Moral Law and Moral Progress
Opinions alter, manners change creedrise and fall but the moral law is written on the tablets of eternity
The Origin of Ethics
First studied as a branch of philosophy beginning in 500-400 BC in Ancient Greece
‘Philo’ means to love, or like
‘Sophia’ means wisdom
To study philosophy requires analysis – it means not accepting something at face value
The Application of Ethics
To gain knowledge about the correct action to take in a practical situation true or reasonable moral principles should be applied.
Deciding on which action to take means:
Accepting a moral principle
Considering the relevant facts
An ethical, practical solution to a problem or question
A true or reasonable moral principle can explain why we ought to do such and such in a practical situation. Unless we have recourse to a unique principle, or at least a consistent set of principles, we have no explanation at all.
Torbjorn Tannsjo Understanding Ethics 2010
Classic Utilitarianism: Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
Bentham’s best known claim implies an act is morally right if that act causes ‘the greatest happiness for the greatest number’
An action is judged pragmatically by its effects. The results of an action determine its rightness
In the utilitarian view, it may be considered ethical to harm one person for the benefit of the larger group
John Stuart Mill 1806 – 1873
Mill was a valuational hedonist: pleasure and the absence of pain were the only intrinsic ends
Argued an act was right in the proportion in which it contributed to the general happiness
An act was wrong in the proportion in which it contributed to general unhappiness or pain
Mill acknowledged the same act can make some happy but cause others pain. Both sets of consequences should be valued simultaneously
This belief could be used to reason that journalism might hurt the subject, but further general welfare.
In utilitarian theory, no-one’s happiness is more valuable than another’s.
In ethical egoism we have no duties to anyone but ourselves.
Every individual ought to maximise his or her own happiness.
If people’s goals are in conflict, each individual ought to maintain his or her own goal.
Does an artist or photographer have a right to work according to their own goals in the system of ethical egoism?