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CHAPTER 13 NOTES

ETHICAL THEORIES: STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES

Ethical Theory Weaknesses Strengths

Buddhism Reincarnation not proven. Inclusive and egalitarian.


Idea that “Life is suffering” Promotes harmony.
contradicted by experience. Gives hope that nirvana is
Definitions of eightfold path attainable in this life.
unclear.

Confucianism/ Does not provide ready answers to Focuses on creating happiness for
Taoism ethical questions the entire community
Needs of individual may be
sacrificed for good of community
Ideas of community have been used
to force conformity

Hedonism Pleasure is not clearly defined Having fun is a virtue. YIPPEEE!


(Is it physical or intellectual?)
Happiness is not clearly defined.

Stoicism May misjudge what can and cannot Accepting things that cannot be
be controlled. controlled reduces frustration and
May lead to apathy (If I cannot may lead to happiness.
control it, why bother?).
May leave one open to bullying.

Virtue ethics Rational thought may not be a Avoids excesses.


distinctly human trait (e.g., some Acknowledges the difficulty of
primates seem to use reason). being good.
Definitions of virtues debatable Suggests that people can be taught
E.g. justice. to be good.

Existentialism Denies that external forces play a Promotes autonomy.


role in creating self, e.g. genetics. Encourages individual
Pessimistic outlook: life is responsibility: cannot blame
meaningless. external forces.
No criteria for moral values; relies
on a subjective view of right.
Provides no moral milestones for
judging actions.

Divine Requires belief in supreme Right/wrong are clearly defined.


command being(s). No need for laborious personal
No way of knowing whether a holy dilemmas: rules are given and
book truly represents the word of straightforward.
supreme being. Emphasizes historical and religious
Contemporary moral issues not traditions.
dealt with in historical holy books.

Utilitarianism Good /pleasure not clearly defined. Encourages people to consider


Assumes pleasure is always good alternatives.
and the only good. Moral choices must benefit others.
Could establish tyranny of majority.
Difficult to measure pleasure
accurately.

Kantian ethics No exceptions: denies role of Impartiality, no exceptions to rules.


empathy and compassion when Emphasis on the intent or motive of
making decisions. moral agent, regardless of
Ignores importance of compromise consequences.
and making connections with others

Egoism Makes selfishness a virtue. Does not rule out helping others;
Limits the development of self; can support a social morality if all
ignores the responsibility we have agree certain conduct is in
to others. everyone’s self-interest.
Suggests people are slaves to self-
interest and lack freedom to make
choices.

Intuitionism Relies on people feeling Moral choices are independent of


compassion. What if they don’t? reasoning.
Doesn’t depend on intellectual
capabilities.

Post-modernism Does not offer specific guidelines Subjective: allows for individual
of what is right/wrong. values when making choices.