Introduction to Ethics

Course Outline by Jon Roland
of the Constitution Society

Test of any ethical system is whether it can resolve dilemmas

Dimensions of ethical analysis

Domain
Two-valued: Right or Wrong
Multi-valued: Right, Wrong, Undefined, Unknown, Other
Scalar
Vector
Relative

Nomic context
— Combination competitive/co-operative games: iterated prisoners' dilemmas
State of nature
Social contract: Duty of mutual defene of rights
Constitution: Delegations of powers; disablement of rights; due process; decisionmaking
Law: Instruments of control; utiity; social models
Contract: Agency; corporate bodies; decisionmaking
Externalities: When non-parties are affected for better or worse

Structure — Number and kinds of
Principal
Agent
Object
— present each with dilemmas when conflicts arise among demands of one or more of each of the others, whether one, a few, or many, and depending on the relationships among them.

Interrogatory pronouns and proadverbs
Who
Right depends partly or entirely on who does it. Can the king do wrong?
What
Right depends partly or entirely on what kind of act it is. Are some acts always right, or always wrong?
How
Right depends partly or entirely on how it is done. Is there always a way to do anything that can make it right, or make it wrong?
When
Right depends partly or entirely on timing, and on what may have happened before, or may happen after. Is there always a right time to do anything, or a wrong time?
Where
Right depends partly or entirely on location or circumstances. Is there always a situation in which anything is right, or wrong?
Why
Right depends partly or entirely on cause or motive. Can good intentions always be enough?
Whither
Right depends partly or entirely on impacts, either short-term, mid-term, or long-term. Can it ever be right if it turns out badly, and how far ahead is far enough?

Traditional classifications
Ideal: Platonism
Virtue (aretaic): Aristotelianism, Stoicism, Eternalism
Pleasure: Epicurianism, Hedonism
Duty (deontological): Augustinism, Thomism
Reason: Kantism
Utility (consequentialist): Benthamism, Utilitarianism, Pragmatism
Survival: Darwinism, Wilsonism, Memetic diffusionism
State: Fascism, Marxism, Collectivism, Totalitarianism
Social contract: Lockeanism, Constitutionalism

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