Mid Term

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Feathers and Fur

Ethics Mid Term

Question 1 Above is the link to my posts page.

Question 2: In what ways do Aristotle's views of ethics differ from David Hume's views?

Supporting Website: http://ethics.acusd.edu/books.html

Aristotle's views seemed based on human nature. He spoke of happiness, friendship, health, physical aspects of humankind, spirituality, soul, and reason. Whereas, Hume focused on reason, ideas, laws, cause and effect. Hume's philosophy is devoid of spirituality. Aristotle said, "What we need, in order to live well, is a proper appreciation of the way in which such goods as friendship pleasure, virtue, honor, and wealth fit together as a whole." This is along the line of human emotions.

Hume does not even mention the word ethics in, "An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding." Perhaps his focus was not on ethics per se, but rather on the behavior of man. Presuming that Hume's writing is intended indirectly at ethics, I would say that in contrast to Aristotle's views it could be summed up as follows, "They regard human nature as a subject of speculation; and with a narrow scrutiny examine it, in order to find those principles, which regulate our understanding, excite our sentiments, and make us approve or blame any particular object, action, or behavior."

Aristotle sums it up quite well, "For no function of man has so much permanence as virtuous activities (these are thought to be more durable even than knowledge of the sciences), and of these themselves the most valuable are more durable because those who are happy spend their life most readily and most continuously in these; for this seems to be the reason why we do not forget them.? http://www.knuten.liu.se/~bjoch509/works/aristotle/nico_ethics.txt

These philosophers lived in quite different eras, http://www.scholiast.org/history/histphil.html and no doubt were influenced by what was going on in the world. Perhaps Hume was in a more cynical time and so was influenced against spirituality. Even so, I believe ethics is not spiritually driven. I believe ethics is the very make up of a person. Ethics is the glue that binds a person to his or her personality. Religion places a different set of values (and beliefs) on a person, and no doubt, has some impact on a person's ethical beliefs. As far as I am concerned good is good and evil is evil and we all know the difference.

Question 3
Kant states, "The doctrine of this [the notion of an end which is in itself a duty] cannot belong to jurisprudence, but to ethics, since this alone includes in its conception self-constraint according to moral laws." Kant uses morality as a basis for ethical behavior-- not the law. Kant places weight on good will. Kant states, "The will is the faculty of acting according to a conception of law." People use their faculties to guide them in making ethical or unethical choices.

This philosophy is in direct contrast to Hume, who uses fact or laws of nature as his basis for moral behavior. He states, "That the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the square of the two sides, is a proposition which expresses a relation between these figures. That three times five is equal to the half of thirty, expresses a relation between these numbers. Propositions of this kind are discoverable by the mere operation of thought, without dependence on what is anywhere existent in the universe. Though there never were a circle or triangle in nature, the truths demonstrated by Euclid would for ever retain their certainty and evidence.? Fact is what he gives weight to because one cannot dispute the accuracy of facts.

Kant also believes that people do not act according to how the outcome of a particular act will make them feel. An example would be in the parable Jesus used to describe a good man. He said a Good Samaritan happened on a man who had been beaten, robbed, and left to die. Others had passed by the man not wanting to get involved, or be robbed themselves. The Good Samaritan stopped, carried the man to a "hotel" and left instructions and money to ensure that the man was given proper care. There was obviously no good outcome for the Samaritan; he did not gain anything by his actions. Moreover, it cost him money for his good deed! I believe this is what Kant was saying when he said men do not act based on achieving a happy outcome for themselves.

A good example today is what went on in New York following the attack on the World Trade Center. Hundreds of men and women volunteered to help and not because they thought they could earn extra cash, or feel good because of a happy ending. There was to be no happy ending as a result of their hard work at ground zero.

Question 4
"Ethics: The discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation" as printed in Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. Given this definition, I cannot see why anyone, regardless of his or her belief in God or not, could not be ethical if he or she so desired. An atheist is one who denies the existence of God. A theist is one who believes in God. Even though both are in direct opposition to one another does not mean that they are opposite in morals. For instance, look at the Nazi's. For the most part, they were Christian, yet they murdered Jews.

Nazi's are perfect examples of a complete breakdown of ethical behavior. It is a horrific example of ethnocentrism. Those involved probably went to Mass every Sunday believing there was no wrong in what they were doing. Consider the following: "Adorno rightly viewed the Nazi genocide as a major ethical issue of the twentieth century. On the other hand, the road that led to Auschwitz was mired in pseudo-ethical a prioris. The postulate that German National Socialism could be based upon any concept of ethics, no matter how far-flung, may seem incongruous at first glance. However, the French historian Léon Poliakov points out that Nazism possessed a perverse religiosity. He states that religion has three basic elements: 'the perception of a higher power, the submission to that power, and the establishment of relations with it . . .' Hitler was the higher power and in order to mythologize that power he had to create a pseudo-dichotomy between good and evil by portraying the Jewish people as devils incarnate." http://www.interlog.com/~mighty/essays/erspamer1.htm The Nazi's felt completely justified in their actions. There was no human compassion, because they didn't see Jews as human! They plundered and became like savages without morals. Criminals of modern day probably feel much the same way.

There are some interesting facts about criminals who are imprisoned. Now, while we cannot tell the severity of crimes from the below statistics, we can clearly see the disparity of Christians and Atheists inmates.

Response Number percentage
Catholic 29267 39.164%
Protestant 26162 35.008%
Muslim 5435 7.273%
American Indian 2408 3.222%
Nation 1734 2.320%
Rasta 1485 1.987%
Jewish 1325 1.773%
Church of Christ1303 1.744%
Pentecostal 1093 1.463%
Moorish 1066 1.426%
Buddhist 882 1.180%
Jehovah Witness 665 0.890%
Adventist 621 0.831%
Orthodox 375 0.502%
Mormon 298 0.399%
Scientology 190 0.254%
Atheist 156 0.209%
Hindu 119 0.159%
Santeria 117 0.157%
Sikh 14 0.019%
Bahai 9 0.012%
Krishna 7 0.009%
Known Responses 74731 100.001%
(Rounding to 3 digits does this) http://www.holysmoke.org/icr-pri.htm

If these statistics are accurate, one can draw the conclusion that Atheists have a higher ethical and moral standard than do Christians. Perhaps the above chart represents an interesting look into voluntarism vs. moral skepticism.

Question 5

The major disparity between a Christian and a Buddhist is the belief in God. Christians believe in God and His son, Jesus Christ. While there are multitudes of Christian churches, Christian followers all believe in Jesus Christ and his teachings. The teachings were simple: God the Father provided The Ten Commandments, and Christ provided us with the two great commandments.

Despite the brevity, yet preciseness of these commandments, Christians decided to complicate matters. Christians cannot even agree on understanding ethics, "The problem is that they [Christians] have different questions to put to their material. They disagree over what it is that they should be clear about, over the sorts of categories that are required for the studies they want to do. They disagree over the object of the field as a discipline." http://www.jbe.gold.ac.uk/4/lewis1.html

Christians believe in a hereafter, and live a life that is worthy of reaping rewards after death. The consequences of leading an immoral life can be aptly described in an article titled, The Hell There Is! "The doctrine of hell is so frightening, almost every heretical cult end up denying the reality of an eternal hell." http://www.catholic.com/answers/tracts/_hell.htm
Speaking to the Buddhist desire to attain Nirvana, here is a Catholic perspective on the difference between Nirvana and Heaven --life after death. "New Agers talk a lot about nirvana. What exactly is nirvana, and how does it compare with the Christian idea of heaven?

"In Buddhism, nirvana is the final state the soul reaches on its journey through different lifetimes. These lifetimes are pictured as a series of lamps, one being lit by another, until the final lamp goes out. The word "nirvana" means "going out" or "extinguishing."

"According to Buddhists, our desires and cravings are what keep the process of reincarnation going. By eliminating all desires, it is possible to escape the cycle of rebirth. When a person manages to extinguish all his desires, he reaches a state of nirvana and is said to be a saint.

"When a saint dies, he enters nirvana proper, in which he loses his identity as a distinct individual. Buddha compared the question "Does a saint survive his death?" to the question "Where does a flame go when it is blown out?" Both questions are thought to be intrinsically unanswerable. Neither a dead saint nor a blown-out flame have individual identities anymore.

"Nirvana is different from the Christian idea of heaven. Nirvana is a state of desirelessness; heaven is a state of having one's most fundamental desire (for God) fulfilled. Nirvana is a state of ultimate apathy and indifference, heaven of ultimate joy and fulfillment. Paradoxically, Buddhists regard nirvana, the state of desirelessness, as the most desirable state.

"Nirvana also differs from heaven because it suggests one will eternally lose his body and his individual identity, while Christians claim they will keep both of them eternally." http://www.newadvent.org/faq/940204.htm

"Buddhists believe obtaining Nirvana is their ultimate goal, and they might affirm what David Hume writes, "But if any purpose of nature be clear, we may affirm, that the whole scope and intention of man's creation, so far as we can judge by natural reason, is limited to the present life." [From Essay II, Essays On Suicide And The Immortality Of The Soul: The Complete Unauthorized 1783 Edition] http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/david_hume/suicide.html

Christians follow the Ten Commandments and Buddhists follow moral precepts. http://www.leaderu.com/wri-table2/morals.html Despite these completely differing philosophies and religious beliefs, many good, morally upstanding people simply follow different religious paths.

Question 6

Our ethical system is probably the result of enculturation. "All culture is learned rather than biologically inherited, prompting anthropologist Ralph Linton to refer to it as humanity's 'social heredity.' People learn their culture by growing up with it?" (Cultural Anthropology, Ninth Edition, Haviland, p. 42). Our parents teach us the difference between right and wrong. Our parents give us our religious upbringing, as well. Quite often, as in my case, we are provided private education in Catholic grammar schools, high schools, and colleges. Thus, we receive a very in depth religious education.

"The National Catholic Educational Association is the largest private, professional education association in the world. Founded in 1904, the association's membership represents more than 200,000 educators serving 7.6 million students in Catholic education at all levels." http://www.ncea.org/index.shtml
While education in one's faith is important to form us a whole person, religious education may not be the panacea for unethical behavior. I might consider myself a devout Catholic, and then go out and bomb an abortion clinic. Alternatively, I could be a non-Christian or Atheist and never commit such an egregious offense. Much of what each of us holds to be our set of ethics is what we were taught ? ethical relativism. http://www.etsu.edu/philos/faculty/hugh/relative.htm

?Moreover, if all men were fully convinced that the sinner need fear no kind of punishment after death, moral and social order would be seriously menaced.?

Depending on our culture, we can either eat meat or not eat meat. People in India would not find that a difficult ethical decision. http://www.peta.org/feat/gandhi/index.html We in the United States, however, might find a meatless world a difficult adjustment. Refraining from eating meat is not a good vs. evil decision, but it provides us with the opportunity to determine which system is correct for us.

In other cultures, people don't wear clothes. http://www.umanitoba.ca/anthropology/tutor/case_studies/yanomamo/ In the United States, one would be arrested if he or she left home without clothes. Making that decision would not be hard if you lived in the United States. In contrast, if a woman exposes bare arms or legs in Saudi Arabia, she runs the risk of a run-in with the purity police. http://www.jannah.org/sisters/shatter.html These are just a few examples of ethical relativism.

Given the variety of cultures, it seems to me to be a question of would someone change their ethic position after they became an adult, and understood the variety of ethical systems in the world. I cannot imagine there would be anyone who would wantonly change from being a good person to becoming an evil person. Changing good vs. evil ethical systems would make for a very scary person! All I can think of now is Lucifer ? who was an archangel and turned to pure evil. http://www.newadvent.org/faq/faq003.htm (By the way, it was Lucifer who was banished to the fires of hell. I think that was the beginning of hell?s fires.)

Question 7

David Hume took a non-spiritual look at morality and why humans do what they do. He maintained an empirical position regarding morality?morality is based on what we see. Hume might be likened to the Apostle Thomas in that Thomas needed to see and touch the wounds on Jesus Christ before he would believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. Later, Thomas was given that chance, and hence the phrase "Doubting Thomas" was coined. Hume said human reason is divided into two kinds ? relations of ideas and matters of fact.

Hume refers to implicit faith as the bane of all reasoning. Faith is the driving force behind religion. Hume uses heat and light as an example of collateral effects. I suppose he is saying if there is fire then automatically there is light ? light being inferred by the fire. Humans do not have any difficulty in attributing our knowledge to experience. Experience tells us we need food, so we eat it. It doesn't take a spiritual experience to dictate what we need for sustenance. Whereas faith, which is God-given, is an inner conviction and requires no experience or visual on which to base one?s to belief.

Hume also cites nature as another example of experience. What we see and what we experience is cause and effect and that is what drives our moral beliefs. Hume puts much credence into mathematics. Math proves itself and therefore can be relied upon as a cause and effect. Of religion, Hume said it was more stories and superstition rather than based on philosophical arguments. Hume says, "When a controversy is started, some people always pretend with certainty to foretell the issue." Again, a mistrust of spiritually based reason is evident.


Question 8

I believe a Theistic notion of ethics to be superior to an Atheistic notion for the sole reason that I believe in God and an Atheist does not. There is so much to witness from ages past that I cannot understand how one can refute the existence of God. I suppose one can believe in the big bang and poof the universe was created. Yes, everything in the universe, all the planets, their exact sizes, the milky way, all were exploded into perfect places and began spinning on a perfect axis and have done so for billions of years and it happened by happenstance. I think it is much easier to believe in God and that He created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. How did the sun come to be? How is it that if we were a tad bit closer or a tad bit further away that earth would either burn up or freeze? How can our universe be this precise were it not for an all-powerful God? Bringing the perspective in for a closer view, let's look at man.

Some say man evolved. That we were once monkey or ape-like, and over the course of a few million/billion years we became what we are today. Women are feminine and men are masculine. We aren't hunched over, and we aren't covered with hair/fur and don't have to visit the dentist to have our fangs filed down. How could we have been ape-like only to be the way we are today? I believe that man has always been man with skin, hair, teeth, and fingernails. Maybe we had a different shape, but the substance was still the same. Compare for a moment, our size ? and then compare this size to the Maya. We would see a distinct difference, but we are, nonetheless, the same structure ? skin, hair, teeth, and fingernails. Moreover, we both have souls.

The soul is probably a topic for a discussion of its own, but it is what sets us (humans) apart from our animal friends. The soul is what binds us inexorably to God. Everyone, good or evil, has a soul. It is what we will carry with us until we die and it returns to God. The immortal soul is the one part of us that cannot be touched, or seen, weighed or measured by man, for it belongs to God alone. The soul resides in a physical body, which didn't just happen. The human body works with unmatched precision. This body of ours wasn't designed by chance. It was precisely constructed and each part of it was created to work in sync with all the other parts. From the outer layers to the inner workings of the cells, our DNA, our very core, the human body was no evolution of monkey. It was a divine creation, for if it were not, we probably would already have replicated it with synthetics!

God took that body-divine and gave it to His son. The son lived among the very people He created and tried to teach us ways that would be pleasing to our creator. He gave us a few rules, and he gave us plenty of examples. Out of fear, or ignorance, or perhaps intolerance, or maybe even simple destiny we killed the son of God. However, by that very act, we helped prove that there is a God, because the son rose from the dead and gave glory to God the father. Many witnesses then set words on paper to mark forever the events.

Atheists probably would not believe a syllable of what I just said, but, thanks to God, they have been given that prerogative ? to believe or not. Atheists, like Theists, can choose to travel their own road. I hope that the road they travel will be a morally upstanding road and not one fraught with evil deeds. I believe that there probably exist Atheists who are much better people than professed Theists, that there are Atheists who have a higher standard of morals than many Theists, or who have a better grasp of the two Great Commandments than many Christians. Atheists may be just another form of religion, or it may be viewed by God as a different means of attaining heaven. Although, if one is an Atheist, one probably does not believe in heaven or hell, but that is an entirely different essay!

Just as Jesus Christ did not judge people, nor did he condemn foreign beliefs, I don't see why there is so much dissention over morals, ethics, God or no God. Is it not sufficient that we respect one another? Is that such a difficult thing to do, as humans? Osama bin Laden has such a despicable view of Americans and for what reason? Likewise, we have a similar view of him. Is he not just a man, entitled to his religious beliefs? Were not all the people who died at his command entitled to the same freedom? An Atheist might jump on this as a proof that there is no God, because if there were a God these things wouldn't happen. Ah, that is such a lame cop out. God is not responsible for the acts of horror (Hitler) or the acts of terror (World Trade Center) that happen in the world. Man is responsible. God is responsible for the nature of our universe, for keeping the planets and solar system in check, for making sure we don't move that tad bit closer or that tad bit further. That's His job. Our job is to make sure we don't fuss with his job and make matters worse. We have a hard enough time as it is just trying to be human!

Theists are human as are Atheists. We have merely chosen to believe differently. I can't help but wonder if Atheists ever slip and say, "Oh God!" or "Good God!" Perhaps an Atheist might say it's just a figure of speech. Ah, but I believe it is a prayer to God in disguise! Moreover, while, I believe that Theism is better, I can't say that an Atheist will never see or know God in the afterlife, because it is not for us to judge how that Atheist lived his or her life. Maybe in the big scheme of things, the Atheist lived a better, more decent life than I, and it will be the Atheist who reaps the joys of heaven and I the fires of hell. I hope not, but on the other hand, I don't believe that heaven will be devoid of non-believers. I believe God is a just God and he will judge each one of us on His own merit system. Maybe one day in the afterlife I can enjoy a conversation with an Atheist, in heaven, and ask what he or she thinks now.

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