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The Ethical Dimension of

Human Existence
Introduction

In August 2007 we all heard the news about Chris Anthony Mendez, a UP
student who was rushed into the hospital early in the morning and died
eventually. It was found that the cause of death was because of physical
injuries that came from “Hazing.” Up until now the case was a big mystery.
No one has came forward to assume the responsibility for Chris’ death.
No one knows what exactly happened. No charges has been filed, no
definite testimony has been forthcoming. But this sends a message aside
from being a mystery. We may find ourselves asking “What is the value of
Life?” “what exactly were the wrongs done by Chris by his so-called
Fraternity Brothers?” or perhaps, “Is there any good fraternities?” These
questions doesn’t only concern what is right or wrong, good or bad but
these are questions that deals with values and ethics.
VALUE
Ethics generally speaking talks about matters
such as good things to be done and bad
things to be avoided; the right ways to act
and avoid wrong ways of acting. It is the
acceptable and unacceptable in human
behavior.
CLARIFICATIONS AND TERMINOLOGY
Recognizing the notions of good and bad, right and wrong are the primary concern of ethics.
The following valuations are sometimes misunderstood as part of ethics. These value judgements are actually not part of ethics.
KINDS OF VALUATION

1. AESTHETICS
the word aesthetics derived from the word
“aisthesis” which means sense or feelings and
refers to the judgement of personal approval or
disapproval that we make on what we see, hear,
smell or taste. In fact we often times use the word
“taste” to refer to the “Personal Aesthetic
Preferences” that we have.
KINDS OF VALUATION

2. Etiquette
We have the sense of approval or
disapproval concerning actions which can
be considered relatively more trivial in
nature. For instance, I may think that it is
“right” to knock politely on someone’s door,
while it is wrong to barge in someone’s
office.
KINDS OF VALUATION

3. Technical Technique
We can also consider how notion of right and
wrong actions can easily appear in a context that is
not a matter of ethics. For instance, the correct way
of baking, one must put all the dry ingredients first
but that doesn’t concern ethics. We derive the word
Technique from the Greek word “techne” which
usually used to refer a proper way of how things are
done.
Knowing all the valuations stated above
allows us to have rough guide as to what
belongs to discussion of ethics. They involve
valuations that we make in sphere of human
actions, characterized by certain gravity and
concern the human well-being or human life
itself these includes life and death such as war,
abortion and matters that include poverty,
inequality or sexual identity.
ETHICS AND MORALS

The term “Morals” may be used to refer to specific


belief or attitude that people have or to describe
act that people perform. Thus, it is sometimes said
that an individual’s personal conduct is referred to
as his morals and vice versa. The term “ethics”
can be spoken as the discipline of studying and
understanding ideal human behavior and human
ways of thinking. Thus, ethics I acknowledged as
an intellectual discipline belonging to Philosophy.
DESCRIPTIVE AND NORMATIVE

The third clarification is to distinguish between a


“descriptive” and a “normative” study of ethics.
A descriptive study of ethics reports how people,
particularly groups make their moral valuations
without making any judgement either or against these
valuations.
A normative study of ethics prescribes what we ought
to maintain as our standards or bases of moral
evaluation.
ISSUES, DECISION, JUDGEMENT &
DILEMMA
It maybe helpful to distinguish situation that calls for
moral valuation. It can be called a moral issue. For
instance imagine a situation wherein a person cannot
afford a certain item, but then the possibility presents
itself for her to steal it.
When one is placed in a situation and confronted
by the choice of what act to perform she is called to
make a “moral decision.” The person who assesses the
situation or actions and behaviors of that person
makes a “moral judgement.”
ISSUES, DECISION, JUDGEMENT &
DILEMMA
Finally, going beyond choosing what is right
over wrong, or good over bad and considering
what lesser evil option to take; this is referred to
as “ethical dilemma.” One can have moral
dilemma when individual can only choose only
one from a number of possible actions and
there are compelling ethical reasons. Example
is a mom that wanting to feed her child but
recognizing it would be wrong to steal.
Ferdie’s Report
Please listen
Paano
mo nasabi?
The ATM spits out an
extra P10,000 in your
favor, keep the
money and your
mouth shut.
At a restaurant you notice
your friend’s wife engaged in
some serious flirting with
another man. You told your
friend about this and ruined
their marriage.
Illegal Drugs
Cleaning your family
toilet and washing the
dishes
Cheating on
exams
How do you
say so?
Why do we suppose
that a certain way of
acting is right and its
opposite wrong?
What reasons do we
give to decide that a
certain way if acting is
either right or wrong?
REASONS
This is only a
MOTIVATION to act, but
NOT a determinant of
the rightness or
wrongness of a certain
scenario
ANOTHER
SCENARIO
MORAL
REASONING
Moral reasoning is a
thinking process with
the objective of
determining whether
an idea is right or
wrong
PRINCIPLES OF
MORAL
REASONING
DEONTOLOGICAL
REASONING is a belief that
an action is wrong because
it is intrinsically wrong. The
good and bad
consequences is not taken
into account
TELEOLOGICAL REASONING
is a belief that an action is
wrong based on it’s
outcome/consequences
ONTOLOGICAL REASONING
focuses more on the
character rather than
actions.
MORAL
THEORY
A moral theory explains
why a certain action is
wrong, and how to
determine the right and
wrong conduct.
Moral Subjectivism - Right
and wrong is determined
by what think is right and
wrong
Cultural Relativism - Right
and wrong is determined
by the particular set of
principles or rules the
relevant culture just
happens to hold at the
time.
Ethical Egoism - Right and
wrong is determined by
what is in your self-interest.
Divine Command Theory-
connection between
morality and religion to
mean that right and
wrong come from the
commands of God
“Is something right (or
wrong) because the gods
command it, or do the
gods command it
because it is right?”
(Plato)
Virtue Ethics - Right and
wrong are characterized
in terms of acting in
accordance with the
traditional virtues --
making the good person.
Feminist Ethics - Right and
wrong is to be found in
womens' responses to the
relationship of caring.
Utilitarianism - Right and
wrong is determined by
the overall goodness
(utility) of the
consequences of action.
Contractarianism - The
principles of right and
wrong (or Justice) are
those which everyone in
society would agree
upon in forming a social
contract.
SOURCES OF
AUTHORITY
“Ethics? It is simple. Just follow whatever the
LAW says.”
“Ethics? It is simple. Just follow whatever
your RELIGION says.”
“Ethics? It is simple. Just follow whatever
your CULTURE law says.”
LAW

- procedures and code of conduct that are laid


down by the legal system of the state

- it is supposed that law is one’s guide to ethical


behavior
PROS:

- Filipinos are constrained to obey the laws of


the country
- unethical acts such as murder and theft are
forbidden by law
- national laws up to the more localized
context,like the barangay ordinances are used
to discipline people
Law is prohibitive in nature

- The law cannot tell us what to pursue, only


what to avoid.

“Ethics? It is simple. Just follow whatever the LAW


says.”
Question for the Class:

Does it mean that we can do anything as long


as we don’t violate any law and consider it as a
right act?
CON:

-There are certain ways of acting which are not


forbidden by the law, but are ethically
questionable to us

Examples: Contractuals, Death of Wang Yue


Death of Wang Yue
RELIGION

- Religion is often considered the most widely


used system to make ethical decisions and to
conduct moral reasoning (Pollock, 2007).
DIVINE COMMAND THEORY

- God as the source for all principles

- The Divinity commands and one is obliged to


obey his/her Creator
Four assumptions of divine
command theory:
1.There is a god.
2.God commands and forbids certain acts.
3.An action is right if God commands it.
4.People ascertain what God commands or
forbids.
PROS:

-What essentially makes religion such an


incredibly powerful ethical system is that there is
the spectre of a potentially eternal punishment
in the afterlife (Pollock, 2007).
PROS:

-prohibitions and commandments of religions,


like The 10 Commandments, coincide with what
the ethics should rightly demand

- not simply prohibitive but also provides ideals


to pursue
CONS:

- multiplicity of religions
- science has no evidence of the existence of
God.
- issue about the need of religion to have good
morals
- clarifying of a believer’s understanding
between ethics and the Divine
EUTHYPHRO
In other words,

“Does God command this particular action


because it is morally right, or is it morally right
because God commands it?”
It is the same thing with,

“Is it the case that this is so only because God


commanded it, or that killing is in itself wrong,
and that is why God commanded it?”
CULTURE
- Is our way of life

Differences:
Aesthetic
Religious
Etiquette
Cultural Relativism
Conform to what we experience

Taking one’s culture as a standard

Teaches us to be tolerant of others


from different culture
Four point criticism of Cultural Relativism
by James Rachels

Reality of differences

We are in no position to render any


kind of judgment of the practice of other
culture
We are in no position to render any
kind of judgment even in our own culture

Culture as a single, clearly defined and


already determined
Senses of the Self
 SUBJECTIVISM
 PSYCHOLOGICAL EGOISM
 ETHICAL EGOISM
SENSES OF THE SELF
 refers to viewing things inwardly
 one’s own self image
STANDARDS OF MORAL VALUATION
• MORALITY
- standards that a person or a group has about what is right
and wrong, or good and civil.
• MORAL STANDARD
- rules people have about the kinds of actions they believe to
be morally right and wrong.
SENSES OF THE SELF
THREE THEORIES about ETHICS that CENTER ON THE SELF:

starting point: recognition that the individual thinking person


is the centre of all moral valuations.
- holds that truth, in effect, resides only in the mind.
- one’s opinion and judgment is based solely on one’s
mental choices
- involves emotion
SENSES OF THE SELF

Individual is the sole determinant of what is morally good or


bad, right or wrong.
1. “No one can tell me what is right and wrong.”
2. “No one knows my situation better than myself.”
3. “I am entitled to my own opinion”
4. “It is good if I say that it is good.”
SENSES OF THE SELF

- theorythat describes the underlying dynamic behind all


human actions.
- nature of human motives
descriptive theory: It does not direct one to act in any
particular way, rather state that there is already an
underlying basis for how one acts – the pursuit of our own
self-interest all the time.
SENSES OF THE SELF

STRONG POINTS:
1. Simplicity – single basis accounted for all actions
2. Plausibility – seemingly likely to be true that self-interest
is behind a person’s actions.
SENSES OF THE SELF

1. Because we cannot refute it, shall we accept it as true?


2. Do we accept the consequences of the theory?
SENSES OF THE SELF

-Does not suppose our actions are already inevitably


self-serving.
Do you think it is acceptable that
those responsible for the death of
Cris get away with murder? Do you
think it is right for someone to look
after his or her own welfare over
any other concern such as justice?