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					Introduction to Ethics
Philosophy 4 (Summer 2012)
What is Ethics?
What is Ethics?
What is Ethics?
 Ethics, or moral philosophy, is the study of
  how we ought to live our lives.
 Unlike psychology, which describes how
  we do in fact live our lives, ethics is
  concerned with whether or not we should
  live our lives that way, e.g. whether it is
  right or wrong to steal, whether it is good
  or bad to be kind to others all the time.
Areas of Moral Philosophy
   Metaethics

   Normative Ethics

   Applied Ethics
Course Aims
   We will begin with skepticism about morality
    in general. Is morality a figment of our
    imagination? Is morality somehow
    dependent on our beliefs and feelings?
   We will then turn to substantive theories on
    what makes a person, her intentions, and her
    actions right or wrong, morally good or bad.
   Finally, we will see how these theories can
    help inform our moral judgments by applying
    those theories to specific cases
Additional Course Aims
   Along the way, you should also develop
    the following:
    ◦ Reading skills
    ◦ Writing skills
    ◦ Critical thinking skills
    ◦ (More) reflective and considered moral
    ◦ Moral character
Required Text
 Exploring Ethics: An Introductory Anthology
  (2nd Edition, 2011), ed. Steven M. Cahn
 The majority of the readings are the same
  as the first edition, so you can buy the
  first edition, but you will need to obtain
  the missing chapters.
Additional Reading
 I will also post handouts that will
  supplement the readings.
 These handouts will also contain
  questions meant to spark discussion.
 The lecture slides will also contain
  additional information not included in the
 Warning:You will be responsible for all
  material (lecture, handouts, readings).
Course Webpage
All handouts, the syllabus, PowerPoint
 slides and any additional resources are
 available on course webpage:

   The PowerPoint slides online are only
    partial; you will need to attend lecture to
    receive the missing information.
Course Requirements
 Section Attendance           10%
 Paper #1 (Due 8/20)          20%
 Midterm (In Class 8/30)      30%
 Paper #2 (Due 9/13)          40%

   Lecture attendance is not mandatory, but
    highly recommended. We will be
    discussing a lot of information that is only
    available from lecture.
Section Attendance
 If you want to switch sections, you need
  to gain the approval of your TA.
 If approved, you do not need to change
  sections formally on GOLD.

   You must attend one section consistently
    (you cannot just attend whichever section
    you feel like when you feel like).
Academic Dishonesty
 You are responsible for knowing the
  university policy on academic dishonesty
  (available online; see link on syllabus).
 If you are having any difficulty with the
  course, please notify me as soon as
  possible so that I can work with you.
   Priority will be given to:
    ◦   3rd and 4th+ year philosophy majors
    ◦   3rd and 4th+ year non-philosophy majors
    ◦   1st and 2nd year philosophy majors
    ◦   1st and 2nd year non-philosophy majors

   See me after class.
Ethical Discourse
 Before we begin, we need to set the
  proper foundation for sound ethical
 The questions we are concerned with
    ◦ What is an argument?
    ◦ What counts as a good argument?
    ◦ What is unique about ethical arguments?
The Building Blocks
 A statement is an assertion that
  something is or is not the case.
 A statement has a truth value, i.e. is the
  kind of thing that can be either true or
 Some non-statements include:
    ◦ Questions (e.g. Are you hungry?)
    ◦ Commands (e.g. Do what I tell you!)
    ◦ Explicatives (e.g. Damn! Sick! Awesome!)
The Building Blocks
 An argument is a collection of statements
  in which some of them (the premises) are
  intended to support another of them (the
 Arguments try to convince you of some
 A helpful way to think of arguments is to
  begin with the ultimate conclusion, then
  ask “What reasons are given to lead me
  to this conclusion?”
   Premise:
    ◦ Because, given that, since, assuming that, for
      the reason that, the reason being, for, as, as
      indicated by, due to the fact that, seeing that,
      in view of the fact that
   Conclusion:
    ◦ Therefore, thus, hence, so, as a result,
      consequently, it follows that, which implies
      that, we can conclude that, it must be that,
      which means that, ergo
Types of Arguments
   Deductive Argument
    ◦ A deductive argument is an argument that is
      intended to provide conclusive support for its
    ◦ E.g. Humans are mammals, and John is a human;
      therefore, John is a mammal.
   Inductive Argument
    ◦ An inductive argument is an argument that is
      intended to provide probable support for its
    ◦ E.g. I have seen a hundred geese in my life and all
      of them have been white; therefore, the next
      geese I see will (most likely) be white.
Deductively Valid Arguments
 Validity has nothing to do with the truth
  or falsity of specific claims.
 Rather, validity deals with the form or
  structure of the argument.
 In other words, validity is concerned with
  the relationship between the premises
  and the conclusion.
Deductively Valid Arguments
 An argument is valid if it succeeds in
  providing conclusive support for its
 In other words, the argument is such that
  if all of its premises are true, then the
  conclusion must be true.
 It is impossible for all the premises to be
  true and the conclusion to be false.
Deductively Valid Arguments
   For example:
         If it is Monday, then I have class.
         I have class.
         Therefore, it is Monday.
   This argument is invalid because even if all
    the premises are true, the conclusion does not
    have to follow. It is still possible for the
    conclusion to be false, which means that the
    premises do not force the conclusion.
Deductively Valid Arguments
   For example:

   This argument, on the other hand, is valid
    because if all the premises are true, then the
    conclusion has to be true given the
    relationship between the premises.
Deductive Arguments
 Of course, validity alone is not all we
  want; we are also concerned with the
  truth of the premises. And that is where
  soundness comes in.
 Sound arguments are valid arguments in
  which all the premises are true.
 So soundness is the holy grail of
  deductive arguments.
Basic Valid Inference Rules
   Modus Ponens
    ◦ 1) If P, then Q

    ◦ 2) P

    ◦ 3) Therefore, Q
Basic Valid Inference Rules
   Modus Tollens
    ◦ 1) If P, then Q

    ◦ 2) Not-Q

    ◦ 3) Therefore, Not-P
Basic Valid Inference Rules
   Hypothetical Syllogism
    ◦ 1) If P, then Q

    ◦ 2) If Q, then R

    ◦ 3) Therefore, if P, then R
Basic Valid Inference Rules
   Disjunctive Syllogism
    ◦ 1) P or Q

    ◦ 2) Not-P

    ◦ 3) Therefore, Q
Common Fallacies
   Denying the Antecedent
    ◦ 1) If P, then Q

    ◦ 2) Not-P

    ◦ 3) Therefore, Not-Q

   Even if the premises are true, the
    conclusion can be false (e.g. I am an
Common Fallacies
   Affirming the Consequent
    ◦ 1) If P, then Q

    ◦ 2) Q

    ◦ 3) Therefore, P

   Even if both premises are true, I, a non-
    rapper, can get platinum teeth too (i.e. the
    conclusion can still be false).
Rules of Inference
 On Handout #1, there are some practice
  problems to help you understand these
 You will also discuss these rules of
  inferences in more depth in your
  discussion section.
 If you are interested in proper rules of
  inference, consider taking Philosophy 3:
  Critical Thinking (or Philosophy 183G:
  Beginning Modern Logic).
Moral Arguments
 Now you might be asking: “What does
  any of this have to do with morality?”
 We will be looking at various arguments
  for conclusions about what we ought to
  do, or what is morally right to do.
 These moral arguments, in many ways,
  shares the form of deductive arguments.
Moral Arguments
   For example:
    ◦   1) You should not harm others.
    ◦   2) Abortion is the killing of innocent children.
    ◦   3) Killing of any kind is harming.
    ◦   4) Therefore, you should not perform
   But of course, moral arguments are
    drawing moral conclusions, i.e.
    conclusions about what we ought to do,
    or what is good to do.
Moral Statements
   A moral statement is a statement that an
    action is right or wrong, or that
    something, like a person or motive, is
    morally good or bad.
    ◦ You should do unto others what you would
      have them do unto you.
    ◦ Lying to get what you want is morally wrong.
    ◦ It is good to give to charity.
Moral Statements
   A moral statement can be a general
    principle or something much more
    ◦ General moral principle:You should not
    ◦ Particular: You should not kill Ben Affleck
      tomorrow in his hotel room for his atrocious
Normative vs. Descriptive
   A descriptive claim is a claim about what
    is the case.
    ◦ E.g. It is sunny outside right now.
   A normative claim is a claim about what
    ought to be the case, or what is good to
    ◦ E.g. It is wrong to eat human fetuses.
   Moral statements are normative claims, not
    descriptive ones.
Moral Arguments
   Now that we have a better idea of what
    moral statements are, we can now
    formulate what a moral argument is.

   A moral argument is an argument in
    which the conclusion is a moral
Moral Arguments
 Usually, moral arguments include (either
  explicitly or implicitly) both moral and
  non-moral statements in their premises.
 E.g.You should not harm others and
  punching others in the face is hurting
  them; therefore, you should not punch
  people in the face.
 There is a reason that we will often find a
  moral statement in the premises.
Is/Ought Distinction
   In the 18th Century,
    David Hume noted
    that there is a gap
    between what is the
    case (descriptive) and
    what ought to be the
    case (normative), such
    that we cannot draw
    any conclusion about
    what ought to be the
    case solely from what is
    the case.
Is/Ought Distinction
   Consider the following argument:
    ◦ 1) If you perform surgery on a person
      without her informed consent, you are not
      respecting her autonomy.
    ◦ 2) Therefore, you should not perform surgery
      on a person without her informed consent.
   Often there is an implicit moral premise
    that, once made explicit, may avoid the
    problem (in this case: “You should respect
    others’ autonomy”).

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