Ethics encompasses the personal decisions made by an individual regarding his life. These are things he does, how he acts toward any given situation. An ethical person does (mostly) right things. And how the fuck do you decide if something is right? Well I feel deep in myself a compass. That might be conscience to some people, belief in a higher power to other, life experience to yet another and fear of getting caught or imprisoned at the bottom, criminal end of the scale. I guide myself by taking into account goals that I have carefully set for the longterm that I believe are good for myself, the people around me who depend on me, and for those I depend on as well. I look at what I deeply feel to be right or wrong. I take into account my experience, what I have observed to be workable and what I have found to be true. I take into account my very personal feeling that there is a principle greater than myself. And I take into account morals.

Morals - these aren't personal decisions, except in whether you agree with them or not. These are rules that a group has decided are best for that group. Buddhists have one set. Americans have their own version of what is moral and immoral. Catholics have lists of "sins". But these share the imposition from without the spirit or person - you may strongly agree with them, or strongly oppose them. But they still exist, outside of you, and people will evaluate your conduct against them whether you agreed explicitly with them or not.

I happen to think this is society's, human organizations' and groups' version of DNA - morals that work cause that human grouping to move through history, those that do not cause the group to break up, disappear, or lose to another group...

That sound rough. And so it damn well is! What did you think, that this stuff was going to be fucking easy?

No. Ethics is damn tough. Because that goes beyond what someone else has codified for you to do and makes you responsible for your own decisions. So what's right and what's wrong? Boy that is hard. And then once you start reaching into that you get harder ones - what is more right than another action? What is more wrong than another. That could take forever and pages and pages and pages. That's part of why schools can't seem to teach this. They try and find each point of decision and it can't be done. They can impart morals - and only that. But schools as they generally (there are exceptions, usually specific teachers who manage to do this anyway) cannot teach the person to make real life decisions, they don't even come close to this.

crap - this is turning into ranting bullshit - and yet more...

When Patrick Henry said "Give me liberty or give me death", that rings deep in my soul. Yeah, cliche and not in fashion. It speaks of a personal commitment to a vision of the future and a willingness to stake all on that belief. I think a truly ethical person, someone certain of themself enough to feel deep within that they have made a decision that is RIGHT can make that kind of committed decision. Maybe that decision is only (only, took me fucking five years of continual attempts to do this) quitting smoking. But the certainty, kind of integrity, carries through.

I think that's what ethics has to deal with

How can you be in two places at once when you're not anywhere at all...

The First Notebook

Ethics 3105/5105: September 5, 2002 to October 31, 2002

What follows is as close to a verbatim 'translation' (translation into the HTML formatting of Everything2) as possible of notes taken between September 5, 2002 and October 31, 2002 in a class entitled: PHILOSOPHY 3105/5105 ETHICS taught by Dr. Richmond Campbell at Dalhousie University in Room 1130 of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) Building. The notes were taken in a black Blueline 'Record' book (meant for keeping accounts), model number A796.01 purchased at a local 'Staples' for $12.94 plus 15% sales tax. The book is approximately 8" wide and 10" high, with numbered pages from 1 to 208, the pages themselves contain a one inch margin on the top and left hand side and are lined in blue (hence "Blueline"). The notes in the following writeup were taken alternately every Tuesday and Thursday (with a few interruptions) and represent the trace of the first half of my experience of this class (the rest may, or may not, be noded when the class itself is completed on sometime in early December, 2002) as it took place.

Ethics. Sept 05

Claims: 1. We can know moral truth ---> ~[Nietzsche/Foucault]
        2. Moral Principles apply to oneself.
        3. Moral principles are interpersonal
        4. Moral principles are universalizable
        5. Moral principles are objectively valid
        6. Moral principles cannot be overridden
Moral skepticism is not circular like other skepticisms…
i.e. doesn’t’ require moral knowledge to make claim.…

p. 17 chart of isms + their positions

Ethics Sept5 Ethics.

+moralparticularjudgement vs. 2moralgeneral principle -1 “Plagiarism is wrong” but also a particular instance of judging (mental event?) -2 “Plagiarism is wrong” = always general (not necessarily universal, but general).

Ethical relativism: not simply admitting that there are, in fact, different ethical views across time and space, but the argument that moral truths are not, in fact, objective (even if the same facts are accepted by everyone, it doesn’t mean they are always absolutely true.).

Arguments for:

                 1. ethics vary from culture to culture
                 (diversity thesis/claim = sociological)
seems  --->      2. What is right depends upon the culture 
universal        (dependency thesis) 
=circular/       3. There are no absolute moral standards _
selfdefeating.   (conclusion) 
ethical relativism: appearance
    “       objectivism: form / “truth”
subjectivism : individual relativism.
Conventionalism: societal moral relativism (.moral-by-convention)
Moore against conventionalism = “Ethics” 1912

Ethics Sept 5.

 |-  Moore:
 |    1 If conventionalism is true then disagreeing about
 |    moral judgement (“thats wrong”, “no thats right”) 
 |    isn’t really disagreeing , because they can’t even talk
 |    about the same thing: because they are talking about
 |    different societal norms, not a single moral judgement.
 |    2 But , says Moore, they ARE disagreeing (just like 
 |    hand argument) so 3 conventionalism is wrong.
 |____Feyerabend + Rorty … in relation to Moore’s argument 

Ethics. Sept 10 ~ (ethical relativism)

cognitivism: moral judgments can be true or false “reasons’ for holding cognitivism:

  • 1. Moral language : our language suggests that moral claims have truth value (Austin...) i.e. “He should do that “ , or “That is morally wrong” seem to have truth-value.
  • 2. Dillemmas: “should I do this?”Y You aren’t sure what to do morally but it is not just your emotions. You can get meta-emotional: “What should I be feeling?’ You think as if there is right and wrong. I.i a correct answer.
  • 3. Evidence: what happens when someone challenges you: you can give evidence for why something is wrong. Justified “true” belief …
  • 4. Inference: use of deductive argumentation to support claims as (true or false) invalid.

Assuming cognitivism: what makes moral claims true? Ethical relativism.. social norms/conventions determine truth.

Ethics Sept 10.

Argument for Ethical Relativism
1. There are a variety of moral norms (cultural relativism) dependency 2. What makes a moral claim true is whether thesis or not it agrees with the norms of the society it is made within ( 3. Thus, there are no moraluniversal truths (universal) Subjectivism: #2 applies to individuals Conventionalism: #2 applies to societies. --- ---
absolutism: universal moral truths with no exceptions


wants objectivism but with exceptions (there are cases where it is permissible to break a promise, non-Kantian. )


if moral terms just mean what most people think, it makes no sense to say “most people think this, but I disagree” because that is like saying “Its true, but I believe it is false”.

relativism seems not to provide reasons for following ethical rules . . . but: utilitarianism, etc.? Mill?

can cultural upbringing be used as an exception to moral laws? Are exceptions just different sorts of rules?

Ethics Sept 10 .

problem with relativism: no critical basis to engage things you think are wrong . . the end.
Problem with objectivism: hegemony . . the end .
teleology.comski: stab myself in the eye
(drawing of a scribble filled square)

“relativism does not allow the criticism of other cultures”

--> this is only true if all criticism is based on rationality. If we accept arguments with rhetorical force, ones that may not be rational or objective (re: Feyerabend) perhaps we escape the lack of critical capabilities.

-->criticism does not have to be rational argumentation . ..

Ethics Sept `12__. (ethical egoism)

1. psych. egoism vs. ethical egoism
.- psych : theory that we are motivated to seek our own benefit (not necessarily pleasure)
-ethical theory : what we ought to do is benefit ourself.
so if psych ego is wrong, ethical egoism can still hold.

psych egoist denies that we are motivated to help others just to help others, says that we are altruistic for our own gain as ultimate end.


if you aren’t interested in people for their own sake, helping them (just for yourself) would not bring pleasure . . you wouldn’t derive pleasure if you didn’t care .

if psych. egoism is true : ethical egoism might be impossible . . you can’t if you ought to do something you should be able to do them. (free will . . .)

ethical egoism might presuppose freedom . . . 

Ethics -- Sept 12 --

2 Forms of ethical egoism
1.Individual + 2. Universal

1 Individual :

“I ought to do what will benefit me, and you ought to do what benefits me”

[supervenience :

certain properties attach to properties and depend upon them. (moral properties dependent upon non-moral properties.)]

if individual egoism holds, there ought to be some thing different about “me” that makes me the object of moral concern.

2Universal Ethical Egoism: everyone should try to maximize their own benefit ..

objection :

if you are judging someone else’s action, it will have to benefit you the most… so it seems to collapse into ethical individualism .


you should judge what will benefit y the most if you are judging y’s action

the eternal return of the

Ethics Sept 12 .

deontological = duty Kalin:the ethical egoist statement is deontological but not regarding individual teleologies (i.e. what ought we to see /should we all be seeking the same material benefit, Kalin= no.) -->so: he ought to do what is best for him, even though i do not want him to do so... we each have this moral obligation, even though our individual obligations may contrast. still requires a practical/rational way to decide /make ethical judgements

  but: it precludes 1 moral discussion
      you don't want other people being ethical egoists,
      because it isn't to your advantage)
   2 Sincere moral advice : all advice is guided
  by self-interest .
(a bunch of other things...)
Is it: 1 rational ? 2 a moral principle? G.E. Moore: but we do all these things (moral discussion) so ethical egoism is wrong .

Ethics Sept 12 ethical egoism

-is there a further principle that determines what counts as "in my best interest"? objections : 1 doesn't have what if you prefer anarchy? is it pleasure-principle? most "fulfilling" life as most beneficial if x must do something, and y must do something: but only one is possible, then ethical egoism is false because it demands the impossible .
someone like Nietzsche : "fulfilled" by conflict or Hitler : fulfilled by death . . . 
the end (of history)
"The Game of Lent"
"Rembrandt Q. Einstein"
"The Future of Religious Education in Nfld = Sacrificing Cod"
""Cod is Dead""

                                  Round 21
                                  snake oil
                                  analytic hucksterism   

Ethics. Sept 17. evolutionary ethics

evolutionary ethics

Darwin natural selection as encouraging altruism? (Darwin)

group selection over individual selection

egoism eliminates group survival (comparitively)

limited altruism : making room for others as moral, not absolute altruism

Morality's "function" is to allow more/ better reproduction : morality has a sociobiological/ evolutionary purpose: ethical egoism does not fulfill evolutionary purpose of "morality" [morality only in name ... ]

evolution vs. ethical relativism : "underlying all ethical variations is a commonality (i.e. not relative) moral judgements w/o truth-value (non-cognitivism/)

no objective basis for morality (Ruse)

no justification for the moral norms we experience because : 1 there is nothing (outside of 'evolution') in which to ground morality. (neither God nor reason.)

(alternative: natural selection selects Reason, then Reason itself develops Morality)

||                        FightFightFightFightFight
|||(2 drawings of squares)FightFightFightFightFight
||||                      Fight

"getting beyond experience"

Ethics. Sept 19.

meta -ethics :
  1. Where do morals come from?
  2. Do morals have an objective justification?
  3. What do we mean by "objective justification"?
  1. What kinds of things have intrinsic value?
  2. Bentham: pleasure. Is he right?
  3. Does Nozick's though experiment prove Bentham is wrong?
     intrinsic vs. instrumental value?
     pleasure as intrinsically valuable (hedonism)    .
     degrees of pleasure : intensity, duration, certainty, nearness, etc.
     Bentham : maximize pleasure for everyone = right .
     Mill          "    happiness   "

Does Nozick propose thought outside experience? is the though of having an experience (the belief) separable from the experience itself? --> We're afraid of controlling our own world. would control of fate be valuable? Difference is experience machine has no actual 'content' within 'reality' This presupposes an answer to problem of solopsism Is seeming any different than "is" separation of belief and experience . . .

. Ethics Sept 24 |

  1. Morality is about happiness and unhappiness of everyone/thing
  2. The right depends on the Good .(what is right +wrong) depends upon what maximizes the most Good)

(by figuring out what is good, you it follows what is 'right')

deontological (Kant) says the Good is dependant upon the Right deontology vs. consequentialism

Ethics. Sept 26.

-->Richard Brandt (1979) Dispositions are moral (i.e. part of a moral system ) of motivation) procvided that:
  • 1 They intrinsically motivate certain actions and omissions
  • 2 They occasion feelings of guilt when this motivation is deficient.
  • 3 They occasion admiration and esteem for others where they have an abundance of this motivation.
desire - fulfillment     conclusive obligations
rule - utilitarianism    mixed utiliitarianism (both -, +)  
total utility            comparitive
actual sentient beings   actual consequences
Objections to Utilitarianism
1 Killing innocent people is always wrong
Side Constraints: puts restrictions on the impulse to maximize the good. [i.e. human rights] ,trading off one persons rights for another persons . .. does not work for Nozick, human rights are irrevocable side constraints

meta-Ethics September 26

     (drawing of a scribble filled in arrow)
Utilitarianism: its whats for dinner! unrecoverable text
don't go messin' around
paper: how can you weigh happiness?

can't there be gaps in moral theories? do they hang on an infinite fit with every case? the ability to 'decide' conclusively in every case ... moral theory break down?

utilitarianism mourns lost potential happiness.. . (i.e you feel guilty when you have to kill someone to increase the total happiness).

Ethics Oct. 1

Kant: attempting to uncover what is implicit in regular moral thinking, systematically (ch. 1)
---> "good will" : the only thing that can be considered good.
"It is impossible to conceive anything at all ... which can be taken to be good except goodwill" [257] .
i.e. : only good will is intrinsically good. willing to do what is right, unqualified; only this is unconditionally good .

even in a given, concrete situation: if the good will is absent (yet everything remains the same) the situation will be worse off similarly if it is added, the situation will be better .

the good will is the highest good the most complete good would be all the people w/ good will being happy /rewarded .
Pleasure is only good pending circumstance. Goodwill is good regardless of circumstance

Ethics Oct. 1

Kant deontology (duty) vs. consequentialism /teleology..

duty defines goodness, not the reverse (not teleological) i.e. the will to do what is right (duty) is what allows you to get at what is right itself.
Kant's theory of motives. the will is a motivating force (not just a wish) it moves you to act.

Even the inclination to treat others right (if they are aimed at the needs/welfare of someone else) are NOT morally worthwhile w/o goodwill.
Moral worth lies exclusively in the will to good. (i.e. ch not murdering someone out of self-interest is not a morally worthwhile act, though it is "right".)
happiness is moral only insofar as duty (the good will) implores you to be happy
if these other motives (hunger, self interest, etc.) weve removed the motive of good will should be enough to act the same. (categorical imperative) .

how would morality apply to the mad, the unreasonable

Ethics Oct. 1

(do you have a good will if you get the content of moral duty wrong? how straightforward is the connection...?)

good will can't be instrumental. ---> how do we get at the content of what is right if it can't be something empirical?
if the goodwill can't reside in material content, how do we get to the empirical content?
Answer: the moral law is purely formal and absolutely universal :
categorical imperitive (vs. hypothetical imperitive) is absolutely unconditional. [acausal]no end involved.
[.270]: synthetic a priori truth (moral duty.) a priori: known independantly of experience. synthetic: not true by definition .

Kant: you cant be certain about motives (even your own') but you are certain about moral judgments.
thus: examples from experience (based on motives) cannot be how morality is grounded.


Ethics Oct 1 da Ratiocinators

| any example you pick is going to presuppose moral
| knowledge (i.e. how do you classify it as
|  moral w/o prior knowledge of what counts
|  as knowledge?) . 

(toward an end)

-- Maxim = (desire + belief = behaviour)

mini-imperative that reflects the structure of your motivation acting (so subjective maxim:acting towards an end .
objective maxim: categorical imperative .
categorical imperitive tells us that the subjective maxims (teleological acts) must conform to the categorical imperitive .

     | Thus, moral content is derived from the
----\| categorical imperitive, because it governs
----/| subjective maxims, orders them to be
     | universalizable .

examples: suicide, false promises, not developing talents, ignoring someone in need

Ethics Oct. 1 Immanuel Kant (The killer from Königsberg)

Categorical imperitive is a method that determines the permissability of a subjective maxim.. you aren't obligated to help others all the time, but you are absolutely required to keep promises . . . (imperfect duties vs. perfect duties ) .

don't promise something you can't do .. why? - -->[if everyone did this, there couldn't be promises] Kant + Austin . . .felicitous/infelicitous speech acts + universalisable vs. ununiversailisable subjective maxims. can you get be a
| can you have a good will if you get the
| content wrong? (hallucination)?(madness) or 
| is this "flawed" reason?
does act your moral rightness depend upon the actual state of reality or merely your perception?
||| does Kant's "right" depend upon the application
||| of a particular instance of perception to
||| a moral law to decide whether or
||| not that instances consequences are
||| permissably universalisable?

Ethics Oct 1.

how can we be sure other societies aren't motivated by their own categorical imperatives. Kant: immoral actions are innately contradictory. i.e. immorality cannot be inacted. . . (immorality as logically impossible as a system...) How can you punish people ethically, for Kant?
he actually believed you should be punished just because you've done something wrong... but how does this work for Kant's theory.._
 i hate the way this guy talks...


Ethics October 3 Kant.

he's in           Principle of Autonomy: every natural being must act as if
statistics        he were, through his maxims, always a law-making   
  probably        member in the kingdom of ends

table A: 900
table B: 200

Plagiarism: originary self . . .intellectual property rests on the assumption that the property is an original (atemporal) prouct . . (drawing of square) at the level of pure rationality form our rationality is the same (for all rational beings) . trust equates with predictability]... (community morality based upon the predictability of actions based on truthful statements...) morality and freedom (are (at ground) identical, freedom as expression of rationality . . this rational freedom necessarily self-imposes freely adopted regulations (i.e. the derivation of the categorical imperitive). Kantian social contract : self-regulating rational beings. it has to be possible to will that the maxim is universalisable .

Ethics October 3rd Immanuel Kant

treating people as ends means making sure you consider others as voluntary self legislators even forcing your version of the community good is uncategorical ..
possible-> categorical imperative as what social contract: what
           a community of rational legislators could will
           as a universal law... [so we COULD lie
           to the Nazi, it would be rationally universalizable...]
|__degenerates into an extreme utilitarianism: killing
   999 999 to save 1 000 000 people would abhor Kant.
is telling the truth predicated on the possibility of lying? (Does the categorical imperative necessarily imply its antithesis?) Derrida vs. Searle. is communicationlanguage based on the assumption of truth telling? Foundation: trying to will the Right (w/o even knowing what the Right is) is always better. Thus: this very attempt to will the Right DETERMINES the right...
"I'm a traveller, through both time in space . .. buyer beware."

Ethics October 8. Virtue Ethics

I cannot fucking believe this. I missed it too is virtue ethics an alternative to utilitarianism + Kant
  • -no (Frankena) it is a complement to them, helps determine dispositions to act morally .
  • -yes. (Schaller) it focuses on ways of being morally

[util/Kant] virtue ethics

We need both: a definition of aim and a disposition to follow that aim (i.e. Kant/util AND virtue ethics)

((7 Separate Triangles with filled in drop-shadows, in each triangle there is a word: "who's the desert of the real ?" (the question mark is counted as a 'word')))

standard view (reflected in Frankena)
  1. moral rules require action that can be done (in theory) w/o virtues right thing- wrong reason
  2. Moral virtues are fundamentally + essentially dispositions to follow rules for action
  3. Moral virtues have only instrumental value : to motivate right action
  1. Beneficence:
    • a) rules don't tell you when to be beneficent
    • b) involves as much feeling as acting
    • c) parallels Aristotle on virtue.

    unreadable crossed out text, followed by: "+racecar beds... "can i borrow a feeling?""

    Oct 8 Ethics : Virtue Ethics

    "evolution class"


  2. Virtue of Gratitude
  3. birds-----|
  4. Virtue of Self Respect. shalom
    • a) Oneself as an end: feeling + attitude w/ intrincis value
    • b) Duty to cultivate feeling/ attitude, not just a duty to act.

Aristotle, p.345 right feelings at the right time :not spelled out in principle, but a cultivation of the right kind of character : objection to standard view

|10, 000 good units| _  |12 hidden Jews       |
| 7,340 truth units|    |34 tortured animals  | 

= utility.
Discuss, using examples.

remember the California raisins cartoon, and then video game? Kinetic ethics 0--->0

the "cool" comatose
MFdlx ♥'s narratives 4ever
la raiders |

Ethics october 10 [Metric tonnes of fun]

"an enjoyment buzzer"

xxxx has a big

Moral Saints (Susan Wolf p.377)

Common sense notion of sainthood (Wolf hates): always trying to be good and going to extraordinary measures [saint of love=natural, saint of duty : nice by moral command, God's law, etc.] to be good.

Problem: their lives are completely dominated by this drive to the detriment of human (non-moral values) i.e. pai art, humour, etc. humans would be boring= its an enemy of human excellence

|||Nietzschean. .. (repugnance of exclusively 'moral' life)

Utilitarian saint: dominated by proudction of happiness . . . same problem (exclusion of non-moral goods) also maximizing happiness does not rely simply on the pursuit of happiness: people do not become happy by trying to be happy: its aim excludes its goal. [but good utilitarians wouldn't see aiming at happiness as the highest good because it doesn't maximize happiness].

(her objection is that if you are valuing it for the happiness you are missing the point: art != happiness)heart

Ethics October 10 kill death.

Wolf on Kant .(2 interpretations)

Kantian Saint:

  1. don't violate other people, but then have a good time [don'ts satisfied: but then live it up]
  2. don'ts aren't enough : there are imperfect duties that require you to help people.

  1. If you're a saint: you don't want to stop : you will be superbenevolent (same problem w/ ignoring non-moral life)
  2. this isn't really Kant... (not ends-in-themselves) p.384 avoiding of the passions implausible interpretation of Kant.

Aristotlean Saint: morality is not limited but concerns human excellence in general (art, etc.) all the non-moral concerns become moral) so won't the Aristotlean saint be morally and humanly excellent?

--->p. 385 (objection) Aristotlean virtues don't really seem to be plausibly inclusive of art, etc. ----

Pojman contra Wolf

---> inaccurate conception of what saints are like (mother teresa is witty, etc.) saints aren't necessarily losers.

                                 i need a shower
    it's true!                        
    in cleano veritas
                            then i'll kick game, son.
paris box society

Kid Ethics October 10 novum organon

 im published in "witticism monthly"

---->hidden jews

the subjective element of boredom"
for Pojman some Wolfian bores will be interesting
Pojman : a duty to boredom
(is morality the ground, or can other ideals trump morality?)

|||What ground is there for making morality (over, say, aesthetics,) the first demand on our action?

sir loves a lot: the bear that loves to love
--->don't put salt in your eyes__________
   |__isn't the objction that we aren't fundamentally moral
       beings . . .?

(the Spanish prisoner w/ Steve Martin was on last night )
you love the glove. "throw your set in the air"

the unbearable weight of learning    
            the agony of Jordi

Ethics October 17 , 2002

  1. Moral judgments are intrinsically motivating. (i.e. if you think something is wrong, you avoid it because it is wrong)
  2. Factual judments are not intrinsically motivating
  3. Some moral judgments are factual + true ---moral realism

Hume: our passions are intrinsically motivating and underlie our moral judgments.
+factual claims cannot intrinsically motivate us.
thus: no moral judgments are "real" (anti-realist)

Hume: 1+2 are true, thus 3 is false.
      is/ought distinction : transition from fact to moral

(logic can't move from is to ought)
is the move logically ) valid .
"Hume's problem"                           she looks
                                           (at life


  1. X is fact
  2. Fact = Moral ---What is the status of this?
  3. X is moral statement (fact or moral?)

if you want to preserve facticity of identity statement 2 : you can say that you can derive them, but there are no cases where the "is" statements will be true.

Ethics October Ethics

Moore (like Hume) objects to Fact=Moral, yet Moore is a moral realist . . .

(Moore = moral judgments 'exist' in reality as things inside us . . ).

goodnes is not reducable to any empirical features (we can always ask "is it good?" of an empirical fact, if F=M, we would always hold that good=good. . . when we can always hold ask what is good . . .

goodness is indefinable (like yellow)

the poisonous vacuity of denim shirts ...
  all tired-looking and what not..
euclid: da original 4 elements yo.
 Go Oxford!

                9  4

phil emot.                       semiotics
top. lang.      empir              wagner     fem/sci
soc. body.       lang              2000       micro.
CSP  4000        pomo               2000      shake.
science fic.     epis              3000        shake.
                 ethics            3000        punish.
                logic               4000       -----  
                 -----             4000         2.5
                   3               15 pers.
german         17.5 (soc.body/phil emo/topics/science fic)
fyp            19.5  

Ethics OCt 22 AJ Ayer

up with miniskirts

Ayer: verificationist about meaning (either analytic or empirically verifiable nothing else is cognitively meaningful.)

Implications of verificationism for ethics, theology, aesthetics. (Ayer: ethical philosophy should only deal with the definition of moral terms)

  1. Ethical definitions
  2. ??
  3. Exhortations (be moral!)
  4. "Assertions" that appear to be statement of fact (One ought not...)= has no truth value : cannot be verified by sense experience or analytically

 no cognitive meaning, same for theology, aesthetics
the casting out of all that isn't scientistic . from the realm of philosophy (i.e. logical positivism)

Ayers open Question argument subjective utilitarian moral terms can't be defined naturalistically..

  1. subjectivism : moral claims describe our approval of an action--> can't work.

what we call "wrong" is not simply our disapproval. because we can approve of "wrong" .. they are not coterminous.
asking if your approval of something is "right" is not contradicotry, thus approval !=right same: happiness !=right (utilitarianism)

Ethics Oct 22 / AJ Ayer

so naturalism is an untenable position (he agrees with Moore on this.

Ayer vs. Moore (Absolutism/ "Intuitionism")

Moore : if something is unanalysably good (intuitively) then it is universally good.
Ayer wants to reject both naturalism + non-naturalism because intuitions can differ, and are thus neither analytic nor empirically verifiable

Thus, moral terms are neither 'natural' (in the world) nor non-natural ('absolute' properties) rather moral claims have no truth-value.

What then, do they refer to: Ayer --> Nothing. =non-cognitivism, no truth value.

Moore against relativism (and Ayers emotivism): removal of grounds for disagreement, Ayer's emotivism : people can't disagree because no truth value is at stake (simply expressions of sentiment)

people only disagree about the facts of the situation not the morality disagreeme of the situation. cognition only occurs in the details of the situation

-->Ethics October 22 AJAyer


stevenson : 2 kinds of disagreement : emotional + truth/fact disagreement a disagreement in attitude. -you can agreee on ALL the facts yet still disagree in attitude


7 lbs.

against verificationism about meaning .

  1. self-refuting (it is unverifiable)
  2. Duhem-Quine ... incompatible w/ scientific praxis
  3. Forbids synthetic identity claims .(i.e. h20=water)

is that an Aesop Rock line?


difference upon between cognitive meaning and non-cognitive meaning . .. (i.e. does verificationism only apply to true/ false because it only applies to T/F.) what is non-cognitive meaning?

you and jeremy
should hang out

Warnock: its a differencebased upon whether or not you think humans are always rational.

i can't believe that girl just snapped her gum.

Ethics October 29. Mackie

"Error Theory" , Inventing Right + Wrong

there aren't any moral facts, properties: nothing in the world that is moral corresponds to empirical science. . .

differs from noncognitivism: negatively ontological...
we do take moral judgments to be true (in a linguistic sense)

cognitive non-realist: moral statements are ture or false, there is no moral reality, thus all moral judgements are false .

Mackie's arguments:

  1. The relativity of moral judements. (because 'righ and wrong' varies, none is right.) does not logically follow but: inference to best explanation is Mackie's reason
  2. The Argument from Queerness: if there were moral properties they would be ontologically queeR (for someone who is scientistic...) also epistemologically odd: we need a special faculty

Mackie doesn't see how we can break or combine the fact/value distinction.
(Hume's argument) gap between morals and facts..

~valid claims

Ethics October 29 "Useful Fictions"

                                           useful fictions

Patterns of objectification (why is their the illusion of objectivity?) objectivity stabilizes our feelings for social where reasons: objectification of the internal to promote social stability.

[[Bronson, Missouri]]

the death of the legislator (God): we continue to fill in the God-spot with the objectivity of our moral judgements even in the face of God's rotting corpse: Mackie thinks we cling to objectivity only to stabilize society.

we'll go on inventing right and wrong... we should just know what we're doing, as philosophers


but: he can construct a normative theory of ethics even while it is self admittedly just an "attitude"; so he can defend this attitude rationally even while these attitudes aren't true or false.

Hume's "nothing is 'real' but so what..."
         a useful fiction ...

!!!--> "we should be charitable because we're trying to figure out what's true"

"which argument do you think is the best?"

((un)reasonable leaps)

Ethics October 31 Moral Nihilism + Moral Explanation

||Gilbert Harman(moral nihilism)|| scientific and moral 'reasonging' are not symmetrical --> seeing "wrongness" in burning a cat is not like seeing a proton in a cloud chamber (though both are immediate, indirect observations)

science: inference from best explanation (you infer that there is a proton)

moral: inference, but from a different kind of inference, not an inference about the best CAUSAL explanation (we can't infre from causes that "wrongness" is there.

seeing cat burn + moral training= we feel moral disgust

but the moral disgust/wrongness does not "cause" anything : conclusion: moral facts are explanatorily irrelevant, they aren't required to get to "wrongness" (they aren't causes)

thus: moral facts don't exist, Moral Moral Nihilism . (Harman: if moral naturalism is true, then this argument fails) moral naturalism= moral facts= natural facts i.e. the property of wrongness is empirically verifiable. Harman doesn't think this is plausible, but still logically possible. (problem w/ naturalism: are colours reducible to natural facts?)
Harman: we don't need to bring moral facts into the story but we do need to bring in natural facts for colours.

Ethics October 31 Naturalism + Nihilism

Sturgeon: moral relaist/moral naturalist; natural and real moral properties, how does he object to Harman's claims?

science in the light of..

  1. Duhem Quine (no isolation of a single theory..) prior assumptions
  2. If morals are unlike science canThus, science is not based on testing evidence in isolation (as Harman thinks)
  3. So, morality may yet be empirically testable (as science is) but in a more complicated way, involving DuhemQuine and auxilliary hypotheses.
  4. (against Harmans claim of disanalogy betw. science/morals)
  5. further: moral facts have a causal role in explaining moral judgements: that is: by using the real facts of a story, we are inexorably lead to the moral judgment, and this moral judgment itself plays a role in explaining. (i.e. someone's "wrongness" can be cited as a moral fact to be used in a causal explanation.)??

i.e. if slavery had been a less "wrong" institution it would have been overturned less quickly.

so moral 'facts' are not necessarily irrelevant as explanation

Sturgeon: burning       you can't change supervening property w/o
          training                   changing the base prop. as well
          wrongness =  wrong.   

Ethics October 31 Harman + Sturgeon

Harman: all we need ((moral training + burning = wrong))

Sturgeon: if moral facts are irrelevant, if they were completely different (from "right" to "wrong") we would have a completely diff the same explanation

Harman argues that even if moral facts exist, they would be explanatorily irrelevant.

Sturgeon shows that moral facts (if they exist) are not explanatorily assumption (given DuhemQuine) by illustrating that our explanations would change if we did not have moral facts in the picture. (Hitler's depravity (moral) supervenees on his empirical actions... genocide, etc.)

[Sayre-McCord : moral facts are unnecessary, though not irrevelant... they have explantory impotence...] reductionist empirical sub physical subatomic onotlogy? (reductio ad absurdum)

supervenience.  two sets of properties: base + supervenience

    supervening property           beauty is not dependant
   base property                   upon one form of painting
                               but the beauty of a painting
                               cannot change to ugly w/o
                                  changing painting

if supervening properties were different base properties would as well, if base prop. were dif., the rest supervene would not be. ex. supervene property if God was different the world is nec. different, if world is dif. God is not dif. (nec.)



  1. Robert Nozick, "Side Constraints", pp. 211-214 in Ethical Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Fourth Edition) edited by Louis P. Pojman (Toronto, Wadsworth Group, 2002), reprinted from Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Robert Nozick (New York, Harper Collins, 1974).
  2. Immanuel Kant, "Foundation for the Metaphysic of Morals" pp. 256-275 in Ethical Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Fourth Edition) edited by Louis P. Pojman (Toronto, Wadsworth Group, 2002), reprinted from Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals by Immanuel Kant, translated by H.J. Paton (London, Random House, 1948).
  3. Aristotle, "The Ethics of Virtue" pp. 333-346 in Ethical Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Fourth Edition) edited by Louis P. Pojman (Toronto, Wadsworth Group, 2002) reprinted from Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle, translated by W. D. Ross (1930, revised by J.L. Acknill and J.O. Umson (1980) with notes omitted (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1980).
  4. John Stuart Mill, "Utilitarianism" pp. 155-176 in Ethical Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Fourth Edition) edited by Louis P. Pojman (Toronto, Wadsworth Group, 2002) reprinted from Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill, 1863 (no further publishing information provided.
  5. William Frankena, "A Critique of Virtue-Based Ethics" pp. 350-355 in Ethical Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Fourth Edition) edited by Louis P. Pojman (Toronto, Wadsworth Group, 2002) reprinted from Ethics, Second Edition, pp. 63-71 (Englewood Cliffs, Prentice-Hall, 1973).
  6. Walter Schaller, "Are Virtues No More Than Dispositions to Obey Moral Rules?" pp. 356-363 in Ethical Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Fourth Edition) edited by Louis P. Pojman (Toronto, Wadsworth Group, 2002) reprinted from Philosophia 20 (July 1990): 1-2.
  7. Susan Wolf, “Moral Saints” pp. 377-388 in Ethical Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Fourth Edition) edited by Louis P. Pojman (Toronto, Wadsworth Group, 2002) reprinted from Journal of Philosophy 79 (1982): 419-439.
  8. Louis P. Pojman, “In Defense of Moral Saints” pp. 388-396 in Ethical Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Fourth Edition) edited by Louis P. Pojman (Toronto, Wadsworth Group, 2002)
  9. David Hume, "On Reason and the Emotions: The Fact/Value Distinction" pp. 406-412 in Ethical Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Fourth Edition) edited by Louis P. Pojman (Toronto, Wadsworth Group, 2002) reprinted from A Treatise of Human Nature, Book II, Part III + Book III, Part I and II, without footnotes by David Hume (1738, no further publishing information provided).
  10. G.E. Moore, "Non-Naturalism" pp. 413-418 in Ethical Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Fourth Edition) edited by Louis P. Pojman (Toronto, Wadsworth Group, 2002) reprinted from Principia Ethica by G.E. Moore (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1903).
  11. A.J. Ayer, "Emotivism" pp. 419-424 in Ethical Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Fourth Edition) edited by Louis P. Pojman (Toronto, Wadsworth Group, 2002) reprinted from Language, Truth, and Logic by A.J. Ayer (London, Dover Publications, 1946).
  12. Geoffrey Warnock, "The Object of Morality" pp. 433-440 in Ethical Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Fourth Edition) edited by Louis P. Pojman (Toronto, Wadsworth Group, 2002) reprinted from The Object of Morality by Geoffrey Warnock (?, Metheun and Company, 1971)
  13. J.L. Mackie, "The Subjectivity of Values" pp. 446-456 in Ethical Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Fourth Edition) edited by Louis P. Pojman (Toronto, Wadsworth Group, 2002) reprinted from Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong by J.L. Mackie (London, Penguin Books, 1977).
  14. Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, "Moral Theory and Explanotory Impotence" pp.486-501 in Ethical Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Fourth Edition) edited by Louis P. Pojman (Toronto, Wadsworth Group, 2002) reprinted from Essays on Moral Realism edited by Geoffrey Sayre-McCord (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1990).
  15. Charles Darwin, "Ethics and the Descent of Man" pp. 631-643 in Ethical Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Fourth Edition) edited by Louis P. Pojman (Toronto, Wadsworth Group, 2002) reprinted from The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin, without notes (?, John Murry, 1874).
  16. Michael Ruse, "Evolution and Ethics: The Sociobiological Approach" pp. 647-662 in Ethical Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Fourth Edition) edited by Louis P. Pojman (Toronto, Wadsworth Group, 2002).
  17. Indirect

  18. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, translated by G.E.M. Anscombe and edited by Rush Rhees and G.E.M. Anscombe (German and English text, no further publishing information provided with this edition).
  19. Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals (combined edition that contains Ecce Homo and selected aphorisms from Twilight of the Idols, Dawn, Human, All Too Human, The Gay Science and other miscellaneous writings), translated by Walter Kauffman and R. J. Hollingdale (New York, Random House/Vintage Books, 1967 (1989 edition)), see in particular Second Essay, Section 6: "the categorical imperative smells of cruelty" (p.65)
  20. Paul Feyerabend, Against Method (New York, Verso, 1988 1975), note both his attack on Reason in general and his more specific discussions of falsificationism and verificationism.
  21. Paul Feyerabend, Science in a Free Society (London, New Left Books, 1978), note his attack on the stubborn exclusivity of 'rationality' in criticism (and how its relation to Logical Positivism in general and Ayer's Emotivism in particular...
  22. Michel Foucault, "Truth and Power" (an interview with Michel Foucault conducted by Alessandro Fontana and Pasquale Pasquino) pp.51-75 in The Foucault Reader edited by Paul Rabinow (New York, Pantheon Books/Random House Inc., 1984), really all of Foucault's work is applicable, given his extensive discussion of the relationship between truth and power, this text may be particularly helpful as a questioning of the fundamental endeavour of 'ethical theory' in the analytic tradition.
  23. Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror (New York, Columbia University Press, 1982).
  24. Jeremy Bentham, The Principles of Moral and Legislation (Amherst, Prometheus Books, 1988) see in particular his discussion of utility in the first two chapters, pp 1-23.
  25. Rudolf Carnap and W.V.O. Quine, Dear Carnap, Dear Van : The Quine-Carnap Correspondence and Related Work (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1990). Contains good discussion of Quine's relation to Logical Positivism (and Carnap in particular, obviously) as well as some explication of the Duhem-Quine thesis and what it might mean for Logical Postivism
  26. Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1979) see for a discussion about the idea of a perfectly lined up theory/practice...
  27. John Searle, Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language (London, Cambridge University Press, 1969).
  28. J.L. Austin, How to do Things with Words (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1962).
  29. Jacques Derrida, Limited Inc (Evanston, Northwestern University Press, 1988).

the end

Eth"ics (?), n. [Cf. F. 'ethique. See Ethic.]

The science of human duty; the body of rules of duty drawn from this science; a particular system of principles and rules concerting duty, whether true or false; rules of practice in respect to a single class of human actions; as, political or social ethics; medical ethics.

The completeness and consistency of its morality is the peculiar praise of the ethics which the Bible has taught. I. Taylor.


© Webster 1913.

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