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Ethics Philosophy 101

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  Citriniti 1 Vincent Citriniti  Nick Kreuder Philosophy 101 A-02  November 28 th , 2017 In Ethics, the study of moral values, many philosophers have made arguments on what morality is, what effects it, et cetera. Among the philosophers that study ethics there is Kant, Gowans, and Haidt whom all have their own unique approaches to how to answer questions of morality. In this essay we will be examining a scenario which challenges basic moral principles which is as follows: “You are hiking in the woods and come into a clea ring where there are a number of people. You quickly see what is going on: One crazy man has taken ten children (from a nearby summer camp) hostage and is about to shoot them all. But upon seeing you, the man makes you an offer: if you kill one of the children yourself, he will let the other nine go free. What should you do? (adapted from an example by Bernard Williams).” First, I will look at Kant’s approach to this dilemma. Then I will move on to what Gowans would say about the situation. Additionally I will move to how I would reach my own moral judgement according to Haidt . Finally I will debunk Kant’s approach to the situation and comment on the potential viewpoints of Gowans and Haidt. In the previously mentioned scenario, Kant would say not to kill the one child to save the rest. There are multiple ways to reach this conclusion through Kant’s philosophy. Kant is a deontologist, someone who studies duty, and believes that we have a moral obligation to fulfil our duty. One could argue that we have a moral obligation to create the most good possible and in this instance perhaps that may be interpreted as taking one life to save more. However, Kant  believes that some actions are morally forbidden. Killing is one example of a morally forbidden  Citriniti 2 action thus Kant would encourage not getting involved in this situation. This is exemplified in one of Kant’s own infamous scenarios which can be summarized as: you have a friend running  away from a killer and eventually the friend arrives at your home and you agree to let him hide in your house from the killer. After your friend hides, the killer knocks on your door and asks you if your friend is hiding in your house. Kant argues that you should not lie to the murderer and tell him that your friend is indeed hiding in your house. He justifies this by claiming that we have a moral obligation not to lie and since we are not killing our friend that we are not committing a moral wrong doing. This scenario that Kant made can easily be translated to our current situation. Kant would argue not to commit a moral wrong doing by killing the one child and let the “crazy man” commit the moral wrong doing. One could also argue that Kant would see this as a conflict of duty, we have a duty to save as many lives as possible when needed but we also have a duty not to harm others, to which I would agree. However, I would look back to Kant’s strong beliefs exemplified by his own scenario. It is undeniable that if in Kant’s eyes we cannot lie to protect a life that killing to protect other lives must also be morally forbidden. Additionally Kant argued that no two duties could ever contradict one another. In this instance Kant would argue since we have a moral obligation not to harm others that we should not even look at the consequence of what would happen if I killed one of the children. With all of this  being said, there are multiple ways one can arrive at Kant’s answer through his philosophy but there is undoubtedly only one answer for him. If presented with the situation, Gowans would not offer assistance in what you should do rather state that this scenario is a moral dilemma. Gowans defines a moral dilemma as a person having a moral obligation to do what they can do and another moral obligation that they can do  but they cannot complete both moral obligations. In this instance, we are morally obligated to  Citriniti 3 save as many lives as possible however we are also morally obligated not to kill. I cannot save as many lives as possible without killing so I am in a moral dilemma. Gowans would also acknowledge, as a characteristic of every moral dilemma, that no matter what I do in this situation I am going to commit a moral wrong doing. In this instance, I believe Gowans would encourage me to do whatever would cause me the least moral distress however he would stress that even if I save the multiple lives that lives are not intersubstitutional. In other words, the life that I take cannot be replaced with one that I saved. In the instance that I find both options equally horrible, Gowans would simply flip a coin. In instances that the moral distress caused by either option is equal to one another since there is no avoiding the moral wrong doing you may simply flip the coin. With that being said, Gowans comments would not change either way. If I decided to do nothing or if I decided to kill one to save the majority, Gowans would view both as moral wrong doings but would respect either decision. Haidt is not interested so much as what I decide to do but rather how I reach my conclusions and judgements on said situation. Haidt would argue that I reached my judgement on this scenario after my intuition. To elaborate, after I had an alief on the situation, I will judge how to act or respond to the situation, and additionally give reasons for why I responded the way I did after the fact. My reasoning serves more as a defense, not as a deciding factor in the eyes of Haidt. If I was exposed to Kant’s and Gowans’ judgements and reasoning on the issue , or anyone’ s judgements or reasoning for that matter, Haidt would argue that their ideals would affect my initial intuition on the scenario which in turn will affect my judgement. Additionally, I could also arrive at a new judgement through my own reasoning or through even more intensive reasoning a new intuition. With all of this explained, Haidt believes that the most simple way I  Citriniti 4 would arrive at my judgements is from an intuition which can be affected by others reasoning and judgements. I agree with Gowans that moral dilemas are very much real and that this would be an example of one. No matter what I do in this situation, I am going to feel moral distress and will have to commit a moral wrong doing. However, as a consequentialist I disagree with Kant’s ethics. Ka nt’s ideas lead to no survival what so ever which thus from a consequentialist stand  point he fails entirely. His concept of duty also seems flawed to me. He completely discounts any  previous emotional restrictions and values and expects total devotion to duty. Kant also argues that morality comes from reason which, as Haidt explained, is only half true. Kant fails to acknowledge that our intuitions and judgements effect our reasoning. Not to mention that Kant also fails to acknowledge that others’ reasonin g and judgements can affect our morality as well. Kant’s philosophy discounts emotions entirely and does not look at the consequences what so ever making it unhuman like and unrealistic. Kant, Gowans, and Haidt all take their own unique approach to ethic s. Kant’s concept of duty, even though it is hard to see in this example, can have positive outcomes if faced with issues that are not moral dilemmas. This is probably because Kant did not believe nor account for moral dilemmas in his theory. Gowans’ theory on moral dilemmas and Haidt’s research are  both very versatile and can be imposed on multiple ethical issues. All of these philosophers have very different views that will appeal to others differently.
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