Morals and Ethical Theory Essay

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Morals and Ethical Theory

Morals & Ethical Theory

The objective of this study is to read pages 1 -- 26 of Stephen D. Hales work entitled "This Is Philosophy" and to answer the questions of:

(1) Is morality just what God tells me to do? (Divine Command Theory);

(2) Is morality just my own personal code? (Egoism); and (3) Is morality just how society says we should act? (Moral Relativism) This study will state one reason why each theory is agreed with and one reason why is theory is not agreed with.

Is Morality Just What God Tells Me To Do?

(Divine Command Theory)

According to Hales, morality could be based on an authority who commands individuals on their moral duties and who serves as an enforcer of these principles since the individual "without a lawgiver, a rulers to lay down the moral law" is simply "adrift with no deeper connection to right and wrong than our own transient preferences." (Hale, p.6) God has been, according to the work of Hale to be the moral authority because if the individual did not believe in the existence of God then everything imaginable would be permitted. The individual's need for God as a source of morality is stated by Hale to be the motivation for morality. Within every religion, including the beliefs of Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others, there is a religious basis for morality expressed. According to Hale, the idea that morality is linked to religion is based on two primary components:

(1) God loves all good actions and hates all evil actions; and (2) We can figure out which; that is, we can know what God loves and what he hates. Hale, p.27)

The writer of this work agrees with the statement that morality is the same as what God instructs the individual to do in that God is stated in the Bible to be the source of love and to be what is known as love, therefore the guidance of God in the morality of the individual is necessary in knowing what is good and moral. God's designation of an act as being either moral or immoral and the basis of morality upon this designation by God may be viewed as correct because God is the authority on what is good and evil. This is because acts that God prohibits are those, which are inherently wrong.

In other words, God does not prohibit certain acts just to show that he is God and he is the authority but instead prohibits certain acts because those acts are innately wrong or evil. This being the case, the writer would also disagree with divine command of morality because that, which is inherently and innately wrong or evil, will still be wrong or evil even if God did not exist.

In addition, the writer of this work disagrees with divine command theory in that the conceptual view of God varies and is different for the various religions and religious belief systems and the morality of the Christian God is contrasted to the morality of the Muslim God followed by extremists of jihadists since that God orders followers to murder others who do not believe as they believe. For this reason, the religious bases for morality fail to be one that is sound in daily practice.

Question Two: Is Morality Just My Own Personal Code?


The question of whether morality is based on the beliefs of each individual about their personal views on what is ethical is addressed in the work of Hale who states that psychological egoism holds that all individuals act in their own self-interest while ethical egoism holds that everyone "should always act" in their own self-interest. Psychological egoism is therefore, according to Hale, very easy to accomplish because he is doing what it is natural to do anyway. However, if ethical egoism is true and psychological egoism is false and since ethical egoism is selfish in nature, that ethical egoism provides proof that flawed human beings are required to struggle against their innate nature to do the right thing. Hale states that altruism is "always merely superficial and the authentic spring so actions are invariably self-interested ones." (Hale, 2012) In other words, individuals give to charity and feed those who are hungry because they derive a good feeling about themselves for having done so.

Hale states that if something was not realized in return such as self-esteem, self-satisfaction, community respect, or a rise in social standing that no one would do anything for anyone else. Morality is not just a personal code but instead is a societal code that sets the standards for what is ethically right and wrong. On the other hands, morality is something personal and individual to each person because no two individuals view ethics and morality exactly the same. Therefore, what is considered to be moral by one individual may likely not be considered as moral by another individual.

Three arguments are stated by Rachels for ethical egoism:

(1) People should do whatever will promote the interests of all;

(2) the interests of others are best promoted if all people adopt the policy of pursuing their own interests; and (3) therefore, all people should adopt the policy of the pursuit of our own interests exclusively. (Cahn, n.d.)

Thomas Hobbes holds that common sense moral intuitions can be understood in terms of ethical egoism because people should do certain things since in the long run those things serve the best interests of people. However, Rachels states two objections to the belief of Hobbes: (1) in some cases, telling the truth or keeping promises can harm the individual; and (2) there might be others reasons other than egoism why the person helps other persons. (Cahn, n.d.)

Question Three: Is Morality Just How Society Says We Should Act?

(Moral Relativism)

Moral relativism holds that when one is in Rome, that one should do as the Romans do, or eat as the Roman eats and so forth. Moral relativism is differentiated from one social group to another depending upon the beliefs held by the group. That which is morally relative in one society and held to be as ethical will vary and be different in other cultures and societies. This is why morality is delegated as being relative. While moral relativism is reported by Hale as being "attractive in lots of ways…" (Hale, 2012), in fact, there are universals in the area of morality. Hale states that a primary compliant against moral relativism is the "criticism objection: if moral relativism is true, then meaningful criticism of either other societies or one's own is impossible." (Hale, 2012)

Morality is therefore, societal and cultural specific depending on the society and culture within which that morality is embedded and applicable. If societal morality were applied as such in regards to the authority of morality, being seated in society the result would be erroneous and the outcome confusing since what is moral in one society is immoral in another and that which is forbidden in one society is a societal requirement in yet another. The work of Dobrin (2012) states that the cultural relativist believes that "whether something is right or wrong depends upon what our culture, religion or government tells us." (p.1)

Dobrin relates that there are firm rules regarding morality however, there is a variation of these rules from place to place. Stated as the primary claim of the cultural relativist is that moral norms are identified "by the society in which you live. There is no claim to moral values independent of or external to society. Morality is a cultural artifact, much like the language that you speak. You may think Spanish is better than Urdu, but that's because you were brought up speaking Spanish. Ethics is as arbitrary as the language you speak or whether you use a knife or chopsticks." (2012, p.1)

The work of Kreeft states that the U.S. Supreme Court has declared "that we have a fundamental right to define the meaning of existence. This is either the most fundamental of all rights if it is a right, or the most fundamental of all follies if it is wrong." (p.1) Kreeft writes that philosophy and science and additionally logic or common sense is not able to refute traditional moral absolutism. It is not reason, but the abdication of reason that is the source of moral relativism. Relativism is not rational, it is rationalization of a prior action. In order for morality to exist, it must be formulated upon the bases of a principle that extends beyond the individual into the society and community and the world-at-large. (Dobrin, 2012, paraphrased)

Morality cannot be stated to be religiously-based since many individuals who are not religious still live moral lives. According to Hauser and Singer (2005) atheists and agnostics "do not behave less morally than religious believers, even if their virtuous acts are mediated by different principles. They often have as strong and sound a sense of right and…[continue]

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