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Ethical Theories 2.


ETHICAL THEORIES It claims that pleasure is the norm of morality.

ETHICAL THEORIES Pleasure = the satisfaction of desire.

1. Ethical Relativism Thus, the greater the pleasure, the better.

Also known as moral relativism. Pleasure is the one and only good; hence it must be
the basis for moral judgment.
It claims that there are no universal or absolute
moral principles. Desire may be either:

Standards of right and wrong are always relative to a Intellectual = one’s discovery of truth, the
particular culture or society. formulation of a certain theory, or the final
resolution of a problem that involves intellectual
Every culture has its own norm of moral actions.
Every moral norm is relative insofar as it varies from
Aesthetic = one’s disinterested feeling of beholding
one culture to another.
a beautiful thing or scenery, appreciating a work of
“What is right for you may not be right for me.” art.

“There are no absolute moral truths.” Physical = the satisfaction of sensuous or sexual
The meaning of right and wrong is all based on the
culture that we have grown up in and the factors Whatever act that gives pleasure is morally right;
that play into our decision making process. whereas an act that gives pain is morally wrong.

PRO Every person, therefore, seeks his/her own pleasure

and avoids pain.
1. It supports cultural diversity.
For a hedonist, happiness is the highest good and
2. Culturally Conditioned Values the ultimate goal of life.
3. It avoids ethnocentrism. To realize and attain the highest good, we have to
4. Moral rules differ between societies because satisfy our desires.
of different beliefs. Man is a bundle of desires. If we are going to
5. It dissolves the lack of knowledge with suppress our desires, we will experience pain. Thus,
respect of other cultures. the suppression of desire is the cause of suffering.

CON To avoid pain which causes suffering, we have to

follow the pleasure principle: satisfy your desire,
1. Universal conscience experience pleasure, and then attain happiness.
2. Conflicting cultures “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die.”
3. Consistency in beliefs 3. Stoicism
4. Culture clash Stoicism was founded by Zeno (335-263 B.C.) of
5. Universal moral standards can exist even if Citium at roughly the same time as Epicureanism.
some moral practices and beliefs vary Stoicism was the major rival to Epicureanism and became
among cultures. the most dominate philosophy in the Hellenistic world for
the next five hundred years. Stoicism got its name from
It doesn’t support the ideas of “right” and “wrong”. the poikile stoa, poikile stoa or Painted Porch, in Athens
In this theory, slavery is not morally wrong – it’s just where Zeno began to teach around 300 B.C.
It considers apathy or indifference to pleasure as 3 causes of pain (bodily organs):
the moral norm.
1. The excessive use
Their highest virtues or ideals are mental tranquility,
2. The abuse
temperance, contentment, serenity, and composure.
= peace of mind 3. The nonuse
Apatheia (or a state of imperturbability which is To avoid these extremes, one should observe
attainable through apathy or indifference to moderation in all undertakings (i.e. moderate or
pleasure) = basis for moral action. slight use of bodily organs).
The Stoics contend that pleasure as the basis for Prudence is the highest virtue which enables an
moral action leads to an endless cycle of pleasures individual to govern himself by the use of reason.
and pains.
Intelligent choice and practical wisdom are needed
Pleasure and happiness is temporary and so we to measure pleasure against pain.
desire again and go through the same cycle
endlessly. Two (2) kinds of pleasure:

The more we satisfy our desire, the more we suffer. 1. Dynamic – those which are
accompanied by pain, like sexual
To attain lasting happiness, we have to minimize love, gluttony, fame, drinking, and
our desires and passions. When we are able to taking dangerous drugs.
suppress our passions we are able to develop the
virtues of self-control, self-discipline, self-conquest, 2. Passive – those that are not
and self-mastery. accompanied by pain, like
friendship, philosophical
The value of self-control or self-discipline enables an conversation, playing with kids.
individual to attain apatheia or the state of mental These kinds of pleasure ought to be
peace or imperturbability. cultivated.
Authentic and lasting happiness can only come from Three (3) kinds of desire:
mental tranquility. An individual who is at peace
with himself and with others attains mental serenity 1. Natural and necessary – need for
and is thus happy. food, water, rest, sleep.

4. Epicureanism 2. Natural and unnecessary – need for

sex, marriage.
Epicureanism is named after its founder, Epicurus
(342-270 B.C.), who started a school devoted to his 3. Unnatural and unnecessary – need
philosophical system at the end of the fourth for power, wealth, fame, smoking,
century B.C. drinking and other vices.

It professes moderate pleasure as the moral norm. 5. Pragmatism

Moderate pleasure is one that is consonant with Pragmatism was a philosophical tradition that
reason which is neither too much nor too little. originated in the United States around 1870. The
most important of the ‘classical pragmatists’ were
Anything that is taken in excess is bad, so we should Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914), William James
avoid the extremes and live moderately and (1842–1910) and John Dewey (1859-1952).
More a theory of knowledge than of morality.
Epicureans meant permanent pleasure or that state
of deep peace and perfect contentment in which we It holds that the true and valid form of knowledge is
feel secure against the storms of life. one which is practical, workable, beneficial and
Being practical – is that which we can practice and that rules (absolutes) don’t always apply,
produces results; they depend on the situation.

Being workable – is that which we can put to work, 3. Positivism – you have to start with a positive
can be worked out, and works. choice – you need to want to do good.

Being beneficial – it benefits people; and 4. Personalism – it puts people first. People are
more important than rules. “Man was not
Being useful – it is one that can be used to attain
made for the Sabbath”.
good results.
Six fundamental principles
How can one determine whether or not an idea or
knowledge is practical, beneficial, useful, and 1. Love only is always good.
2. Love is the only norm (rule).
By means of its consequences or results; otherwise it
3. Love and Justice are the same.
is inconsequential and meaningless.
4. Love is not liking.
Point of departure: “truth happens to an idea; it
becomes true and is made true by events. Its verity 5. Love justifies the means.
is, in fact, an event, a process: the process namely of
its verifying itself, its verification. Its validity is the 6. Love decides there and then.
process of its validation.” 7. Mightism
Truth is not a quality or property of ideas; truth is Also known as power ethics.
made true by events and happenings.
It claims that might is right.
How can we know that “Sprite tastes good” is true?
By tasting it. Might means force, strength and capacity to rule;
also, power, influence, control, and domination.
The tasting process is the happening or event that
makes the idea true. It professes that whenever an act enhances one’s
strength or capacity to rule or control others, it is
To determine whether an idea is true or false, it good or morally legitimate; whereas if it causes
must be tried and tested by experiment. one’s ineffectiveness, weakness, and feebleness, it is
“If it works, it must be true.” regarded as wrong.

6. Situationism Darwin’s principle: “survival of the fittest”

TELEOLOGICAL – Situation ethics is not concerned Only those who are brave enough to chart their
with following rules but with bringing about good destiny by fair or foul means are fit to survive.

SITUATIONIST as opposed to legalistic or antinomian Rulers and the strong ones dictate what is just and
unjust, what is right or wrong.
AGAPE – “...goodwill at work in partnership with
reason” in seeking the “neighbour’s best interest Whenever an act promotes the interest of the
with a careful eye to all the factors in the situation”. stronger, it is just and right; and any act that
weakens him/her is wrong and unjust.
Four working principles
Regarded as morally wrong are acts of disobedience,
1. Pragmatism – for a course of action to be resistance, revolt and disloyalty to the ruler.
right, it has to be practical. It must work.
For the individual, any act that will enhance his
2. Relativism – “it relativizes the absolute, it strength or power is good.
does not absolutize the relative.” This means
All that proceeds from power is good and all that
springs from weakness is bad.
Reason is the instrument of the will, and the will is One must test the act’s universalizability by means
narrowed down to a single purpose: the will to of the categorical imperative: “Act only on that
power which is the safe guide of all moral actions. maxim which you can at the same time will to
become a universal law.”
Master morality – the morality of the strong, the
virile, and the strong-willed. 9. Utilitarianism

It values courage, self-reliance, high-mindedness, It states that the rightness or wrongness of actions is
candor, and creative leadership; it scorns cowardice, determined by the goodness and badness of their
humility, sympathy, and weakness. consequences.

The ends justifies the means – if necessary, one must The principle of utility = “Actions are good insofar as
do evil acts as the only alternative to succeed in they tend to promote happiness, bad as they tend
governance. to promote unhappiness.”

One may use evil means in order to attain good Some unhappiness may possibly result from the
ends. action we take, but what matters is the greatest
possible balance of happiness over unhappiness for
8. Deontologism
all individuals affected.
Also known as duty ethics.
Alternative formulation = “an action is good (right)
It stresses duty as the norm of moral actions. insofar as it produces the greatest happiness for the
greatest number of people; bad (wrong) insofar as it
What makes an act moral as distinguished from a produces more harm than benefit for the greatest
non-moral one? What is the difference between a number of individuals.”
person who acts morally and one who does not?
The more people who profit from a particular moral
Immanuel Kant: one acts morally if and only if one decision, the better.
does whatever one is obliged to do.
One must be personally detached and disengaged =
What is that act which an individual is obliged to do? a “benevolent spectator” who kindly watches over
It is one that is performed or done from a sense of the welfare or happiness of all concerned, without
duty or obligation. taking a self-serving, active part in the process.

Anyone who does something merely because one 10. Humanistic Ethics
feels like doing it is not acting morally, is not a moral Known also as eudaemonism, Nichomacheanism,
person. perfectionism, self-realizationism, or self-
The essence of morality is to be found in the motive actualizationism.
from which an act is done. It claims that self-realization is the true ultimate
The rightness or wrongness of an action is standard of morality.
determined by the motive from which it is being Self-realization is understood as self-fulfillment,
carried out, regardless of the consequences which fullness of life, and full development of all functions
doing so or not doing so will produce. of an individual.
The motive refers to the duty that one ought to Any act that promotes self-realization is good;
perform. whereas all acts that hinder it are evil.
How can one know one’s duty in a given situation, so It is life-affirming and death-denying.
that one may act accordingly?
The good is reverence for life, all that enhances life,
Is there a test for determining what one’s duty will growth, and the unfolding of self.
be under a particular set of circumstances?
Evil is all that retards growth, stifles life, narrows it By means of whether or not one is following and
down, and cuts it into pieces. obeying the voice of reason (conscience) or acting
contrary to it.
Hence, the joy that derives from self-fulfillment is
virtuous, whereas the sadness that follows from First, the good is built into human nature, and it is
failure to attain it is sinful. that to which we are directed by our natural
inclinations as both physical and rational creatures.
Humanistic ethics is not only individual but also
social in its emphasis and outlook. Man is a being- We have three (3) natural inclinations:
with-others in the world.
1. . Self-preservation – we are
Self-realization has a dimension of reciprocity, for naturally inclined to preserve life.
the meaning of our lives is related to the presence of
2. Just dealings with others – leads us
to treat others with the same dignity
The true self is the social self insofar as personal and respect that we accord
well-being is bound up with social well-being. ourselves.

Cooperation, unity, solidarity, harmony, mutual 3. Propagation of our species – to

helpfulness, brotherhood, peace, and universalism perpetuate our species which is
are among the virtues of humanistic ethics. viewed as a natural good

For Aristotle, self-realization consists in the POSTSCRIPT

fulfillment and actualization of man’s three-fold
Every individual, or another person in his/her behalf,
nature: vegetative, sentient, and rational.
must make moral decisions for one reason or
Each must be fulfilled as the realization of each is another, be it in sickness or in health, in love or in
accompanied by the state of pleasure and happiness. strife, in poverty or in wealth, in the prime of life in
the brink of death.
For man, the life according to reason is the best and
most pleasant, since reason more than anything else Moral decision-making does not discriminate: it
is man. knows no gender, color or creed; it knows no
profession, social status, or age.
11. Natural Law Ethics
Making moral decisions is the high price we have to
It teaches that there exists a natural moral law which
pay for enjoying freedom of action.
manifested by the natural light of human reason,
demanding the preservation of the natural order and Not only is human life a series of situations which
forbidding its violation. every individual has to surmount in order to
continue living; it is likewise a series of moral
Reason recognizes the basic principle “do good,
decisions which every person has to make in order
avoid evil,” which is otherwise known as the voice of
to survive.
reason or voice of conscience.
Moral predicaments scourge and rend us, but decide
We know we are acting rightly if we heed the voice
we must; for it is we who will ultimately bear the
of reason; we know we are acting wrongly if we act
burden and consequences of our moral decisions.
against it.
Individuals who hesitate to decide by and for
The good is that which is suitable to and proper for
themselves will become contented with mere
human nature.
prescriptions, proscriptions, and routines.
How does one know that a particular act is or is not
But those who dare to confront their moral
suitable to human nature as such?
problems will grow in self-awareness and freedom.

This is the paramount and overriding message of