Chapter 7 Ethics

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Chapter 7: Ethics

Section seven of the book “A Text with Readings” by Manuel Velasquez centers on ethics. According to Kant, ethics is about how individuals are to be worthy of happiness rather than being a doctrine concerning how to make themselves happy. In their daily activities, individuals are faced with moral questions that need to be addressed by values they have selected for themselves. In broader terms, ethics consists mainly of studying morality. It thus tries to define the things that are morally good in life as well as the actions that tend to be ethically correct. Ethics centers on morality, but it is not morality itself. Morality comprises of the standards that a person or a group possess concerning what is good and evil or what exists to be right and wrong.

The chapter further discusses ethics in terms of relativity and introduces two crucial words, and that is descriptive relativism and ethical relativism. Descriptive relativism articulates that societies typically differ in their moral standards. On the other hand, ethical relativism is the perception that the things that are morally right or wrong depend on an individual’s culture or society. Moreover, it further argues that there is no correct set of moral standards that are outlined for individuals to follow, but they should follow the norms that are accepted by their societies and culture. Therefore the author maintains that the ethical relativist should not assert that their moral standards are mistaken nor those of another culture.

Ethical relativism outlines that individual’s need to respectful and tolerant of other cultures moral beliefs and rejects the perception that their moral beliefs are the correct ones. However, they can criticize their own moral beliefs as well as those of others by rationally evaluating them. According to several traditional beliefs, individuals need to decide on what is morally right and wrong by observing the consequences of their actions. This leads to the consequentialist theory that holds that if one’s actions are right, then the act is correct and otherwise. However, there are those individuals who have adopted hedonism which is the outlook that only happiness or pleasure is inherently moral and it is only unhappiness or pain that is intrinsically immoral.

The chapter also discusses ethical egoism which asserts that morally right action is the one that initiates good and less bad consequences for an individual compared to any other activity. According to Harry Browne who is an American author, individuals should put their happiness ahead of others since the other individuals are doing the same. This is what is called ethical egoism. However, ethical egoism tends to have some disadvantages. Several philosophers maintain that ethical egoism is not impartial since it tends to favor an individual’s interests first and hence it is not morally dependable. In discussing the issue of ethics, rules, and consequences, Velasquez manages to answer the question of whether these issues makes an action right and whether they define morality. The author emphasizes on Act Utilitarianism and Rule Utilitarianism. Act utilitarianism holds that individuals should always act in a way that their actions generate the utmost happiness for every individual. Rule utilitarianism maintains that individuals should follow the rules that produce causes maximum pleasure.

The nonconsequentialist theories argue that the morality of an action critically depends on other factors rather than consequences and the issue leads to the Divine command theory as well as Buddhism. The Divine command concept tends to be a nonconsequentialist theory, and it commands individuals to abide by laws of God while Buddhism stresses on deliberate action, and it links morality to wisdom. The chapter closes by discussing that ethics are grounded on an individual’s character and emphasizing on the application of theories such as the normative ones to address issues such as abortion and euthanasia.

Works Cited

Velasquez, Manuel. Philosophy: A text with readings. Cengage Learning, 2016.

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