Moral Thinking: Its Levels, Method, and Point: Its Levels, Methods and Point


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In fact, autonomy—understood as freedom of choice with regard to external options of acting and living—is not absolutely good but only relatively good: it is not good independently from the concerns of individuals. Autonomy and its degree of goodness depend upon the claims and the evaluation of the individuals in question.

Moral Reasoning

It would amount to a neglect of normative individualism. This shows that autonomy is no intrinsic and hence collective good, but is only justified insofar as it is embraced by the individuals concerned. The claim for autonomy in the sense of freedom of choice is a primary and crucial application of normative individualism. For instance, we may imagine a society in which all its members vote against art or certain forms of jobs or certain models of partnership, say, for religious, non-objective reasons. In such a case, theorists promoting intrinsic collective values or goods would have to hold that intrinsic values and goods are to be realized against the declared will of the individuals concerned.

Autonomy, understood as freedom of choice, may even lead to the legitimate decision for a life as a hermit and thus for the negation of any society and all collective goods a society offers. The possibility and legitimacy of this extreme case shows that collective goods in a society cannot be intrinsically valuable independently from individual interests. We can frame this objection to Raz in still more general terms: even if some values or goods existed that are independent from human or otherwise individual evaluations, it would still be necessary that individuals recognize these values and goods and, by means of their own values, aims, or desires, treat them as standards for moral decisions.

Otherwise, it would remain mysterious how these values should gain their normative force within an immanent, non-religious framework.

Five Elements of Normative Ethics - A General Theory of Normative Individualism | SpringerLink

Autonomy does not only mean freedom of choice among external collective options; on a more fundamental level, it also refers to freedom of the will and freedom of action, that is, the very possibility to have a will at all and to act according to this will. But this freedom of will and action is neither a collective value nor a collective good. Rather, it is a natural condition of individual human action. Why is it that all individuals affected by an action are to be considered, and not only some of them, say, an elite, as some statements by Nietzsche , ff.

Why, that is, does normative individualism not only contain the principle of individuality but also the all-principle? In other words, what justifies moral universalism? The normatively ethical distinction between moral agent and affected individual, and hence the principle of individuality, presupposes that the moral patient himself is the bearer of morally significant properties. Otherwise, he cannot by himself be morally considerable and have moral standing. This requirement of moral significance holds for all morally considerable individuals alike.

And if it is a necessary condition for being morally considerable, nothing counts against the assumption that in principle, all individuals fulfilling that requirement—that is, all individuals having morally significant properties—are morally considerable. This also provides the grounds for an answer to the question of where to draw the line between individuals who are morally considerable and those who are not. The answer is: all individuals who show the concerns in question aims, desires, needs, strivings are morally considerable. The all-principle of normative individualism does not preclude that in some situations of moral deliberation, the concerns of certain individuals are to be treated preferentially, e.

If all individuals concerned are the ultimate point of reference for moral justifications or obligations, resp. There is a bewildering plurality of proposals: striving for self-preservation Hobbes , , actual agreement Locke , , will Rousseau , 54; Kant a , ff. Within the confines of this paper, only a cursory justification for a selection can be given: if one takes individuals seriously, one cannot externally prescribe them a particular property.

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Instead, one has to let them decide for themselves which aspect of their individuality should be considered as morally decisive, even if their decision might be irrational. Of course, within the abstract framework of an ethical theory, such a decision is not possible for particular individuals and conflicts. This shows, e. It may well be that some of our normatively relevant properties can be traced back to pleasure and pain or contain at least aspects of pleasure and pain.

However, as decision making beings, we insist on our ability to take a reflective stance towards our more bodily needs and strivings for increasing pleasure and reducing pain and to evaluate and judge them by our own will and mental capabilities. For instance, we continue a match in spite of hurts; we help others where necessary even if this causes inconveniences for us. The claim for evaluating and judging our bodily strivings is a crucial expression of our individuality and self-understanding. An ethical theory that is committed to normative individualism has to do justice to this claim.


  • Generationenbeziehungen in Stieffamilien: Der Einfluss leiblicher und sozialer Elternschaft auf die Ausgestaltung von Eltern-Kind-Beziehungen im Erwachsenenalter (German Edition).
  • Moral Reasoning (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).
  • Reflections ~ A Life Assessment Program (How to Die with a Smile on your Face).
  • The Fifth Horseman.
  • A Darkness Within.

Two aspects seem to be crucial with regard to the self-determination of individuals; each of them forms a kind of continuum. The first aspect is the distinction between bodily and mental features of relevant properties. The first aspect—the continuum between bodily and mental features—has already been indicated above when we introduced strivings , needs , desires , and aims intentions , or, generally: the will. These four concepts are semantically ambiguous and not well defined, but we may render them more precise in the following way: strivings are purely vegetative-bodily properties whose function is to sustain bodily integrity, beyond the mere effects of physical forces.

They can be characterized as the local and temporary inversion of general physical entropy and can only be found in micro-organisms, plants, animals and human beings but not in inanimate matter such as stones or water. Human strivings, e. Strivings of plants are, for instance, that their leaves turn to sunlight and take up water from the ground, against the natural direction of gravitation.

Needs often have a bodily basis, but they can be mentally influenced, e. Only human beings and animals have needs , e. Desires sometimes also have bodily components but are primarily mental phenomena. Unlike needs, their mental components can completely override possible bodily components; they can modify the need or even suppress it altogether. Although it is primarily humans who have desires, higher animals can have them as well, e. The line between needs and desires is not sharp.

For instance, in higher animals, the sex drive is a need, whereas when we speak about humans, we would rather speak of a desire for sexual unification. After all, humans can also be celibate.


  1. Létoile des Gitans (French Edition).
  2. Melanoma and Pigmented Lesions, An Issue of Dermatologic Clinics - E-Book (The Clinics: Dermatology).
  3. Longarm 306: Longarm and the Pirates Gold.
  4. Notfall im Jugendtreff (Einsatz fürs Leben 3) (German Edition);
  5. Uno studio in rosso (Italian Edition).
  6. Finally, aims intentions are purely mental properties and, as far as we know, they can be had only by humans, even though recent studies show that some higher animals can also make use of tools in a purpose-oriented way. Examples for aims are as follows: the aim to change society, to gain social acceptance, to write a book, to achieve a certain job position, to travel, etc.

    Aims can relate to other aims by a means-end-relation. We can distinguish then between higher and lower level aims. Aims can also be correlated with more complex plans and long time projects. The continuum between bodily and mental features of higher animals is asymmetrical. Notably with humans, the bodily components of strivings and needs are judged and evaluated by the mental components of desires and intentions. To a significant degree, the self-understanding of humans is based upon these evaluations and judgment.

    From early childhood onwards, we try to evaluate our strivings, needs, and finally also our desires by means of our aims and intentions, and try to bring them into accordance with the latter. Aims and intentions—or, more abstractly: our will or our self-determination—are a central expression of our identity as human individuals. For that reason, the actual avowals of our will or, in the case, e. With beings that have no intentions or aims, correspondingly their desires, needs, or striving have to be taken into account.

    But in every day life, this will may not always be formed, or be discernible, or it cannot be taken into account. For instance, comatose persons have no present, actual will.

    Unless those who are affected by our actions are right in front of us, we cannot recognize their present, actual will. This is also the case, for instance, when we want to send a present to a friend and do not know whether he or she will like it. We may imagine a wine lover who is about to sip at his wine and does not know that it is poisoned. However, it is based upon his false presumption that there is only wine in the glass.

    It contradicts his actual, former or presumable higher order will not to be poisoned. In such cases, on behalf of the respective individual instead of the present concrete will, we can draw upon a cascade of substitutes. In the first place, there is a present, abstract higher order will. In a next step, it can be substituted by the former actual will. This is particularly important in the case of patients who are no longer able to give their consent but who have given their advance directive before. If this is of no help, we finally have to refer to the abstract aims, desires, needs, and strivings of a comparable individual or the typical member of a comparable group that the individual in question is a part of.

    We may take it for granted that it is in accordance with the general will of most people that, under certain circumstances, their hypothetical will is taken into consideration. Thus, the following cascade seems plausible: present concrete will, present abstract will, abstract and higher order will, former actual will, presumable will, hypothetical will. In order to handle the variety and complexity of these aspects, it is reasonable to subsume them under a single term.

    To a significant degree, the concept of an interest or concern is determined by its function within morals. But it can also be applied in other contexts of life. For instance, we have an interest that the weather is fine without morally expecting others to influence the weather accordingly. For that reason, it is important to analyze the concept of action.

    SOCIOLOGY - Émile Durkheim

    A complete, full-fledged action in a comprehensive, morally relevant sense contains at least the following seven elements 18 :. Among the consequences, only the morally and ethically relevant ones play a role, that is, those that concern others and are predictable or avoidable by the agent. Almost all of these elements and their interrelation s are the object of controversial discussions.

    However, this does not affect the claim of the plurality of references of concerns. This process also includes external processes such as conversations and consultations. The crucial convictions will usually be evaluative or normative. But descriptive convictions can also play an important role. Again, the conditions mentioned above may play a role, e. And again, the will forming process also involves external elements such as conversations or consultations. Frequently, there will be several wills since various partial actions are required for achieving the intended end.

    The consequences of the action or the quasi-consequences of the omission insofar as they were intended or at least anticipated, avoidable and go beyond the sheer action or omission as such. My central claim concerning this third element is that all of these seven elements of an action, understood in a wide sense, are equally relevant, since the concerns of the moral patient can pertain to all of them in the same way. By contrast, consequentialists hold that interests or moral evaluations or obligations only, or, at least, primarily refer to consequences of actions; the other elements of actions are at best considered as contributing to the best consequences.

    Hence, according to the view proposed in the present paper, this position is to be dismissed. Consequentialism has been clearly formulated already by Bentham; 21 it necessarily follows from hedonism, since pleasure and pain are only passive, non-intentional states. Modern utilitarianism did not draw adequate consequences from the fact that the widely accepted shift from hedonism to preference-utilitarianism undermines the focus on consequences. There is no reason why preferences about attitudes of character, intentions, or actions cannot be maximized. What can be said in favor of the pluralist thesis?

    First of all, we can observe that individuals de facto refer to all elements of actions.

    Moral Thinking: Its Levels, Method, and Point: Its Levels, Methods and Point
    Moral Thinking: Its Levels, Method, and Point: Its Levels, Methods and Point
    Moral Thinking: Its Levels, Method, and Point: Its Levels, Methods and Point
    Moral Thinking: Its Levels, Method, and Point: Its Levels, Methods and Point
    Moral Thinking: Its Levels, Method, and Point: Its Levels, Methods and Point

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