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Philosophical Views of Ethics and Morality

Abelard and Heloise’s Notion of Moral Intent

The central idea in their arguments was the same. Heloise argued that a wrong deed should not be considered as being against social morality if there were no intent to commit it (Moore & Bruder, 2011). Similarly, Abelard believed that one could only be considered morally imperfect if he/she had a disposition to do what he/she ought not to do (Moore & Bruder, 2011). I believe these arguments correctly address issues in the contemporary society. Individuals that commit crimes intentionally should not be treated the same as those that do it unwillingly.

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Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics

Aristotle argued that moral ethics depends on people’s ultimate objective (Moore & Bruder, 2011). According to Aristotle, happiness is everybody’s ultimate goal (Moore & Bruder, 2011). He went further to say that happiness can only be achieved through pleasure and building the capacity to reason (Moore & Bruder, 2011). He claimed that there were two categories of virtues: intellectual and moral virtues (Moore & Bruder, 2011). He also believed that an individual is intellectually virtuous when he can use his reasoning capacity well. He defined moral virtue as the ability to regulate one’s impulses and appetites (Moore & Bruder, 2011). He insisted that a virtuous individual should be consistent in his behavior. I agree with him that an individual can only be said to be virtuous or not after assessing all his behaviors.

St. Augustine’s Notion of Evil

St. Augustine believed “physical evil is the absence of something, and moral evil is misdirecting love to other things other than God” (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 271). According to him, God is the ultimate source of all good things. Therefore, people must direct their love to God and should not love other things in life to the extent of forgetting about their God. I agree with St. Augustine that human beings should not direct their love to other things and forget about God, but I do not agree that evil is only about going against God. I believe it is morally wrong to do anything that is not consistent with the established moral standards of the society.

Plato’s View of Ethics

Plato argued that the soul is made up of three things: the appetitive, drive and intellectual elements (Moore & Bruder, 2011). According to him, an ethical individual is one that allows his intellect to lead the soul (Moore & Bruder, 2011). He related these three elements to a structured state made up of craftsmen, soldiers and the aristocracy (Moore & Bruder, 2011). He insisted that soldiers must help the aristocrats in ruling the society. He then compared the appetitive element to the craftsmen, the drive element to the soldiers and the intellect to the aristocrats. Plato was very rigid in his view of the world. He argued in support of the status quo: denying craftsmen the chance to become kings.

Jeremy Bentham’s Utilitarianism

Jeremy Bentham argued that what is moral produces maximum pleasure for everyone (Moore & Bruder, 2011). He went further to explain that what pleases all human beings also pleases God (Moore & Bruder, 2011). In addition, he insisted that even obedience to social rules becomes morally right if it satisfies the majority (Moore & Bruder, 2011). He asserted that individual happiness comes automatically with the general happiness. I consider Bentham’s concept democratic because it considers the majority.

John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism

Stuart argued that a utilitarian must be very impartial in choosing pleasures (Moore & Bruder, 2011). This argument means that people should not choose something because it pleases them. He said that the source of pleasure and its quality must be considered (Moore & Bruder, 2011). Stuart also insisted that individuals should only follow what intellectuals say about pleasure (Moore & Bruder, 2011).

I agree with the argument that individuals must choose pleasures objectively. However, I do not agree that only what intellectuals say is acceptable. I believe intellectuals are also humans with biases and can also make wrong choices.

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David Hume’s Sentimentalism

David Hume believed that reason cannot account for moral judgment (Moore & Bruder, 2011). Instead, he viewed emotions as being responsible for moral judgment (Moore & Bruder, 2011). He also observed that human beings consider things as morally wrong when they do not appeal to their emotions and morally correct when they look appealing (Moore & Bruder, 2011). Hume was dismissive of any possibilities of reasoning being involved in morality. He gave examples that were skewed towards confirming that only emotions are involved. However, I believe that both emotions and reason are involved in determining morality.

Kant’s Ethical Theory

Kant believed that neither scientific experiments nor emotions could explain morality (Moore & Bruder, 2011). According to Kant, scientific inquiries derive their facts from experience, which can only describe how things have been, but cannot project how things will be in the future (Moore & Bruder, 2011). He argued that the inability of scientific inquiry to explain the future makes it short-lived. On the contrary, he observed that moral principles are categorically imperative: universal and can only be understood through reasoning (Moore & Bruder, 2011).

Kant only used scientific inquiries that depended on processing different variables devoid of reason. He should have known that very many scientific inquiries require reason to arrive at conclusive ends.

Nietzsche’s Master and Slave Moralities

Nietzsche argued that morality falls into two categories: master and slave (Moore & Bruder, 2011). He criticized slave morality for encouraging weakness among some people and defined master morality as a sense of superiority among the rich and the ruling class (Moore & Bruder, 2011). He observed that people who subscribe to this dimension of morality suppress all weaker groups. I think his insistence that “battles stretch human energies and make heroes, but peace renders us weak and ineffectual” is very radical (Moore & Bruder, 2011, p. 289).

Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Notion of Natural and Civil Man

Rousseau argued that the natural man existed long before the advent of private property (Moore & Bruder, 2011). He believed that that man enjoyed extensive liberty and was always happy (Moore & Bruder, 2011). In contrast, the civil man is one that lives in a sovereign state. He argued that this new man must surrender all his interests to the common will. He visualized a state that makes rules that reflect the wills of the citizens. His proposition is still valid, but states in the contemporary world make rules that do not reflect the desires of their citizens.

Locke’s Labor Theory of Property and Marx’s Labor Theory of Value

Locke argued that human beings belong to God and have the right to their bodies and their bodies’ labor (Moore & Bruder, 2011). As such, they can do anything and collect as much of anything as they wish, as long as it does not belong to other people. Similarly, Marx’s theory supported social compactness. However, the later criticized the current system, where the products are valued more than the labor involved in production. He was also cynical about individualism, yet Locke strongly supported it.

Plato’s Notion of the Philosopher King

Plato proposed a structured society, where craftsmen were the lowliest ranked, just below the soldiers. The first caste encompassed philosopher kings, intelligent individuals who ascended to power through heredity. Such individuals would go through rigorous training in mathematics and dialectics (Moore & Bruder, 2011). Plato visualized a society where only the elite had the chance to lead.

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The Veil of Ignorance and the Original Position

Rawl argued that it is impossible for a human being to select a principle of justice without bias. Therefore, people should pretend to be ignorant of themselves and others when choosing a principle of justice (Moore & Bruder, 2011). I believe this is a good proposition, but it seems very impractical. It is rare for humans to be deficient of bias. The best way to ensure justice is through legislation.

Night-Watchman State

Nozick argued that the state should be limited to the protection of individuals from fraud and force (Moore & Bruder, 2011). He insisted that going beyond this limit impinges citizens’ rights. He also dismissed the distribution of resources to citizens since he believed that what is shared is probably stolen from one that deserves it. According to him, people are fully entitled to what is rightfully theirs (Moore & Bruder, 2011). I think this argument made Nozick an absolute capitalist that did not believe in sharing and supporting one another when need demanded.

Capabilities Approach Social Justice

Nussbaum argued that nations must take care of incapacitated citizens and countries (Moore & Bruder, 2011). She was against the view that social justice must be mutually beneficial. Instead, she observed that disadvantaged countries and groups may not be in position to reciprocate the favors they get.


Moore, B. & Bruder, K. (2011). Philosophy the Power of Ideas. New York, NY: McGraw- Hill. Web.

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