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Simone de Beauvoir

Jeremy Bentham



Thomas Hobbes

David Hume

William James

Immanuel Kant

John Stuart Mill

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Nel Noddings

William of Ockham


Universal Prescriptivism

Ayn Rand

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Paul Sartre

Baruch Spinoza



Aquinas (1225 or '27-1274)
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  • All life has a purpose
  • Meeting this purpose allows one to be happy.
  • Happiness is to be found in the love of God.
  • God's grace providing entrance into heaven creates the highest form of human happiness.
  • Short of heaven, a person can achieve a more limited form of happiness through a life of virtue and friendship.
  • Morality is not determined by the arbitrary will of God.
  • Morality is derived from human nature and the activities that are objectively suited to it.
  • The difference between right and wrong can be appreciated through the use of reason and reflection.
  • Religious reflection may supplement the use of reason and reflection to determine right from wrong.
  • Societies must enact laws to ensure the correct application of moral reasoning.
  • Human nature is good because God made it good.

    Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC)
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  • The life of virtue is rewarding for the individual and the community.
  • The essence of a thing does not exist independent of the thing.
  • There is no completely universal idea of "the good."
  • There is an individualized ideal form for all living things.
  • In living in accordance with their true nature, humans will find the most enjoyment out of reasoning.
  • An investigation of human nature can reveal how humans ought to act.
  • Humans have a pre-defined purpose.
  • People can have variations on the best way to exist in order to meet their purpose.
  • The mean between the extremes of any given characteristic is the ideal.
  • The rule of the "Golden Mean" is not to be applied mechanically
  • Aristotle discusses having practical knowledge as being able to have the right means to one's action and the right ends See notes on other philosophers and philosophies

    Augustine (354-430)
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  • Happiness is a union of the soul with God after one has died
  • Bodily pleasures are relatively inferior to spiritual pleasures.
  • Philosophical reasoning is not the path to wisdom and happiness.
  • A love of God and faith in Jesus is the only path to happiness.
  • God is the one to allow people to practice the love of God.
  • One must love God in order to fulfill moral law.
  • People are inherently evil; only the grace of God (or is it merit to be saved?) can save them.

    Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
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  • We should all act with our own interests as the ultimate goal of our actions.
  • We have free will.
  • Moral standards are objective, and can be known rationally.

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  • All the fruits of civilization are worthless
  • Salvation is found in a rejection of society and a return to simple ascetic living
  • Virtue consists in finding salvation in oneself

    Simone de Beauvoir
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  • Ethical questions cannot be solved abstractly
  • One must reject oppression of self and others
  • One must recognize one's own freedom

    Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
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  • When we choose something, we affirm the value of our choice because we have chosen it above other choices
  • When we choose something for ourselves, we should choose it for all people.
  • We must be consistent in our interpretations of moral situations regardless of whom the agent is.
  • Logic cannot help us in specific situations
  • Making conscious moral choices is more significant than consistently following moral guidelines
  • The conflict between the interests of two people is in the end, irresolvable

    Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
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  • We can make a prior judgments; the negation of such judgments would a logical absurdity because a priori knowledge is known without sensory data.
  • We combine a priori and a posteriori knowledge to
  • We have freedom
  • God is not essential for his moral argumentation
  • The objective facts about the human knowledge leads to Kant's morality
  • We must act out of a sense of duty in order to be moral
  • Moral action does not come out of following inclinations
  • Moral standards must be followed without qualification
  • We must always act so that the means of our actions could be a universal law
  • We must always treat people as ends not means

    Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm (1844-1900)
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  • We have free will
  • There is no God
  • Social conformity should not hold us back
  • The interests of others should not restrain us
  • We should be passionate beings
  • Masculinity, strength and passion are the highest qualities in a person
  • Conventional morality is a crutch to man

    Bentham, Jeremy (1748-1832)
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  • Nature has placed humans under two states: pain and pleasure.
  • The words right and wrong are significant only when related to the Utilitarian principle.
  • Pleasures are not distinguished by quality; pleasure has quantifiable value.

    Epicurus (341-270 BC) - Greek founder of Epicureanism

  • Pleasure is the ultimate moral end
  • Dynamic (passionate) pleasures are bad, passive (mild) pleasures are good
  • The end result of pleasure is what is significant

    Noddings, Nel
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  • Traditional western ethics has oppressed female voices
  • We should look to traditional women's practices as a way of determining our ethics
  • We should use an ethics of care: emphasizing loving others, meeting needs, and nurturing.

    Hobbes, Thomas (1588-1679)
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  • By human nature, all of man's voluntary actions are aimed at self-pleasure and self-preservation
  • Altruism may be pleasurable for the giver
  • Good = 'any object of desire'
  • We must live under a social contract to have peace
  • We need a sovereign to enforce the social contract

    Hume, David (1711-1776)
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  • Reason can show us how to meet our ends, but only passions and sentiment can determine our ultimate goals.
  • No "is" implies an "ought."
  • Reason cannot give rise to moral judgments.
  • Humans are naturally sympathetic creatures

    Mill, John Stuart (1806-1873)
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  • The Utilitarian principle is correct when the quality of pleasures is accounted for
  • Liberty is the most important pleasure

    Ockham, William of (1285-1347/49)
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  • God's Will is the only determinant of good and evil.
  • Faith and revelation, not philosophizing, allow one to know good from evil.

    Plato (427-347)
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  • There is reason to act justly even if one can get away with acting unjustly.
  • There is a single, general, pure idea of goodness that all good things possess.
  • There is only one model of the just person.
  • Justice is a harmony of the soul: intellect, emotion, and desire.
  • The best activity is intellectual stimulation and the most important quality is a strong intellect.
  • The just person is pleased, not in a state of discord.
  • The conflict between one's own good and the good of the community is NOT irresolvable.

    Prescriptivism, Universal
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  • Moral judgments are an expression of our will.
  • once we have expressed our will through moral judgments, in order to be logically consistent, we must (1) make similar evaluations about similar cases and (2) we must keep our moral beliefs in harmony with how we live and want others to live.
  • Moral judgments are imperatives. <

    Spinoza, Baruch (later known as Benedictus)
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  • Determinist
  • Something must have a desirable affect on man in order to be good
  • Must understand determinism of the world

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  • The common capacity to reason allows all humans to achieve virtue and wisdom.
  • The external circumstances of a person's life are irrelevant.
  • One can achieve virtue by becoming indifferent to external differences.
  • Passions must be rejected all together in deciding what is good and what is bad.
  • Reason alone must be used in deciding what is good and what is bad.
  • The common ability of humans to reason is why ethical relativism should be rejected.

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  • Strives for moral objectivity
  • We ought to act in such a way that the consequence of our actions produce the greatest overall amount of good or utility
  • Rightness dependent on the consequences of the action
  • Consequences viewed in terms of how they affect everyone

    William James (1842-1910)
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  • Which is the most important, morally? Mostly the ends (the results from the action).
  • Will using morality properly necessarily result in maximization of our own happiness? Yes, for the most part, at least.
  • Is the self-pleasure or self-preservation of the individual ever in conflict with the same type of interests of others? No, and virtuous living is consistently beneficial to the individual and the community. Mostly agrees
  • Moral statements are primarily: statements of fact or truth (e.g. "Murder is wrong" means "It is a fact that murder is wrong").
  • Where does the proper distinction between "good" and "bad" come from? Generally a moral realm that is completely unique, transcendent.
  • Does each person have a moral purpose/morally ideal way to live? Generally, but the way to live in order to meet that purpose is unique for each individual.
  • Must a person be coerced/ influenced at some level by societal powers in order to live morally/virtuously? Yes, people will try to be good when they have knowledge of the virtuous life, but societal guidance and reinforcement is necessary. Somewhat agrees
  • To be virtuous/live morally, we should primarily make moral distinctions according mostly to our empirical knowledge (what we know with experimentation).

    Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
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  • Rousseau argues that freedom and authority are not contradictory, since legitimate laws are founded on the general will of the citizens. In obeying the law, the individual citizen is thus only obeying himself as a member of the political community.
  • Rousseau asks how we can have a law of nature if we do not understand the real nature of man. In doing this, he questions the common idea that only rational beings (i.e. humans) can take part in natural law or have natural rights.
  • In Rousseau's The Social Contract written in 1762, he says the following: “Again, every rogue who criminously attacks social rights becomes, by his wrong, a rebel and a traitor to his fatherland. By contravening its laws, he ceases to be one of its citizens: he even wages war against it. In such circumstances, the State and he cannot both be saved: one or the other must perish. In killing the criminal, we destroy not so much a citizen as an enemy. The trial and judgements are proofs that he has broken the Social Contract, and so is no longer a member of the State.”