Moral philosophy – D.D.Raphael
“what is moral philosophy?”
‘Every society and every cultural group tends to accept without question a number of disbeliefs. These are taken for granted, instilled in the young as part of their education, and presupposed in the process of forming further ideas.’
“ In modern societies most people accept without question that ‘seeing is believing’, that perception by the senses is the most reliable kind of evidence there is . Philosophy asks us to examine such assumptions, to consider whether we have a good reason to follow them. If we find that we have, then we may continue to hold the beliefs, but now with rational assurance instead of unthinking acceptance. If we find that we do not have good reasons, then we should either suspend judgment or seek a new framework off belief.”
Pg 2 “different societies had different customs and different systems of law; they were thereby led to query the natural assumption that the rules of ones own society are sacrosanct, of divine origin and absolutely valid.”
Pg 3 “major movements in philosophy arise in this way apparent conflict between different beliefs. Philosophy examines critically the assumptions and arguments that have buttressed the opposing beliefs, it asks: ‘ why should we believe this? Have we any good reason to do so? Is that a good reason? What is good or sound reasoning?’ Critical evaluation may end up negatively, with septicism ‘we do not have reason to believe this’; or positively, we reconstruction.’ We have good reason, provided that we understand the belief in such a way.”
Pg 6 “Their rationality lies in two things, the requirement of consistency and the pursuit of truth. Consistency is a matter of conformity to relevant facts and is tested by observation.
In their practice philosophy and science differ in the relative emphasis given to the two aspects of rationality. Philosophy puts more emphasis on the use of logic because philosophers, unlike scientists, are not in a position to concentrate on the observation of a special field of knowledge. “
Pg 8 “Moral philosophy is philosophical inquiry about norm or values, about ideas of right and wrong, good and bad, what should and what should not be done.”
“Aesthetics (the philosophy of beauty and art) does not fit easily into either of the two divisions. Aesthetics seems akin to ethics since both inquire into judgments of value rather than judgments of fact, but the notions which aesthetics examines are at least much concerned with contemplation as with practice.”
Pg 9 “Some people use the term ‘moral philosophy as synomous with ‘ethics’, the philosophical discussion of assumptions about right and wrong, good and bad, considered as general ideas and as applied in the private life of individuals. In the history of the subject term has been used more widely to cover also the discussion of normative ideas (i.ie. ideas of value or of what ought to be done) in organized social life as well as in private relationships. In particular it has included political and legal philosophy.”
“If I have come to doubt moral beliefs which I previously took for granted, and if I therefore ask whether there are good reasons for or against acceptance. I seriously want to know what I should believe about right and wrong. To ask in the face of conflicity codes of conduct, whether there is a good reason to accept one and reject the rest, is virtually to ask which, if any, is really right, that would come pretty close to showing how we ought to behave.”
Pg 10 “ So do not expect moral philosophy to solve the practical problems of life or to be a crutch on which you can learn. A study of philosophy makes it more necessary, not less, to stand on your own feet, to be self critical and to be obliged to choose for yourself. It makes you more rational, more responsible, more of a human being.”
Pg 12 “ What sort of observation would serve the same purpose for testing moral beliefs? We do not see or touch rightness or wrongness. We do not reach our moral beliefs from evidence of the senses.
No, but perhaps we reach them from the evidence of a different kind of experience, the experience of feeling or emotion. We have feelings of approval for some actions and states of affairs, feelings of disapproval for others. The same sort of thing applies to aesthetic judgments. When we judge that Beethoven’s fifth symphony, or a sunset, is beautiful we do not hear the beauty of the one or see the beauty of the other. We hear the sounds of the symphony and we see the colours of the sunset; but we feel aesthetically moved. So perhaps we should say we feel morally moved when we observe an act of kindness or on of cruelty.”
Pg 13 “ Does ‘normal vision’ hare simply mean the kind of vision possessed by most observers? Is it a question of numbers? Is it the reaction of majority taken to be ‘objective’ just because they are a majority?”
Pg 18 “ In the theory of knowledge, a philosophical rationalist holds that genuine knowledge is acquired by reason and is a matter of necessary truth.”
Pg 22 “When two moral principles conflict in a single situation, one of them has to give way.”
Pg 34 “ What is the standard of morals? What is it that makes right action right? One answer to this question is given by utilitarianism. It is an attractive view and is deservedly popular. According to utilitarianism, an action is right if it is useful for promoting happiness. Happiness the theory explains is a sum of pleasures. Pleasure is good and pain or displeasure is bad.”
Pg 42 “ It is a forward – looking doctrine, justifying things by reference to the future, and so it seems clearly to be a progressive policy. No wonder that it captures the imagination as a most attractive moral philosophy.”
Pg 66 “ This is a suggested psychological explanation of the way in which people do decide between a conflict of claims and why different individuals decide differently. (It also sketches an explanation of why ties of special personal relationship count for so much in ethics, a point which was not covered by a simple reading of the principle of ends.it does not propose a criterion of how we should decide, I do not think it is possible to provide that; there is no right answer for the resolution of a moral dilemma. But at least the explanation shows that the decision is not just a blind leap in the dark. It depends upon the moral factors of imagination and sympathetic feeling.”
Pg 67 “At first sight, politics seems quite opposed to the spirit of ethics. The keynote of ethics is altruism, while politics is more hard-boiled; politics has to reckon with the predominance of the self interest in human nature and exemplifies this in the behavior of politicians think of their objectives in ethical terms – the public interest, social justice, freedom from oppression or freedom from want. The relative emphasis, which a political party gives to some of these ideas, defines its political stance. Even though its actions are often motivated by less high flown sentiments.”
Pg 68 “ Every society needs some sort of structure to be maintained, and every reflective society needs some sort of concept concerning that structure. Justice is the basic concept of social value; it is what holds a society together. But since every society consists of individual persons, there is bound to be tension between social cohesion and the feelings of independence and separate identity experienced by every individual human being.”
Pg 69 “ But the law also has a progressive or reformative aspect, statutes (laws made by the legislature) change the rules in accordance with new ideas of what is fair and proper.”
Pg 85 “ The common sense idea is that freedom is the absence of restraint on doing as you wish. But this, says the philosophical idealist, means acting from desire, and to act from desire is not a good thing. The good things to do what is morally right and to act from sense or duty.”
Pg 115 “ethics is a product of evolution”
“ The first suggestion is that our moral capacities (conscience) and our moral ideas have evolved by a process which is part of the general process of evolution…….By (conscience) is meant the capacity of human beings to make moral judgments which can then motivate action.”
Pg 124 “ we must accept the direction of evolution as good simply because it is good according to any realistic definition of that concept. We defined ethical principles as actual psychological compulsions derived from the experience of the nature of society; we stated that the nature of society is such that, in general, it develops in a certain direction; then the ethical principles which mediate the motion in that direction are in fact those adopted by that society (science and ethics(1942),pg18).”
Moral philosophy has some good methods on why do we behave the way do? Who decided what is right and wrong? And should these decisions come from majority what if we went of the lesser majority ?
Would social behavior evolve for better or worse?