good” means “X is commanded by God,” then “God’s
commands are good” would mean only “God’s commands are commanded by God,” an empty truism.3
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In any case, it seems that through critical reasoning we can indeed learn much about morality
and the moral life. After all, there are complete
moral systems (some of which are examined in
this book) that are not based on religion, that contain genuine moral norms indistinguishable from
those embraced by religion, and that are justified
not by reference to religious precepts but by careful thinking and moral arguments. As the philosopher Jonathan Berg says, “Those who would refuse
to recognize as adequately justified any moral
beliefs not derived from knowledge of or about
God, would have to refute the whole vast range
of arguments put by Kant and all others who ever
4
proposed a rational basis for ethics!” Moreover, if
we can do ethics—if we can use critical reasoning
to discern moral norms certified by the best reasons
and evidence—then critical reasoning is sufficient
to guide us to moral standards and values. We
obviously can do ethics (as the following chapters
demonstrate), so morality is both accessible and
meaningful to us whether we are religious or not.
CHAPTER REVIEW
SUMMARY
Ethics is the philosophical study of morality, and
morality consists of beliefs concerning right and
wrong, good and bad. These beliefs can include judgments, principles, and theories. Participating in the
exploration of morality—that is, doing ethics—is inescapable. We all must make moral judgments, assess
moral norms, judge people’s character, and question
the soundness of our moral outlooks. A great deal is
at stake when we do ethics, including countless decisions that determine the quality of our lives.
You can decide to forgo any ethical deliberations and simply embrace the moral beliefs and
norms you inherited from your family and culture.
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But this approach undermines your freedom, for if
you accept without question whatever moral beliefs
come your way, they are not really yours. Only if
you critically examine them for yourself are they
truly yours.
The three main divisions of ethics proper are normative ethics (the study of the moral norms that guide
our actions and judgments), metaethics (the study of
the meaning and logical structure of moral beliefs),
and applied ethics (the application of moral norms to
specific moral issues or cases).
Ethics involves a distinctive set of elements. These
include the preeminence of reason, the universal perspective, the principle of impartiality, and the dominance of moral norms.
Some people claim that morality depends on God,
a view known as the divine command theory. Both
theists and nontheists have raised doubts about this
doctrine. The larger point is that doing ethics—using
critical reasoning to examine the moral life—can be a
useful and productive enterprise for believer and nonbeliever alike.
KEY TERMS
ethics or moral philosophy (p. 3)
morality (p. 3)
descriptive ethics (p. 5)
normative ethics (p. 5)
metaethics (p. 5)
applied ethics (p. 5)
instrumentally or extrinsically valuable (p. 6)
intrinsically valuable (p. 6)
EXERCISES
Review Questions
1. When can it be said that your moral beliefs are
not really yours? (p. 3)
2. In what ways are we forced to do ethics? What
is at stake in these deliberations? (pp. 3–4)
3. What is the unfortunate result of accepting moral
beliefs without questioning them? (pp. 4–5)
4. Can our feelings be our sole guide to morality?
Why or why not? (pp. 4–5)
5. What are some questions asked in normative
ethics? (p. 5)
6. What is the difference between normative ethics
and metaethics? (p. 5)
7. What is the dilemma about God and morality
that Socrates posed in Euthyphro? (pp. 10–11)
8. What kinds of moral contradictions or
inconsistencies confront religious believers?
(pp. 8–9)
9. What are the premises in the arbitrariness
argument against the divine command theory?
(p. 10)
10. Does the principle of impartiality imply that we
must always treat equals equally? Why or why
not? (pp. 7–8)
Discussion Questions
1. Do you think that morality ultimately depends
on God (that God is the author of the moral
law)? Why or why not?
2. Do you believe that you have absorbed or
adopted without question most of your moral
beliefs? Why or why not?
3. Formulate an argument against the divine
command theory, then formulate one for it.
4. Give an example of how you or someone you
know has used reasons to support a moral
judgment.
5. Identify at least two normative ethical
questions that you have wondered about in the
past year.
6. Name two things (such as persons, objects,
experiences) in your life that you consider
intrinsically valuable. Name three that are
instrumentally valuable.
7. How do your feelings affect the moral
judgments you make? Do they determine your
judgments? Do they inform them? If so, how?
8. What is the logic behind the principle of
universalizability? Cite an example of how
the principle has entered into your moral
deliberations.
9. How does racial discrimination violate the
principle of impartiality?
CHAPTER 1: ETHiCS AND THE ExAMiNED LiFE
10. What is the “dominance of moral norms”? Does
it strike you as reasonable? Or do you believe
that sometimes nonmoral norms can outweigh
moral ones? If the latter, provide an example.
ETHICAL DILEMMAS
1. You are the mayor of a major city, and you want
to keep the streets as clean as possible. You send
the city’s street sweepers to the more affluent
neighborhoods, but you ignore the poorer
neighborhoods because the poor residents pay
less in taxes than the rich people do. Is this
practice a violation of the impartiality principle?
Why or why not?
2. You try to live strictly by the moral rules
contained in your religion’s moral code. The
two most important rules are “Be merciful”
(don’t give people what they deserve) and
“Be just” (give people exactly what they
deserve). Now suppose a man is arrested
for stealing food from your house, and the
police leave it up to you whether he should
be prosecuted for his crime or set free. Should
you be merciful and set him free, or be just and
make sure he is appropriately punished? How
do you resolve this conflict of rules? Can your
moral code resolve it? To what moral principles
or theories do you appeal?
3. Suppose you are an engineer building a road
across a mountain. From a prudential point of
view, it would be easier and cheaper to build
it through a family’s farm. This option would
require compelling the family to move, which
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would be an extreme hardship for them. From
a moral point of view, the family should be
allowed to stay on their farm. Which view
should take precedence?
FURTHER READING
Anita L. Allen, New Ethics: A Guided Tour of the TwentyFirst-Century Moral Landscape (New York: Miramax,
2004).
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, book 2, parts 1 and 4.
Simon Blackburn, Being Good: A Short Introduction to Ethics
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).
Donald M. Borchert and David Stewart, Exploring Ethics
(New York: Macmillan, 1986).
Steven M. Cahn and Joram G. Haber, eds., Twentieth Century Ethical Theory (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall,
1995).
William K. Frankena, Ethics, 2nd ed. (Englewood Cliffs,
NJ: Prentice Hall, 1973).
Bernard Gert, Morality: Its Nature and Justification (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1998).
Brooke Noel Moore and Robert Michael Stewart, Moral
Philosophy: A Comprehensive Introduction (Belmont, CA:
Mayfield, 1994).
Dave Robinson and Chris Garrett, Introducing Ethics, ed.
Richard Appignanesi (New York: Totem Books, 2005).
Peter Singer, ed., A Companion to Ethics, corr. ed. (Oxford:
Blackwell, 1993).
Paul Taylor, Principles of Ethics: An Introduction (Encino,
CA: Dickenson, 1975).
Jacques P. Thiroux, Ethics: Theory and Practice, 3rd ed.
(New York: Macmillan, 1986).
Thomas F. Wall, Thinking Critically about Moral Problems
(Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2003).
G. J. Warnock, The Object of Morality (London: Methuen,
1971).
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PART 1: FUNDAMENTALS
READiNGS
From What Is the Socratic Method?
Christopher Phillips
The Socratic method is a way to seek truths by your
own lights.
It is a system, a spirit, a method, a type of philosophical inquiry, an intellectual technique, all rolled into one.
Socrates himself never spelled out a “method.”
However, the Socratic method is named after him
because Socrates, more than any other before or since,
models for us philosophy practiced—philosophy as deed,
as way of living, as something that any of us can do. It is
an open system of philosophical inquiry that allows one
to interrogate from many vantage points.
Gregory Vlastos, a Socrates scholar and professor of philosophy at Princeton, described Socrates’
method of inquiry as “among the greatest achievements of humanity.” Why? Because, he says, it makes
philosophical inquiry “a common human enterprise,
open to every man.” Instead of requiring allegiance
to a specific philosophical viewpoint or analytic technique or specialized vocabulary, the Socratic method
“calls for common sense and common speech.” And
this, he says, “is as it should be, for how many should
live is every man’s business.”
I think, however, that the Socratic method goes
beyond Vlastos’ description. It does not merely call
for common sense but examines what common
sense is. The Socratic method asks: Does the common
sense of our day offer us the greatest potential for selfunderstanding and human excellence? Or is the prevailing common sense in fact a roadblock to realizing
this potential?
Vlastos goes on to say that Socratic inquiry is by
no means simple, and “calls not only for the highest
degree of mental alertness of which anyone is capable”
but also for “moral qualities of a high order: sincerity,
humility, courage.” Such qualities “protect against the
possibility” that Socratic dialogue, no matter how rigorous, “would merely grind out . . . wild conclusions
with irresponsible premises.” I agree, though I would
replace the quality of sincerity with honesty, since one
can hold a conviction sincerely without examining it,
while honesty would require that one subject one’s
convictions to frequent scrutiny.
A Socratic dialogue reveals how different our outlooks can be on concepts we use every day. It reveals how
different our philosophies are, and often how tenable—
or untenable, as the case may be—a range of philosophies
can be. Moreover, even the most universally recognized
and used concept, when subjected to Socratic scrutiny,
might reveal not only that there is not universal agreement, after all, on the meaning of any given concept, but
that every single person has a somewhat different take
on each and every concept under the sun.
What’s more, there seems to be no such thing as
a concept so abstract, or question so off base, that it
can’t be fruitfully explored [using the Socratic method].
In the course of Socratizing, it often turns out to be the
case that some of the most so-called abstract concepts
are intimately related to the most profoundly relevant
human experiences. In fact, it’s been my experience
that virtually any question can be plumbed Socratically. Sometimes you don’t know what question will
have the most lasting and significant impact until you
take a risk and delve into it for a while.
What distinguishes the Socratic method from mere
nonsystematic inquiry is the sustained attempt to
explore the ramifications of certain opinions and then
offer compelling objections and alternatives. This scrupulous and exhaustive form of inquiry in many ways
Christopher Phillips, from Socrates Café. Copyright © 2001 by Christopher Phillips. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company,
Inc. Although not specifically concerned with ethics, this short
piece by Christopher Phillips makes a persuasive case for using the
“Socratic method” to think through difficult philosophical issues.
To see the Socratic method applied to ethics, read the excerpt from
Plato’s Euthyphro that follows on p. 16.
CHAPTER 1: ETHiCS AND THE ExAMiNED LiFE
resembles the scientific method. But unlike Socratic
inquiry, scientific inquiry would often lead us to believe
that whatever is not measurable cannot be investigated.
This “belief” fails to address such paramount human
concerns as sorrow and joy and suffering and love.
Instead of focusing on the outer cosmos, Socrates
focused primarily on human beings and their cosmos
within, utilizing his method to open up new realms
of self-knowledge while at the same time exposing a
great deal of error, superstition, and dogmatic nonsense. The Spanish-born American philosopher and
poet George Santayana said that Socrates knew that
“the foreground of human life is necessarily moral and
practical” and that “it is so even so for artists”—and
even for scientists, try as some might to divorce their
work from these dimensions of human existence.
Scholars call Socrates’ method the elenchus, which is
Hellenistic Greek for inquiry or cross-examination. But it
is not just any type of inquiry or examination. It is a type
that reveals people to themselves, that makes them see
what their opinions really amount to. C. D. C. Reeve,
professor of philosophy at Reed College, gives the standard explanation of an elenchus in saying that its aim
“is not simply to reach adequate definitions” of such
things as virtues; rather, it also has a “moral reformatory purpose, for Socrates believes that regular elenctic
philosophizing makes people happier and more virtuous than anything else. . . . Indeed philosophizing is so
important for human welfare, on his view, that he is
willing to accept execution rather than give it up.”
Socrates’ method of examination can indeed be a
vital part of existence, but I would not go so far as to
say that it should be. And I do not think that Socrates
felt that habitual use of this method “makes people
happier.” The fulfillment that comes from Socratizing
comes only at a price—it could well make us unhappier, more uncertain, more troubled, as well as more
fulfilled. It can leave us with a sense that we don’t know
the answers after all, that we are much further from
knowing the answers than we’d ever realized before
engaging in Socratic discourse. And this is fulfilling—
and exhilarating and humbling and perplexing.
* * *
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There is no neat divide between one’s views of philosophy and of life. They are overlapping and kindred
views. It is virtually impossible in many instances to
know what we believe in daily life until we engage others in dialogue. Likewise, to discover our philosophical
views, we must engage with ourselves, with the lives
we already lead. Our views form, change, evolve, as
we participate in this dialogue. It is the only way truly
to discover what philosophical colors we sail under.
Everyone at some point preaches to himself and others what he does not yet practice; everyone acts in or
on the world in ways that are in some way contradictory or inconsistent with the views he or she confesses
or professes to hold. For instance, the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, the influential founder of
existentialism, put Socratic principles to use in writing
his dissertation on the concept of irony in Socrates,
often using pseudonyms so he could argue his own
positions with himself. In addition, the sixteenthcentury essayist Michel de Montaigne, who was called
“the French Socrates” and was known as the father of
skepticism in modern Europe, would write and add
conflicting and even contradictory passages in the
same work. And like Socrates, he believed the search
for truth was worth dying for.
The Socratic method forces people “to confront
their own dogmatism,” according to Leonard Nelson,
a German philosopher who wrote on such subjects as
ethics and theory of knowledge until he was forced by
the rise of Nazism to quit. By doing so, participants in
Socratic dialogue are, in effect, “forcing themselves to be
free,” Nelson maintains. But they’re not just confronted
with their own dogmatism. In the course of a [Socratic
dialogue], they may be confronted with an array of
hypotheses, convictions, conjectures and theories
offered by the other participants, and themselves—all
of which subscribe to some sort of dogma. The Socratic
method requires that—honestly and openly, rationally
and imaginatively—they confront the dogma by asking
such questions as: What does this mean? What speaks
for and against it? Are there alternative ways of considering it that are even more plausible and tenable?
At certain junctures of a Socratic dialogue, the
“forcing” that this confrontation entails—the insistence that each participant carefully articulate her
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PART 1: FUNDAMENTALS
singular philosophical perspective—can be upsetting. But that is all to the good. If it never touches
any nerves, if it doesn’t upset, if it doesn’t mentally
and spiritually challenge and perplex, in a wonderful and exhilarating way, it is not Socratic dialogue. This “forcing” opens us up to the varieties of
experiences of others—whether through direct dialogue, or through other means, like drama or books,
or through a work of art or a dance. It compels us to
explore alternative perspectives, asking what might
be said for or against each.
* * *
From The Euthyphro
Plato
* * *
Euthyphro. Piety . . . is that which is dear to the gods,
and impiety is that which is not dear to them.
Socrates. Very good, Euthyphro; you have now given
me the sort of answer which I wanted. But whether what
you say is true or not I cannot as yet tell, although I make
no doubt that you will prove the truth of your words.
Euthyphro. Of course.
Socrates. Come, then, and let us examine what we
are saying. That thing or person which is dear to the
gods is pious, and that thing or person which is hateful to the gods is impious, these two being the extreme
opposites of one another. Was not that said?
Euthyphro. It was.
Socrates. And well said?
Euthyphro. Yes, Socrates, I thought so; it was certainly said.
Socrates. And further, Euthyphro, the gods were
admitted to have enmities and hatreds and differences?
Euthyphro. Yes, that was also said.
Socrates. And what sort of difference creates enmity
and anger? Suppose for example that you and I, my
good friend, differ about a number; do differences of
this sort make us enemies and set us at variance with
one another? Do we not go at once to arithmetic, and
put an end to them by a sum?
Plato, The Euthyphro, translated by Benjamin Jowett.
Euthyphro. True.
Socrates. Or suppose that we differ about magnitudes, do we not quickly end the differences by
measuring?
Euthyphro. Very true.
Socrates. And we end a controversy about heavy and
light by resorting to a weighing machine?
Euthyphro. To be sure.
Socrates. But what differences are there which cannot be thus decided, and which therefore make us
angry and set us at enmity with one another? I dare
say the answer does not occur to you at the moment,
and therefore I will suggest that these enmities arise
when the matters of difference are the just and unjust,
good and evil, honourable and dishonourable. Are not
these the points about which men differ, and about
which when we are unable satisfactorily to decide our
differences, you and I and all of us quarrel, when we
do quarrel?
Euthyphro. Yes, Socrates, the nature of the differences about which we quarrel is such as you describe.
Socrates. And the quarrels of the gods, noble Euthyphro, when they occur, are of a like nature?
Euthyphro. Certainly they are.
Socrates. They have differences of opinion, as you
say, about good and evil, just and unjust, honourable
and dishonourable: there would have been no quarrels
CHAPTER 1: ETHiCS AND THE ExAMiNED LiFE
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among them, if there had been no such differences—
would there now?
Socrates. But do they admit their guilt, Euthyphro,
and yet say that they ought not to be punished?
Euthyphro. You are quite right.
Euthyphro. No; they do not.
Socrates. Does not every man love that which he
deems noble and good, and hate the opposite of them?
Socrates. Then there are some things which they do
not venture to say and do: for they do not venture to
argue that the guilty are to be unpunished, but they
deny their guilt, do they not?
Euthyphro. Very true.
Socrates. But, as you say, people regard the same
things, some as just and others as unjust,—about
these they dispute; and so there arise wars and fightings among them.
Euthyphro. Very true.
Socrates. Then the same things are hated by the gods
and loved by the gods, and are both hateful and dear
to them?
Euthyphro. Yes.
Socrates. Then they do not argue that the evil-doer
should not be punished, but they argue about the fact
of who the evil-doer is, and what he did and when?
Euthyphro. True.
Socrates. And upon this view the same things, Euthyphro, will be pious and also impious?
Socrates. And the gods are in the same case, if as you
assert they quarrel about just and unjust, and some
of them say while others deny that injustice is done
among them. For surely neither God nor man will
ever venture to say that the doer of injustice is not to
be punished?
Euthyphro. So I should suppose.
Euthyphro. That is true, Socrates, in the main.
Socrates. Then, my friend, I remark with surprise
that you have not answered the question which I
asked. For I certainly did not ask you to tell me what
action is both pious and impious: but now it would
seem that what is loved by the gods is also hated by
them. And therefore, Euthyphro, in thus chastising
your father you may very likely be doing what is agreeable to Zeus but disagreeable to Cronos or Uranus, and
what is acceptable to Hephaestus but unacceptable to
Hera, and there may be other gods who have similar
differences of opinion.
Socrates. But they join issue about the particulars—
gods and men alike; and, if they dispute at all, they
dispute about some act which is called in question,
and which by some is affirmed to be just, by others to
be unjust. Is not that true?
Euthyphro. True.
Euthyphro. But I believe, Socrates, that all the gods
would be agreed as to the propriety of punishing a
murderer: there would be no difference of opinion
about that.
Socrates. Well, but speaking of men, Euthyphro, did
you ever hear any one arguing that a murderer or any
sort of evil-doer ought to be let off?
Euthyphro. I should rather say that these are the
questions which they are always arguing, especially
in courts of law: they commit all sorts of crimes, and
there is nothing which they will not do or say in their
own defence.
Euthyphro. Quite true.
Socrates. Well then, my dear friend Euthyphro, do
tell me, for my better instruction and information,
what proof have you that in the opinion of all the gods
a servant who is guilty of murder, and is put in chains
by the master of the dead man, and dies because he is
put in chains before he who bound him can learn from
the interpreters of the gods what he ought to do with
him, dies unjustly; and that on behalf of such an one
a son ought to proceed against his father and accuse
him of murder. How would you show that all the gods
absolutely agree in approving of his act? Prove to me
that they do, and I will applaud your wisdom as long
as I live.
Euthyphro. It will be a difficult task; but I could
make the matter very clear indeed to you.
Socrates. I understand; you mean to say that I am not
so quick of apprehension as the judges: for to them
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PART 1: FUNDAMENTALS
you will be sure to prove that the act is unjust, and
hateful to the gods.
Euthyphro. Yes indeed, Socrates; at least if they will
listen to me.
Socrates. But they will be sure to listen if they find
that you are a good speaker. There was a notion that
came into my mind while you were speaking; I said to
myself: “Well, and what if Euthyphro does prove to
me that all the gods regarded the death of the serf as
unjust, how do I know anything more of the nature of
piety and impiety? for granting that this action may be
hateful to the gods, still piety and impiety are not adequately defined by these distinctions, for that which is
hateful to the gods has been shown to be also pleasing
and dear to them.” And therefore, Euthyphro, I do not
ask you to prove this; I will suppose, if you like, that all
the gods condemn and abominate such an action. But
I will amend the definition so far as to say that what
all the gods hate is impious, and what they love pious
or holy; and what some of them love and others hate
is both or neither. Shall this be our definition of piety
and impiety?
Euthyphro. Why not, Socrates?
Socrates. Why not! Certainly, as far as I am concerned, Euthyphro, there is no reason why not. But
whether this admission will greatly assist you in the
task of instructing me as you promised, is a matter for
you to consider.
Euthyphro. Yes, I should say that what all the gods
love is pious and holy, and the opposite which they all
hate, impious.
Socrates. Ought we to enquire into the truth of this,
Euthyphro, or simply to accept the mere statement on
our own authority and that of others? What do you say?
Euthyphro. We should enquire; and I believe that
the statement will stand the test of enquiry.
Socrates. We shall know better, my good friend, in
a little while. The point which I should first wish to
understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by
the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved
of the gods.
Euthyphro. I do not understand your meaning,
Socrates.
Socrates. I will endeavour to explain: we speak of
carrying and we speak of being carried, of leading and
being led, seeing and being seen. You know that in all
such cases there is a difference, and you know also in
what the difference lies?
Euthyphro. I think that I understand.
Socrates. And is not that which is beloved distinct
from that which loves?
Euthyphro. Certainly.
Socrates. Well; and now tell me, is that which is carried in this state of carrying because it is carried, or for
some other reason?
Euthyphro. No; that is the reason.
Socrates. And the same is true of what is led and of
what is seen?
Euthyphro. True.
Socrates. And a thing is not seen because it is visible,
but conversely, visible because it is seen; nor is a thing led
because it is in the state of being led, or carried because
it is in the state of being carried, but the converse of this.
And now I think, Euthyphro, that my meaning will be
intelligible; and my meaning is, that any state of action
or passion implies previous action or passion. It does
not become because it is becoming, but it is in a state
of becoming because it becomes; neither does it suffer
because it is in a state of suffering, but it is in a state of
suffering because it suffers. Do you not agree?
Euthyphro. Yes.
Socrates. Is not that which is loved in some state
either of becoming or suffering?
Euthyphro. Yes.
Socrates. And the same holds as in the previous
instances; the state of being loved follows the act of
being loved, and not the act the state.
Euthyphro. Certainly.
Socrates. And what do you say of piety, Euthyphro;
is not piety, according to your definition, loved by all
the gods?
Euthyphro. Yes.
Socrates. Because it is pious or holy, or for some other
reason?
CHAPTER 1: ETHiCS AND THE ExAMiNED LiFE
Euthyphro. No, that is the reason.
Socrates. It is loved because it is holy, not holy
because it is loved?
Euthyphro. Yes.
Socrates. And that which is dear to the gods is loved
by them, and is in a state to be loved of them because
it is loved of them?
Euthyphro. Certainly.
Socrates. Then that which is dear to the gods, Euthyphro, is not holy, nor is that which is holy loved of
God, as you affirm; but they are two different things.
Euthyphro. How do you mean, Socrates?
Socrates. I mean to say that the holy has been
acknowledged by us to be loved of God because it is
holy, not to be holy because it is loved.
Euthyphro. Yes.
Socrates. But that which is dear to the gods is dear to
them because it is loved by them, not loved by them
because it is dear to them.
Euthyphro. True.
Socrates. But, friend Euthyphro, if that which is
holy is the same with that which is dear to God, and
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19
is loved because it is holy, then that which is dear to
God would have been loved as being dear to God; but
if that which dear to God is dear to him because loved
by him, then that which is holy would have been holy
because loved by him. But now you see that the reverse
is the case, and that they are quite different from one
another. For one (Ueofilès) is of a kind to be loved
because it is loved, and the other (o9sion) is loved
because it is of a kind to be loved. Thus you appear to
me, Euthyphro, when I ask you what is the essence
of holiness, to offer an attribute only, and not the
essence—the attribute of being loved by all the gods.
But you still refuse to explain to me the nature of holiness. And therefore, if you please, I will ask you not to
hide your treasure, but to tell me once more what holiness or piety really is, whether dear to the gods or not
(for that is a matter about which we will not quarrel)
and what is impiety?
Euthyphro. I really do not know, Socrates, how to
express what I mean. For somehow or other our arguments, on whatever ground we rest them, seem to turn
around and walk away from us.
* * *
CHAPTER 2
‘’
Subjectivism, Relativism, and Emotivism
Consider the following: Abdulla Yones killed his
sixteen-year-old daughter Heshu in their apartment in west London. The murder was an example
of an “honor killing,” an ancient tradition still
practiced in many parts of the world. Using a
kitchen knife, Yones stabbed Heshu eleven times
and slit her throat. He later declared that he had to
kill her to expunge a stain from his family, a stain
that Heshu had caused by her outrageous behavior.
What was outrageous behavior to Yones, however,
would seem to many Westerners to be typical teenage antics, annoying but benign. Heshu’s precise
offense against her family’s honor is unclear, but
the possibilities include wearing makeup, having
a boyfriend, and showing an independent streak
that would be thought perfectly normal throughout the West. In some countries, honor killings are
sometimes endorsed by the local community or
even given the tacit blessing of the state.
What do you think of this time-honored way
of dealing with family conflicts? Specifically, what
is your opinion regarding the morality of honor
killing? Your response to this question is likely to
reveal not only your view of honor killing but your
overall approach to morality as well. Suppose your
response is something like this: “Honor killing is
morally wrong—wrong no matter where it’s done
or who does it.” With this statement, you implicitly embrace moral objectivism—the theory that
moral truths exist and that they do so independently of what individuals or societies think of
them. In other words, there are moral facts, and
they are not human inventions, fictions, or preferences. However, you need not hold that objective
20
principles are rigid rules that have no exceptions
(a view known as absolutism) or that they must be
applied in exactly the same way in every situation
and culture.
On the other hand, let us say that you assess the
case like this: “In societies that approve of honor
killing, the practice is morally right; in those that
do not approve, it is morally wrong. My society
approves of honor killing, so it is morally right.” If
you believe what you say, then you are a cultural
relativist. Cultural relativism is the view that an
action is morally right if one’s culture approves of
it. Moral rightness and wrongness are therefore relative to cultures. So in one culture, an action may
be morally right; in another culture, it may be morally wrong.
Perhaps you prefer an even narrower view of
morality, and so you say, “Honor killing may be
right for you, but it is most certainly not right for
me.” If you mean this literally, then you are committed to another kind of relativism called subjective relativism—the view that an action is
morally right if one approves of it. Moral rightness
and wrongness are relative not to cultures but to
individuals. An action, then, can be right for you
but wrong for someone else. Your approving of an
action makes it right. There is therefore no objective morality, and cultural norms do not make right
or wrong—individuals make right or wrong.
Finally, imagine that you wish to take a different tack regarding the subject of honor killing. You
say, “I abhor the practice of honor killing”—but
you believe that in uttering these words you are
saying nothing that is true or false. You believe that
CHAPTER 2: SubjECTiviSm, RElATiviSm, And EmoTiviSm
despite what your statement seems to mean, you
are simply expressing your emotions. You therefore hold to emotivism—the view that moral
utterances are neither true nor false but are instead
expressions of emotions or attitudes. So in your
sentence about honor killing, you are not stating a
fact—you are merely emoting and possibly trying
to influence someone’s behavior. Even when emotivists express a more specific preference regarding
other people’s behavior—by saying, for instance,
“No one should commit an honor killing”—they
are still not making a factual claim. They are simply
expressing a preference, and perhaps hoping to persuade other people to see things their way.
These four replies represent four distinct perspectives (though certainly not the only perspectives) on the meaning and import of moral
judgments. Moreover, they are not purely theoretical, but real and relevant. People actually live their
lives (or try to) as moral objectivists, or relativists,
or emotivists, or some strange and inconsistent
mixture of these. (There is an excellent chance, for
example, that you were raised as an objectivist but
now accept some form of relativism—or even try to
hold to objectivism in some instances and relativism in others.)
In any case, the question that you should ask
(and that ethics can help you answer) is not whether
you in fact accept any of these views, but whether you
are justified in doing so. Let us see, then, where an
examination of reasons for and against them will
lead.
SUBJECTIVE RELATIVISM
What view of morality could be more tempting (and
convenient) than the notion that an action is right
if someone approves of it? Subjective relativism
says that action X is right for Ann if she approves
of it yet wrong for Greg if he disapproves of it. Thus
action X can be both right and wrong—right for
Ann but wrong for Greg. A person’s approval of an
action makes it right for that person. Action X is not
’
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