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Ethics and Duty 5 D#1

To Writer 282447…
Choose the ethical theory that you think provides the best guidance for living an ethical life and illustrate your understanding of this theory by analyzing a concrete example of an ethical dilemma.
Be sure to explain and discuss any key ideas with supporting citations to the textbook and online lectures in correct APA format. For example, if you choose deontology, you should explain and discuss the categorical imperative and the Kingdom of Ends. Use this APA Citation Helper as a convenient reference for properly citing resources.
Start reviewing and responding to your classmates and the facilitator as early in the week as possible.
Martrials for Essay: PLEASE USE INFORMATION PROVIEDED>
You have probably spent some time at some point or another in your life reflecting upon an ethical dilemma. You may have even considered the overarching values that inform your actions. However, you may find yourself able to act rather quickly in situations requiring an ethical decision.

This may be because your ethical beliefs are so deeply part of you that you act on them without a great deal of reflection. When faced with questions about what would be good to do in a particular situation, we most often navigate based on our core beliefs about what is good.

The study of what people believe about what is right and what is wrong is sometimes referred to as descriptive ethics. Religious doctrine, cultural beliefs, upbringing, and personal beliefs about what is right might all fall within the purview of descriptive ethics.

While it is important to examine what we believe in our examination of ethics, it is perhaps even more crucial to examine why we believe it, as well as wonder about whether we should. The study of how we determine what is ethical is the focus of philosophical ethical theories. Of course, we will also examine the question of whether we should be moral at all, as well as whether a given ethical approach is justified. This is sometimes called meta-ethics.

All this terminology can be confusing, so perhaps an example would be helpful. Consider the belief that intentionally causing physical harm to an innocent person is morally wrong. This belief is common to most of the major world religions. It is also consistent with the culture of the United States, in that murder of innocents without proper cause is both illegal and socially unacceptable. You likely personally believe that hurting innocent people is unethical as well, regardless of your cultural and religious background. Of course, innocent people get intentionally hurt all of the time, so we know that there are different belief systems. For example, within your own life, there may be professional ethics you are obligated to follow, cultural, religious, and personal beliefs that guide your actions, and laws that prohibit and permit certain behavior on moral grounds. Recognizing and detailing these beliefs is akin to describing ethics.

However, describing what we believe about what is right and what is wrong does not really enable us to determine what is ethically right and why we should do the right thing. This is where more philosophical approaches to ethics come in. We will be studying some of these theories in this course. While there are nuances and variations on these theories, the major western theories can be generally summarized as follows:

Utilitarianism holds that the likely consequences of our actions should be the focus of our ethical decision-making. The goal is to maximize happiness and reduce suffering. Mill’s version of utilitarianism emphasizes the quality of the pleasures likely to be yielded by a given action.
Deontology, on the other hand, is based upon the idea that there are universal ethical duties that can be discerned via rational reflection on what Immanuel Kant calls the categorical imperative. Kant’s argument is that we should focus on the maxims (i.e., the rationale) of our actions rather than considering potential consequences because we do not always predict the consequences of a given action accurately.
Virtue ethics, which was the focus of Aristotle’s ethics as well as consistent with some feminist theory, holds that ethics should be focused less on what we do and more on the kind of character we should develop.
Existential ethics is based upon the artichoke view of the self and the idea that God is dead, and is detailed in Simone de Beauvoir’s Ethics of Ambiguity. Jean-Paul Sartre is also an important figure in existential ethics. Since we have no fixed essence and are both self-creating and determined by the situation in which we find ourselves, we are both free and not free at the same time. This ambiguous freedom coupled with the absence of a meaningful relationship to the idea of God means that we are actually more ethically responsible than if our actions were dictated by a divine creator. There are no universal moral values but, rather, we co-create meaning within our community. This is different from moral relativism in that relativism is based on cultural beliefs, whereas existential ethics is forward-looking and involves an ongoing, intersubjective examination of what is right.
Beyond these theories, there are also questions about the meaning and justification of these theories. Recall our example of hurting innocent people without cause. What is a “person?” What makes someone innocent? What cause is sufficient to justify an act that is otherwise unacceptable? These questions are sometimes referred to as meta-ethical questions.

Most of the theories we will be studying have both a normative and a meta-ethical aspect. While much of what we’ll be discussing here will have to do with the specific area of ethics that involves how we should act, we should recognize that ethics also encompass the more general discussion of the human good and how we should live our lives. While many of the political and social philosophies we discussed last week have implications for how we understand the good, ethical philosophy focuses more on how we as individuals should act.

While we could spend an entire class in the study of ethics, in an introductory course the best we can do is walk through an overview of major ethical theories and see how some of them might relate to our lives. In the future, you can do more in-depth readings if these studies are of interest to you.
We’ve already talked about existentialism in the context of our discussion of the self as well as in the context of social philosophy. Existentialism can be understood as a response to the Aristotelian and modern philosophical assumption that essence determines existence. Existentialists disagree that we have some core essence, such as reason, that determines our actions. Instead, they believe that existence determines essence or, to put it another way, human beings create themselves through their actions.

However, this freedom is not total, unambiguous liberation. Instead, existentialism maintains that humans experience this freedom with a kind of anguish/anxiety. There are a variety of possible responses to this anguish. For example, we could act in bad faith and pretend like we’re not free, as when people claim that they committed war crimes because they were acting under orders. However, the only authentic response is to take responsibility for the task of self-creation. Authenticity includes acting ethically, but ethics is both a radically individual process (because each individual has unique potential) and inter-subjective (because this unique potential can only be fully realized in the context of the larger community).

Perhaps Simone de Beauvoir best expressed existentialist ethics in her book The Ethics of Ambiguity, in which she responded to criticisms that by doing away with universal values, existentialism lacked an ethical dimension. In contrast, de Beauvoir claimed that the absence of universal values makes us even more ethically responsible, because we (and we alone) are charged with creating a meaningful and happy life. If happiness is based on oppressing others, it is unsustainable in that it is constantly being threatened by the possibility the people who are oppressed may revolt. However, if one were to fight for the freedom of others, happiness and meaning in one’s life could only be helped by those who are being helped.

This interdependence is what ultimately makes life have meaning, as well as what makes ethics possible. For example, if you donate a few dollars to a soup kitchen, you may get a bit of happiness from helping a few people. However, the soup kitchen cannot feed all of the people in your community who cannot afford to eat with your money alone. Nonetheless, if everyone donates money, and even gets together to organize community events that help the less fortunate find sustainable employment, shelter, and so on, the community as a whole will benefit from higher productivity and more people contributing to the local economy. In short, we all benefit when we work together to make our world a better place. You benefit in that you are doing meaningful work that makes you feel fulfilled, and those who are less fortunate benefit from better living conditions.

However, Beauvoir also acknowledges that some circumstances are less conducive to living an authentic life than others. Whereas determinists like James think that our choices are free unless we are inhibited by an external force, existentialists believe that we can internalize oppressive forces to the extent that genuine free choice is not possible. De Beauvoir distinguishes between people who refuse to take responsibility for themselves and acknowledge that they are free and people who are oppressed to the extent that they do not even recognize themselves as free beings.

For example, she traveled through America in the late 1940s and met many American college women who did not see themselves as capable of political and intellectual freedom. Yet, de Beauvoir views them as simply denying their freedom rather than as oppressed to such an extent that they cannot act freely at all (as women in a harem might be). Women in the U.S. in the 1940s (and even today) may be subjected to oppressive gender norms and pay inequality, but women can vote, have their own bank accounts, etc. Thus, de Beauvoir recognizes that while women may have more limited choices, they still have meaningful choices to make and are therefore free despite social oppression.

Beauvoir accepts the absence of moral absolutes without dismissing our obligation to help others. Her ethics is thus an ethics that is grounded not in absolute metaphysical principles but, rather, on the existentialist account of human subjectivity. Thus, it is an ethics that acknowledges the fundamental ambiguity of the human condition while also defending itself against criticisms that existentialism is just another version of skepticism.

The sole universal law is that we must act in our own freedom and in the freedom of others. This is different from Kantian duty and other universal moral laws, however, because it acknowledges that (a) human existence is ambiguous, (b) that ethics must be grounded in particularity, and (c) that failure is inevitable. For to assert that absolute, universal knowledge is necessary to an ethics is to forget that human beings always make decisions and strive for a future that is enshrouded in darkness and uncertainty. There are different kinds of situations, and these differences may determine the possibility of realizing our freedom. Some situations, like childhood, admit of growth and change; others, like slavery, permanently limit freedom and must be resisted. We cannot appeal to universal ideals as an end, for the only end is freedom itself, the freedom of individuals within a collectivity. Finally, we cannot forget the individual in evaluating ethical decisions (this is also what distinguishes Beauvoir’s existential ethics from utilitarianism).

Despite the significant relationship between freedom, ethics, and justice, it is quite common to confuse the philosophical idea of free will with political, social, and/or physical liberty. Consider someone who has been a victim of human trafficking, for example. This person likely lacks the right to bodily self-determination and the ability to make meaningful choices about his/her own life due to the conditions of enslavement. However, this does not mean that s/he does not have free will. William James thinks that we are free as soon as we experience ourselves as such, and existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre agree. For existentialists, even people in extremely oppressive conditions are free in their minds. In other words, one who has been trafficked and enslaved can still think freely, plot their escape, and so on. Beauvoir suggests that people who are raised in extremely oppressive situations (like children born into slavery or brothels) might not have ever come to experience themselves as free. Even these people, however, are capable of recognizing themselves as free with a little help, so her account is not a denial of free will.

Determinists, on the other hand, think that our experiences of free will are illusions. In their view, everything we do is caused not by the free intent of human beings but, rather, by pre-existing causes. There are several versions of this approach; some speak of “God’s plan,” while others rely upon scientific accounts of causality. James and existentialists seem to agree that the universe does not seem to be such an ordered place; we do genuinely seem to experience ourselves as able to make choices, even in oppressive conditions. Furthermore, we will never know for certain whether we are acting freely or not. Since we have no certainty as to free will, it may behoove us to act as though we are responsible for our actions.
Virtue Ethics

Deontology and utilitarianism are both concerned with how we should act. Virtue ethics, on the other hand, is concerned with how we should be. In other words, virtue ethics is based upon the belief that if we develop good character, we will act ethically. The most famous virtue ethicist is probably Aristotle. Like the utilitarian thinkers who came after him, Aristotle believed that ethics is primarily concerned with human flourishing. Aristotle’s idea of happiness also has less to do with short-term pleasures (e.g., the taste of ice cream or the riches that come from fame) and more to do with fulfilling your purpose in life. For human beings, this purpose is ultimately about developing virtue. He believed there were two types of virtues: intellectual virtues (like wisdom) and ethical virtues (like courage and honesty).

Intellectual virtues are developed through education, while ethical virtues are developed through practice. For example, if you make a conscious effort to tell the truth, you will develop a habit of doing so and, thus, become an honest person. In addition, there is a difference between accidentally being virtuous (because it never occurred to you to lie in the first place, for example) and consciously, deliberately, and continuously acting virtuously. The latter practice helps us to develop virtue.

But, what are the virtues? In classic Greek fashion, Aristotle doesn’t actually tell us what the virtues are. However, he did set forth a guide to help us figure it out for ourselves: the Golden Mean. The Golden Mean is the idea that virtue lies somewhere in between excess and deficiency; thus, it emphasizes moderation and self-discipline without completely excluding pleasure. In short, he believed that we should strive for the Golden Mean, and in so striving, we develop the virtuous character we need to live good and happy lives.

For example, think about the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz. He was seeking courage, and thought it might be something the Wizard could give him. In the end, he learned that acting courageously was all he needed to do to be courageous. He knew what it meant to be a coward and shrink away from all dangers, because that was how he had lived most of his life. He also learned what it meant to be foolhardy when he lunges at Toto the dog and is slapped by Dorothy.

Care ethicists, such as Nel Noddings, take this approach one step further and argue that ethics aren’t only about personal character development. Ethics should also be concerned with developing the ability to genuinely care for others. This care isn’t an abstract concept; in fact, the way in which you care for one person may be different from how you should care for another. In other words, care is a relational term for Noddings. Therefore, care is a virtue that can only be developed through concrete relationships with other people. However, developing an ethics of care cannot only be about caring for existing relationships. In fact, it requires us to develop new and different caring relationships to other people. For example, you may care about your friends and family, but to really develop as a person, you need to form new caring relationships by coming to the aid of a stranger or volunteering at a homeless shelter.

To Writter 282447…
Choose the ethical theory that you think provides the best guidance for living an ethical life and illustrate your understanding of this theory by analyzing a concrete example of an ethical dilemma.
Be sure to explain and discuss any key ideas with supporting citations to the textbook and online lectures in correct APA format. For example, if you choose deontology, you should explain and discuss the categorical imperative and the Kingdom of Ends. Use this APA Citation Helper as a convenient reference for properly citing resources.
Start reviewing and responding to your classmates and the facilitator as early in the week as possible.
Martrials for Essay: PLEASE USE INFORMATION PROVIEDED>
You have probably spent some time at some point or another in your life reflecting upon an ethical dilemma. You may have even considered the overarching values that inform your actions. However, you may find yourself able to act rather quickly in situations requiring an ethical decision.

This may be because your ethical beliefs are so deeply part of you that you act on them without a great deal of reflection. When faced with questions about what would be good to do in a particular situation, we most often navigate based on our core beliefs about what is good.

The study of what people believe about what is right and what is wrong is sometimes referred to as descriptive ethics. Religious doctrine, cultural beliefs, upbringing, and personal beliefs about what is right might all fall within the purview of descriptive ethics.

While it is important to examine what we believe in our examination of ethics, it is perhaps even more crucial to examine why we believe it, as well as wonder about whether we should. The study of how we determine what is ethical is the focus of philosophical ethical theories. Of course, we will also examine the question of whether we should be moral at all, as well as whether a given ethical approach is justified. This is sometimes called meta-ethics.

All this terminology can be confusing, so perhaps an example would be helpful. Consider the belief that intentionally causing physical harm to an innocent person is morally wrong. This belief is common to most of the major world religions. It is also consistent with the culture of the United States, in that murder of innocents without proper cause is both illegal and socially unacceptable. You likely personally believe that hurting innocent people is unethical as well, regardless of your cultural and religious background. Of course, innocent people get intentionally hurt all of the time, so we know that there are different belief systems. For example, within your own life, there may be professional ethics you are obligated to follow, cultural, religious, and personal beliefs that guide your actions, and laws that prohibit and permit certain behavior on moral grounds. Recognizing and detailing these beliefs is akin to describing ethics.

However, describing what we believe about what is right and what is wrong does not really enable us to determine what is ethically right and why we should do the right thing. This is where more philosophical approaches to ethics come in. We will be studying some of these theories in this course. While there are nuances and variations on these theories, the major western theories can be generally summarized as follows:

Utilitarianism holds that the likely consequences of our actions should be the focus of our ethical decision-making. The goal is to maximize happiness and reduce suffering. Mill’s version of utilitarianism emphasizes the quality of the pleasures likely to be yielded by a given action.
Deontology, on the other hand, is based upon the idea that there are universal ethical duties that can be discerned via rational reflection on what Immanuel Kant calls the categorical imperative. Kant’s argument is that we should focus on the maxims (i.e., the rationale) of our actions rather than considering potential consequences because we do not always predict the consequences of a given action accurately.
Virtue ethics, which was the focus of Aristotle’s ethics as well as consistent with some feminist theory, holds that ethics should be focused less on what we do and more on the kind of character we should develop.
Existential ethics is based upon the artichoke view of the self and the idea that God is dead, and is detailed in Simone de Beauvoir’s Ethics of Ambiguity. Jean-Paul Sartre is also an important figure in existential ethics. Since we have no fixed essence and are both self-creating and determined by the situation in which we find ourselves, we are both free and not free at the same time. This ambiguous freedom coupled with the absence of a meaningful relationship to the idea of God means that we are actually more ethically responsible than if our actions were dictated by a divine creator. There are no universal moral values but, rather, we co-create meaning within our community. This is different from moral relativism in that relativism is based on cultural beliefs, whereas existential ethics is forward-looking and involves an ongoing, intersubjective examination of what is right.
Beyond these theories, there are also questions about the meaning and justification of these theories. Recall our example of hurting innocent people without cause. What is a “person?” What makes someone innocent? What cause is sufficient to justify an act that is otherwise unacceptable? These questions are sometimes referred to as meta-ethical questions.

Most of the theories we will be studying have both a normative and a meta-ethical aspect. While much of what we’ll be discussing here will have to do with the specific area of ethics that involves how we should act, we should recognize that ethics also encompass the more general discussion of the human good and how we should live our lives. While many of the political and social philosophies we discussed last week have implications for how we understand the good, ethical philosophy focuses more on how we as individuals should act.

While we could spend an entire class in the study of ethics, in an introductory course the best we can do is walk through an overview of major ethical theories and see how some of them might relate to our lives. In the future, you can do more in-depth readings if these studies are of interest to you.
We’ve already talked about existentialism in the context of our discussion of the self as well as in the context of social philosophy. Existentialism can be understood as a response to the Aristotelian and modern philosophical assumption that essence determines existence. Existentialists disagree that we have some core essence, such as reason, that determines our actions. Instead, they believe that existence determines essence or, to put it another way, human beings create themselves through their actions.

However, this freedom is not total, unambiguous liberation. Instead, existentialism maintains that humans experience this freedom with a kind of anguish/anxiety. There are a variety of possible responses to this anguish. For example, we could act in bad faith and pretend like we’re not free, as when people claim that they committed war crimes because they were acting under orders. However, the only authentic response is to take responsibility for the task of self-creation. Authenticity includes acting ethically, but ethics is both a radically individual process (because each individual has unique potential) and inter-subjective (because this unique potential can only be fully realized in the context of the larger community).

Perhaps Simone de Beauvoir best expressed existentialist ethics in her book The Ethics of Ambiguity, in which she responded to criticisms that by doing away with universal values, existentialism lacked an ethical dimension. In contrast, de Beauvoir claimed that the absence of universal values makes us even more ethically responsible, because we (and we alone) are charged with creating a meaningful and happy life. If happiness is based on oppressing others, it is unsustainable in that it is constantly being threatened by the possibility the people who are oppressed may revolt. However, if one were to fight for the freedom of others, happiness and meaning in one’s life could only be helped by those who are being helped.

This interdependence is what ultimately makes life have meaning, as well as what makes ethics possible. For example, if you donate a few dollars to a soup kitchen, you may get a bit of happiness from helping a few people. However, the soup kitchen cannot feed all of the people in your community who cannot afford to eat with your money alone. Nonetheless, if everyone donates money, and even gets together to organize community events that help the less fortunate find sustainable employment, shelter, and so on, the community as a whole will benefit from higher productivity and more people contributing to the local economy. In short, we all benefit when we work together to make our world a better place. You benefit in that you are doing meaningful work that makes you feel fulfilled, and those who are less fortunate benefit from better living conditions.

However, Beauvoir also acknowledges that some circumstances are less conducive to living an authentic life than others. Whereas determinists like James think that our choices are free unless we are inhibited by an external force, existentialists believe that we can internalize oppressive forces to the extent that genuine free choice is not possible. De Beauvoir distinguishes between people who refuse to take responsibility for themselves and acknowledge that they are free and people who are oppressed to the extent that they do not even recognize themselves as free beings.

For example, she traveled through America in the late 1940s and met many American college women who did not see themselves as capable of political and intellectual freedom. Yet, de Beauvoir views them as simply denying their freedom rather than as oppressed to such an extent that they cannot act freely at all (as women in a harem might be). Women in the U.S. in the 1940s (and even today) may be subjected to oppressive gender norms and pay inequality, but women can vote, have their own bank accounts, etc. Thus, de Beauvoir recognizes that while women may have more limited choices, they still have meaningful choices to make and are therefore free despite social oppression.

Beauvoir accepts the absence of moral absolutes without dismissing our obligation to help others. Her ethics is thus an ethics that is grounded not in absolute metaphysical principles but, rather, on the existentialist account of human subjectivity. Thus, it is an ethics that acknowledges the fundamental ambiguity of the human condition while also defending itself against criticisms that existentialism is just another version of skepticism.

The sole universal law is that we must act in our own freedom and in the freedom of others. This is different from Kantian duty and other universal moral laws, however, because it acknowledges that (a) human existence is ambiguous, (b) that ethics must be grounded in particularity, and (c) that failure is inevitable. For to assert that absolute, universal knowledge is necessary to an ethics is to forget that human beings always make decisions and strive for a future that is enshrouded in darkness and uncertainty. There are different kinds of situations, and these differences may determine the possibility of realizing our freedom. Some situations, like childhood, admit of growth and change; others, like slavery, permanently limit freedom and must be resisted. We cannot appeal to universal ideals as an end, for the only end is freedom itself, the freedom of individuals within a collectivity. Finally, we cannot forget the individual in evaluating ethical decisions (this is also what distinguishes Beauvoir’s existential ethics from utilitarianism).

Despite the significant relationship between freedom, ethics, and justice, it is quite common to confuse the philosophical idea of free will with political, social, and/or physical liberty. Consider someone who has been a victim of human trafficking, for example. This person likely lacks the right to bodily self-determination and the ability to make meaningful choices about his/her own life due to the conditions of enslavement. However, this does not mean that s/he does not have free will. William James thinks that we are free as soon as we experience ourselves as such, and existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre agree. For existentialists, even people in extremely oppressive conditions are free in their minds. In other words, one who has been trafficked and enslaved can still think freely, plot their escape, and so on. Beauvoir suggests that people who are raised in extremely oppressive situations (like children born into slavery or brothels) might not have ever come to experience themselves as free. Even these people, however, are capable of recognizing themselves as free with a little help, so her account is not a denial of free will.

Determinists, on the other hand, think that our experiences of free will are illusions. In their view, everything we do is caused not by the free intent of human beings but, rather, by pre-existing causes. There are several versions of this approach; some speak of “God’s plan,” while others rely upon scientific accounts of causality. James and existentialists seem to agree that the universe does not seem to be such an ordered place; we do genuinely seem to experience ourselves as able to make choices, even in oppressive conditions. Furthermore, we will never know for certain whether we are acting freely or not. Since we have no certainty as to free will, it may behoove us to act as though we are responsible for our actions.
Virtue Ethics

Deontology and utilitarianism are both concerned with how we should act. Virtue ethics, on the other hand, is concerned with how we should be. In other words, virtue ethics is based upon the belief that if we develop good character, we will act ethically. The most famous virtue ethicist is probably Aristotle. Like the utilitarian thinkers who came after him, Aristotle believed that ethics is primarily concerned with human flourishing. Aristotle’s idea of happiness also has less to do with short-term pleasures (e.g., the taste of ice cream or the riches that come from fame) and more to do with fulfilling your purpose in life. For human beings, this purpose is ultimately about developing virtue. He believed there were two types of virtues: intellectual virtues (like wisdom) and ethical virtues (like courage and honesty).

Intellectual virtues are developed through education, while ethical virtues are developed through practice. For example, if you make a conscious effort to tell the truth, you will develop a habit of doing so and, thus, become an honest person. In addition, there is a difference between accidentally being virtuous (because it never occurred to you to lie in the first place, for example) and consciously, deliberately, and continuously acting virtuously. The latter practice helps us to develop virtue.

But, what are the virtues? In classic Greek fashion, Aristotle doesn’t actually tell us what the virtues are. However, he did set forth a guide to help us figure it out for ourselves: the Golden Mean. The Golden Mean is the idea that virtue lies somewhere in between excess and deficiency; thus, it emphasizes moderation and self-discipline without completely excluding pleasure. In short, he believed that we should strive for the Golden Mean, and in so striving, we develop the virtuous character we need to live good and happy lives.

For example, think about the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz. He was seeking courage, and thought it might be something the Wizard could give him. In the end, he learned that acting courageously was all he needed to do to be courageous. He knew what it meant to be a coward and shrink away from all dangers, because that was how he had lived most of his life. He also learned what it meant to be foolhardy when he lunges at Toto the dog and is slapped by Dorothy.

Care ethicists, such as Nel Noddings, take this approach one step further and argue that ethics aren’t only about personal character development. Ethics should also be concerned with developing the ability to genuinely care for others. This care isn’t an abstract concept; in fact, the way in which you care for one person may be different from how you should care for another. In other words, care is a relational term for Noddings. Therefore, care is a virtue that can only be developed through concrete relationships with other people. However, developing an ethics of care cannot only be about caring for existing relationships. In fact, it requires us to develop new and different caring relationships to other people. For example, you may care about your friends and family, but to really develop as a person, you need to form new caring relationships by coming to the aid of a stranger or volunteering at a homeless shelter.

To Writter 282447…
Choose the ethical theory that you think provides the best guidance for living an ethical life and illustrate your understanding of this theory by analyzing a concrete example of an ethical dilemma.
Be sure to explain and discuss any key ideas with supporting citations to the textbook and online lectures in correct APA format. For example, if you choose deontology, you should explain and discuss the categorical imperative and the Kingdom of Ends. Use this APA Citation Helper as a convenient reference for properly citing resources.
Start reviewing and responding to your classmates and the facilitator as early in the week as possible.
Martrials for Essay: PLEASE USE INFORMATION PROVIEDED>
You have probably spent some time at some point or another in your life reflecting upon an ethical dilemma. You may have even considered the overarching values that inform your actions. However, you may find yourself able to act rather quickly in situations requiring an ethical decision.

This may be because your ethical beliefs are so deeply part of you that you act on them without a great deal of reflection. When faced with questions about what would be good to do in a particular situation, we most often navigate based on our core beliefs about what is good.

The study of what people believe about what is right and what is wrong is sometimes referred to as descriptive ethics. Religious doctrine, cultural beliefs, upbringing, and personal beliefs about what is right might all fall within the purview of descriptive ethics.

While it is important to examine what we believe in our examination of ethics, it is perhaps even more crucial to examine why we believe it, as well as wonder about whether we should. The study of how we determine what is ethical is the focus of philosophical ethical theories. Of course, we will also examine the question of whether we should be moral at all, as well as whether a given ethical approach is justified. This is sometimes called meta-ethics.

All this terminology can be confusing, so perhaps an example would be helpful. Consider the belief that intentionally causing physical harm to an innocent person is morally wrong. This belief is common to most of the major world religions. It is also consistent with the culture of the United States, in that murder of innocents without proper cause is both illegal and socially unacceptable. You likely personally believe that hurting innocent people is unethical as well, regardless of your cultural and religious background. Of course, innocent people get intentionally hurt all of the time, so we know that there are different belief systems. For example, within your own life, there may be professional ethics you are obligated to follow, cultural, religious, and personal beliefs that guide your actions, and laws that prohibit and permit certain behavior on moral grounds. Recognizing and detailing these beliefs is akin to describing ethics.

However, describing what we believe about what is right and what is wrong does not really enable us to determine what is ethically right and why we should do the right thing. This is where more philosophical approaches to ethics come in. We will be studying some of these theories in this course. While there are nuances and variations on these theories, the major western theories can be generally summarized as follows:

Utilitarianism holds that the likely consequences of our actions should be the focus of our ethical decision-making. The goal is to maximize happiness and reduce suffering. Mill’s version of utilitarianism emphasizes the quality of the pleasures likely to be yielded by a given action.
Deontology, on the other hand, is based upon the idea that there are universal ethical duties that can be discerned via rational reflection on what Immanuel Kant calls the categorical imperative. Kant’s argument is that we should focus on the maxims (i.e., the rationale) of our actions rather than considering potential consequences because we do not always predict the consequences of a given action accurately.
Virtue ethics, which was the focus of Aristotle’s ethics as well as consistent with some feminist theory, holds that ethics should be focused less on what we do and more on the kind of character we should develop.
Existential ethics is based upon the artichoke view of the self and the idea that God is dead, and is detailed in Simone de Beauvoir’s Ethics of Ambiguity. Jean-Paul Sartre is also an important figure in existential ethics. Since we have no fixed essence and are both self-creating and determined by the situation in which we find ourselves, we are both free and not free at the same time. This ambiguous freedom coupled with the absence of a meaningful relationship to the idea of God means that we are actually more ethically responsible than if our actions were dictated by a divine creator. There are no universal moral values but, rather, we co-create meaning within our community. This is different from moral relativism in that relativism is based on cultural beliefs, whereas existential ethics is forward-looking and involves an ongoing, intersubjective examination of what is right.
Beyond these theories, there are also questions about the meaning and justification of these theories. Recall our example of hurting innocent people without cause. What is a “person?” What makes someone innocent? What cause is sufficient to justify an act that is otherwise unacceptable? These questions are sometimes referred to as meta-ethical questions.

Most of the theories we will be studying have both a normative and a meta-ethical aspect. While much of what we’ll be discussing here will have to do with the specific area of ethics that involves how we should act, we should recognize that ethics also encompass the more general discussion of the human good and how we should live our lives. While many of the political and social philosophies we discussed last week have implications for how we understand the good, ethical philosophy focuses more on how we as individuals should act.

While we could spend an entire class in the study of ethics, in an introductory course the best we can do is walk through an overview of major ethical theories and see how some of them might relate to our lives. In the future, you can do more in-depth readings if these studies are of interest to you.
We’ve already talked about existentialism in the context of our discussion of the self as well as in the context of social philosophy. Existentialism can be understood as a response to the Aristotelian and modern philosophical assumption that essence determines existence. Existentialists disagree that we have some core essence, such as reason, that determines our actions. Instead, they believe that existence determines essence or, to put it another way, human beings create themselves through their actions.

However, this freedom is not total, unambiguous liberation. Instead, existentialism maintains that humans experience this freedom with a kind of anguish/anxiety. There are a variety of possible responses to this anguish. For example, we could act in bad faith and pretend like we’re not free, as when people claim that they committed war crimes because they were acting under orders. However, the only authentic response is to take responsibility for the task of self-creation. Authenticity includes acting ethically, but ethics is both a radically individual process (because each individual has unique potential) and inter-subjective (because this unique potential can only be fully realized in the context of the larger community).

Perhaps Simone de Beauvoir best expressed existentialist ethics in her book The Ethics of Ambiguity, in which she responded to criticisms that by doing away with universal values, existentialism lacked an ethical dimension. In contrast, de Beauvoir claimed that the absence of universal values makes us even more ethically responsible, because we (and we alone) are charged with creating a meaningful and happy life. If happiness is based on oppressing others, it is unsustainable in that it is constantly being threatened by the possibility the people who are oppressed may revolt. However, if one were to fight for the freedom of others, happiness and meaning in one’s life could only be helped by those who are being helped.

This interdependence is what ultimately makes life have meaning, as well as what makes ethics possible. For example, if you donate a few dollars to a soup kitchen, you may get a bit of happiness from helping a few people. However, the soup kitchen cannot feed all of the people in your community who cannot afford to eat with your money alone. Nonetheless, if everyone donates money, and even gets together to organize community events that help the less fortunate find sustainable employment, shelter, and so on, the community as a whole will benefit from higher productivity and more people contributing to the local economy. In short, we all benefit when we work together to make our world a better place. You benefit in that you are doing meaningful work that makes you feel fulfilled, and those who are less fortunate benefit from better living conditions.

However, Beauvoir also acknowledges that some circumstances are less conducive to living an authentic life than others. Whereas determinists like James think that our choices are free unless we are inhibited by an external force, existentialists believe that we can internalize oppressive forces to the extent that genuine free choice is not possible. De Beauvoir distinguishes between people who refuse to take responsibility for themselves and acknowledge that they are free and people who are oppressed to the extent that they do not even recognize themselves as free beings.

For example, she traveled through America in the late 1940s and met many American college women who did not see themselves as capable of political and intellectual freedom. Yet, de Beauvoir views them as simply denying their freedom rather than as oppressed to such an extent that they cannot act freely at all (as women in a harem might be). Women in the U.S. in the 1940s (and even today) may be subjected to oppressive gender norms and pay inequality, but women can vote, have their own bank accounts, etc. Thus, de Beauvoir recognizes that while women may have more limited choices, they still have meaningful choices to make and are therefore free despite social oppression.

Beauvoir accepts the absence of moral absolutes without dismissing our obligation to help others. Her ethics is thus an ethics that is grounded not in absolute metaphysical principles but, rather, on the existentialist account of human subjectivity. Thus, it is an ethics that acknowledges the fundamental ambiguity of the human condition while also defending itself against criticisms that existentialism is just another version of skepticism.

The sole universal law is that we must act in our own freedom and in the freedom of others. This is different from Kantian duty and other universal moral laws, however, because it acknowledges that (a) human existence is ambiguous, (b) that ethics must be grounded in particularity, and (c) that failure is inevitable. For to assert that absolute, universal knowledge is necessary to an ethics is to forget that human beings always make decisions and strive for a future that is enshrouded in darkness and uncertainty. There are different kinds of situations, and these differences may determine the possibility of realizing our freedom. Some situations, like childhood, admit of growth and change; others, like slavery, permanently limit freedom and must be resisted. We cannot appeal to universal ideals as an end, for the only end is freedom itself, the freedom of individuals within a collectivity. Finally, we cannot forget the individual in evaluating ethical decisions (this is also what distinguishes Beauvoir’s existential ethics from utilitarianism).

Despite the significant relationship between freedom, ethics, and justice, it is quite common to confuse the philosophical idea of free will with political, social, and/or physical liberty. Consider someone who has been a victim of human trafficking, for example. This person likely lacks the right to bodily self-determination and the ability to make meaningful choices about his/her own life due to the conditions of enslavement. However, this does not mean that s/he does not have free will. William James thinks that we are free as soon as we experience ourselves as such, and existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre agree. For existentialists, even people in extremely oppressive conditions are free in their minds. In other words, one who has been trafficked and enslaved can still think freely, plot their escape, and so on. Beauvoir suggests that people who are raised in extremely oppressive situations (like children born into slavery or brothels) might not have ever come to experience themselves as free. Even these people, however, are capable of recognizing themselves as free with a little help, so her account is not a denial of free will.

Determinists, on the other hand, think that our experiences of free will are illusions. In their view, everything we do is caused not by the free intent of human beings but, rather, by pre-existing causes. There are several versions of this approach; some speak of “God’s plan,” while others rely upon scientific accounts of causality. James and existentialists seem to agree that the universe does not seem to be such an ordered place; we do genuinely seem to experience ourselves as able to make choices, even in oppressive conditions. Furthermore, we will never know for certain whether we are acting freely or not. Since we have no certainty as to free will, it may behoove us to act as though we are responsible for our actions.
Virtue Ethics

Deontology and utilitarianism are both concerned with how we should act. Virtue ethics, on the other hand, is concerned with how we should be. In other words, virtue ethics is based upon the belief that if we develop good character, we will act ethically. The most famous virtue ethicist is probably Aristotle. Like the utilitarian thinkers who came after him, Aristotle believed that ethics is primarily concerned with human flourishing. Aristotle’s idea of happiness also has less to do with short-term pleasures (e.g., the taste of ice cream or the riches that come from fame) and more to do with fulfilling your purpose in life. For human beings, this purpose is ultimately about developing virtue. He believed there were two types of virtues: intellectual virtues (like wisdom) and ethical virtues (like courage and honesty).

Intellectual virtues are developed through education, while ethical virtues are developed through practice. For example, if you make a conscious effort to tell the truth, you will develop a habit of doing so and, thus, become an honest person. In addition, there is a difference between accidentally being virtuous (because it never occurred to you to lie in the first place, for example) and consciously, deliberately, and continuously acting virtuously. The latter practice helps us to develop virtue.

But, what are the virtues? In classic Greek fashion, Aristotle doesn’t actually tell us what the virtues are. However, he did set forth a guide to help us figure it out for ourselves: the Golden Mean. The Golden Mean is the idea that virtue lies somewhere in between excess and deficiency; thus, it emphasizes moderation and self-discipline without completely excluding pleasure. In short, he believed that we should strive for the Golden Mean, and in so striving, we develop the virtuous character we need to live good and happy lives.

For example, think about the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz. He was seeking courage, and thought it might be something the Wizard could give him. In the end, he learned that acting courageously was all he needed to do to be courageous. He knew what it meant to be a coward and shrink away from all dangers, because that was how he had lived most of his life. He also learned what it meant to be foolhardy when he lunges at Toto the dog and is slapped by Dorothy.

Care ethicists, such as Nel Noddings, take this approach one step further and argue that ethics aren’t only about personal character development. Ethics should also be concerned with developing the ability to genuinely care for others. This care isn’t an abstract concept; in fact, the way in which you care for one person may be different from how you should care for another. In other words, care is a relational term for Noddings. Therefore, care is a virtue that can only be developed through concrete relationships with other people. However, developing an ethics of care cannot only be about caring for existing relationships. In fact, it requires us to develop new and different caring relationships to other people. For example, you may care about your friends and family, but to really develop as a person, you need to form new caring relationships by coming to the aid of a stranger or volunteering at a homeless shelter.

To Writter 282447…
Choose the ethical theory that you think provides the best guidance for living an ethical life and illustrate your understanding of this theory by analyzing a concrete example of an ethical dilemma.
Be sure to explain and discuss any key ideas with supporting citations to the textbook and online lectures in correct APA format. For example, if you choose deontology, you should explain and discuss the categorical imperative and the Kingdom of Ends. Use this APA Citation Helper as a convenient reference for properly citing resources.
Start reviewing and responding to your classmates and the facilitator as early in the week as possible.
Martrials for Essay: PLEASE USE INFORMATION PROVIEDED>
You have probably spent some time at some point or another in your life reflecting upon an ethical dilemma. You may have even considered the overarching values that inform your actions. However, you may find yourself able to act rather quickly in situations requiring an ethical decision.

This may be because your ethical beliefs are so deeply part of you that you act on them without a great deal of reflection. When faced with questions about what would be good to do in a particular situation, we most often navigate based on our core beliefs about what is good.

The study of what people believe about what is right and what is wrong is sometimes referred to as descriptive ethics. Religious doctrine, cultural beliefs, upbringing, and personal beliefs about what is right might all fall within the purview of descriptive ethics.

While it is important to examine what we believe in our examination of ethics, it is perhaps even more crucial to examine why we believe it, as well as wonder about whether we should. The study of how we determine what is ethical is the focus of philosophical ethical theories. Of course, we will also examine the question of whether we should be moral at all, as well as whether a given ethical approach is justified. This is sometimes called meta-ethics.

All this terminology can be confusing, so perhaps an example would be helpful. Consider the belief that intentionally causing physical harm to an innocent person is morally wrong. This belief is common to most of the major world religions. It is also consistent with the culture of the United States, in that murder of innocents without proper cause is both illegal and socially unacceptable. You likely personally believe that hurting innocent people is unethical as well, regardless of your cultural and religious background. Of course, innocent people get intentionally hurt all of the time, so we know that there are different belief systems. For example, within your own life, there may be professional ethics you are obligated to follow, cultural, religious, and personal beliefs that guide your actions, and laws that prohibit and permit certain behavior on moral grounds. Recognizing and detailing these beliefs is akin to describing ethics.

However, describing what we believe about what is right and what is wrong does not really enable us to determine what is ethically right and why we should do the right thing. This is where more philosophical approaches to ethics come in. We will be studying some of these theories in this course. While there are nuances and variations on these theories, the major western theories can be generally summarized as follows:

Utilitarianism holds that the likely consequences of our actions should be the focus of our ethical decision-making. The goal is to maximize happiness and reduce suffering. Mill’s version of utilitarianism emphasizes the quality of the pleasures likely to be yielded by a given action.
Deontology, on the other hand, is based upon the idea that there are universal ethical duties that can be discerned via rational reflection on what Immanuel Kant calls the categorical imperative. Kant’s argument is that we should focus on the maxims (i.e., the rationale) of our actions rather than considering potential consequences because we do not always predict the consequences of a given action accurately.
Virtue ethics, which was the focus of Aristotle’s ethics as well as consistent with some feminist theory, holds that ethics should be focused less on what we do and more on the kind of character we should develop.
Existential ethics is based upon the artichoke view of the self and the idea that God is dead, and is detailed in Simone de Beauvoir’s Ethics of Ambiguity. Jean-Paul Sartre is also an important figure in existential ethics. Since we have no fixed essence and are both self-creating and determined by the situation in which we find ourselves, we are both free and not free at the same time. This ambiguous freedom coupled with the absence of a meaningful relationship to the idea of God means that we are actually more ethically responsible than if our actions were dictated by a divine creator. There are no universal moral values but, rather, we co-create meaning within our community. This is different from moral relativism in that relativism is based on cultural beliefs, whereas existential ethics is forward-looking and involves an ongoing, intersubjective examination of what is right.
Beyond these theories, there are also questions about the meaning and justification of these theories. Recall our example of hurting innocent people without cause. What is a “person?” What makes someone innocent? What cause is sufficient to justify an act that is otherwise unacceptable? These questions are sometimes referred to as meta-ethical questions.

Most of the theories we will be studying have both a normative and a meta-ethical aspect. While much of what we’ll be discussing here will have to do with the specific area of ethics that involves how we should act, we should recognize that ethics also encompass the more general discussion of the human good and how we should live our lives. While many of the political and social philosophies we discussed last week have implications for how we understand the good, ethical philosophy focuses more on how we as individuals should act.

While we could spend an entire class in the study of ethics, in an introductory course the best we can do is walk through an overview of major ethical theories and see how some of them might relate to our lives. In the future, you can do more in-depth readings if these studies are of interest to you.
We’ve already talked about existentialism in the context of our discussion of the self as well as in the context of social philosophy. Existentialism can be understood as a response to the Aristotelian and modern philosophical assumption that essence determines existence. Existentialists disagree that we have some core essence, such as reason, that determines our actions. Instead, they believe that existence determines essence or, to put it another way, human beings create themselves through their actions.

However, this freedom is not total, unambiguous liberation. Instead, existentialism maintains that humans experience this freedom with a kind of anguish/anxiety. There are a variety of possible responses to this anguish. For example, we could act in bad faith and pretend like we’re not free, as when people claim that they committed war crimes because they were acting under orders. However, the only authentic response is to take responsibility for the task of self-creation. Authenticity includes acting ethically, but ethics is both a radically individual process (because each individual has unique potential) and inter-subjective (because this unique potential can only be fully realized in the context of the larger community).

Perhaps Simone de Beauvoir best expressed existentialist ethics in her book The Ethics of Ambiguity, in which she responded to criticisms that by doing away with universal values, existentialism lacked an ethical dimension. In contrast, de Beauvoir claimed that the absence of universal values makes us even more ethically responsible, because we (and we alone) are charged with creating a meaningful and happy life. If happiness is based on oppressing others, it is unsustainable in that it is constantly being threatened by the possibility the people who are oppressed may revolt. However, if one were to fight for the freedom of others, happiness and meaning in one’s life could only be helped by those who are being helped.

This interdependence is what ultimately makes life have meaning, as well as what makes ethics possible. For example, if you donate a few dollars to a soup kitchen, you may get a bit of happiness from helping a few people. However, the soup kitchen cannot feed all of the people in your community who cannot afford to eat with your money alone. Nonetheless, if everyone donates money, and even gets together to organize community events that help the less fortunate find sustainable employment, shelter, and so on, the community as a whole will benefit from higher productivity and more people contributing to the local economy. In short, we all benefit when we work together to make our world a better place. You benefit in that you are doing meaningful work that makes you feel fulfilled, and those who are less fortunate benefit from better living conditions.

However, Beauvoir also acknowledges that some circumstances are less conducive to living an authentic life than others. Whereas determinists like James think that our choices are free unless we are inhibited by an external force, existentialists believe that we can internalize oppressive forces to the extent that genuine free choice is not possible. De Beauvoir distinguishes between people who refuse to take responsibility for themselves and acknowledge that they are free and people who are oppressed to the extent that they do not even recognize themselves as free beings.

For example, she traveled through America in the late 1940s and met many American college women who did not see themselves as capable of political and intellectual freedom. Yet, de Beauvoir views them as simply denying their freedom rather than as oppressed to such an extent that they cannot act freely at all (as women in a harem might be). Women in the U.S. in the 1940s (and even today) may be subjected to oppressive gender norms and pay inequality, but women can vote, have their own bank accounts, etc. Thus, de Beauvoir recognizes that while women may have more limited choices, they still have meaningful choices to make and are therefore free despite social oppression.

Beauvoir accepts the absence of moral absolutes without dismissing our obligation to help others. Her ethics is thus an ethics that is grounded not in absolute metaphysical principles but, rather, on the existentialist account of human subjectivity. Thus, it is an ethics that acknowledges the fundamental ambiguity of the human condition while also defending itself against criticisms that existentialism is just another version of skepticism.

The sole universal law is that we must act in our own freedom and in the freedom of others. This is different from Kantian duty and other universal moral laws, however, because it acknowledges that (a) human existence is ambiguous, (b) that ethics must be grounded in particularity, and (c) that failure is inevitable. For to assert that absolute, universal knowledge is necessary to an ethics is to forget that human beings always make decisions and strive for a future that is enshrouded in darkness and uncertainty. There are different kinds of situations, and these differences may determine the possibility of realizing our freedom. Some situations, like childhood, admit of growth and change; others, like slavery, permanently limit freedom and must be resisted. We cannot appeal to universal ideals as an end, for the only end is freedom itself, the freedom of individuals within a collectivity. Finally, we cannot forget the individual in evaluating ethical decisions (this is also what distinguishes Beauvoir’s existential ethics from utilitarianism).

Despite the significant relationship between freedom, ethics, and justice, it is quite common to confuse the philosophical idea of free will with political, social, and/or physical liberty. Consider someone who has been a victim of human trafficking, for example. This person likely lacks the right to bodily self-determination and the ability to make meaningful choices about his/her own life due to the conditions of enslavement. However, this does not mean that s/he does not have free will. William James thinks that we are free as soon as we experience ourselves as such, and existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre agree. For existentialists, even people in extremely oppressive conditions are free in their minds. In other words, one who has been trafficked and enslaved can still think freely, plot their escape, and so on. Beauvoir suggests that people who are raised in extremely oppressive situations (like children born into slavery or brothels) might not have ever come to experience themselves as free. Even these people, however, are capable of recognizing themselves as free with a little help, so her account is not a denial of free will.

Determinists, on the other hand, think that our experiences of free will are illusions. In their view, everything we do is caused not by the free intent of human beings but, rather, by pre-existing causes. There are several versions of this approach; some speak of “God’s plan,” while others rely upon scientific accounts of causality. James and existentialists seem to agree that the universe does not seem to be such an ordered place; we do genuinely seem to experience ourselves as able to make choices, even in oppressive conditions. Furthermore, we will never know for certain whether we are acting freely or not. Since we have no certainty as to free will, it may behoove us to act as though we are responsible for our actions.
Virtue Ethics

Deontology and utilitarianism are both concerned with how we should act. Virtue ethics, on the other hand, is concerned with how we should be. In other words, virtue ethics is based upon the belief that if we develop good character, we will act ethically. The most famous virtue ethicist is probably Aristotle. Like the utilitarian thinkers who came after him, Aristotle believed that ethics is primarily concerned with human flourishing. Aristotle’s idea of happiness also has less to do with short-term pleasures (e.g., the taste of ice cream or the riches that come from fame) and more to do with fulfilling your purpose in life. For human beings, this purpose is ultimately about developing virtue. He believed there were two types of virtues: intellectual virtues (like wisdom) and ethical virtues (like courage and honesty).

Intellectual virtues are developed through education, while ethical virtues are developed through practice. For example, if you make a conscious effort to tell the truth, you will develop a habit of doing so and, thus, become an honest person. In addition, there is a difference between accidentally being virtuous (because it never occurred to you to lie in the first place, for example) and consciously, deliberately, and continuously acting virtuously. The latter practice helps us to develop virtue.

But, what are the virtues? In classic Greek fashion, Aristotle doesn’t actually tell us what the virtues are. However, he did set forth a guide to help us figure it out for ourselves: the Golden Mean. The Golden Mean is the idea that virtue lies somewhere in between excess and deficiency; thus, it emphasizes moderation and self-discipline without completely excluding pleasure. In short, he believed that we should strive for the Golden Mean, and in so striving, we develop the virtuous character we need to live good and happy lives.

For example, think about the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz. He was seeking courage, and thought it might be something the Wizard could give him. In the end, he learned that acting courageously was all he needed to do to be courageous. He knew what it meant to be a coward and shrink away from all dangers, because that was how he had lived most of his life. He also learned what it meant to be foolhardy when he lunges at Toto the dog and is slapped by Dorothy.

Care ethicists, such as Nel Noddings, take this approach one step further and argue that ethics aren’t only about personal character development. Ethics should also be concerned with developing the ability to genuinely care for others. This care isn’t an abstract concept; in fact, the way in which you care for one person may be different from how you should care for another. In other words, care is a relational term for Noddings. Therefore, care is a virtue that can only be developed through concrete relationships with other people. However, developing an ethics of care cannot only be about caring for existing relationships. In fact, it requires us to develop new and different caring relationships to other people. For example, you may care about your friends and family, but to really develop as a person, you need to form new caring relationships by coming to the aid of a stranger or volunteering at a homeless shelter.

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