Moral Philosophy and Philosophy of Religion Term Paper

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Moral Philosophy

Ethical Theories on Animals. The treatment of animals has historically evolved along with human beings' changing views of them. A number of theories trace this changing treatment to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic times when people exercised absolute dominion over animals (Sanders 2004). It was their religious belief that God gave man absolute dominion over animals and to do to them as he pleased or estimated. French philosopher Rene Descartes and other sadist thinkers reinforced this absolute dominion theory in that, since animals do not have the rational faculties of man, they could be treated as less than human and without mitigation. The non-malevolence theory eliminated mean motives but recognized that man could do what he pleased with animals. This was the position of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. German philosopher Immanuel Kant supported the anthropocentric theory, which reduced the dignity of man in proportion to the harm he inflicted on animals. This was followed by the humane beneficence theory, supported by Confucianism, which taught that man should be kind. A reverence for life soon became the most common viewpoint on animals, a position still held by the majority of people today. The permissive utilitarianism theory soon evolved and decided the case on the basis of cost against benefits of using animals to advance human interests. The restrictive utilitarian theory argued that suffering would outweigh those benefits and that, therefore, animals should be handled in a special way. This position was supported by Jeremy Bentham and Peter Singer. Animals are a veterinarian's patients and Dr. Jacob Anteylyes listed his patients' moral rights, such as respect, or the right to sincere veterinary medical and nursing care; privacy rights to be kept separately in appropriate quarters; purposeful death, or protection against frivolous pain or gratuitous death for the purpose of entertainment or amusement; avoidable pain, or the right to prompt pain relief through the most effective possible means; and food and water or the right to these as appropriate for the animals' medical condition.

The Animal Welfare Act and the Public Health Service Policy listed a set of "rights" for laboratory animals (Sanders 2004). These included procedures that would avoid or reduce discomfort, distress and pain; sufficient proof that no valid alternatives to animal use were available as the best model; the use of analgesics, anesthetics or tranquilizers for painful or stressful procedures; the use of humane euthanasia on the animal in case of prolonged, chronic pain; appropriate and comfortable living conditions appropriate to their species; and people who would care for or work on animals knew how to do so humanely (Sanders).

Ethical Theories on War. A just war is one, which satisfies a set of moral or legal conditions or rules (Wikipedia 2005). These rules cover the justification of war or jus bellum and the conduct of war or jus in bello. Jus ad bellum required certain criteria for a war to be considered just: it could be waged only for a just cause, such as self-defense against an armed attack; only under a legitimate authority, usually the nation's specific institutions and personnel authorized by the constitution and laws to make war decisions. An example is the United Nation's Security Council, which make the international community's war decisions. The UN Charter provides that citizens cannot attack another country without the permission of the legal authority. A nation's state and legitimate authority, in turn, must consult with the citizens on their desired course of action. A war can also be waged only with the right intention, such as correcting a suffered wrong, but not if the gain is material. This right intention requires that the democratic accept the decisions of their courts and electorates on the correctness and legitimacy and the justice of their action. A war can also be waged only if it has a reasonable chance of victory, a proportionate view of suffering against that victory, and only as a last resort. It cannot be waged if it is probable that human life and economic will be wasted because defeat is unavoidable. The projected suffering after a war should not be more than the suffering that pre-exists it. And all realistic measures and options should be exhausted before waging a war.

When a war begins, the jus in bello theory takes over and regulates the actions of combatants (Wikipedia 2005). Just war conduct is governed by the principles of discrimination and proportionality. According to the principle of discrimination, the acts of war should be directed at those who inflict the wrong, not on civilians caught in the crossfire. It prohibits bombing civilian residential areas without military targets and terrorist acts or reprisal against ordinary civilians. Theologians believe that the rule prohibits the use of weapons of mass destruction, such as atomic bomb, of any kind and for any reason. The principle of proportionality provides that the force used must be proportionate to the wrong inflicted and the sought and probable good. The greater the number of collateral civilian deaths, the stronger is the suspicion of a belligerent nation's claim to a just war. It also forbids torture of combatants and non-combatants and provides for the respectful treatment of prisoners of war.

The condition of proportionality requires a nation to use no more force than necessary to subdue its attacker and only charity towards the neighbor can justify the force for defense (Wikipedia 2005). It also limits the force that can be justly used against the wrongdoer for the sole purpose of ending the evil done. Minimum force results in minimum harm. Thus, overwhelming military force that produces less harm can be said to apply minimum force in the ethical sense. Just war advocates include Cicero, Augustine of Hippo, St. Thomas Aquinas, Francisco de Vitoria, Francisco Suarez, Baron von Pufendorf, Michael Walzer and Paul Tillich.

Teleological Arguments on the Existence of God. Both classic and the modern teleological arguments hold that the existence of God can be discerned from the design of the universe, which in turn, points to some end or purpose (Holt 2005). They suggest the plausibility of believing that an intelligent being is behind the existence and operations of the universe and that being has a definite purpose for the universe rather than chance. The classic teleological argument was stated by William Paley who compared the universe to a watch and God to the watchmaker. The watchmaker created the watch out of an intelligent purpose and design, hence the order inherent to it. The classic argument is constructed out of an analogy of the biological systems in that universe. Modern teleological arguments, on the other hand, derive the evidence of God's existence from the physical "fine-tuning" in the universe in supporting life. These latter arguments are less vulnerable to attacks and counter-arguments because they are not based on Paley's classic variety. Paley believed that evolution could explain the appearance of biological design. Evolutionary processes, however, do not apply to the laws of nature.

Teleological arguments state that, if the universe contains design, there must be an intelligent being who or that made the design (Holt 2005). A design must have a designer, just as something carried must have a carrier. Those who oppose or reject the argument contend that the issue is not whether there is a designer behind the design but if the complexity and order constitute design.

Existentialist Argument Against the Existence of God. At least six major philosophers argued that God does not exist (Jones 2003). The first was Soren Kierkegaard in the first half of the 19th century who criticized Hegel's philosophical system on being in an abstract and impersonal way. Kierkegaard focused on the person's subjective experience of what it meant to be a human being: that he always had to choose what to become without relying on the scientific findings and philosophy. He thought that a person could choose to have religious faith in this absurd world. German phenomenologist Edmund Husserl influenced the development of methods used by existentialists who followed him. He was interested in things as they appeared to consciousness rather than how or what these things were in themselves. His conviction on subjective consciousness continued to prevail in the 20th century as existentialism evolved.

His life was one of both brilliance and turmoil (Jones 2003). His father recognized his intellectual capability as a child, educated and moved him to the University of Copenhagen where he studied for 10 years. He was always a loner and was convinced that he would remain an outsider. He believed that philosophers who thought they could prove the ultimate nature of spirit were badly mistaken and deluded. He was not convinced that Hegel had overcome paradox. He found existence paradoxical wherein every person must seek his spiritual path through action and not within the comforts of dogmatic rituals of some established religion. That action had to be conscious of religious conviction. He also held that religious faith was the focus of an authentic existence. His was Christian existentialism and it was influential. This type of…[continue]

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