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Debate Teams
1) “Cigarette Smoking Should be Banned in Public Areas”
Support: Oppose:
Lok Kit
2) “It is wrong to eat meat”
Kate, Chan Hoi Kei
Lai Weng Ian (Cecilia)
Cindy Lei Sin I
Tau Chi Hou (John)
Carol Kong Chi Ian
Cheng Tat Fai (Danny)
3) “Great Apes Should Have Human Rights”
He Xinying
Liu Yueyang
Huang Fangyi
Xie Yuanchen
Tao Xue
Virtue Ethics
The good life
People are virtuous in order to cultivate their own soul and
achieve a higher happiness
Focus on motivations for actions, rather than consequences
The goal is self-realization: to be noble, honorable, decent
What kind of people do we want to be?
Do we want to be the kind of people who would do that?
Problems with virtue ethics
Do people really have a telos? If not, how can the virtues be
Is cultivating the virtues really the best way for an individual
to maximize his human potential?
People can do the wrong thing for the right reasons
 Surely the action is wrong even if the motivation is right
Deontological Ethics
Kant (1724-1804), German philosopher
Rightness of actions is independent of consequences.
The Categorical Imperative defines our moral duties.
Moral duties, e.g.
not to kill or harm innocent people
not to lie
to keep promises
to respect the rights of others
The Categorical Imperative can be understood through reason.
Deontological Ethics (cont.)
The Categorical Imperative can be worked out through the principle of universalizability:
"Always act according to that maxim whose universality as a law you can at the same time
will", and is the "only condition under which a will can never come into conflict with
(Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals)
Rational beings have an intrinsic worth and dignity.
The end (purpose) of morality is in preserving the well-being and dignity of all rational agents:
“Act with reference to every rational being (whether yourself or another) so that it is an
end in itself in your maxim…“
(Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals)
You must never treat a person as a means, but always as an end.
Problems with deontological ethics
Problem of justification for Categorical Imperative
– where does it come from
Not all good actions can be universalized
e.g. if we have a categorical imperative not to lie,
it is wrong to lie even if by lying to a mad gunman,
we can save an innocent person’s life
It is not always possible never to treat a rational agent as an end, e.g. war
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), English philosopher
A form of consequentialism
An act is judged to be moral or immoral according to its consequences.
Instrumentalist good vs. Intrinsic good
Instrumentalist good: good as a means by which to realize an intrinsic good,
e.g. medicine
Intrinsic good: something good in and of itself, e.g. happiness
Utilitarianism (cont.)
Happiness and the absence of suffering are the ultimate intrinsic
The goal of morality is to maximize happiness (“the greatest
good for the greatest number”)
An act is good if it maximizes the collective happiness and
minimizes the collective suffering.
Problems with Utilitarianism
Seemingly immoral acts can be judged moral, e.g. killing an innocent
Consequences are often difficult or impossible
to predict.
The morality of an act may depend on chance (how the consequences
How can you calculate units of goodness (utiles)?
Happiness and lack of suffering may not be the only
intrinsic goods.
Varieties of Utilitarianism
Act utilitarianism
classic utilitarianism
Preference utilitarianism
 aim to maximize the fulfillment of people’s preferences, rather than happiness
Rule utilitarianism
 act in accordance with rules that, in the long run, tend to maximize
Required readings
Traditional Ethical Theories (excerpt from Online Guide to Ethics and Moral
Philosophy at:,
available on Moodle
Stephen Law, The Philosophy Gym, Chapter 17, “Killing Mary to Save
Jodie”. available on Moodle
Suggested readings
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, at:
Entries on: Consequentialism and Deontological Ethics andVirtue Ethics
Mill, John Stuart, Utilitarianism (1863), available at: