Ethics and Moral Theory

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The words "moral" and "ethics" (and cognates) are often used interchangeably. However, it is useful to make the following distinction: Morality is the system through which we determine right and wrong conduct -- i.e., the guide to good or right conduct. Ethics is the philosophical study of Morality. What, then, is a moral theory? A theory is a structured set of statements used to explain (or predict) a set of facts or concepts.Ý A moral theory, then, explains why a certain action is wrong -- or why we ought to act in certain ways.ÝÝ In short, it is a theory of how we determine right and wrong conduct.Ý Also, moral theories provide the framework upon which we think and discuss in a reasoned way, and so evaluate, specific moral issues.…show more content…
Divine Command Theory is widely held to have several serious flaws.Ý First, it presupposes that God or gods exist.Ý Second, even if we assume that God does exist, it presupposes that we can know what God commandsÝ But even if we accept theism, it looks like even theists should reject the theory.Ý Plato raised the relevant objection 2500 years ago.Ý He asked: Is something right (or wrong) because the gods command it, or do the gods command it because it is right? If the latter, then right and wrong are independent of the gods' commands -- Divine Command Theory is false.Ý If the former, then right and wrong are just a matter of the arbitrary will of the gods (i.e., they might have willed some other, contradictory commands). Most think that right and wrong are not arbitrary -- that is, some action is wrong, say, for a reason.Ý Moreover, that if God commands us not to do an action, He does so because of this reason, not simply because He arbitrarily commands it.Ý What makes the action wrong, then, is not God's commanding it, but the reason.Ý Divine Command Theory is false again. Ý (5) Virtue Ethics Right and
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