Lectures Notes No. 2 in Logic


Ethics (also known as moral philosophy) is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and bad, noble and ignoble, right and wrong, justice, and virtue.


Major branches of ethics:

  1. Meta-ethics is the branch of ethics that seeks to understand the nature of ethical properties, and ethical statements, attitudes, and judgments.

A. Semantics of ethics - divides naturally into descriptivism and non-descriptivism. Descriptivism holds that ethical language (including ethical commands and duties) is a subdivision of descriptive language and has meaning in virtue of the same kind of properties as descriptive propositions. Non-descriptivism contends that ethical propositions are irreducible in the sense that their meaning cannot be explicated sufficiently in terms of descriptive truth-conditions.

B. Epistemology of ethics - divides into cognitivism and non-cognitivism. Non-cognitivism may be understood as the claim that ethical claims reach beyond the scope of human cognition or as the (weaker) claim that ethics is concerned with action rather than with knowledge. Cognitivism can then be seen as the claim that ethics is essentially concerned with judgments of the same kind as knowledge judgments; namely about matters of fact.

C. Ontology of ethics - is concerned with the idea of value-bearing properties, i.e. the kind of things or stuffs that would correspond to or be referred to by ethical propositions.

  1. Normative ethics (also known as moral theory) was the study of what makes actions right and wrong.

Socrates:
In this view, Knowledge having a bearing on human life was placed highest, all other knowledge being secondary. Self-knowledge was considered necessary for success and inherently an essential good. A self-aware person will act completely within their capabilities to their pinnacle, while an ignorant person will flounder and encounter difficulty.

Aristotle:
In Aristotle's view, when a person acts in accordance with his nature and realizes his full potential, he will do good and be content. At birth, a baby is not a person, but a potential person. To become a "real" person, the child's inherent potential must be realized.

  1. Applied ethics is a discipline of philosophy that attempts to apply ethical theory to real-life situations.

The sort of questions addressed by applied ethics include: "Is getting an abortion immoral?" "Is euthanasia immoral?" "Is affirmative action right or wrong?" "What are human rights, and how do we determine them?" "Do animals have rights as well?" and "Do individuals have the right of self determination?"

A more specific question could be: "If someone else can make better out of his/her life than I can, is it then moral to sacrifice myself for them if needed?" 

"Is lying always wrong?" and, "If not, when is it permissible?”

  1. Moral psychology concerns about how moral capacity or moral agency develops and what its nature is.

Such topics are ones that involve the mind and are relevant to moral issues. Some of the main topics of the field are moral responsibility, moral development, moral character(especially as related to virtue ethics), altruism, psychological egoism, moral luck, and moral disagreement

  1. Descriptive ethics, about what moral values people actually abide by.
Ethical codes applied by various groups. Some consider aesthetics itself the basis of ethics– and a personal moral core developed through art and storytelling as very influential in one's later ethical choices.

Informal theories of etiquette that tend to be less rigorous and more situational. Some consider etiquette a simple negative ethics, i.e., where can one evade an uncomfortable truth without doing wrong? According to this view, ethics is more a summary of common sense social decisions.
Practices in arbitration and law, e.g., the claim that ethics itself is a matter of balancing "right versus right," i.e., putting priorities on two things that are both right, but that must be traded off carefully in each situation.

Observed choices made by ordinary people, without expert aid or advice, who vote, buy, and decide what is worth valuing. This is a major concern of sociology, political science, and economics.

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