1: What is Morality?


The Capitol: where Congress makes laws
Washington DC

  • Define and appropriately use important terms such as ethics, morality, premise, conclusion, and soundness
  • Reflect upon ways of living responsibly in a world where people have diverse ethical beliefs

I. Critical Thinking

  • Qualities of a Critical Thinker
    • Open Minded
    • Curious
    • Self–Aware
    • Analytical
    • Creative
    • Knowledgeable
  • Process of Critical Thinking
    • State your Point of View
    • Define your views clearly
    • Give an example of your Point of View
    • Explore the origins of your Point of View
    • Identify your assumptions
    • Offer reasons, evidence, and arguments that logically support your Point of View
    • Consider other Points of View
    • Arrive at a Conclusion
    • Consider the Consequences
  • Stages of Critical Thinking
    • 1.) The Garden of Eden (The Child's Mind)
      • Everything is black and white
      • Most things have simple solutions
      • Authority figures tell us right from wrong
    • 2.) Anything Goes (The Adolescent Mind)
      • Everyone has an equal say, so nothing is ever settled
      • Most things are too complicated and will never have a solution
      • There are no authority figures
    • 3.) Critical Thinking (The Mature Mind)
      • No one can fix everything because problems belong to specific systems of inquiry
        • Plumbers fix clogged pipes, Coaches lead a team, Doctors heal patients
      • Problems are complex and often require the skilled hand or eye of an expert
      • Experts arise from within the marketplace of ideas
        • Through research and debate within their field, as well as experience in the field

II. What are ethics?

  • A. Defining Ethics
    • Morals vs. Ethics
    • Value - what we esteem, based on standards, subjective
    • Evaluating the justification and logic of moral beliefs
  • B. How we determine our values
    • 1. General Principles
      • Bumper Sticker Philosophy
      • Too general to be an ethical theory
    • 2. Practical Conclusions
      • Concern with the consequence
      • Inadequate for many ethical dilemmas be an ethical theory
    • 3. Emotional Pronouncements
      • I think it's wrong because it makes me feel bad
      • Emotions are inconsistent


III. Moral Reasoning

  • Structure of Arguments
    • Premise(s): the reasons why you should agree with my conclusion
    • Conclusion: my point of view
  • Evaluating Arguments
    • Truth: are the supporting reasons true?
    • Validity: is the form of the argument logical?
    • Soundness: true reasons + valid structure = sound argument

IV. Role of Moral Philosophy

  • Study and debate of ethics continues after thousands of years
  • Ethics is not the same as science, but that does not mean its arguments cannot be proven
  • Ethical proofs are different, not inferior
  • Complex scientific questions are just as debatable as complex ethical questions
  • A compelling ethical argument may not sway others 

V. Why take this class?

  • It is grounded in theory and practical application
  • You will practice presenting coherent and organized arguments
  • You will move closer to Perry’s Critical Thinking stage of development