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Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Mon, 22nd Dec '08 10:53 PM


Are there problems intellectually in the area of ethics? As far as I understand it, there is no way to go from the “is” to the “ought” in the area of ethics right now, from what is to what should be, without positing some kind of religious view ( Is this the case?? As the title of the university web page implies, this makes it difficult for people to independently know their right from their wrong, in the epistemological sense of the word.

As a non-religious person, this kind of problem would bother me, naturally. One religious philosopher, who has talked about the problem at some length, has described the current intellectual climate we are living in light of this view. Former Harvard president Derek Bok is quoted as saying, “The principle aim of the (modern ethics) course is not to impart ‘right answers’, but to make the student more perceptive in detecting ethical problems when they arise, better acquainted with the best moral thought that has accumulated through the ages, and more equipped to reason about the ethical issues they will face.” (Willard, 1998) Right "answers" is not even an objective. Could this perhaps be because of an intellectual suspicion that “right answers” in the area of ethics cannot at this point really be known?

“There is now no recognized moral knowledge upon which projects of fostering moral development could be based…..If a student wrote on a test that 7 times 5 equals 32……(they would be marked down because) these cases concern matters that-quibbles aside-are regarded as known” (Willard,1998) But this is not the case with ethics.

This is what I’ve generally found as student in ethics courses. As a student at the University of Montana, I was graded on whether I understood the material rather than whether my answers happened to be right or wrong. My current thesis of course, not being an expert, is that it is because they don’t think we can know the answers, and I don’t think it’s just an issue of honoring diversity here. I believe I would’ve been graded differently had they thought “right” answers in ethics could be known, quibbles aside.

Is this view correct, that without positing a religious view there really is no way of "knowing" what the right answers are?? No way to go from the "is" to the "ought"? The people I have asked don't seem to know.....Just curious, thanks ahead of time.

Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Fri, 2nd Jan '09 12:23 PM

Lol, I guess nobody knows, I'll figure it out eventually. Sorry about the piecemeal post, I was on my way out the door.....

Davidf  (Level: 102.1 - Posts: 746)
Mon, 5th Jan '09 10:24 AM

Tough one, ethics are entirely subjective, which of course doesn't help if you are presenting an academic piece. I will think about this Jeremy and get back to you

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