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Lecture 03/Prompt 03: Relationship of Ethics and Environmental Ethics | Environmental Ethics

Lecture 02/Prompt 02: Relationship of Ethics and Environmental Ethics

Take Away Points:

  • Define moral standard and moral unit
  • Define consequentialism and deontology
  • Understand anthropocentric vs non-anthropocentric

Traditional Ethics

Ethics is ultimately about how we ought to live.  The actual answer to the question of how we should live has taken many forms, all of which I suspect you will recognize in some form or another.  Here are two: “We must create the greatest happiness for the greatest number” and “We must respect the natural dignity of every individual.” The first is an example of consequentialism (specifically, utilitarianism); the second, deontology.  Alone, these phrases don’t necessarily tell us much.  But if we understand the meaning behind them they can be used to guide how we live our life and act towards others.

The basic contents of ethics can be understand as being about two things: moral standards and moral units.  Moral units are what we are actually concerned with when we talk about what is right or wrong.  Consequentialism, for instance, is not interested primarily in individuals, but in the consequences of individuals’ actions.  The moral unit for consequentialism then is consequences: what state do consequences bring.  Consequentialism judges consequences and it is only because an individual brings about good or bad consequences that an individual can be judged morally good or bad.

Of course, the moral unit alone is not particularly useful.  Think about consequences for a moment.  There are an awful lot of different consequences.  We need to know what makes a consequence good and a consequence bad in order to make a moral judgment.  This is where moral standards come in.  Moral standards are the measure by which we determine if a moral unit is good or bad.  Utilitarianism, a form of consequentialism, defines a good consequence as one that creates the greatest amount of pleasure for the greatest number of people.  With a moral standard articulated, we can now look at individual examples of consequences and determine if an individual did right or wrong.

Consider this example: an individual has an opportunity to give money to charity.  The general consensus seems to be that it would be morally right for the individual to actually donate to the charity.  With our moral standard and moral unit in place, consequentialism can explain why we think that: giving money to charity would create more pleasure for more people than not giving to charity.  Likewise, we can explain why robbing someone might be wrong as well because it decreases the amount of pleasure in the world.

Different moral philosophies take different moral units and standards (although sometimes the difference is very nuanced).  Deontology is based on duties–there are set duties that you should always do, like refrain from killing (to take an easy example).  Importantly, this means that it is not the outcome of any particular action that matters.  In other words, deontology is not concerned with what state the consequences of an action bring into being.  Deontology has a different moral unit than consequentialism.  Deontology instead values intention.  In short, this means that if an individual intends to fulfill a duty and acts with the intention of fulfilling a duty, then that person acted morally, i.e. did the right thing, regardless of whether the action succeeds or not.  In this case, if a careful driver sets out on the way home, but partway there a child runs out into the street, is hit by the driver’s car, and is killed, then the driver did nothing morally wrong because the driver did not intend to kill the child.  Rather, the driver intended to safely drive home.  According to deontology because the driver did not have the intention to kill the child, the driver did nothing wrong.  In contrast, consequentialism would say that because the killing of the child decreased the happiness in the world the driver did something morally wrong.

And so on and so forth.

Environmental Ethics

Environmental ethics is related to traditional ethics in two basic ways: the extension of traditional ethics to non-human beings and the creation of new ethical standards and units derived from the contemplation of nature.

The first option (extension) works by taking an existing ethical theory and expanding it to include things like non-human animals.  This is the most common move in environmental ethics.  The first reading in the Animal Rights and Liberation unit, by Peter Singer, uses this strategy to argue that utilitarianism (remember, a form of consequentialism) should take into account the pleasure and pain of non-human animals.  In the case of consequentialism, extension is fairly straightforward.  If what matters is how much pleasure or pain is caused by an action, then the debate is about whose pain or pleasure matters.  In traditional consequentialism only human pain or pleasure matters, but it is not clear why this should be the case.

Likewise, deontology is a set of duties and these duties can be extended to nature.  Extension, however, is more difficult for deontology.  Depending on the version of deontology, these duties are produced from some kind of rule or are intuitive and innate.  Kantian deontology (named after the originator, Immanuel Kant) is the default example for rule-based duties.  It starts from this rule: never use others as a mere tool, but as beings capable of deciding their own goals.  To never lie would then be a duty of any Kantian.  The prime example of the “innate” model of duties is Rossian deontology (named after W. D. Ross), which posited a collection of duties that we intuitively knew.  Ross believed that any conflict between these duties would also be resolved intuitively, as out sense of morals was innate.  After yesterday’s lecture, I hope you are wary of ideas that present morality as assuredly objectively true.  If the reasons for something being moral cannot be given, there can be no intersubjective checking.

Taking Kantian deontology as our base, we would have to determine what makes a being worthy of moral consideration.  The guide is found in the second half of the rule: “beings capable of deciding their own goals.”  If we take this in a broad sense (Kant wouldn’t have), it seems that there are many animals that would meet this standard and thus would be worthy of moral consideration.  Notice, however, that both consequentialist and deontological justifications can give moral status to some animals, but not plants or land.  This brings us to the second way traditional ethics and environmental ethics collide.

Clare Palmer talks about two distinctions that are important in environmental ethics.  These are anthropocentric/non-anthropocentric and instrumental/intrinsic value.

Anthropocentrism is the view that human beings (or human-like beings) are the central feature of the world.  The criticism some forms of environmental ethics throw at traditional ethics is that it takes just such a position: humans are the only beings with moral status.  The arguments above for the moral status of some parts of nature (from both consequentialism and deontology) are anthropocentric arguments.  They take a feature considered important in human beings (feeling pain and pleasure or being capable of goal-based behavior), mark it as universally important, and grant moral status when beings other than humans share this feature.  The critique of this is that there may be things that are important other than human-centered features.  For instance, is the ability to decompose into extremely fertile soil something that is good?  How about the ability to smell at a great distance?  Do these things make a moral difference?

For consequentialism all value is instrumental, meaning the value of anything comes because it is good for something else.  In the case of consequentialism, any action is valuable only because it increases pleasure or decreases pain.  Likewise, in traditional Kantian deontology, being able to form your own goals is intrinsically valuable, but everything else only has value because it is a goal produced by the right kind of being or can help in achieving one of those goals.  In other words, only the ability to make goals is valuable simply because it exists–its value is inherent and basic.  All other things only have value because they can be used to achieve those goals–as an instrument.

Just as some environmental ethics critique traditional ethics for being too human-centered, some (in a related way) critique traditional ethics for taking only humans to be capable of intrinsic value.  Notice again that consequentialism and deontology make features that humans traditionally have (the ability to feel pain/pleasure; the ability to make goals) and give them intrinsic value.   Looked at this way, it is clear that anthropomorphism and intrinsic value are often in bed together.  The forms of environmental ethics that critique traditional ethics call for us to look for new sources of value or to recognize things independent of humanity as having intrinsic value.

Pause to Consider:

  • What is a moral standard and why is it important to ethical reasoning?
  • What is a moral unit?
  • What makes deontology and consequentialism different from one another?
  • Why is intrinsic value often closely connected to anthropocentrism?
  • Why would all things be considered instrumentally valuable for consequentialism?

Writing Prompt

Purpose:  If, as yesterday’s lecture discussed, ethics is primarily intersubjective, then the main means of doing ethics will be collaboration–either in action or discussion.  Since we’re rather limited in what action we can do by this being an online course (and funded by the state–whatever you do, don’t sabotage industrial machinery!  It’ll just come back to me ;)), we’re going to focus on discussion.  This lecture and reading provides us with some of the tools.  In this assignment, you will engage with the nitty-gritty of another student’s first post using the concepts of moral standards, moral units, anthropocentrism, and intrinsic and instrumental value.

Word Count: The best posts will be around 500-800 words, although (one more time) length is less important than doing a good job on the assignment.

Before Writing

With (hopefully) a new eye for the nuance of moral reasoning after yesterday’s prompt, take the time to browse through the blogroll to the right and read the introductory posts from other students.  If you haven’t read them all before, this might be a good time to look at some that you hadn’t seen and get better acquainted with other students.  Or, perhaps, one that you already read that won’t leave your head.  Either way, choose one post from the first prompt and read it carefully with an eye towards pulling out the reasons the writer gives for taking the position against the chosen sentence that they do.

Look for these details as you read:

  1. What sentence did the other student choose from Prompt 01?
  2. Can you figure out why the other student agreed or disagreed with the sentence?  In other words, what moral standard are they using to judge?  If you can tell, do you think using that moral standard works?  If you can’t, what moral standard you think would best support the other student’s position?  Please note that the moral standard doesn’t have to be just the two in the lecture above.  The real question is: by what standard at all is the student making a judgment about the sentence?  Even if you agree with the student’s conclusion, you may disagree with the reasons (just as you can agree with part of the sentences from that first prompt).  How will you know if you really agree unless you know why you are agreeing?
  3. Is it clear what moral unit they are using?  If not, can you make a guess?
  4. Although they most likely didn’t mention it explicitly, is the student making use of the concepts of instrumental or intrinsic value in their judgment about the sentence?  For example: if you could show that something had intrinsic value, do you think it would cause the other student to change their mind?
  5. What about anthropocentrism?  Would you say that the other student is using this in their argument?  Do you think this is a problem?
  6. Do you think the student’s life to this point has influenced the kinds of moral standards, units, and concepts the student had used?


Think about how all these different details are related to one another and write a post that responds to the other student.

Start by giving a very brief description of what the other student said (basically, what position they took).  Then move on to talking about why they took that position, what reasons you see (explicit or implicit) for taking that position, and why you agree or disagree with what the other student said.  Keep this in mind: One of the most important rules when responding to another person’s position (and I regret to say we don’t see it practiced nearly enough) is the principle of charity: you should try to represent the other person’s position as strongly as possible even if you disagree with it.   This ensures that you are thinking through fully what they other person is saying and your responses are also as strong as they can be.

Please: Make sure to link to the post you are responding to in the beginning of your response.

There’s a sample selection below, but remember: You are not done when you are done with this prompt, you also have to write exam questions for the practice exam from Unit 1!


Here is a selection from a response to this prompt:

. . . More importantly, it looks like (it’s not entirely clear) that he is saying that any kind of life is intrinsically valuable.   A tree has value because it is alive, while a rock doesn’t because it is inanimate.  So a forest isn’t simply valuable because human beings appreciate it, but because it is alive full stop.

Maybe life is intrinsically valuable.  However, this doesn’t mean that forests should be preserved for that reason.  There are plenty of times when people make the judgment that something is more valuable than life.  The death penalty and war are the first things that come to mind.  Some people think that justice or national interest are more important than life.  But if that’s the case, there has to be a better reason to preserve forests than life itself.  I think human appreciation is a perfectly good reason because . . . .

Note: If you have questions about the rules of grammar, check out Grammar Girl, which does an excellent job of dealing with word usage, punctuation, etc.

Exam Questions

At the end of each unit, every student will make up some exam questions on the material from that unit. You will be assigned to write a certain “points” worth of questions–different complexity questions being worth a different number of points. For this assignment, write four points worth of questions.  For extra credit (+ a letter grade to the lowest writing prompt assignment): Write eight points worth of questions of B-quality or higher.

The full instructions for these assignments are here.

When you are finished, email (do not post) the questions to the instructor.

To Do

  1. Read: Palmer: An Overview of Environmental Ethics [10-35]
  2. Post: Prompt 03: Relationship of Ethics and Environmental Ethics | Due 1:00 PM EST
  3. Comment: On at least 5 posts by other students | 1st Due 8:00 PM EST | All Due Jan 13, 8:00 AM EST
  4. Comment: On Lecture 03 | Due Noon EST
  5. Email: Exam Questions to instructor.
  6. Read: Summary of Learning Paths
  7. Email: Preference of Learning Path (see Summary) to instructor | Due 3:00 pm EST

49 Responses to Lecture 03/Prompt 03: Relationship of Ethics and Environmental Ethics

  1. avatar Allie says:

    I think I subscribe to both moral units simultaneously. Can that happen? In my personal view of right and wrong it’s not just consequences or intentions that matter but both. Like if a driver were to hit a child without meaning to and the child died the driver wouldn’t be as morally wrong as if he gunned the engine when he saw the kid but is still partially in the wrong because he did not leave enough stopping space, pay careful enough attention, etc.

    • avatar Brandon says:

      Short answer: Yes

      Long answer: It might better to consider this as two separate moral actions: the one on the part of the driver and the other on the part of society. So, the consequences are bad and thus morally wrong. But it is better for society to be lenient if a person can show they did not intend to kill. In this interpretation the reasoning is consequentialist. We want people to recognize the killing is wrong by showing remorse, but showing remorse might mediate the wrong.

      Of course, I introduced a distinction between morality and the morality of law (what society did), so this might not be entirely satisfying.

  2. avatar Asa says:

    How would an extreme Utilitarianist explain the situation where one person robs another? How would they argue that the one robbing another person is morally wrong? If it involves the amount of pleasure for the greatest amount of people, shouldn’t the robber’s pleasure be accounted for as well? Shouldn’t the robber’s pleasure and robbee’s displeasure cancel one another out?

    • avatar Brandon says:

      You’ve just pointed out one of the problems with consequentialism: it can approve things that most people tend to see as intuitively wrong.

      For instance, suppose that one of the most popular shows on TV is a game where the contestants square off against each other and kill one another (the gladiator match brought up to date). Suppose these contestants are forced to fight. If 100 people suffer and die every season, how many people would have to take pleasure in their pain for it to become morally right according to consequentialism? Basic consequentialism would have to have a point where the pleasure taken by the viewers would outweigh the pain caused to the contestants.

  3. avatar Anonymous says:

    I have several questions: What determines certain people to fall into certain ethics? Why would someone anthropomorphize? Does it give comfort to an individual to believe that all objects, whether living or not, possessing of a central nervous system or not, can connect on the same emotional level? How do we regard cases in which we actually do not know the emotional capabilities of the object we are anthropomorphizing? Masaru Emoto conducted iconic experiments where he would show different emotions to water droplets during the droplets formation to crystals. When positive emotions or music was used, the droplets formed beautiful crystals. When negative emotions were conveyed (hate, anger, fear) the droplets took on a grotesque, unsightly crystal structure.
    We can use science to justify anthropomorphism it seems.

    • avatar Brandon says:

      The answer to the first question is that it is an extremely complex mixture of genetics, upbringing, luck, and choice.

      The second question is actually off base (and I see why, I actually said anthropomorphism in the last paragraph). The key term is anthropocentrism, which is different. Ethics is not based on giving human characteristics to objects or other kinds of beings (although it can be), but thinking that human-like characteristics are all that matters.

      As to Masaru Emoto . . . well, he’s not really a scientist, so . . . 😉

  4. avatar Emily says:

    How do we decide which animals are “beings capable of deciding their own goals”? Which animals are excluded from the group allowed moral consideration according to Kantian deontologists?

  5. avatar Preet says:

    Can intrinsic value only be placed on something living? I feel like inanimate objects can only have instrumental value. Or does it really depend on how you look at things?

    • avatar Preet says:

      Also can something be both intrinsically and instrumentally valuable?

      • avatar Brandon says:

        Yes. For instance, a Kantian deontologist would consider a human both instrumentally and intrinsically valuable. What is wrong is treating a human as if he is only instrumentally valuable.

        For instance, if I ask you to give me money to buy and iPod and I tell you I have no intention to pay you back, I am using you instrumentally (to get the iPod) and treating you as having intrinsic value by leaving the decision of giving me the money up to you.

        If, on the other hand, I lied and asked for money, told you I would pay you back even though I knew I wouldn’t, then I am using you only as an instrument by taking away your ability to decide for yourself.

    • avatar Brandon says:

      It can very much depend, although I admit that it is harder to see how something inanimate can have intrinsic value. We’ll talk a little about that in the next unit.

  6. avatar Thomas M. says:

    I am confused in the debate between consequentialism and deontology, especially in regards to the example of the driver and the child he hits. Does consequentialism only deal with the perspective of one individual? For example, can we say that it was not morally reprehensible because it was not a consequence of the driver going home, but the child running into the street? Also, can it be a combination of deontology and consequentialism, or are we only thinking in theoretical absolutes? (Although it wasn’t the intention of the driver to hit the child, it was a consequence of his momentary lack of attention.)

    • avatar Brandon says:

      Consequences are judged by what outcome (state of affairs) they cause: in this case creation of unhappiness. So it doesn’t matter if the consequence was the outcome of the driving or the running into the street. Technically, you could say it was both their faults, but there is only one person left to hold morally responsible.

      Of course, there are much more complex versions of each version. For instance, there is a version of utilitarianism called rule utilitarianism that claims certain kinds of actions tend to create better consequences, so if you intend to act in the right way, then regardless of the actual consequences the action was right. So you can definitely get more complicated.

  7. I find Deontology to be a very interesting subject and I wish I had read Lecture 3 before taking the quiz yesterday because it relates very well to Carl’s scenario. I felt uncomfortable about Carl promising his mother to visit her grave every day but I didn’t have the knowledge base to understand why I felt the act he committed was immoral. I was not unsettled by his lying to keep peace of mind but by the fact that he made a promise to his mother with intentions of not following through. Now, knowing about Deontology, I can argue that his actions were immoral because he had no intention of following through. Also, I am slightly confused about Kantian Deontology. How do we determine if an animal can set goals causing it to have intrinsic value? (I may be taking the definition of setting goals a bit too literally, I would like to know if I am : p). Also, don’t all animals have the goal of surviving and reproducing or is this an instinct of the particular animal, and if instinct sets the goals of the animal, can instinct then determine the animals’ intrinsic value?

    • avatar Brandon says:

      You’re basically right: Kant would say that instinct is not the same as duties created by our rational nature. He had very specific kinds of goals in mind.

      It’s interesting that you say that you aren’t upset by Carl lying to keep his mother’s peace of mind, but are by his breaking a promise. But a Kantian would say that what was wrong here was that he lied about the promise in order to make his mother happy. In other words, he used his mother as a tool for her own happiness. But because information was withheld, she was not able to make that decision for herself, so she was only being used instrumentally.

      A consequentialist, on the other hand, might think it okay to lie to make someone happy.

  8. avatar Wilma Chen says:

    While reading this lecture, I was conflicted to whether I supported consequentialism or deontology when it came to evaluating morals. At first, I sided with deontology more because I believe that the morality of an action starts with a thought. In other words, I place my opinion on whether an action has morals before it has actually occurred. This stand goes along with how deontology values intention. It doesn’t matter whether an action has a good or bad consequence as long as it started with a good intention. However, I began thinking about how it is still important to consider the consequences of one’s actions. If people realized that their actions (such as dumping toxic waste into a body of water) had detrimental consequences, these actions would be immoral if they continued because their intentions are no longer good. From this, I have concluded that I agree with a combination of both moral units. My question for this lecture is if moral units also existed on a continuum? Are consequantialism and deontology considered as an extreme form of a moral unit and a combination of both (or other forms) exist in between?

    • avatar Brandon says:

      This comment starts to answer you questions.

      The problem with combining it is that ultimately you end up prioritizing one moral standard over the other–which do you think is really most important: creating pleasure or fulfilling duties? So, if someone intends to do something bad and causes something good, you might say that it would be better if they had meant to do it, but that what they did was still good. What that says is that we recognize that good intentions will tend to produce more actions that produce good consequences then accidental good action. But in that case, the intentions are instrumentally valuable.

  9. avatar Smalls says:

    Could it be argued that both deontology and consequentalism are both firmly rooted on the moral realism side of the epistemic boundary because both give an objective standard by which something can be determined to be moral or immoral? If so, is there a subjective aspect to either? Furthermore you discussed possible conflicts on what is deemed more when both are applied to the same situation in your car crash example, do these conflicts exist within the individual philosophies as well? For example could two people with conflicting goals under deontology both be considered moral?

    • avatar Brandon says:

      The Continuum: Yes, deontology and consequentialism both fall on the moral realist side of the continuum because they take certain things to be objectively moral. On the other hand, we could argue that we simply take certain things to be objective enough but leave them open to revision. So, I suppose that you could follow either but leave it open that your judgments could be revised.

      Conflicting Goals: Yes, you can have two people who have conflicting goals in deontology, but still treat each other with dignity (as having intrinsic value) and thus morally. Kant, himself, would say that we should be able to figure out which goal it is more moral to fulfill, but it’s a bit up in the air whether that’s true.

  10. avatar Sbranch says:

    I have been struggling recently with the idea of anthropocentrism without actually knowing it. I have recently thought about our treatment of the world, and generally the way that humans interact with the world. We take what we want and make considerations later. I think that for so long we have decided that we were the only ‘important’ living things on this earth because we have the power to modify it. However, in fact we are beginning to see that our effects on the world are not negligible. Only using the criteria of being able to feel pain and being able to follow through on goals seems to be a very backward way to thinking about our reactions with the environment

  11. avatar Cherieyw says:

    I am a firm believer in Anthropocentrism. This does not mean that I do not care about other organisms and maintaining the biodiversity of our planet. Rather, I strongly believe in putting human matters in the forefront of our concerns because nature should dictate us to perform actions that ensure our survival and maintaining a high quality fo living. I do believe that humans are the sole organisms on this planet capable of intellectual thought and deep moral understandings. Many people may attribute certain animal behavioral instincts to love but in my opinion only humans are capable of understanding such emotions. This is not to say that love does not exist between other organisms of the same species. Love can exist but for humans it is an intangible feeling that is different between every unique pair of people.

  12. avatar Kirsten T says:

    I found it interesting how humans classify what is worthy of feeling pain or having value. Are plants not included simply because they are less complicated than other forms of life? They don’t have a brain, can’t feel pain, so they are less valuable in a sense than say cows or dogs. I also found it interesting that humans extend human values to non-human beings. For instance, the ASPCA is a police enforced group that protects against the cruelty of animals. Looking at this from an anthropocentric view these ASPCA agents take the idea that if humans can feel pain when neglected, than animals can too and thus these animals have moral value and need protecting. I support everything they stand for, and I value the protection of neglected animals and their abusers brought to justice. Just because a dog can’t do all the things a human can do, doesn’t mean that his life is less valuable than a humans and can therefore be abused and neglected. Humanity has always had a type of classification system for judging who or what could be given human moral characteristics or who should not. For example savage people were considered to be sub-human because of their primitive lifestyle compared to “civilized” beings. I find it interesting that even though these are both human populations, the civilized group did not value the moral capabilities of the primitive group.

    • avatar Brandon says:

      I think rephrasing your statement “if humans can feel pain when neglected, than animals can too and thus these animals have moral value and need protecting” to “Humans feel pain and this is morally relevant; thus, if another being feels pain, this is also morally relevant.”

      If we rephrase it this way, we can see what was going on with supposed “savages:” what was being valued was much more than an ability to feel pain. It was an ability to display certain levels (and specific ways) of technological and cultural development.

  13. avatar Kellyn says:

    I’m not sure I understand the two differences between the two types of deontology mentioned in lecture: Kantian and Rossian. Is Kantian deontology the rule-based duties we must follow? Rossian the intrinsic and innate duties? I’m also confused about the last two questions to consider:

    • Why is intrinsic value often closely connected to anthropocentrism?
    o Intrinsic (meaning to know automatically) value is often closely connected to anthropocentrism (the view that human beings (or human-like beings) are the central feature of the world) because it says that humans are the only beings with moral status, so in order to grant moral status to another creature they must share an feature deemed important to humans and decide that that feature is universally important. (?)
    • Why would all things be considered instrumentally valuable for consequentialism?
    o All things would be considered instrumentally valuable for consequentialism (meaning the value of anything comes because it is good for something else) because only the ability to make goals is valuable—because it is inherent to all humans. As a result, all things have value because they can be used to achieve goals and therefore result in a consequence to increase happiness or decrease it. (?)

    • avatar Kellyn says:

      Another question: are examples of moral standards consequentialism and deontology? Or are they just different types of ethical thought.

      • avatar Brandon says:

        They are different types of ethical thought.

        An example of a moral standard would be “produces pleasure=morally right.” This is the standard of utilitarianism (a form of consequentialism).

    • avatar Brandon says:

      Kantian deontology has a rule for producing duties (called the categorical imperative). Rossian deontology thinks that we innately know what duties we have and how to resolve conflicts between these duties. In other words, Kant’s form produces duties from a single rule and Ross’s form simply has a list of standard duties (not produced from a single source).

      Your answer to the first question is correct.

      The second however is off: consequentialism does not value goal-producing behavior for itself. The only thing it values is pleasure. Thus, all things are merely instrumental to producing a state of pleasure (or, at least, the absence of pain).

  14. avatar Cindy says:

    For Rossian deontology, what does he mean by conflicts in duties resolve themselves intuitively? I understand that our own sense of morale will come into play, but does this mean that the outcome or the intentions are subjective? Because everyone has their own set of morals that could mean several different outcomes due to several different intentions.

    • avatar Brandon says:

      Ross thinks the set of duties is universal. Additionally, these duties (called prima facie duties) hold automatically except when there is a conflict between two of the duties. Then we know intuitively which is more important in the circumstances. So, keeping promises is a duty, as is helping others. If you promised to meet a friend, but on the way see a car accident, you know intuitively that it is right to break the promise to help victims of the car accident.

  15. avatar N.Marshall says:

    I am still confused on the difference between instrumental value and intrinsically valuable. Is instrumental value simply anything that increases pleasure or decreases pain? How does this differ from instrumental value?

    • avatar Dom says:

      Intrinsically valuable is the inherent ability to make goals and it is not different from instrumental value as much as it is related to it. I think the relation is that being able to make goals matters because it determines what tools you will use and how you will use them to achieve your goals while simultaneously increasing or decreasing plain and pleasure.

      • avatar Brandon says:

        We need to pull apart the different ways deontology and consequentialism deal with intrinsic and instrumental value. Something that has intrinsic value is simple valuable for existing (it is inherently valuable). Something that has instrumental value is only valuable because it causes something else.

        For consequentialism, only a state of pleasure is intrinsically valuable. Everything else only has (instrumental) value because it causes a state of pleasure.

        For deontology, what is intrinsically valuable are beings capable of goal-oriented behavior. Anything that contributes to achieving those goals is instrumental.

        So, for a consequentialist things with instrumental value necessarily are things that increase pleasure and decrease pain, but for a deontologist things with instrumental value simply need to help fulfill a goal.

  16. avatar Dom says:

    Where is the Palmer reading?

  17. avatar Andrea says:

    I agree with the Deontological idea that “We must respect the natural dignity of every individual” and the Consequentialist idea that “We must create happiness for the greatest number”, but how can we do both?
    It is certainly important to consider both intent and the consequences of an individuals actions. In terms of enviromental ethics, I understand finding the relatedness of non-human beings and grant it moral status. What do we do when the relatedness is not as easily seen? Plants and land are essential to the life of humans as well as everything below us in the food chain. Is moral status of all life an absolute requirement to determine the ethical practices used by humans?

    • avatar Dom says:

      I think determining the oral status of all life is not as important as evaluating the consequences of our actions and how that might impede their intrinsic ability to make a goal, i.e. if that ability exists. But I think applying a balance of deontology and consequentialism is ideal.

    • avatar Dom says:

      where can I find the Palmer reading?

    • avatar Brandon says:

      There is definitely a question of whether respecting dignity of every individual and creating happiness for the greatest number are mutual compatible. Kant thought yes, but only once all of us were actually treating each other only as intrinsically valuable. He also thought that happiness would not be our goal, but merely a consequence of harmony in the world. He thinks that since we do just use other people for our own ends, good people deserve to be happy, but often are not.

      The big question in environmental ethics is whether things like plants and land are valuable in themselves (intrinsically) or only because they contribute to human good. In other words, we can care for and treat well things like trees without granting them moral status–because they are only taken care of because of the moral status of humans.

  18. avatar Dom says:

    If deontology is involved in developing environmental ethics, then why are decisions made that intentionally exploit individuals and use them as tools? Is this just a byproduct or a severe oversight in the environmental policies of companies?

    • avatar Brandon says:

      In a capitalist society, the ultimate goal is profit. If the Marxist critique is right, then profit can only be created by exploiting other people; i.e. using them as tools. Thus, capitalist companies (and are there any other kinds) necessarily will not follow a deontological viewpoint, but a consequentialism one that views production of profit as the ultimate state to be reached.

  19. What does B-quality or higher mean in reference to the exam questions?

    • avatar Brandon says:

      It means that you did the full amount of questions required (whether that was two two point questions or one four, for instance) and that you did the kind of question you identified. The main weakness in a B-quality exam question will be the answer key: it might not quite give the right answer, but mostly will.

  20. I have to say it’s the first time I see the term environmental ethics. According to this definition plants aren’t worthy of moral consideration. Does that mean we should eradicate them? I think we can even more broaden the definition of environmental morality to include every living thing.

    • avatar Brandon says:

      Of course thinking that they don’t have moral status doesn’t mean we should eliminate them, it just means that we have to have another reason not to or that there is no problem with doing so.

      As you’ll see in the Ecological Ethics section, the definition can definitely be expanded.

  21. avatar Leah says:

    In my experience from taking other philosophy classes I never realized how much of decision making comes from a consequentialist view (utilitarianism) as well as one of a deontological view. I fully understand the differences and although they are completely different why is it that I find it so common that my thought process behind decisions is fed by both?

    • avatar Brandon says:

      Because we’re not entirely consistent. We definitely do both. There are somethings that we think should never be broken (this is where the concept of human rights comes from) and others that are more relative (white lies, for instance). Whether we should be using both is another question . . .

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