Ethical Realism

May 31, 2011

Three Forms of Evidence

An argument uses premises to reach a conclusion, but we can’t just accept that every valid argument proves the conclusion to be true. If an argument has a valid form, we need to know that the premises are true before we can know the conclusion is true. We rarely know for certain that the premises of an argument are true. Instead, we do our best at justifying the premises. One way to do this is to provide evidence—reasons we should believe something to be likely true or accurate. Many people equate “evidence” with “observation,” but there could be other reasons to accept beliefs as well. I will discuss three types of evidence: (more…)

May 24, 2011

Ethics and Rationalization

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 5:28 am
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We want to know how to be reasonable when thinking about morality, and “moral philosophy” is the specialization in doing exactly that. This requires that we know the difference between being reasonable and unreasonable. Sometimes people think like sophists—pretenders of wisdom—rather than philosophers and make use of poor reasoning without a serious attempt to be reasonable. “Sophistry” or “rationalization” is poor reasoning people use as if it were good reasoning when they are being negligent during the reasoning process. This is often unintentional because good reasoning requires training, careful thought, and research and few people have mastered their abilities of rationality. We can study moral rationalizations in an attempt to illustrate the difference between good reasoning and rationalization. I will discuss the importance of moral rationalizations, various rationalization techniques, and give illustrations of rationalizations in the business world. This discussion is based on “Business Ethics and Moral Motivation: A Criminological Perspective” (PDF) by Joseph Heath. (more…)

May 21, 2011

Five Meta-Ethical Theories

Meta-ethical theories are meant to explain moral psychology, moral reality, and moral reason. Moral psychology considers the actual moral judgments, moral interests, and moral motivation people experience. Moral reality refers to the nature behind true moral statements—what makes our statements true. Moral reason describes our moral knowledge and how we can decide which moral beliefs are best or “most likely true.” Moral realists believe that there are moral facts (moral elements of reality) and they are often optimistic about how well we can understand such facts, but moral anti-realists reject moral realism and don’t think we need moral facts to understand morality. I will briefly discuss five meta-ethical theories, two of which are forms of moral realism and three that are forms of moral anti-realism: Moral naturalism and moral intuitionism are both forms of moral realism; noncognitivism, relativism, and error theory are forms of moral anti-realism. There are many forms of each of these theories, but I will concentrate on one version of each theory. (more…)

May 20, 2011

The Debate Over Moral Realism

The question over what morality refers to has lead to two groups of philosophers. One group describes itself as being “moral realists” and other other as “moral anti-realists.” Moral realists think that there’s more to morality than anti-realists. In particular, the moral realists believes that there’s at least one moral fact. I will describe these two groups then briefly describe why someone might accept or reject moral realism. (more…)

What is Morality?

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 3:18 am
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People discuss morality quite often and many of our actions are based on assumptions about morality. I will discuss the meaning of “morality” within ordinary language and illustrate the difference between morality and everything else by comparing moral and nonmoral standards. (more…)

May 19, 2011

Professional Ethics

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 8:42 am
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What is often called “professional ethics” is a list of laws, rules, and regulations that professionals are supposed to live by, such as the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors. These laws, rules, and regulations might be endorsed by many people, but that doesn’t prove that they are objective moral standards that professionals should accept. Nonetheless, I think there really are moral standards that many professionals have that are unique to their profession. These standards involve duties to customers or the public at large. I have already discussed how accounting auditors seem to have unique responsibilities beyond making profit. I will now suggest how farmers, doctors, teachers, and journalists seem to have unique responsibilities to the public as well. (more…)

Against Ethical Egoism & The Invisible Hand

Some people think we ought to only do what is best for ourselves, but I will present evidence that this is a misunderstanding of ethics. One argument for capitalism, libertarian justice, and ethical egoism is the invisible hand argument—if we do what is in our personal best interest, it will lead to a prosperous society. There is some truth to the invisible hand argument, but it’s not infallible. There are times that self-interest can lead to ethical actions and self-interest in a capitalistic society can lead to prosperity much of the time, but not always. I will discuss ethical egoism, the invisible hand, and reasons to reject ethical egoism and the invisible hand argument: (1) People who do wrong almost always do it because they think it’s in their self-interest, (2) what is in our self-interest isn’t always ethical, and (3) people live in an interdependent relationship. (more…)

May 18, 2011

W. D. Ross’s Intuitionism, a Moral Theory

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 6:00 am
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W. D. Ross‘s theoretical understanding of morality explained in The Right and the Good was not meant to be fully comprehensive and determine right and wrong in every situation, but he doesn’t think it is ever going to be possible to do so. He denies that there is one single overarching moral principle or rule. Instead, he thinks we can make moral progress one step at a time by learning more and more about our moral duties, and do our best at balancing conflicting obligations and values.


Kant’s Categorical Imperative And the Situation

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 4:09 am

Some people think morality is “absolute” in the sense that the situation has no bearing on what we ought to do. Some people think Immanuel Kant was an absolutist in this sense, and perhaps he was. However, his moral theory—the “categorical imperative”—does not seem to imply absolutism, as many think. I will discuss two reasons people think Kant rejected the importance of the situation for morality: (1) They confuse universality with generality, (2) they confuse hypothetical imperatives with situational ethics, and (3) Kant said we should be honest no matter what. I will then discuss two reasons to think Kant realized that the situation can be relevant to morality: (1) it is pretty much impossible to understand morality without taking the situation into consideration and (2) Kant discusses the importance of harming people and “humanity,” but actions can only benefit people in certain situations.

May 17, 2011

Environmental Issues of Business Ethics

There are many environmental moral issues relevant to business. I will discuss (a) ecology, (b) traditional business attitudes towards the environment, (c) problems involving environmental abuse, (d) environmental protection, (e) methods to pay for environmental protection, and (f) other issues involving environmental ethics. This discussion is largely based on chapter eleven of Business Ethics (Third Edition, 1999) by William Shaw. (more…)

May 16, 2011

Moral Issues Related to Consumers

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 3:55 am
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There are many moral issues in the business world relevant to consumers. In particular, businesses have moral duties to consumers and some actions taken in business are morally preferable that have an impact on consumers. I will discuss (a) the responsibilities of business to consumers, (b) product safety, and (c) advertising. This discussion is largely based on chapter ten of Business Ethics (Third Edition, 1999) by William Shaw. (more…)

May 13, 2011

Job Discrimination

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 4:30 am
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Prejudice and discrimination still has a powerful impact on the workplace and is a serious moral issue facing our society. I will discuss (1) the meaning of job discrimination, (2) evidence of job discrimination, (3) affirmative action, (4) the doctrine of comparable worth, and (5) sexual harassment. This discussion is based on chapter nine of Business Ethics (Third Edition, 1999)by William Shaw. This is the most outdated chapter in his book because it relies heavily on older statistics and studies, but the problems we face today might not be quite the same as the problems we faced ten years ago. However, I will use more current statistics and studies than is available in his book when possible. However, Shaw’s newest business ethics book came out in 2009 and has updated statistics. (A used copy costs next to nothing on Amazon right now.)


May 11, 2011

Moral Issues Facing Employees

Employees have various moral decisions to make. Many of these decisions should be made on the basis of our moral obligations, but sometimes the morally preferable action could require courage and be performed beyond the call of duty. I will discuss (1) obligations employees have for the firm, (2) the illegitimate use of one’s position for private gain, (3) bribery, (4) the obligations employees have to third parties, (5) whistle blowing, and (6) self-interest. This discussion is based on chapter eight of Business Ethics (Third Edition, 1999) by William Shaw. (more…)

May 10, 2011

Moral Implications of the Workplace Part 2

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 5:06 am
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I have already discussed various moral implications of the workplace in part 1 of “Moral Implications of the Workplace,” and I will continue the discussion here by considering (a) privacy, (b) work conditions, and (c) job satisfaction. This discussion is based on chapter seven of Business Ethics (Third Edition, 1999) by William Shaw. (more…)

May 5, 2011

Moral Implications of the Workplace

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 7:47 am
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Our constitutional rights protects us from government interference, but they don’t protect us from private industry. The workplace is allowed to violate our constitutional rights. Nonetheless, the law demands that businesses treat employees with a certain amount of respect. If we assume that people deserve to be treated with respect, that has moral implications in the workplace. We could have moral rights and responsibilities other than what the law demands. I will discuss moral issues concerning the workplace; such as (a) the nature of moral rights and responsibilities in the workplace, (b) personnel policies and procedures, and (c) unions. This discussion is based on chapter six of Business Ethics (Third Edition, 1999) by William Shaw. (more…)

May 3, 2011

Ethical Implications of Corporations

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 5:03 am
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Corporations are an incredibly powerful force in in the United States. They have a huge influence in politics and the lives of millions of employees. First, I will discuss the nature and moral justification for corporations. Second, I will discuss various moral debates concerning corporations, such as (a) whether corporations have moral responsibility, (b) the nature of corporate social responsibility, and (c) the importance of institutionalizing ethics within corporations. This discussion is greatly based on chapter five of Business Ethics (Third Edition, 1999) by William Shaw. (more…)

May 1, 2011

Considerations For & Against Capitalism

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 4:45 am
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Is capitalism a good idea? If so, is there any way to improve our capitalistic system? These are the sorts of questions that motivate us to face the challenges to capitalism. Many people believe that our capitalistic system has problems that need to be solved. Either they are wrong, or we should start looking for solutions. I will discuss the nature of capitalism, moral justifications of capitalism, challenges to capitalism, and new problems capitalism is facing. My discussion is based on chapter four of Business Ethics (Third Edition, 1999) by William Shaw. (more…)

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