ETHICS 1 Module 1 study guide (Aug 2018)

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ETHICS 1 - Ethics and Moral Reasoning in Everyday Life
Module 1
ETHICS, MORES, AND VALUES
Introduction
This module aims to analyze the nature of mores and values in ethics. It discusses the interplay between the individual as a free moral agent, and his/her society or environment,
as well as the process of value experience, including the difference between values and
moral values. In broad strokes, it gives a background on the nature of morality and the
mores which are the subject matter of ethics. It examines the nature of mores, including
the development of the notion of what is ‘right’ in our culture. The module also examines
the notion of freedom as it relates to morality, together with the wide range of values and
moral values, including the nature and basis of the choices that we make.
Learning Outcomes
After studying this module, you should be able to:
1. Discuss the nature of mores and values in ethics;
2. Explain the difference between values and moral values;
3. Differentiate between a moral judgment and a moral decision; and
4. Explore the difference between intellectual choice and practical choice.
1.0 The Realm of Morality: Ethics and Mores
Ethics is the branch of philosophy that deals with the systematic questioning and critical
examination of the underlying principles of morality. Ethics came from the root word
‘ethos’ which refers to the character of a culture. Ethos includes the attitude of approval or
disapproval in a particular culture at a given time and place. The subject matter being
studied in ethics is morality. Morality came from the root word ‘mores’, which refers to
the customs, including the customary behavior, of a particular group of people. This constitutes the core of the attitudes and beliefs of a particular group of people. Therefore,
mores (in Latin) and ethos (in Greek), both refer to customary behavior.
Ethics as the study of moral goodness or badness or the rightness and wrongness of an act
and it has two general approaches — normative and meta-ethics. Normative ethics answers the question, ‘What is good?’ It pertains to norms or standards of goodness and the
rightness or wrongness of an act. A comprehensive normative ethical system tries to give a
moral framework where its standards of morality are based. An example is Christian ethics
with its well defined and clear parameters and definition of what is good and bad based on
its comprehensive framework. Meta-ethics, on the other hand, examines the presuppositions, meanings, and justifications of ethical concepts and principles. For example, instead
of assuming that there is an objective moral truth, meta-ethics will question the basis for
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this by asking whether or not morality is objective or subjective, or by posing questions
about the assumption of a moral theory such as ‘What is your justification for claiming in
your theory that pleasure is good?’
The study of ethics and morality entails an analysis of both the individual human person
acting as a free moral agent and his/her society with its social rules and sanctions that set
limitations on individual behavior. Individual behavior is governed by a sense of what is
the right thing to do, which is based on the customs or mores of a particular society. For
example, the way parents raise their children is governed by the mores of their society.
1.1 The Role of Society and the Individual in the Emergence of Mores
William Graham Sumner, a well known sociologist and anthropologist, claims that our
notion of what is ‘right’ stems from our basic instinct to survive. That is, human beings
formed groups in order to meet the task of survival, and from living in groups they observed best practices and developed the most practical way of doing things. From these
practices emerged traditions and notions of the right thing to do. For example, for each
group of people there is a right way of catching game, a right way of treating guests, and a
right way of dressing up. Sumner refers to these notions of ‘right’ and ‘true’ as ‘folkways’.
Sumner states further that mores come from folkways, with the added element of societal
welfare embodied in them. In order to preserve society and its accepted norms and practices, the individual, consciously or unconsciously, defends and upholds society’s notions
of what is right. At the same time, the group as a whole develops social rules and sanctions, which may be implicit or explicit, in order to preserve the group practices and to
control the behavior of the individual for the purpose of maintaining order in society.
Thus, customs emerge out of repeated practices, while from the individual observance of
group practices emerge habits. This becomes the culture of a particular group or society.
Mores become the compelling reason to do what ought to be done, because it is the right
thing to do to preserve and protect society. Mores exert social pressure on the individual to
conform to society’s expectations in terms of character and behavior — that is, to come as
close as possible to the ideal man or woman.
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Activity 1
Read William Sumner’s “The Case for Ethical Relativism” in Philosophy: The Basic Issues, pp. 496-511, and then answer the questions below based on what you understood
from the reading.
1. How do you develop your notion of ‘what is the right thing to do’ in society?
2. What is the connection between your choices as an individual and that of your society?
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3. To what extent do the mores of your society shape your notion of “good/bad” or
“right/wrong”?
4. Do mores change? How? Cite an example.
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Even as society defends and preserves its mores, these same mores may change to adapt to
new conditions. The changes in the mores of a particular society do not happen in an instant, but they happen unconsciously over time. For example, during the Spanish period,
women wore dresses that covered them from head to toe, and it was thought that seeing a
woman’s ankles was tantamount to seeing her naked. But women’s fashion has changed
so much through the years that our Spanish ancestors might well be rolling in their graves
at the way women are dressed today. According to Sumner, this point can be summarized
thus: “The ‘morals’ of an age are never anything but the consonance between what is done
and what the mores of the age requires.”
Consequently, with regard to morality one always has to consider two points of view —
the point of view of society, together with its customs, social rules, and social sanctions,
and that of the individual or the free moral agent who develops habits in the course of
following the social norms established by society. Ultimately, it is still the individual, in
his/her capacity as a rational and free moral agent, who will decide whether to follow
these norms.
On the other hand, society is not homogenous, because there is an interplay of varying
views and groups where the individual belongs. The factors that may affect the individual’s choices are varied and even contradictory at times. The individual may belong simultaneously to different groups, and these groups could exert varying and sometimes contrasting degrees of influence on him/her. For example, individuals can be influenced by
their family, peer groups, church, school, the mass media, and social media. Ultimately,
however, it is still the individual who would make his/her own moral decisions.
As mentioned, the notion of morality develops with the interplay between society and the
individual. Here, society would be composed of different groups that directly or indirectly
shape the values of the individual. These values serve as the individual’s guide in his/her
pursuit of what he/she believes to be the moral or the ‘good’ life. Note that the individual
is assumed to be a free moral agent who can make choices and deliberate or reflect before
acting or making a decision. Moreover, as society grows and becomes more complex, the
different groups that comprise it could put forward competing values, including different
notions of ‘what is good’. In this case, it is the rational individual who can decide for him/
herself which moral principles to uphold, based on his/her upbringing and the influence of
various groups in his/her society (family, church, school, peer groups, social media, mass
media, etc.). Therefore, the individual plays a pivotal role as a free moral agent in analyzing, choosing, and valuing what he/she considers as most important when he/she makes
his/her choices.
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Society, as a whole, functions as a way of controlling the behaviour of an individual. It
becomes necessary to impose social controls and sanctions so that the individual would be
guided accordingly. To a certain extent, society coerces its members to follow its rules to
maintain order. For example, even if we are irritated by people who disobey traffic rules,
we are not free to do what we would like to do, like kill them, because we are bound by
the mores of our society. These mores become the basis of the morals of that society when
expressed or laid out as ethical principles that its members are bound to respect and follow. This is the force or power of mores. The individual can feel this power whenever he/
she does something against the rules of society and he/she is bothered by his/her ‘conscience’ as if he/she is hearing the voices of elders telling him/her what he/she should do.
According to Sumner, as society grows, it becomes more difficult to control the behavior
of its members, and there is a need to formalize and codify some of the rules that we are
bound to follow. Thus, from mores as the embodiment of societal welfare, laws and institutions emerge in order to protect society and to set some system of societal control over
the behavior of individual members. These laws could be positive laws and customary or
common laws, while institutions could be crescive or enacted.
Sumner states that common laws or customary laws are part of the customs of our society,
and they emerge unconsciously as part of the mores of our culture, whereas positive laws
are formulated and are products of rational reflection, discussion, and verification. For
example, our constitution and penal code are part of the positive laws of the Philippines
while certain practices in our culture like ‘sabong’ or cockfighting with its own rules of
the game, or the informal practice of transacting personal loans without collateral (also
known as “5-6”) from enterprising people, and even keeping common law wives on the
part of philandering husbands have long been part of our culture and are examples of our
customary or common law. They may not be legal but these practices are part of the Filipino culture and are accepted or tolerated by many.
Institutions, on the other hand, can be considered crescive or enacted. Crescive institutions, according to Sumner, are products of our mores like our very rich religious practices
which mirror the religiosity of Filipinos. In contrast, enacted institutions are products of
rational reflection and are purposely established to cater to the needs of the members of
society, in the process establishing order and protecting society. Examples of enacted institutions are our banking system and land titling system.
Unfortunately, not everything that has been passed into a positive law can be considered
moral or in accordance with the mores originally intended to serve societal welfare and
protect society. In this regard, an important question to consider is: Is what is legal moral?
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Activity 2
Watch the 40-minute HBO documentary “Saving Face” at http://www.alluc.to/documentaries/watch-saving-face-2012-online/448019.html. After watching the documentary
about acid attacks on women in Pakistan, answer the following questions:
1. Explain these incidents of acid attack on women in terms of the mores of their culture.
2. Do you think women should be freed from this bondage? Do you agree with Zakia’s
pursuit of justice? Explain your answer.
3. Is it your obligation as a moral being to enlighten and empower women and other
marginalized sectors from their own culture by educating them about their rights in
order that they could assert and enjoy freedom in their own culture? Why/Why not?
Be ready to discuss your answers in class.
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1.2 Freedom and Morality
The concept of freedom, as well as the application of freedom to individual rights, has
been widely used in different levels of analysis in Philippine society as a whole. Freedom
as a concept that pertains to the moral realm is examined in this section. An important
question that must be brought to light is: What is freedom and how is it exercised in the
realm of morals?
John Paul Sartre, an existentialist philosopher, assumes the idea of radical freedom by
claiming that “man is condemned to be free”. Sartre conceives of “man” as an unconstrained free moral agent in the sense that he always has a choice in every aspect of his
life. Even if somebody points a gun at his head, he still has a choice whether to follow the
wishes of his captors. Sartre claims that “Man is nothing else but that which he makes of
himself.” “Man” is never compelled or determined; he is totally free and therefore, totally
responsible for all the things that he does.
When you exercise freedom in making your choices, you are taking control and assuming
full responsibility for those choices. However, there is one important caveat: you are free
but this freedom is not absolute. You cannot do anything that you please without taking
into consideration the norms of your society. Mores are there to serve as a form of social
control to limit, govern, or regulate your behavior in order to maintain order in your society. For example, you cannot just go about killing people you consider as obnoxious. You
are perhaps familiar with the saying ‘your freedom ends where my freedom begins’.
Within the given parameters of our environment, including the economic, political and
social environment, we assume freedom. Our discussion will come to nothing if we assume otherwise — i.e. that human beings are not free and their choices are always determined by factors or forces in their environment. This deterministic view is tantamount to
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saying that human beings are like robots or machines whose actions and functions can be
predicted like cause and effect given the parameters of the variables in his/her environment. Nor can we embrace fully the extreme view of radical freedom without taking into
consideration the norms of our society.
Freedom of the human person in the moral sense of the word assumes that one is a free
moral agent. Moral, in this sense, refers to the freedom to make one's choice in accordance with one’s own moral discernment of what is good and bad, and one is taking full
responsibility for one’s own actions and is using his/her rational and empathetic capacity
as a moral being. Aside from our reason and critical thinking, we also have the ability to
empathize or to feel what other beings feel and to situate ourselves in their shoes.
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Activity 3
Read Benedict, R. (1934). Anthropology and the abnormal. Journal of General Psychology, 10(1), 59-82 and answer the questions below.
1. Explain Benedict’s concept of the “normal/abnormal” and relate it with Sumner’s discussion of the mores of society.
2. Explain and analyze the normal practices or norms in the cultures of the tribes described by Benedict in terms of the discussion about mores and social sanctions to
maintain, preserve, and protect the welfare of one’s society.
3. Compare the norms described by Benedict to our own standard of what is “normal/
abnormal” in our culture. How will you justify these ‘abnormal’ practices?
Be ready to discuss your answers in class.
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1.3 Necessary Conditions for Morality: Freedom and Obligation
According to John Mothershead, there are two necessary conditions for morality to occur:
freedom and obligation. As explained above, freedom is assumed when one is making
choices and is the agent taking full responsibility for planning his/her life, and in the
process, planning and budgeting his/her actions for some future goal. This is in accordance with the individual’s moral and rational capacity to know and discern what is right
and wrong. This condition of freedom can be seen as limiting or constraining the realm of
morals for human beings. Animals do not have the capacity to look forward and consciously plan for the future. Even when ants hoard their food for the rainy days, this action
is based on instinct. Only human beings are capable of planning for their future, planning
their life, and setting their goals as a result of these plans.
The assumption of freedom entails another assumption, which is obligation. In its moral
sense, obligation is construed as a one’s duty to him/herself to exercise freedom as a raPage 6
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tional moral being. In other words, it is seen as his/her duty to him/herself to do this budgeting and planning for the future because the future is yet to be and the only way to make
it better is by being obliged to do so.
In other words, you are not free to be unfree. In making moral decisions and choices, it is
within the capacity of the human person as an active and free moral agent to exercise his/
her freedom of choice as his/her obligation to him/herself.
Our discussion of freedom entails this basic presupposition: That the human person is free
in the exercise of making choices in the realm of morality — that is, in making choices
with regard to determining what is the right thing to do in situations and circumstances in
his/her own life. This can be summarized in our Filipino saying, “Buntot mo, hila mo!” It
is taking full responsibility for your actions and being obliged to do so.
When was the last time you blamed other people for a mistake that you made? There is a
tendency for people to blame others for their choice of a course of action. For example, a
couple who freely choose to marry each other out of love could, when the marriage sours,
blame each other for their predicament and end up saying he/she was forced or coerced by
the other into the marriage. However, it is one’s obligation to oneself to exercise one’s capacity for deliberation and reflection by thinking about the consequences before making a
decision. In other words, this is an exercise of one’s rationality to the fullest without forgetting one’s humanity and his/her capacity for empathy.
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Activity 4
A. Read Mothershead’s Ethics: Modern Conception of the Principles of Right, Chapter 2
(pp. 21-36), “The Problem of the Scope of Morality” and answer the study questions below.
1. When does a value become a moral value? Is money a value? Can money become a
moral value? Why/Why not? Can you think of other examples?
2. Why do we have this tendency to render moral judgements on others so easily? Explain your answer.
3. Is your practical choice always in consonance with your intellectual choice? Why/
Why not?
B. Think of an example of a morally significant act that you have done in the past which
you consider as an exercise of your freedom.
1. Explain how, in your exercise of this freedom, you also considered society’s role in
limiting your behavior.
2. And then explain how your exercise of this freedom is a moral obligation on your part. Write your answer in your journal and then share your views in class.
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2.0
Values and Choices
This section explains the reason behind the claim that only human beings are moral. The
nature of our value experiences is explained, including the difference between a value and a
moral value as well as the distinction between moral decisions and moral judgments and
between intellectual and practical choices.
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Activity 5
Watch the movie ‘Hachiko’ starring Richard Gere at http://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=cSkgXhHbCSw.
Do you think the dog Hachi has the capacity to make moral decisions and choices? Why/
Why not?
Write your answer in your journal and then share your views in class.
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2.1 Only humans are moral
According to Mothershead, conduct refers to deliberate human action. It is a result of the
process of reflection based on the idea that the human person is endowed with the capacity to think and plan his/her own life using his/her rationality and to weigh the consequences of his/her actions.
In general, we do not ascribe morality to animals or to natural calamities like typhoons,
earthquakes or tsunamis, for example. Even if typhoon Yolanda claimed around 8,000
lives, it would be nonsensical to declare that typhoon Yolanda was immoral. Animals are
not capable of the act of deliberation or reflection. If your cat or your dog eats your fried
chicken, this is not an action based on reflection and deliberation but on instinct — for
example, the cat or dog does not think about whether it would be depriving its master of
food for dinner. Animal behavior is instinctive whereas human behavior is a matter of
conduct. While some animals have been recognized to have the ability to solve simple
problems and the ability to connect events like cause and effect, they develop these
through the process of conditioning, where positive and negative reinforcement are used
for the animal to learn the behavior. An example is Skinner’s pigeon which was conditioned or trained to peck five times for food to be given. Another example is a chimpanzee, shown to have the capacity to solve simple problems by using simple instruments
or devices in order to reach his food, like using a stick to get the food placed in an area not
near enough for his bare hands or to use a stool to reach and pull the string to turn on the
light.
Some philosophers have debated whether some animals have the capacity to be moral bePage 8
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cause of stories where pet animals like dogs have been recognized as heroes for saving
lives. In the Philippines, we have our version of a hero dog named ‘Kabang’ whose upper
snout was badly damaged when she went between her master’s daughter and a tricycle to
protect her from being run over. Do you think that what Kabang did is a moral act? Did it
entail deliberation or was it based purely on instinct and conditioning? As a compromise
to these two opposing views, some philosophers have agreed to call this pre-reflective
morality in animals because animals are not capable of the wide range of deliberation,
reflection, concept construction, and rational and critical thinking that humans are able to
do. In other words, this is morality that occurs prior to deliberation and reflection. According to Mothershead, only humans are moral in so far as they are capable of deliberate human action.
2.2 Value Experience: Values and Moral Values
In the process going through our everyday lives, we cannot help but choose and consider
the options available to us. The range of choices is so wide and varied. It ranges from the
most trivial to the most difficult choices and decisions that we have to make in our life.
When we are in the process of choosing among the alternatives in a given situation, even
in the most trivial things like choosing our outfit for the day, or what to eat, or what hairstyle to adopt, the process of value experience comes into play. Mothershead adds that this
is the side-taking part of our experience. This valuation process happens when we make
choices and indicate our preferences, for example, when we like or dislike, approve or
disapprove, favor or disfavor. Values are the result of this process of value experience
where you set which priorities to pursue. They may also be considered as imperatives that
you have set your mind to do. According to Mothershead, “All values are priorities with
respect to some aspect of human experience. This is usually expressed by saying that values are imperatives; they make a claim upon us, whether we admit the claim or not.” We
do this valuation process when we set priorities among the choices or alternatives available to us. For example, choosing to buy smartphones over something else reflects the
value placed on being socially connected.
Now when does a value become a moral value? The priorities that we attach to values are
limited in its scope of importance or significance in our life. For example, money is a value and as a student you might save money in order to buy something that you value more,
like a new mobile phone. Once you have that new mobile hone, you will be fulfilled until
the next object of value that you would consider worth saving up for. In other words,
money is a value because it is a means to an end, which could be another value more important than money and for which you are willing to give up your money. Your textbooks
are of value throughout the school year that you are using them. But once the school year
is over, you would normally discard them to make way for a new set of textbooks in your
shelf for the next school year. The value of looking at a beautiful face is often appreciated
by many. When a beautiful person passes by, everybody would look at that person and
perhaps appreciate beauty when they see it. But that is all there is to it. This is because
beauty is just a value.
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Can beauty become a moral value? Can money become a moral value? Can chastity and
purity become a moral value? Mothershead argues that a value can become a moral value
if it becomes an unlimited priority in its scope of relevance in our life. This is to say that
one is willing to give up other values in order to promote what s/he considers as a moral
value. Thus, a moral value takes precedence and priority over other values. In other
words, you are willing to give up other values just to promote this moral value. Moreover,
the priority claimed by this moral value is unlimited because it could influence your decisions in other aspects of your life and you are willing to set other values aside for it. For
example, those who value chastity and purity are willing to forego love in order to remain
chaste and pure. Money could also become a moral value for some people who set aside
other values, like family ties or friendship, for the sake of money. This could be the reason
why we sometimes hear negative labels like ‘Mukhang pera yan’, ‘Walang kai-kaibigan o
kamag-anak, lahat pera pera lang ang katapat’, ‘Diyos niya ang pera!’ Still others may
consider beauty as a moral value when they are willing to take risks to their health, like
having surgical enhancements in order to achieve beauty.
Values and moral value may change over time. As one matures and grows older, there are
values and moral value that one outgrows and a new set takes over. These changes could
be brought about by changing circumstances or by unforeseen events. For example, after
the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda, people in the affected areas may have re-examined
their priorities as they faced the reality of losing their loved ones.
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Activity 6
Make a list of things that you value (they could be material or non-material). Arrange them
according to their degree of importance in your life.
Consider the topmost three of these things that you value. Do you also consider them as a
moral value? Please explain why they are so or why they are not your moral values?
And then consider the bottom part of your list of values and explain why they should belong there using your valuation process.
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2.3 Moral Judgments and Moral Decisions
According to Mothershead, “Making moral judgments is budgeting actions”. Furthermore,
for him, “[a] moral decision is the most important class of moral judgments” because it
“has reference to the judger’s own future action.” Our moral decisions reflect our choices
as to what should be included or excluded in our life. This is what freedom entails — to
make these choices, and in effect, to plan and budget our life, including mapping out plans
for the future.
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Mothershead also states that “not all moral judgments are decisions” as “many of our
moral judgments have reference to other people or groups of people.” We often render
moral judgments on what others should or ought to do. Here, we are like spectators, where
the process of budgeting or planning extends to other people or groups, and goes beyond
our personal life and endeavors. This activity could extend outside of our personal space,
to our neighbors, to celebrities we do not know personally, to other ethnic groups and even
to people outside our country of origin. It has been said that Filipinos are prone to making
moral judgments even on people they barely know. Perhaps this is also true of people in
other countries. In general, people have a propensity to make moral judgments on other
people. In fact, it could sometimes become a pastime or a habit for some, taking the form
of giving unsolicited advice. These judgments could have a wide range of application and
could extend into the indeterminable future. When we claim for example, as a moral
judgment, that no one should be allowed to punish an innocent person, this judgment has a
wide and far reaching application beyond our lifetime.
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Activity 7
Cite statements that possess universal appeal and are upheld as moral values.
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2.4 Intellectual Choice and Practical Choice
In our actions as free moral agents and the exercise of moral reasoning, there tends to be
what Grassian has labelled as “the confusion between what one ought to do and what
one would be inclined to do”.
We can adapt an objective point of view and ask ourselves, “What do I ought to do given
this situation?” With this question in mind, we could very well examine and analyze the
situation as objectively as possible with the use of our intellectual and rational capacity, in
order to come up with an intellectual choice. This is the process of giving normative answers as rational moral beings. Normative answers are answers about what we ought to do
from a moral system that we uphold and its moral principles. These normative or prescriptive answers would also take into consideration the behavior that is expected of us by society. For example, when you are being asked to resolve a moral dilemma, you can try to
give your intellectual choice as a normative answer. Here you are using your imagination
because you are not, as it were, facing that actual moral situation described in the dilemma. In this case, the answers that you are inclined to give are prescriptive in this imaginary
and hypothetical situation.
On the other hand, the question “What would I be inclined to do, given this situation” has
to do with the practical choice when faced with the actual situation. There seems to be a
difference between making moral decisions in actual situations where you are involved
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and the normative answers that you give when you are confronted only with a hypothetical
situation. These practical choices when confronted with the actual situation have to do
more with the psychological aspect of the person actually embroiled in the moral situation
or dilemma, according to Grassian. He adds that “[o]ur quest, however, is not the psychological one of what an individual would as a matter of fact be inclined to do in a given situation but, rather, the normative one of what he morally ought to do. The mere fact that an
individual might be inclined to act in a particular way does not show that that is the way
he should act.”
For example, psychological and emotional stress and lack of time to deliberate during an
actual moral situation may affect a person’s moral decision in that situation. A person may
be so engulfed by emotions that s/he may sometimes fail to make the right choice. Or the
stress could make the person's practical choice inconsistent with her/his intellectual
choice. This is the root of the confusion, Grassian claims. The business of philosophy is
the examination of what one ought to do — i.e., one's intellectual choices. It is hoped that
given the luxury of time to reflect on moral problems and situations, when the time comes
for one to confront actual problems and situations, one would make the correct choices
based on what one ought to do.
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Activity 8
In the recent past, can you recall any conflict between your intellectual choice and your
practical choice? Which did you uphold? Discuss your reasons for making that particular
choice.
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Conclusion
To sum up, mores come from our folkways which are the source of our notion of what is
right, but with the added element of societal welfare in order to protect, preserve and
maintain society. In the study of morality, which is the subject matter of ethics, there are
two points of view to consider: first, the point of view of society, together with its customs, social rules and sanctions; and second, the point of view of the individual or the
human being as a free moral agent. According to Mothershead, there are two necessary
conditions for morality to occur: freedom and obligation. Freedom is assumed when one
is making his/her choices and is the agent who is taking full responsibility for planning
his/her life, and in the process, planning and budgeting his/her actions for some future
outlook or goal. This is in accordance with his/her moral and rational capacity for knowing and discerning what is right and wrong. Together with the assumption of freedom is
obligation. In its moral sense, obligation is construed as one’s duty to oneself to exercise
this freedom as a rational moral being. In other words, it is seen as a person’s duty to him/
herself to do this budgeting and planning for the future. Thus, according to Mothershead,
only humans are moral in so far as they are capable of deliberate human action.
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Value experience is the side-taking part of our experience. This valuation process happens
when we make choices and indicate our preferences, for example when we like or dislike,
approve or disapprove, favor or disfavor. Values are the result of this process of value experience where you set which priorities to pursue. They may also be considered as imperatives that you have set your mind to do. Mothershead argues that a value can become a
moral value if it becomes an unlimited priority in its scope of relevance in one’s life.
Moral decisions comprise the most important class of moral judgments because these
have reference to the judgers’ own future action. A moral judgment has reference to other people or groups of people, specifically with regard to what they should or ought to do.
“What ought I to do given this situation?” With this question in mind, we could examine and analyze the situation as objectively as possible using our intellectual and rational
capacity in order to come up with an intellectual choice. This is the process of giving
normative answers as rational moral beings. Normative answers are answers about what
we ought to do from a moral system that we uphold and its moral principles. On the other
hand, the question “What would I be inclined to do given this situation?” has to do
with the practical choice that we make when faced with the actual situation. There seems
to be a difference between making moral decisions in actual situations where we are involved and the normative answers that we give when we are confronted with a hypothetical situation.
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Summative Activity
Below is a news item from the May 30, 2014 edition of USA Today. Read the article and
write a short analysis and evaluation of honor crimes happening in other parts of the world
like Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and elsewhere, based on our discussion about mores and
freedom, moral values and moral judgement.
Michael Winter, USA TODAY8:48 a.m. EDT May 30, 2014
As a crowd watched outside a courthouse, the family of a pregnant Pakistani
woman beat her to death Tuesday because she married the man she loved instead
of her cousin.
The 25-year-old woman's father, brother and spurned fiance were among about a
dozen male relatives who used bricks and clubs in the so-called honor killing of
Farzana Parveen for disobeying her family's wishes. She suffered massive head
injuries and was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Lahore police charged her father, Mohammad Azeem, with murder, and the others
were being sought. Azeem told police he helped kill his daughter because she had
shamed the family.
"I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man
without our consent, and I have no regret over it," police investigator Rana Mujahid quoted him as saying.
Parveen was attacked as she and her husband, Mohammad Iqbal, arrived at the
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ETHICS 1 - Ethics and Moral Reasoning in Everyday Life
gates of the Lahore High Court. They went there to dispute charges brought by her
father that Iqbal had kidnapped Parveen, who had been engaged to her cousin for
several years.
Iqbal, 45, was a widower with five children when he began seeing Parveen, he
told the Associated Press.
"We were in love," he said.
Iqbal alleged her family wanted to extort money from him before following
through with the arranged marriage to her cousin.
Every year, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Pakistani women are killed by their
families for actual or imagined adultery or premarital sex. Public stoning is rare,
however.
Last month, the private Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported that 869
women were victims of honor killings in 2013.
Another Pakistani rights group, the Aurat Foundation, estimates that about 1,000
Pakistani women are killed each year by their families. Reuters writes that the
"true figure is probably many times higher" because the census is based only on
newspaper accounts of honor killings.
The government does not compile such statistics or track the outcome of prosecutions.
Convicted killers are sometimes released, because the law allows a family to forgive the killer.
A News Pakistan writer said an honor killing "is most probably the easiest way of
killing woman and avoid the capital punishment at the same time.”
The Koran, the Muslim holy book, does not approve of honor killings or other
extrajudicial murder, the website Questions About Islam says.
There is absolutely no justification in Islam for "honour killing" of women
or men. Those who commit these crimes can expect hellfire as their punishment, in addition to the wrath and anger of God, as the previous verse
from the holy Quran describes. These types of killings are quite simply
murder crimes, and should be prosecuted as such. ..
There is no historical background in Islam for "honour killing". No verse
in the holy Quran and no saying of Prophet Mohammad sanctions such
crimes. …
Islam does prescribe strict and sometimes even severe punishments for
certain crimes, such as adultery and robbery. However, Islam places a
great burder of proof on the accuser to prove their accusations. …
Islam has prescribed these punishments as a deterrent, and as a way to
demonstrate to people how ugly these crimes are and how hated they are
in the sight of God. …
Therefore, although Islam does prescribe 100 lashes for fornication (sexual relations between unmarried people), and death by stoning for adultery
(married people who have sexual relations outside of marriage), these
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punishments are not really meant to be performed as much as they are
meant to make these crimes hated in the eyes of the society in order to
minimize their occurrence. …
(Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/05/27/
pregnant...to.../9628161/)
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Required Readings
Sumner, William. “The Case for Ethical Relativism” in Klemke, Kline & Hollinger, eds.
Philosophy: The Basic Issues. New York: St. Martin’s Press, pp. 496-511, 1982.
Benedict, R. (1934). Anthropology and the abnormal. Journal of General
Psychology, 10(1), 59-82.
Mothershead, John L. (1955). Ethics: Modern Conception of the Principles of Right. New
York: Henry Holt and Co. Chapter 2, “The Problem of the Scope of Morality” pp.
21-36.
References
Albert, Ethel et al. Great Traditions in Ethics, 4th ed. (California: Litton Educational Publishing, Inc., 1989)
Boyce, William and Larry Cyril Jensen. Moral Reasoning: A Psychological and Philosophical Integration (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1978), pp.5-17.
Dupre, Ben. 50 Philosophy Ideas You Really Need to Know (London: Quercus Publishing Plc, 2007) pp. 64-75.
Grassian, Victor. Moral Reasoning: Ethical Theory and Some Contemporary Moral
problems, 2 n d ed. (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1992) Chapters 3-5, pp.11-47.
Howard Kirschenbaum and Sidney Simon, eds. Readings in Values Clarification (New
York: J.C. Penney, 1972)
McKinnon, Barbara. Ethics: Theory and Contemporary Issues (Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing, 1995)
Mothershead, John L. Ethics: Modern Conception of the Principles of Right (New York:
Henry Holt and Co., 1955), Chapters 2, pp. 21-36.
Sartre, John Paul. “Existentialism is a Humanism,” in Alburey Castell and Donald
Borchert. An Introduction to Modern Philosophy: Examining the Human Condition, 4th ed. (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1985) p. 84, pp. 80-102.
Sioco, MP & Vinzons, I. (2016) Introduction to the Philosophy of the Human Person.
Quezon City: Vibal Publishing Group, Inc. Chapter 3, pp. 60-73.
Sterba, James P. Morality in Practice, 3rd ed. California: Wadsworth Publishing Co.,
1990)
Stokes, Philip. Philosophy: The Great Thinkers (London: Arcturus Publishing Ltd., 2007)
Sumner, William. “Folkways”, in Johnson, Oliver, ed. Ethics: Selections from Classical and Contemporary Writers (New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1965), pp.
289-310.
Sumner, William. “The Case for Ethical Relativism” in Klemke, Kline & Hollinger, eds.
Philosophy: The Basic Issues (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1982), pp. 496-511.
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