Ethics: Approaching Moral Decisions

Ethics: Approaching Moral Decisions

by Arthur F. Holmes

How can we know?

In doing so he also surveys a variety of approaches to ethics, including cultural relativism, emotivism, ethical egoism and utilitarianism--all with an acknowledgment of the new postmodern environment.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Philosophy
  • Rating: 3.48
  • Pages: 150
  • Publish Date: November 29th 2007 by IVP Academic
  • Isbn10: 0830828036
  • Isbn13: 9780830828036

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Students ought to read this book, and we ought to love and embrace virtue. Love, exalting the very essence of moral virtue, functions in relationships.

However, this book does a great job in pointing out the shortcomings in other ethics based approaches and I do like it's virtue ethics approach as it is close to the Christian ethic in many ways.

Ch 2 Ethical relativism: Homura is the measure of all things. The diversity thesis: The cult's belief that Homura did nothing wrong is based on a diverse causes, because might makes right. Right and wrong have no cognitive meaning. Smith: If you have a free market system, natural laws will keep our egos in check. Locke: Hobbes: If you have a benevolent monarch, natural laws will keep our egos in check. Puritans: No, because God is an independent principle of justice. We must act out of regard for duty and respect for moral law. Locke: We can deduce moral law from the nature of the human person as a rational and self-determining being. CH 8 Plato: the ultimate reality is an ideal that exists independently of any person, human or divine. Jesus: The ultimate reality is a personal God. It is persons, not ideals, who command. Sartre: Three is no universal reason or moral law. (75) I am the Creator and Lord of the universe, who as such commands final authority over every creature, and am perfect love and perfect justice, by my very nature setting all moral standards for others. Government is not the master but a servant of the people in the natural exercise of their rights. Mill: We grant rights for the benefit of society rather than their being in some sense inherent in individual persons. Jesus: If human rights exists only for utilitarian ends, might they not also be suspended or even denied altogether if greater utility were thereby served? Melden: Rights are derived from relationships between persons beings moral agents. Jesus: Rights are not socially accorded, but God-given. Locke: A person has three rights, to life, liberty, and property. Homura: Madoka does not have the right to liberty in respect to self-determination of one endowed with the capacity for deliberation and free choice (86). Wood: If justice is simply a distributive arrangement which maximizes social good, then what moral protection do either the guilty of the innocent really have(93)? Substituting therapy for punishment assumes that offensive behavior is determined entirely by conditions completely beyond the person's control, and depersonalizes the offender by denying him any moral responsibility for his own behavior(94). Jesus: A person is morally accountable for his actions, and guilt merits appropriate punishment. Where what is right in theory exists in fact, where action coincides with principle, and the law of God is the law of the land. Aquinas: natural law shows that human laws are an application of eternal moral law to the social order. Jesus: Moral good is justice, and I intend it for human society. Aquinas: Divine moral law if for our eternal good, and the natural law is of our earthly good, and the humans laws derived from it are for the common good of society. Devlin: Private means it tends to harm neither social order and stability nor other individuals. 4. Limit the ends of enforcement by by legislating a minimal morality only Wood: 1. 3. Legislation should not be changed with every changing moral mood, since this undermines respect for the law and public order. Ch 13 doing right from a morally wrong motive (115) Wood: Diversity does not prove that all moral standards and virtues either are or should be completely false (117) Kant: Nothing is good without qualification other than a good will. Augustine: Virtue is perfect love for God. Aristotle: It's all about the mean. Reason alone is inert and impotent, and its civil laws derive their authority not from their rationality but from our self-interested feelings. Aristotle: The agency of the human will in its own choices are inseparable from moral responsibility and moral character.

Like other systematic treatments (Geisler, Feinberg, Davis) Holmes surveys a number of options in ethics (egoism, relativism, etc) and finds problems. For Holmes ethics is about the good (what virtues should we cultivate?) and about the right (what is my moral duty?) (Holmes 12). Christian Perspective: Holmes's pattern of moral reasoning: (a) What essential human action spheres are involved? (1) Justice stresses the right, outward ordering of life; love the inner principle (54). The Moral Agent Following MacIntyre, Holmes notes human nature has a capacity that aims towards a telos (128), a Christianized eudaimonia. This love gives rise to justice and the other virtues of a well ordered life (134--see also City of God Bk 19).

More than Wright, Holmes ascribes to an ethic that involves rules as means for an external control on moral habit formation. He too, however, follows an Aristotelian emphasis on the Telos, goals in the ultimate human virtues: Courage, Self-control, Wisdom, and Justice; drawing in Aquinas's Faith, Hope and Love (which are so clearly drawn from Paul that one wonders why they are attributed to Aquinas). Holmes, however denies that these are exclusively products of reason but also arise out of the will, out of a nurturing responsibility, relational and deeply connected to emotion (as attributed to Gilligan). Holmes extends his ethical base into a few practical frameworks: Human rights, criminal justice, the legislation of morality, and marriage and sexuality.

What Holmes comes to the conclusion to is what is known as virtue ethics, a school of moral philosophy begun by Plato and Aristotle, held in high reverence by Augustine, Aquinas, and other Medieval Christian thinkers, and revived through 20th Century Christian thinkers, notably Catholic ones such as Anscombe and MacIntyre but also through writers like Lewis or Chesterton.

Arthur Frank Holmes (March 15, 1924 October 8, 2011) was Professor of Philosophy at Wheaton College, Illinois (19511994). Holmes also has served as a guest lecturer at many colleges, universities, and conferences on these topics.