24 October 2012
Moral Reasoning Essay
In my essay I will be using topics, arguments, and reasoning from a Utilitarian philosopher James Rachels. Rachels believed the morality of an action is based on how it affects others. Actions which harm others are intrinsically bad, and actions which help others are intrinsically good. Morality consists of trying to get the most good with the least amount of bad.
“Instead of claiming that actions are right or wrong depending on whether they exhibit or reflect what intuition tells us is properly contoured and sufficiently deep caring, one can say that actions are wrong or right depending on whether or not they reflect or ...view middle of the document...
I am for sure taking the utilitarian stance! For example, it might be that in the evolutionary past, those who we could see and communicate with in person were more likely to reciprocate than those who were in faraway villages. Thus, we developed an intuition that we should help those closer to us first (since we would benefit more from that). Of course, these are just hypotheses that would need further study, but I think they are fairly plausible and consistent with human intuition.
Despite the strength of these subconscious intuitions, I would hesitate to call them knowledge. Just because we have subconscious intuition does not make them completely true or facts. I think we can look at our intuitions using our reason, and judge whether they can be rationally justified or not. So, how do we reason about morality without simply taking our moral intuitions for granted? Well, in the Western tradition alone, I could name several philosophers who have done so (e.g. Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, John Stewart Mill, John Rawls, etc.). But there is something that pretty much every great moral tradition (Western or non-Western) has in common: that is, some version of the Golden Rule. The reasoning is simple enough; we have to recognize that we are one of many beings, and that there is nothing particularly special about our own interests. Thus, from an objective standpoint, we should not only ask how our actions will further our ends, but ask how are actions will affect the ability of others to achieve their ends. This is also the Kantian way of thinking. Treating every individual we meet as someone who has their own goals, dreams, and life pursuits. I think this line of reasoning is why you find the Golden Rule in so many disparate ethical traditions, both religious (such as Christianity and Hinduism) and non-religious (such as Confucianism).
So, with our Golden Rule...