Ethics for the Information Age - Chapter 2

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Ethics for the
Information Age
Chapter 2 – Introduction to Ethics
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Topics
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Introduction
Useful Terminology
Ethical Theory Overview
Subjective Relativism
Cultural Relativism
Divine Command Theory
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Topics
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Kantianism
Act Utilitarianism
Rule Utilitarianism
Social Contract Theory
Comparing Workable
Ethical Theories
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Introduction
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Communities facilitate exchange of
goods and services
Individuals can focus and specialize
Specialization engenders higher
productivity
Communities can be more secure
against external threats
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Introduction
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Communities may prohibit some
actions and mandate others
Not obeying rules results in
punishment
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Useful Terminology
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Society
– Association of people
– Designed to advance good of members
– Organized under a system of rules
– Rules are known as morality
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Useful Terminology

Ethics
– Study of morality
– Rational, systematic analysis of conduct
– Focused on voluntary, moral choices
– Observation is based on observer’s
viewpoint
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Ethical Theory Overview
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Subjective Relativism
Cultural Relativism
Divine Command Theory
Kantianism
Act Utilitarianism
Rule Utilitarianism
Social Contract
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Subjective Relativism
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No universal right or wrong
Each person decides what is right or wrong
Pros
– Allows for disagreement on issues
– Ethical debates are pointless
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Subjective Relativism
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Cons
– Line between belief and behavior is fuzzy
– No moral distinction
– Inconsistent to state that I will do what I think is
right as long as no one is harmed
– Not the same as tolerance
– Idea of what is right may be based on anything,
not necessarily reason
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Cultural Relativism
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Based on society’s moral guidelines
Morals vary between societies
Pros
– Morals adapt to different social contexts
– It is arrogant for one society to judge another
– Morality is reflected in behavior
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Cultural Relativism
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Cons
– There is no judgment of wrongdoing by other
societies
– Difficult to know what the society’s morals are
– Does not explain evolution of morals
– No framework for resolving intercultural moral
conflicts
– Certain core values do exist
– Only indirectly based on reason
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Divine Command Theory
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Based on directions from God
Presumes
– Good actions are God’s will
– We know what God wants us to do
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Pros
– We owe obedience to our Creator
– God is good and omniscient
– God is the ultimate authority
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Divine Command Theory
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Cons
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Many holy books disagree with each other
Even within the same religion, differences exist
Does not work in a multicultural, secular society
Some issues are not addressed
Good is not necessarily equivalent to God
Based on obedience, not reason
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Kantianism
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Actions should be guided by moral laws
Moral laws are universal
Morality must be based on reason
Can explain why something is right or
wrong
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Kantianism
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What is always good without qualification?
– Intelligence
– Courage
– Both can be used for wrong purposes
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Good will is universally good
Dutifulness
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Kantianism
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Categorical Imperative – First Formulation
– Act only from moral rules that you can at the
same time will to be universal moral laws.
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Categorical Imperative – Second
Formulation
– Act so that you always treat both yourself and
other people as ends in themselves, and never
only as a means to an end.
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Kantianism
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Pros
– It is rational and explains why something is
moral
– Produces universal moral guidelines
– All people are treated as moral equals
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Cons
– Sometimes a single rule is not enough
– Conflicts between rules can not be resolved
– There are no exceptions to the moral laws
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Act Utilitarianism
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Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill
An action is good if it benefits someone and
bad if it harms someone
“An action is right (or wrong) to the extent
that it increases (or decreases) the total
happiness of the affected parties.”
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Does not examine motives
Consequentialist theory
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Act Utilitarianism
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Pros
– Focuses on happiness
– Straightforward, down to earth, practical
– Comprehensive
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Cons
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–
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Difficult to tell where to draw the line
Requires a great deal of time and effort
Ignored innate sense of duty or obligation
Susceptible to the problem of moral luck
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Rule Utilitarianism
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We should adopt those rules that will lead to
the greatest increase in total happiness
Pros
– The evaluation is simpler than act utilitarianism
– Not every moral decisions requires analysis
– Solves the problem of moral luck
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Rule Utilitarianism
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Cons
– Uses a single scale to evaluate different types of
consequences
– Ignores unjust distribution of good
consequences
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Social Contract Theory
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Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan
– Without rules and enforcement people have no
incentive to create anything of value as they are
not sure they can keep or profit from it
– State of nature
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Cooperation is essential
Only possible when common guidelines are followed
Moral rules are necessary to insure the ‘benefit of
social living’
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Social Contract Theory
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Requires agreement to
– Establishment of a set of moral rules
– Government capable of enforcing the rules
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Rousseau’s The Social Contract
– No man has natural authority over others
– Force alone bestows no rights
– Legitimate authority must be based on
agreements
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Social Contract Theory
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Critical problem is finding form of
association that
– Guarantees everyone safety and property
– Enables each person to remain free
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Rousseau states the answer is for each to
give themselves and their rights to the
community
Community makes and enforces the rules
Everyone is equal in the community
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Social Contract Theory
“Morality consists in the set of rules, governing
how people are to treat one another, that
rational people will agree to accept, for their
mutual benefit, on the condition that others
follow those rules as well.”
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Social Contract Theory
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Based on universal moral rules
Rules can be derived through a rational
process
Negative rights
Positive rights
Absolute rights
Limited rights
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Social Contract Theory
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Rawls’s Theory of Justice
– Recognizes the harm of concentration of wealth
and power
– Each person may claim ‘fully adequate rights’ so
long as they are consistent with other’s claims to
those rights
– Social and economic inequalities must be
associated with positions that anyone can hold
and to be to the ‘greatest benefit to the leastadvantaged’
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Social Contract Theory
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Pros
– Framed in the language of rights
– Explains actions of rational people in the
absence of a common agreement
– Provides clear analysis of the relationship
between people and the government
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Social Contract Theory
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Cons
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None of use signed the social contract
Some actions can be characterized multiple ways
Does not resolve conflicting rights
May be unjust to those unable to uphold their
side of the contract
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Comparing Workable
Ethical Theories
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Faced with a moral problem, what is the
motivation for taking a particular action?
– Kant, social contract – do the right thing
– Utilitarian theories – do good
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How do they determine if an action is
ethical or unethical?
Is the focus on the individual or the group?
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Comparing Workable
Ethical Theories
Theory
Motivation
Criteria
Focus
Kantianism
Dutifulness
Rules
Individual
Act
Utilitarianism
Consequence
Actions
Group
Rule
Utilitarianism
Consequence/
Duty
Rules
Group
Rules
Individual
Social Contract Rights
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Summary
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Communities are for mutual benefit
Relativistic theories assume people invent
morality
Subjective relativism assumes that morality
is an individual creation
Cultural relativism – each society determines
its own morality
Objectivism – morality already exists, we
discover it
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
Questions & Discussion
William H. Bowers – [email protected]
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