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PostSubject: FERRER Questions for the Third Exam   FERRER Questions for the Third Exam Icon_minitimeSun Mar 29, 2009 11:45 pm

1.Why is “freedom” (or the idea that we free) a fundamental requirement in/for morality? Do you see any “parallelism” between Kantian ethics and Existentialism with regards to the conception of freedom in each? Why or why not? What are the similarities or the differences?

2. After careful considerations of the various ethical theories/views we discussed, what “personal moral system or code” can you come up with and which you can adopt? Be sure to talk about the values, precepts/ideas, and other elements that should comprise this “personal moral system or code”. Include your conception of freedom and accountability in this given moral system and your view of what it means to be a moral individual.
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Ferrer JC

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PostSubject: ANSWER TO BOTH QUESTIONS   FERRER Questions for the Third Exam Icon_minitimeMon Mar 30, 2009 9:58 pm

Morality is said to presuppose freedom. Although most would argue that these two concepts are, somehow, incompatible. The former pertains to a standard concerned with rightness or wrongness of individuals and actions, the latter, on the other hand, is seen as the power to act without restraints. Therefore, freedom is said to contradict with morality. However, in this context, the concept of freedom is seen in an extremist sense, wherein individuals can just do as they please. In reality, freedom is not strictly about exercising ones’ rights and doing whatever we would like to do, freedom is also about responsibility. No society is completely free because if it were, we would be living under anarchic conditions.

Kantian Ethics and Existentialism can further illustrate the argument. According to Rosseau, freedom does not consist in being bound by no law, but by laws that are in one’s own making. As a rough example, a state is considered free only if its citizens are bound by the laws that they collectively came up with. These laws then, are expressions of the wills of the citizens and the source of state authority lies not in external factors, but the internal free wills of its citizens. Kant’s view of morality is rooted in the concept of autonomy. Similar to the example above, a person is only free if he or she is bound by his or her own will and not the will of others. This is where the Divine Command Theory is usually criticized. According to the Divine Command Theory, an action is right if and only if it conforms to the commandments of God. If we look at this theory closely, morality then is only a matter of obedience— something must be done because it is in the first place, the right thing to do, not because someone orders us to do so.

Existentialism does not differ from Kant’s concept of autonomy/freedom. But before delving into that, Kant’s concept of freedom requires further attention. Kant’s view of autonomy is based on the categorical imperative, wherein we should act in such a way that we can will the maxim of our action a universal law. Kant posits, in his formula of autonomy, that we must act as though we were legislating for the “kingdom of ends”. This kingdom shows us the dual nature of man—we are the ones who formulate the laws, but we are also subject to these laws. In comparison, free will is also dual in nature, it is subject to moral law and it is a law unto itself. In addition, his concept of autonomy suggests that we are not at the mercy of circumstances, it is up to us to act based on our rationality.

The existentialist view of freedom on the other hand, is founded on the principle that “existence precedes essence”. This means that man is nothing else but what he makes of himself. Based on this view, man then, is free. To further explain, most of us always act in terms of what existentialists call, “bad faith”. For example, an athlete suffers from a serious injury that leads to the paralysis of his or her legs. Taking an existentialist point of view, if the person throws his or her life away because of the injury, then he or she is acting out of bad faith. We deceive ourselves and act as if we are not free—that we are shackled and determined by our nature, when in fact we have the ability to flourish. Although the circumstances are defined in terms of external factors, based on this view, in order for us and our morality to flourish, we must be able to make the most out of these circumstances in such a way that would help us realize our potentials. This is where the Kantian view and existentialist view of freedom are in unison.

Before I took up this class, I was a strict follower of the Divine Command Theory. But because of the discussions, I came to realize and agree with the criticism that morality is not a matter of obedience, but a matter of choice. It is up to us what path we take. Based on the ethical theories we have discussed in class, I don’t think I can follow just one theory. My personal moral system/code is comprised of several ethical theories/views: Kant’s concept of autonomy and the categorical imperative, a little bit of utilitarianism, the existentialist notion of freedom, and MacIntyre’s ethics.

My view of freedom and responsibility is similar to the discussion to my answer in the first question. As for the bulk of my personal moral code, Kant suggests that we should not be at the mercy of bad situations. Existentialists also believe that we have the ability to define ourselves based on the circumstances we find ourselves in. These two views put forward the value of empowerment—that the essence of our being is not contingent upon one’s “nature”, but in what we make ourselves to be. The categorical imperative of Kant states that we should act in such a way that we can will the maxim of our act a universal law. This view strengthens his concept of autonomy and freedom. In addition, I believe that the morality of actions is based on our actions, particularly, our motives behind the action. Extensive assessment of the situation must be done before I can come up with a decision (this is also what it means for me to be autonomous). Taking a part of utilitarianism, I must be able to assess not only my motives, but also the repercussions of such motives. In other words, these two must be harmonious. MacIntyre’s ethics focuses on the narrative quest. Under his view, the good of man is the continuous search for the good of man or a meaningful life. Although his argument seems circular, it completely makes sense to me. The narrative quest suggests that we must make this search an essential part of our life that will enable us to maintain our character’s integrity. We cannot limit this search in just one phase of our lives. Rather, this search must be done in the course of our existence.
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