Each volume of Moral Issues in Global Perspective combines serious attention to moral and political theory with substantive treatment of actual moral issues as they arise in very different human contexts across the planet. No credible moral philosopher can ignore the fact that globalization and multiculturalism make a difference to how moral problems are framed and therefore to how those problems might be addressed.
And our students deserve nothing less than to be exposed to the rich diversity of human thinking about how to live. Individually and collectively, these volumes provide essential guides to the latest conversation between theorists and practitioners around the world about a host of questions vital to everyday life and to the very future of ethical humankind.
It brings together some of the best writings that have been published in the area of social justice broadly construed, taking up such topics as child labor and terrorism in addition to many of the traditional issues. A most commendable feature is that not only are traditional and non-traditional writings represented, but we also have first-rate work by a particularly wide range of exceptional thinkers.
It is not just that there is something for all. Rather, it is that there is much that would intellectually engage anyone. Subscribe To Our Newsletter Name. According to consequentialism , correct moral conduct is determined solely by a cost-benefit analysis of an action's consequences:.
Consequentialism: An action is morally right if the consequences of that action are more favorable than unfavorable. Consequentialist normative principles require that we first tally both the good and bad consequences of an action. Second, we then determine whether the total good consequences outweigh the total bad consequences. If the good consequences are greater, then the action is morally proper. If the bad consequences are greater, then the action is morally improper. Consequentialist theories are sometimes called teleological theories, from the Greek word telos , or end, since the end result of the action is the sole determining factor of its morality.
Consequentialist theories became popular in the 18 th century by philosophers who wanted a quick way to morally assess an action by appealing to experience, rather than by appealing to gut intuitions or long lists of questionable duties. In fact, the most attractive feature of consequentialism is that it appeals to publicly observable consequences of actions. Most versions of consequentialism are more precisely formulated than the general principle above. In particular, competing consequentialist theories specify which consequences for affected groups of people are relevant.
Three subdivisions of consequentialism emerge:. All three of these theories focus on the consequences of actions for different groups of people. But, like all normative theories, the above three theories are rivals of each other. They also yield different conclusions. Consider the following example. A woman was traveling through a developing country when she witnessed a car in front of her run off the road and roll over several times. She asked the hired driver to pull over to assist, but, to her surprise, the driver accelerated nervously past the scene.
Ethics & International Affairs | Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
A few miles down the road the driver explained that in his country if someone assists an accident victim, then the police often hold the assisting person responsible for the accident itself. If the victim dies, then the assisting person could be held responsible for the death. The driver continued explaining that road accident victims are therefore usually left unattended and often die from exposure to the country's harsh desert conditions.
On the principle of ethical egoism , the woman in this illustration would only be concerned with the consequences of her attempted assistance as she would be affected. Clearly, the decision to drive on would be the morally proper choice. On the principle of ethical altruism, she would be concerned only with the consequences of her action as others are affected, particularly the accident victim.
Tallying only those consequences reveals that assisting the victim would be the morally correct choice, irrespective of the negative consequences that result for her. On the principle of utilitarianism, she must consider the consequences for both herself and the victim. The outcome here is less clear, and the woman would need to precisely calculate the overall benefit versus disbenefit of her action.
Jeremy Bentham presented one of the earliest fully developed systems of utilitarianism. Two features of his theory are noteworty. First, Bentham proposed that we tally the consequences of each action we perform and thereby determine on a case by case basis whether an action is morally right or wrong. This aspect of Bentham's theory is known as act-utilitiarianism. Second, Bentham also proposed that we tally the pleasure and pain which results from our actions.
For Bentham, pleasure and pain are the only consequences that matter in determining whether our conduct is moral. This aspect of Bentham's theory is known as hedonistic utilitarianism. Critics point out limitations in both of these aspects. First, according to act-utilitarianism, it would be morally wrong to waste time on leisure activities such as watching television, since our time could be spent in ways that produced a greater social benefit, such as charity work.
But prohibiting leisure activities doesn't seem reasonable. More significantly, according to act-utilitarianism, specific acts of torture or slavery would be morally permissible if the social benefit of these actions outweighed the disbenefit. A revised version of utilitarianism called rule-utilitarianism addresses these problems.
According to rule-utilitarianism, a behavioral code or rule is morally right if the consequences of adopting that rule are more favorable than unfavorable to everyone. Unlike act utilitarianism, which weighs the consequences of each particular action, rule-utilitarianism offers a litmus test only for the morality of moral rules, such as "stealing is wrong. The same is true for moral rules against lying or murdering.
Rule-utilitarianism, then, offers a three-tiered method for judging conduct. A particular action, such as stealing my neighbor's car, is judged wrong since it violates a moral rule against theft.
In turn, the rule against theft is morally binding because adopting this rule produces favorable consequences for everyone. John Stuart Mill's version of utilitarianism is rule-oriented. Second, according to hedonistic utilitarianism, pleasurable consequences are the only factors that matter, morally speaking. This, though, seems too restrictive since it ignores other morally significant consequences that are not necessarily pleasing or painful. For example, acts which foster loyalty and friendship are valued, yet they are not always pleasing.
In response to this problem, G. Moore proposed ideal utilitarianism , which involves tallying any consequence that we intuitively recognize as good or bad and not simply as pleasurable or painful. Also, R. Hare proposed preference utilitarianism , which involves tallying any consequence that fulfills our preferences. We have seen in Section 1. Upon that foundation, Hobbes developed a normative theory known as social contract theory , which is a type of rule-ethical-egoism.
Ethics: The Study of Moral Values
According to Hobbes, for purely selfish reasons, the agent is better off living in a world with moral rules than one without moral rules. For without moral rules, we are subject to the whims of other people's selfish interests. Our property, our families, and even our lives are at continual risk. Selfishness alone will therefore motivate each agent to adopt a basic set of rules which will allow for a civilized community. Not surprisingly, these rules would include prohibitions against lying, stealing and killing.
However, these rules will ensure safety for each agent only if the rules are enforced.
As selfish creatures, each of us would plunder our neighbors' property once their guards were down. Each agent would then be at risk from his neighbor. Therefore, for selfish reasons alone, we devise a means of enforcing these rules: we create a policing agency which punishes us if we violate these rules.
Applied ethics is the branch of ethics which consists of the analysis of specific, controversial moral issues such as abortion, animal rights, or euthanasia. In recent years applied ethical issues have been subdivided into convenient groups such as medical ethics, business ethics, environmental ethics , and sexual ethics.
Generally speaking, two features are necessary for an issue to be considered an "applied ethical issue. The issue of drive-by shooting, for example, is not an applied ethical issue, since everyone agrees that this practice is grossly immoral. By contrast, the issue of gun control would be an applied ethical issue since there are significant groups of people both for and against gun control.
The second requirement for an issue to be an applied ethical issue is that it must be a distinctly moral issue. On any given day, the media presents us with an array of sensitive issues such as affirmative action policies, gays in the military, involuntary commitment of the mentally impaired, capitalistic versus socialistic business practices, public versus private health care systems, or energy conservation.
Although all of these issues are controversial and have an important impact on society, they are not all moral issues.
F. M. Kamm
Some are only issues of social policy. The aim of social policy is to help make a given society run efficiently by devising conventions, such as traffic laws, tax laws, and zoning codes. Moral issues, by contrast, concern more universally obligatory practices, such as our duty to avoid lying, and are not confined to individual societies. Frequently, issues of social policy and morality overlap, as with murder which is both socially prohibited and immoral.
However, the two groups of issues are often distinct. For example, many people would argue that sexual promiscuity is immoral, but may not feel that there should be social policies regulating sexual conduct, or laws punishing us for promiscuity.
Similarly, some social policies forbid residents in certain neighborhoods from having yard sales. But, so long as the neighbors are not offended, there is nothing immoral in itself about a resident having a yard sale in one of these neighborhoods. Thus, to qualify as an applied ethical issue, the issue must be more than one of mere social policy: it must be morally relevant as well. In theory, resolving particular applied ethical issues should be easy. With the issue of abortion, for example, we would simply determine its morality by consulting our normative principle of choice, such as act-utilitarianism.