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Question 2 - Ethics
(a) Clarify the argument and/or interpretation in the passage.
(30)
(b) Do you agree with the ideas(s) expressed? Justify your point of view and discuss its implications
for understanding religion and human experience.
(20)
A01 = 30 and A02 = 20
According to Alasdair MacIntyre and Bernard Williams, moral theory does not have the authority that it
claims for itself. MacIntyre argues generally that there can be no moral authority in pluralistic, liberal
societies. He urges us to subvert liberalism by developing common narratives and ways of life. Williams,
on the other hand, takes pluralism and liberalism as given in societies like ours, and goes on to reflect on
the prospects for living an ethical life in such societies.
Despite their differences, both MacIntyre and Williams find modern moral philosophy to be part of our
cultural problem rather than a solution. In Whose Justice? Which Rationality? MacIntyre writes that:
[m]odern academic philosophy turns out by and large to provide means for a more accurate and informed
definition of disagreement rather than for progress toward its resolution. (1988, p. 3)
In Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy Williams tells us that ‘philosophy should not try to produce ethical
theory’ (p. 17), because ethical theory does not have the authority to ‘give some compelling reason to
accept one intuition rather than another’ (p. 99).
Williams has much in common with Anscombe, but there are important differences. Although both
advocate the abolition of morality as it is understood by many philosophers, their reasons are quite
different. For Anscombe, the belief in a distinctive, authoritative kind of obligation that is moral is a
perversion of theistic ethics. The abolition of this kind of morality would clarify our existing beliefs and
practices since morality, as many of us understand it, does not exist anyway. Williams distinguishes ethics
from morality, and identifies morality with a ‘peculiar institution’ that is a modern expression of the
ethical. Morality focuses on obligations, and makes claims for itself that are so grandiose that fidelity to
this harsh master alienates us from our personal relationships and commitments and erodes our integrity.
For Anscombe, the law conception of morality is untenable without God. For Williams the law conception
of morality may be tenable, but it is vicious and repressive. We can be free to live our own lives in a truly
secular society only when we have overcome the bondage of morality.
AO1
1. In this passage, Jamieson demonstrates the significant changes that have occurred in moral
theory over recent years. When he says that ‘moral theory does not have authority…’ we can link
this to important questions such as….. Furthermore, this links to philosophers like….. who have
claimed that moral theory does in fact have authority. For example, …… argued. In contrast, …..
contested that moral theory has no authority because….
2. For Anscombe, only theist theories point to moral absolutes and obligations, so she would
advocate a move towards…… However, ….would disagree because…. In addition, Williams argues
that morality is arrogant and alienates us from our personal relationships. This can link to
LaFollette because…
3. Jamieson observes that contemporary moral philosophers have taken up questions about…..for
example….They challenge traditional moral thinking like…..Moreover, this could link to
Schneewind when he identifies the 3 stages of development in modern moral philosophy….. He
argues that modern moral philosophy is interested in….
4. Earlier in the chapter, Jamieson says he is mainly concerned with questions about moral theory
rather than with questions in moral theory. By this he means…..Philosophers such as….may
disagree with this ascertain because… Jamieson’s argument is also reflected in LaFollette’s and
Schneewind’s essay because….
5. When Jamieson claims ‘moral theorizing is something that real people do in everyday life’ he
means…..For example….This could link to moral theories such as…. Additionally, Pincoffs
argued,… In contrast, …..may say we do not engage with oral theorising because…
6. How do people go about making moral decisions? Do people have ‘special responsibilities and
obligations’? Jamieson is referring to….. In practice this might mean….. This could link to…. What
would LaFollette say about special obligations? Well….Furthermore, Rachels argued…..
Schneewind asks if our morality is a product of empathy or reason…..
7. Finally, Jamieson shows how moral theory has changed over the centuries, from the dominant
conception, which argues…. to an increased emphasis on the use of examples, for instance… He
asks us to consider other key ideas such as foundationalism (……) and coherentism (….). Jamieson
concludes that moral theories derive from moral theorising which is part of everyday life.
AO2
1. So what implications, if any, does Jamieson’s passage have on religion, human experience and
me? I think Jamieson’s point that moral theorising is something that ordinary people do can be
seen….. Furthermore, he suggests we apply role reversal tests and I think…..
2. The implications for religion in Jamieson’s argument is that questions about moral theory are
being raised and this could threaten any link between religion and morality. Many philosophers
would argue that religion is the authority for our morality. For example,….. However, others such
as…would argue…. In my opinion, the relationship between morality and religion……I would
agree with…..who said….. However, I disagree with….. because…..
3. The implications for human experience in the Jamieson chapter are dependent on your
experience of empathy……This could link to…. Furthermore, many questions are raised such
as…..In addition, if moralising can be found in the highways and byways, this implies…..I disagree
when Jamieson says…. In my opinion…..
4. In conclusion, Jamieson’s passage does have implications for us because I agree that….However,
it still leaves us with points I disagree with like…. Plus many unanswered questions such as…
Question 2 - Ethics
(a) Clarify the argument and/or interpretation in the passage.
(30)
(b) Do you agree with the ideas(s) expressed? Justify your point of view and discuss its implications
for understanding religion and human experience.
(20)
A01 = 30 and A02 = 20
Contemporary moral philosophers have taken up a wide range of questions. These questions include the
significance of moral language, the nature of value and obligation, the defensibility of various normative
theories, and the duties we may have concerning animals and future generations. Contemporary moral
philosophers have been much less interested in questions concerning moral theories themselves: what
they are, why we might want to have them, and what methods we should use in constructing them. In this
article I will take up some of these questions. I will be mainly concerned with questions about moral
theory rather than with questions in moral theory.
One reason why questions about moral theory have been relatively neglected is because, until recently,
there appeared to be widespread agreement about the nature of moral theories and the acceptability of
various methodological practices. Moral theories were commonly regarded as abstract structures whose
role is to supply justification rather than motivation. The proper method was thought by most to be
some version of coherentism (see section (iii. 2) for a discussion of this concept). While these remain the
dominant views, the intellectual landscape is not as uniform as it once was.
In recent years there has been increasing anxiety about the nature, status and role of moral theory. For
example Bernard Williams has expressed scepticism about the deliverances of theory, Jonathan Dancy and
John McDowell see little role for theories to play in practical reasoning, and Susan Wolf has attacked
the ideals that she sees as implicit in traditional moral theories. Robert Fullinwider has staked an
avowedly anti-theoretical position. Michael Stocker has proffered a diagnosis: the problems of modern
moral theory stem from its ‘schizophrenic’ nature.
While problems of theory have been the main focus of some philosophers, others have primarily been
concerned with what they see as a crisis of method. According to Alasdair MacIntyre, modern moral
philosophy serves up a cafeteria of conflicting moralities among which it is powerless to decide. Annette
Baier claims that this way of teaching moral philosophy breeds scepticism in students.
o
Use the ideas in bold to begin to build an answer to part a) Clarify the argument and/or interpretation
in the passage.
o
Use your notes and key ideas from your student book (page 12 and 18).
o
Use these sentences to help you:

In this passage Jamieson observes that contemporary moral philosophers have taken up questions
about…..for example….They challenge traditional moral thinking like…..

Jamieson says he is mainly concerned with questions about moral theory rather than with
questions in moral theory. By this he means…..

Scholars like…..have been concerned with questions in moral theory because…..However,
questions about moral theory have been relatively neglected because ……

Coherentism, meaning……., may still be the dominant view but ‘the intellectual landscape is not
as uniform as it once was’. This means….

The role and nature of moral theory has change over recent years. McDowell, Wolf and Stocker,
for example, challenge the status of moral theory by….

Jamieson, in this passage, also challenges us to think about the methods we use to make moral
decisions…..
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