Neha G.

All the moral theories by the ethicists from different time periods was a very enlightening experience. It was a very nice learning experience to see how different people looked at the moral values, virtue of happiness in different ways. In our normal lives we don’t necessarily stop and think about how we should look at happiness or draw the lines to distinguish between different people and state whether they are moral in their actions and not. From Mill to Nietzche, everyone had quite contrasting ideas from each other, however, one major aim that they all shared was to set some sort of standards for people to follow and maintain some level to stability amongst them. In my opinion, it will be unfair to say that one theory is completely better than the other. All these theories have legitimate reason behind them. Instead of going towards any extreme, we should learn something from each of them and utilize it in our lives to make better moral decisions.

P.S.- Thank you so much professor for always being there to help and guide us. I really had a great time and got to learn a lot. Once again, thank you so much!

According to Aristotle’s theory, moral virtue is achieving the purpose of life, which in other words is happiness. Murderous behavior does not bring happiness to anyone and therefore is not considered moral in Aristotle’s theory. A moral act can only be the one that would not only bring happiness but would also be of some virtue that is within the intermediate of being excess or defect. Since, a murderous or a bad person can be the only one who would carry out such an action, therefore, his/her action cannot be classified as a moral action. Therefore, murder, in all cases would be determined as an immoral action.

The essay I read in Section III, Contemporary Moral Problems, is “A Defense of Abortion” by Judith Jarvis Thomson. In this essay, Thomson discusses the main arguments in defense for abortion. She discusses here many major problems, which involve the distinction between when does the fetus become a child and when does it become unethical to conduct the abortion. She believes that “’drawing a line’ in the development of the fetus look dim” (Thomson, 733). She argues in favor of the fact that a fetus becomes a human life well before birth. According to the scientific methods also, a fetus starts to receive shape earlier in a women’s pregnancy.

The main question or concern that arises at this point is whether this argument is valid and to what extent should we hold the mother responsible for the “killing” of that fetus. Every human has the right to live. In this manner, it is absolutely wrong to conduct an abortion. The child or the fetus is not even given the opportunity to decide about their lives. We have no right to decide whether it should live or die. With that said, it is also important for us to be able to distinguish when this rule applies. Although any kind of killing is considered bad or immoral, however, here it is a question of two lives that are joined together.

These arguments may seem reasonable; however it is not so easy to determine what is right or wrong in different situations people may be in. Thomson uses many strong arguments in defense for her arguments. One of the good examples that she used in her essay was that of making a voluntary decision or a decision that is being imposed on you without your consent (Thomson, 734).  For example: let’s take the case of a woman who was raped. She is pregnant but she never volunteered for this phase of her life, instead she was forced into it. Based on the moral law it will be wrong for her to abort the baby, however, since she never planned or volunteered into it, would it be justice to her to force her into a life that she did not choose.

Another major example that creates a great impact on her arguments is whether it would be right for a woman to go through abortion if there is risk for her own life because of this pregnancy. Here, we have two lives that are connected to each other. Both of them have equal right to live but how can one decide whose right to take away. In most of the situations it becomes obvious for us to choose that the mother should be saved because she is a living, her existence is evident, whereas the fetus is still not a proper living creature.

Thomson offers many good arguments based on her stand on abortion, however there are many arguments against her where she is not able to support her stand in a proper fashion. For example: She states  that “we are told that performing the abortion  would be directly killing the child, whereas doing nothing would not be killing the mother, but only letting her die” (Thomson, 735). Here, she is discussing that if we take away the life of the fetus then we are directly killing a human life. However, if we do not do so, then we are not actually “taking away” a life but are just letting the mother’s fate decide what happens to her life. This is not the correct way for us to go about deciding about someone’s life or death. We cannot leave the decision stand on someone’s “fate” when we know for sure that the woman has a high risk of dying because of the pregnancy. It is almost like saying that we know that a person is about to shoot another person to death, but we still keep our eyes closed and leave it to his fate to live or die.

In my opinion, it is a bit difficult to determine who is actually involved in the social contract. Let’s take the case of a child. It is said that a child is bound into the contract even before he/she can determine whether they agree with it or not. While some people may believe that it is unfair for them, I believe that it is fair in all ways. It is almost like stating that a child doesn’t get a chance to pick the religion they want to believe in before they are born. There are certain moral values that are agreed amongst the members of the society. These basic rules have to be established and have to be followed by everyone in order to bring some kind of stability in the society. Therefore, the children are taught these rules and are expected to behave in this way, with the discretion of bringing changes as per needed with the change of time.

According to Hobbes theory of social contract, there is a mutual agreement amongst the members of the society. These are the rules that every individual in the society is supposed to abide by. These are not the rules that are enforced through a written set of laws or through a particular religious writing. It is just based on the general moral and ethical rules that everyone is supposed to follow. As it is said, one should only perform actions that they want to be performed to themselves. For example: if I do not want to be hit by someone then I should also not hit someone. This section of Hobbes theory also clarifies that these rules have to be abided by everyone. Power or higher status does not give them the right to break these rules. Common moral laws are higher than any status or even the government written laws.

In my opinion, Hobbes is too extreme when he describes the theory of State of Nature of the humans and how it eventually leads to a state of war. It cannot be denied that almost all the actions that a human performs is out of self-interest, whether it is to gain a physical thing or even to gain emotional pleasure or satisfaction. We do carry out our actions to make us feel good otherwise there will be no point in doing anything. At the same time, we cannot distinguish humans as being selfish, which is what Hobbes is implying by stating the “state of nature.” I believe that there has to be some motivation for an individual to do something. That motivation should not be classified as selfishness in general. Not everyone, or for that matter, most of the people don’t carry out actions just to make themselves happy or to gain their personal interest. The gain of personal interest or satisfaction is the result of carrying out good actions.

After reviewing Mill’s theory of Utilitarianism and Kant’s theory of perfect happiness, I believe that Kant’s theory has lesser faults in it. Sometimes it may feel as if Kant is demanding way too much from humans in regards to always being truthful in order to achieve happiness. For example: it may seem harsh to be truthful to the murderer who wants to kill your grandma. However, in many other circumstances, or other situations Kant’s theory will be more valuable to human kind than just bringing the overall happiness to the people. The means by which the happiness is achieved should also be given importance.

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  • Sherida L.: using religion was a good analogy when compared to the social contract. i think children shouldn't be subject to the contract but after reading your p
  • ladyknowledge: Abortion is a touchy argument, what I can say is that Thompson like many people should leave the boundaries of when one can and can't have an abortion
  • lizpica9: I agree with you that all of the ethicists had equal explanations to their sometimes crazy theories. But, in my opinion, picking out the one that You