Moral obligations do not simply purport to provide supremely authoritative reasons. They are also what we are responsible to one another for doing, what members of the moral community have the authority as such to demand that we do by holding ourselves accountable second personally.
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Some define moral obligation as the moral consciousness applied to specific circumstances. It has a number of meanings in moral philosophy, in religion, and in layman’s terms. Generally speaking, when someone says of an act that it is a moral obligation, they refer to a belief that the act is one prescribed by their set of values.
Development of ethics or moral philosophy
Contemporary moral philosophy began with G.E Moore. He believed the morally right act is the one that produced the greatest amount of good. He argued that good or goodness which is the same thing is a non-complex and non-natural property of good things.
In his book, The Right and the Good (1930) W.D. Ross argued that it is right and morally obligatory and our duty to bring into existence as many good things as possible. But the production of maximum good is not the only thing that makes an act right; we have other duties than to bring about good results. He defined his purpose as to “examine the nature, relations and implications of three conceptions, which appear to be fundamental to ethnics-those of “right”, ‘good’ in general, and morally good and his work was devoted largely to criticism of ideas set forth by G.E Moore.
Ross’s views are similar to those of Emmanuel Kant. Kant, too, proposed a duty based moral philosophy and was committed to the idea that our moral duty is self-evident. A duty based-moral philosophy is known as a deontological moral philosophy the utilitarian defined the rightness of an action in terms of the happiness it produces as a consequence.
a radically different view of moral judgments was set forth by emotivists, who had read Moore and Ross and disagreed with them both. They maintained that moral judgments have no factual meaning whatsoever. In their view, the judgment, “it is right to keep your promises” is neither true nor false: the utterance is not really a proposition at all. The contemporary British linguistic philosopher R.M Hare (1919-2002) said that the function of moral discourse is not to express or influence attitudes but rather, to guide conduct.
The most influential publication in moral philosophy in the twentieth century was A theory of Justice (1971) by John Rawls. Rawls writes from within the liberal tradition, but he had grown dissatisfied with the utilitarianism on which liberalism was based. The result was a lengthy and systematic attempts to establish, interpret and illuminate the fundamental principles of justice and to apply them to various central issues in social ethics.
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Nozick in Anarchy state, and utopia discusses moral status of animals. Animals are not mere objects, he says. The same moral constraints apply to what one may do to animals as to what one may do to people. Even, a modern utilitarian, who holds that the pleasure, happiness, pain and suffering that an action produces determine its moral worth, must count animals in moral calculations to the extent that they have the capacities for these feelings.
Ancient concepts of morals
- Knighty- aristocratic or master morality: came from the early rulers and conquerors, who judged their own power, wealth and success to be good and the poverty and wretchedness of those they ruled over to be bad.
- Priestly or slave morality: primarily with the Jews. This morality originates with priests who despised the warrior easte and condemned their lustful power as evil, while calling their own state of poverty and self-denial good. Slave morality is much deeper and more refined than master morality.
- Guilt; Nietzsche suggested that the concept of guilt had no moral overtones originally. Punishment was cruel but cheerful, there were no hard feelings afterward. The ethical speculations in Greece by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are seminal to the evolution of moral concepts.
- Ethics of Respects: Right actions are those that equally respect. Each human person as a moral agent. The Golden Rule is an excellent rule of thumb in many practical moral deliberation. However, it can lead to seemingly perverse results, sometimes it seems too permissive and sometimes it seems too restrictive.