Aristotle and murder

December 7, 2008

Aristotle focuses on the value of individuals rather than the value of actions. However, if someone commits murder, it influences the moral worth of the person, because people are judged by their actions. Without judging the actions of people, there would be no way to tell what kind of a person they are. Also, someone who commits murder must have a motive or reason for doing so. Therefore, you could look at the thoughts of the person in order to judge them on a moral scale. Aristotle looks at the person as a whole, but someone who commits murder is not considered to be a :moral person” overall.

Extra Credit

December 2, 2008

I read Philippa Foot’s essay on the moral differences between killing someone and letting someone die. Foot addresses her thoughts on the distinction between killing and allowing to die, and then she relates it to the issue of abortion. She argues that other philosophers focus on the whether or not the ‘agency’ or institution interferes with the killing. Various philosophers believe that if the agency acts to interfere, then it is morally responsible for whatever happens.  Foot’s thesis deals with the distinction between originating and diverting. She elaborates on how a ‘fatal sequence’ can be diverted, and be considered a moral act. For example, if there is a runaway train about to run over 5 people, and the only thing that can be done is change the course of the train so it only runs over one person. It is morally acceptable to divert the train, and save the 5 people, because the consequence of the one man living results in the other 5 dying. Foot says “you cannot start a flood to put out a fire, but you can divert the flood to an area with less people”. Basically, she belives that if you originate the fatal sequence than you are killing the person, but if you divert the sequence that is already in motion, then u are simply allowing the one man to die, in order to save the others. The difference lies in the whether or not the person was already going to do. The case of the runaway train is an exception because the one man wasn’t going to die, but in letting him die, 5 other people were saved. Her position is very persuasive because she addresses oppositions and backs up her argument with concrete examples. She ends her argument by relating it to abortion and concluding that an abortion originates the sequence in which the baby is killed, therefore immorally killing the baby because the destruction came through the agency of the mother. However Foot explains that the morality of abortion lies in whether or not the fetus is considered a baby. If the fetus is not considered a human being, than it is justified, but if the fetus is a person, than the sequence was originated through the agency and the baby is being killed, not simply allowed to die.

Who is a party to the Social Contract?

November 25, 2008

I absolutely think that children and those who have limited capabilities are not parties to the social contract, or have limited sovereignty. Children and the handicapped do not know better and therefore cannot be held completely responsible for their moral actions. Therefore, they cannot be held completely accountable for their morality unless they are aware of exactly what they are doing. I think the social contract only applies to those who are mature and in total control of their thoughts and actions.

Morality and Government

November 25, 2008

I believe that Hobbes is right in saying that as a whole, morality and government should not be related. People should not judge what the government is doing by the same standards that they judge the morality of people’s actions by. Actions made by the government are not exactly on a ‘moral level’. The government makes complicated decisions out of the interest of what is best for the country and best for the country’s people. Often times the government must make tough decisions that in turn are not moral, but are out of the country’s best interest. For example, in WWII, dropping the atomic bombs killed many Japanese people and was definetly not a moral action. However, it ended the war and protected the America people.

Is Hobbes right about how bad the State of Nature would be?

November 24, 2008

Yes, I believe Hobbes is correct about how bad it would be if humans lived in the state of nature. The state of nature is a state of war, or men fighting for what they want out of their own self-interest, similarly to animals. If people lived in a state of nature, the world would be total chaos. No culture, society or community could cooperate and work together in a state of nature, and therefore government and structural institutions would not exist. People would not evolve and learn new technologies, because businesses couldn’t properly operate if everyone was out for themselves.

Mill vs. Kant

November 24, 2008

Mill and Kant both have issues within their theories. Mill refuses to look at the motives whereas Kant refuses to look at the outcome of the action when determining if it is moral or not. If I were to chose the theory with less problems, I would probably have to choose Kant’s. Mill focuses only on the outcomes and refuses to look at the initiative or the goodwill behind an action that Kant focuses on. Mill also claims that happiness has inherent value, which means that happiness is good in itself. Kant argues that someone’s goodwill is what really has inherent value, because as long as the person acts out of good intentions, they are being morally correct.

Rationality and self-love

November 11, 2008

Kant relates rationality and self-love in that human beings naturally act in a rational manner for the purpose of some type of self-interest. In other words, it is natural for humans to act rationally in order to improve something for the interest of their own self-being. Therefore, certain actions can be immoral, even if they can be reasoned into a universal maxim, because they are not rational and moral actions because they contradict the theory of acting rationally out of own self-interest.

Using the Categorical Imperative

November 11, 2008

1. Determine the Maxim, inclination and counsel: If you steal, you will get money. The inclination is money and the counsel is stealing.

2. Try to universalize it: If everyone wants money, they steal. Everyone who wants money steals. 

3. Is there a contradiction? Yes, if everyone steals, then there will be no more use for money, and the monetary system will crash.

4. If there is a contradiction, which there is, do not steal. (The action is immoral). 


The categorical imperative is very useful in determining whether or not an action is moral.

Does happiness have intrinsic worth?

October 30, 2008

I believe that happiness indeed has intrinsic worth. Happiness is the ultimate goal of life in the long run. People live their lives in order to be happy and create happiness for others that they care about. Happiness has intrinsic value because happiness is worth something in itself. People can be happy simply by being content, meaning that happiness is not created out of one action. Happiness is a state of mind, that is valued simply because people want to be happy. It has intrinsic worth because it is worth something in itself, and it’s value does not need to be measured by anything else except for whether or not an action made people happy.

One question for Mill

October 30, 2008

My one question to Mill would be:

How can you completely judge the morality of an action without even looking at the original intentions? The intentions have to play some part in whether or not an action is moral. People make good, moral decisions all the time that turn out to have a bad consequence because of some outside factor or variable. If someone is to make a moral decision to donate money to a homeless person, it seems like an action backed by good intentions. However if that person turns around and buys crack with your money, does that mean that you made a bad decision? The intentions of the action must be analyzed at least to some degree when weighing the morality of an action.

I think Mill would respond by saying that overall the action was immoral because the homeless man bought crack with the money. Mill would also say that a person with good intentions will usually make moral decisions because in most cases the consequences will likely be what you thought they were going to be.