"Moral Wisdom Seems to Be as Little Connected to Knowledge of Ethical Theory as Playing Good Tennis Is to Knowledge of Physics" (Emrys Westacott). to What Extent Should Our Actions Be Guided by Our Theories in Ethics and Elsewhere?

Topics: Morality, Ethics, Immanuel Kant Pages: 5 (1725 words) Published: August 22, 2012
"Moral wisdom seems to be as little connected to knowledge of ethical theory as playing good tennis is to knowledge of physics" (Emrys Westacott). To what extent should our actions be guided by our theories in ethics and elsewhere?

The question is with regards to whether moral reasoning is more accurate compared to the -theory-based knowledge of science. I think that ethical theory should be used for our moral conduct while the sciences should be used in other areas of knowledge instead.

Thus, this essay will discuss on to whether our actions should be guided by our theories in ethics. Moral reasoning is expecting people justifying their value-judgements and support them with reasons. However, the limitation of the ethical theory is that we expect people to be consistent in their moral judgements just as we expect them to be consistent in their judgements in other areas of knowledge. Some people might not be consistent and this is complicated by the fact that they might not only apply moral rules inconsistently, but also hold inconsistent principles. To illustrate the plausibility of the ethnic thesis, let us take a look at one such thought experiment-trolley problem:

"A trolley (i.e. in British English a train) is running out of control down a track. In its path are five people who have been tied to the track by a mad philosopher. Fortunately, you could flip a switch, which will lead the trolley down a different track to safety. Unfortunately, there is a single person tied to that track. Should you flip the switch or do nothing?"

A utilitarian view asserts that it is obligatory to flip the switch. According to simple utilitarianism, flipping the switch would be not only permissible, but, morally speaking, the better option (the other option being no action at all). An alternate viewpoint is that since moral wrongs are already in place in the situation, flipping the switch constitutes a participation in the moral wrong, making one partially responsible for the death when otherwise the mad philosopher would be the sole culprit. An opponent of action may also point to the incommensurability of human lives. Under some interpretations of moral obligation, simply being present in this situation and being able to influence its outcome constitutes an obligation to participate. If this were the case, then deciding to do nothing would be considered an immoral act if one values five lives more than one. However, in another variant, the irrationality of human ethics is explored when the cost has a personal consequence. "As before, a trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You can flip a switch and divert the train to run one person over instead of five, but that person is your mother.

Would you flip the switch?"
Most people agree that they would not sacrifice their own mother to save five strangers. Hence, I believe that pure utilitarianism, in some cases, is not an accurate predictor of human psychology because in theory, utilitarianism gives a straightforward solution to the problem. A person should compare the consequences of allowing the trolley to kill five people with the consequences of killing one person and do whatever that ensures that the least tragedy and surely surely the death of one person is a lesser tragedy than the death of five, no matter how that death is brought about. Hence, this clearly shows that independent decisions can be made without reference to ethical theory. This is evident that moral intuitions might actually exist. However, there are myriad of ethical theories and this shows that what counts as appropriate, however, is a matter of degree, because as when an identical situation is being approached with various theories, the results may be extremely different; contradicting each other. Consider the following case:

"You are in hospital dying of an incurable disease. Your parents
come to visit you every day and weep at your bedside. They are
devastated by the...
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