Why it is a challenge to rational discussion

Question 1

Why it is a challenge to rational discussion

 Humans are intelligent beings, each and everything they do comes out of reasoning. Whether it is done knowingly or unknowingly, everything that a human decides to undertake is for a purpose, and it is justified in their minds before they can begin executing it.

Ethics are governed by rationality most of the times if not all the time. It is constructed and guided by the asset of principles that help individuals to draw the line between right and wrong, good and evil.

Humans use instincts or habits formed from previous encounters, but they act according to conscious decisions of what they perceive as right or wrong. Then how do human arrive at these decisions? What do humans use to measure their actions against? This is where ethical relativism and ethical egoism comes in.

Ethical Relativism and egoism pose a very significant challenge when one discusses ethics rationally. First and foremost, relativism is centered on a concept that believes that there is no absolute truth in ethics and whatever is considered right for one individual may not be right for another or may vary from society to society. Making it hard to pinpoint to any logical conclusion or rationality. Various organizations have different customs, and each thinks that his traditions are better than the other. No particular set of social customs are preferable than the others. It can be argued that morality is constructed differently within various cultures. Each community comes up with standards that are utilized by individuals within it to draw a line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Every judgment of right or wrong assumes or abides by these set standards. For example, if polygamy is considered right for one community, then it is right for that entire community, and if the same practice is deemed wrong for another within a different society, then the method is wrong for the whole of the nation. In Ethical Relativism there is no such concept as a constant absolute right as they are no neutral standards that can be used to compare the ethics and decide what is right and what is wrong. Therefore this poses a significant challenge when trying to evaluate ethics rationally.

Whereas ethical relativism tries to explain that there is no line between wrong or right or good and evil. Ethical egoism suggests that people tend to behave in a manner that favors their self-interests above the interests of others. If selfishness is true, then morality is not possible because morals sometimes need an individual to consider putting others first rather than their ambitions or self-interests. When an ethical choice is about to be made one will think how it will benefit him or her more unlike relativism which tries to weigh in on how the decision will affect the rest of the people as well. For example, if one could benefit from donating 10000 dollars the morally acceptable thing to do is to stay with the money instead of giving it out to charity. Egoism focuses on an individual, and it is descriptive. It tries to be factual by describing human affairs which are self-centered and not otherwise. People act for various reasons but what is behind their drive is it themselves or god or for the good of the society? Can a person work only based on his interests without considering the benefit of others?

 Ethical egoism and ethical relativism have their differences and similarities. Egoism claims to be impartially right while relativism suggests that no moral theory can be entirely accurate. As for their similarities, they both center on the importance of individuals. In both methods what is right or wrong melts down to the values, interests, and beliefs of an individual making the ethical decision. In fact, no person can fully grasp the effect of their moral choices. It can be debated that egoists are merely basing their choices on what they think suits them at that particular time and not objectivity criteria.

Ethical egoism claims that there is no absolute. This poses a challenge to rational reasoning while discussing morality. The problem with having no absolutes is that there will be no standards by which to judge what is wrong or right hence affecting rationality while discussing ethics which relies heavily on set standards of right or wrong.

Being rational depends entirely on applying reason and logic which helps to do the right thing hence in the case where there is no absolute right or wrong for one to cause with ends up affecting the judgement of a rational. Hence in the end, rationality cannot apply when it comes to one thinks of it in terms of egoism  or relativism


How the doctrines can be challenged

 Individuals try to avert getting into the discussion as they claim that moral positions are just contrasted in opinions. If that were a fact one would be forced to believe that there are good morals or good prudent reasons for not getting into arguments with other people, that it was good to avoid conflict with other people on contentious issues. Instead, people who support ethical relativism impose their views on others also known as ethnocentrism. But then one has to personally agree that being ethnocentric is ethnically no right and there are good reasons why it is wrong.

On the other hand, psychological egoism can be discredited the moment one finds an instance in which an individual has acted in the manner that is against his self-interest probing that there is ethics. The theory only trues to portray humans as self-centered and cannot behave otherwise, therefore, anything that represents humans as selfless discredits it.


Question 5

Picture this; an old woman is busy crossing the street. A robber grabs her purse with an intention of robbing her valuables. In the event of catching her handbag, he ends up pulling her out of harm's way as there was a truck coming towards her. As a consequence, the thief is crushed to death. In a second case, a man rescues a woman from an oncoming vehicle that is about to break her by grabbing onto her purse and pulling her out of the way. He ends up saving her life but dies as a result. In both instances, the actions and results of the stranger and the thief are the same. From a utilitarian point of view or angle, the two cases do not differ from each other. But from the Kant angle, the two instances are different. The actions of the second instance are ethical while the effects of the thief from the first instance turned out in favor of the old woman. The contrast is seen in the intention of the doer of the action. Alternatively, it can be concluded that for action be morally upright, the intention or motive behind the deed should also be-be good. The consequence is not a factor to be considered when analyzing the morality of an action. Even if in the second situation, both the lady and the man could have been killed, it does not change the intention of the man.

Whereas Kantian focuses on motive rather than the outcome, utilitarianism is centered on the results only. According to Kant, people know what is morally right, but they do not want to do it. This is because what is right may not directly benefit the individual. For example, when one comes across a wallet with a wad full of notes, the right thing to do is to return the item with the money, but it is in an individual's interest to keep the money even if there was certainty that the individual would misuse the funds. If humans were to be controlled by the desires and feelings, then they would not be able to conduct themselves morally at all.  In the case of a lion that hunts down a human being, it would be absurd to claim that the lion had an ethical duty not to kill the human nature yet, a lion only depends on its feelings and instincts to react. On another hand, if a person died of another human being, he could be found reprehensible and could be taken to court for prosecution. Unlike animals, human beings have the capability of behaving morally hence can reason beyond their feelings or desires and override their emotions to act ethically. Lions respond to their desires when they are triggered. Only a human have the mental capacity to choose. The free will to choose, according to Kant means that humans can act autonomously which means that they can conduct themselves according to the laws of their own making. Being free means to be able to make decisions without the influence or impact of the surrounding environment an individual finds himself in hence implying that one can make reasoning beyond their desires. Without free will, ethics is impossible according to the opinion of Kant deontology. At times one's wishes may be in line with what is ethically right and sound thing to do. Individuals are supposed to react based on moral duty and not moral laws. If an individual act based on moral obligation but not motivated by moral requirements he or she does not have free will as their actions are already decided by laws of psychology. Not doing what is right is not an issue, doing the right things for the right reasons is the ultimate objective of morality.


Question 4

The trolley problem and the various manners in which utilitarianism, Kantian deontology, and virtue ethics would deal with the problem.

Kantian deontology

Kantian ethics tend to focus on the motive behind the action. Alternatively, it can be said that people's motives or intentions are what can make an effort moral or immoral and not outcomes of the activities. According to Kant, the challenge with ethics is that although people know the right thing to do, they usually do not do it. This is because the right thing to do usually conflicts with one's self-interests.

Virtue ethics

It was derived from Aristotle, a student of Plato. Plato is known for providing some of the fundamentals of the Catholic Church and later to the Protestant theologies and principles through the ideas of St. Augustine. By the time people came to agree with Aristotle's ideologies, the secular world had rejected his suggestions and had replaced him with Kant and Mill.  Virtue ethics suggests that people need to recognize things that are good for human beings. The right action will be arrived at after one chooses what he or she considers to be good. Unlike Utilitarianism that suggests that the choices should be based on the highest happiness of the most significant number of people or whether to make morals uniform and universal, the one thing that should bother an individual is, 'What would a reasonable individual do in such as a situation? What can a good nurse do in such a case? What could a good nurse react in such a context? Both Kantian deontology and Utilitarian ethics can at times lead to horrendous results but virtue ethics looks into cases separately hence can easily avoid harm.



Is based on doing what will result in the highest good for the majority of the people. In a context where there is not enough doctors or supplies to cater for all the sick people as it sometimes happens during a war or any other calamity, doctors will tend to patients who are not critically injured hence saving most lives and leaving the rest to their fates.


Trolley problem

A run away trolley is speeding down the track towards five workers who will lose their lives if the trolley is not stopped or its course diverted. There is a person who was standing next to a lever that can change the course of the trolley onto a different truck. The only way one can prevent the five workers from losing their lives is by diverting the trolley onto a different track. If the course of the trolley is diverted, only one worker will be killed, but as a result the lives of the other five workers will be saved.


What is going on?

The trolley problem brings to light the fundamental tension between the two institutions of moral thoughts. A utilitarian may argue that the most appreciate action would be to act in the manner that achieves the highest good for the most significant number of people which should be pulling the switch and diverting the trolley so that it can only kill one person. The Kantian deontological able would suggest not picking the switch as certain actions such as killing people is unethical even if the outcome will have a greater good, killing people is just outright wrong according to Kantian deontology.

Virtue ethics does not settle on a definite answer to the trolley problem. According to virtues ethics, a person who pulls the switch is virtuous, and if an individual does not pull the switch is also worthy. While deciding on what a right person might have done in such a crucial situation, the train will have already killed the five individual in the truck. The debate over virtue ethics is that it is entirely useless when directing our moral actions.








2220 Words  8 Pages

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