Question 1: Philosophical Discussions on Ethics
Students enjoy Rosenstand’s lively and relatable work and discuss it through the use of fiction narratives, popular comic strips and even contemporary film. Through story analysis, storytelling and using examples from film and fiction, Rosenstand clearly shows how ethical theories are applicable in real life (Nina, 2002, p.121). This way, the present social and political climate is reflected. Topics such as terrorism, courage and war are also updated and enhanced throughout. Rosenstand alleges that being story listeners and storytellers gives a definition of the human condition. It is also her suggestion that stories help people connect, bring order in people’s unpredictable lives, act as cultural glue and help make sense of the world and individuals’ place in it.
According to Rosenstand, it is difficult to develop a good story that does not put emphasis on the choice between good and evil, sacrifice and altruism and the easy path versus the hard part. Each story explains that people make choices and that they are accountable for those choices made. They do not need to offer a certain moral value, but serve as moral laboratories by giving out ideas and seeing how they play.
Without fiction, one’s experience is too parochial and confined. The work of literature is to extend this experience, make people reflect and have a feeling of what might have otherwise be too distant to feel. It is much harder to discuss a person’s events in their own life than it is to talk about events in a story. While relating to stories, individuals are able to make a connection with the identities and feelings of the characters or the circumstances they find themselves in. This way, it becomes easier to share a part of one’s life, whether moral or emotional experience, through discussing the fictional event instead of people’s lives.
Through philosophical discipline, one is provided with the skill to enable them to critically examine what is portrayed in literature and to evaluate fictional lives. A person can recognize the value that philosophical reflection has on library texts. There are a number of problems in claiming that fictional stories are better at providing moral lessons than real-life stories. Some of the reasons may include that there are other books outside philosophy and literature that may have a bigger impact on moral behavior than fictional works. This may include the Bible, the Quran and the Talmud.
Philosophical discussions on ethics cannot be used to direct clear religious connections to ethics. This is because most individuals in the world are stout religion practitioners and that bases their foundation. Steering clear of connections of religion to ethics is, therefore, steering clear of what morally gives a definition to many people around the world.
In many ways, good and evil are related to religious concepts. Judgment is passed to whether an individual is good or evil. Rosenstand claims that if the word ‘evil’ is adopted to mean morally wrong or misguided, then there ought to be the appreciation that there are different degrees of evil.
The understanding of tragedy may be based on the view of it as an experience. According to Roy Schafer, among all the views of affairs of the human being, tragic is the most deeply and remorsefully searching (Schafer, 1976, p.35). The defining characteristics of the life’s tragic sense is its persistence on the balance between strive for rationality and the recognition of the underlying existence of irrationality. There is an incredible value placed in attempting to answer and understand a person’s experience rationally. Through tragedy, some of the most fundamental questions relating to existence are repeatedly raised. The answers to these questions are heroically and ceaselessly insisted by tragic visions. A person, who has undergone a tragedy, stretches his knowledge limits and understanding, sometimes to a dangerous or a frightening extent. This, therefore, demands confrontation with the truth. Tragedy does not inhere in events that are external but focuses on the internal meaning with which events are interpreted and imbued (Unamuno, 1956, p.17).
Question 2: Ethical Relativism and Nihilism
Ethical relativism may be said to be the belief that there is nothing that is objectively right or wrong and that the definition of right or wrong is dependent upon the existing view of a certain individual, historic period or culture. It is the theory that is of the view that morality is relative to a person’s cultural norms. The norms of the society in which the action is being practiced define what is wrong or right. A similar action may be morally right in a certain society but be wrong morally in another society. According to ethical relativists, there is no existence of moral standards that are universal, that is, standards that can be applicable to all individuals at all times. A society’s practices can only be judged against its own moral standards.
Many ethicists do not accept the theory of ethical relativism. Some of them believe that while society’s moral practices may be different, the basic moral principles that underlie these practices do not differ. Societies may have different ways of applying the basic moral principles but chose to agree on the principles. It may also be argued that some moral beliefs are culturally relative, while others are not. For example, some practices such as dress and decency customs may depend on local custom, while other practices such as torture and slavery may be governed by moral standards that are universal. Therefore, just because certain practices are relative does not imply that all practices are relative.
Ethical relativism is also criticized on the basis of its effects for personal moral beliefs. If an action being wrong or right depends on the norms of the society, it, therefore, means that a person has to obey those norms and to diverge from them is being immoral. The definition of a righteous action may be lost when social consensus lacks.
Another argument against relative relativism is from those who claim that moral standards that are universal can be in existence even when some beliefs and practices are different among cultures. This means that cultural differences can be acknowledged in moral beliefs and practices and still hold some of these beliefs and practices as being wrong morally. As a theory meant to provide a justification of moral beliefs and practices, ethical relativism does not recognize that some societies may have better reasons for sticking to their views. Ethics should be associated with inquiring what is wrong or right by critically examining the reasons that underlie practices and beliefs.
Ethical nihilism is the opinion that ethical terms like right and wrong are nonsense or have no meaning. Moral nihilists claim that morality does not fundamentally exist and that any moral values that have been established are contrived abstractly. In some aspect, nihilism may be taken to mean that reality does not actually exist. Postmodernity and some certain aspects of modernity have been linked with the rejection of theism. Therefore, nihilism has been associated with rejection of the theistic doctrine.
Question 3: Glaucon’s Argument
Glaucon’s argument is that if a person had a magic ring that would make them invisible, whether that person was just or unjust, that person would act selfishly and do anything without any fear of being punished. His argument reflected the reality on the ground today. According to the false dichotomy, people do not always act in their own interest or in the interest of any other person. It is, therefore, incorrect to claim that all actions are self-centered and that all actions are performed out of self-interest. People do not always seek for their own happiness or satisfaction. In fact, some seek for their own unhappiness and self-destruction, and may act spontaneously without any conscious consideration of their happiness.
Question 4: Consequentialist Ethical Theory
A consequentialist ethical theory is a broad normative theory that evaluates the morality of acts, rules and institutions based only on the goodness of their results. In this theory, the standard of goodness used is the standard of non-moral goodness. When an action results in good consequences, such action is the right action.
The different attempts to answer the question of what is good have given rise to distinct kinds of consequentialism. In the matter in question, the consequentialist theory is utilitarianism.
Utilitarianism is a consequentialist ethical theory that holds that an act’s morality is dependent solely on the relation it has on the maximization of average or total utility. Utilitarianism has further been divided into three varieties:
Hedonistic utilitarianism is a variety of this theory. This theory provides that the net hedonic value of life is the sum of all the pleasures and the pains contained in life. Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill were proponents of this theory. This theory holds that the pleasure-pain principle is the guiding principle on the morality and goodness of one’s acts. This theory holds the position that man would naturally avoid pain and seek pleasure. It would, therefore, be proper to have it that man would normally take part in acts that would result in pleasure, while he shuns away acts that will only result in pain for him. A good man, thus, will have a tendency to do things that will lead to pleasure rather than pain (Levy, 1989, p. 152).
Second is pluralistic utilitarianism that is defined only in terms of pleasure and pain, but also in terms of that which has intrinsic value. This includes things such as love, knowledge, beauty, friendship and states of consciousness, apart from pleasure and pain. In this theory, the utility of life is equal to the sum of all these intrinsic values produced during the life of an individual.
The final variety of utilitarianism is preference utilitarianism. This theory holds the position that morality is defined in relation to one’s actual preferences and the degree to which such preferences are satisfied. The goodness of an individual depends on the degree to which his actions satisfy the person’s preferences in their life, whatever the preferences are (Scarre, 2002, p. 134).
Most consequentialists are of the view that ‘good’ ought to be defined as pleasure. This pleasure, however, is not limited to physical pleasure. It also includes mental pleasure.
This theory has limited strengths, as compared to weaknesses. One of the strengths is simplicity. It offers a clear basis for decision-making. It is reasonably clear how to make judgments that are ethical; one simply should reflect on the consequences of their actions. It is very practical.
Its weaknesses are as follows: the hedonistic theory does not cover the generality and aspects contained in the human life. It assumes pleasure as the only good. There are, normally, other kinds of good besides pleasure. These may include such things as duty and sacrifice, laws and taboo (Levy, 1989, p. 193).
The theory lacks in integrity. It lacks the consideration of the moral character and the importance of integrity. It leaves out one’s personal beliefs.
It is a mean to injustice, as it is focused on the individual. It suffers from the likelihood of immoral outcomes. This may occur where one selfishly seeks to gain maximum pleasure at the expense of others.
It has calculation problems. The hedonistic principle takes the assumption that pleasure and happiness are identical. They, however, are not similar. Hedonists believe that pleasure can be calculated empirically, when it, in fact, cannot.
Question 5: Deontological Ethics
Deontological ethics is the view that judges an action’s morality based on the adherence of those actions to a rule or rules. It may also be defined as a duty or an obligation to a rule, based on ethics because it binds one to their duty. Human beings, therefore, make a decision on what is right or wrong. To act in the right way morally, a person must act from duty (Kant, 2009).
These are not the effects of an action that makes them wrong or right, but the intent of the individual who is carrying out that action. An action qualifies to be good when it is good itself and without any qualification (Waluchow, 2003). Through deception, a person’s ability to choose is undermined by being deprived of information, essential for making a rational choice. Promising falsely to do something is to use another individual as a mere means of reaching one’s ends. It amounts to manipulating that person, failing to give respect to her ends through denying them the details they need to decide for themselves. A person’s intentions are, therefore, essential to the morality of a person’s acts. Wrongness is not dependent upon the situation in which a particular lie was told (Corley, Reed, Shedd, & Morehead, 2002, p. 375). However, it should be under person’s own control whether to deserve credit or blame.