What is meant by objectivism? What is meant by relativism? What does it mean to say that a theory is normative?

Words: 873
Pages: 4
Subject: Philosophy

Critical Response Paper #2

PHIL 1040 – Introduction to Ethics

Topic: Normative Ethics: Shafer-Landau, Living Ethics, Chapters 5, 6, 8, and 9 and other relevant readings on ethical egoism, relativism, and error in Chapter 3.

Be sure to carefully read the Critical Response Paper Guidelines posted to the ‘Contents’ folder under the ‘Course Information’ tab of eLearn before attempting and submitting the assignment.

The critical response paper must be posted to eLearn Dropbox . The paper is worth a possible total of 100 points.

Critical Response Paper Readings

In Critical Response Paper #2, you are asked to reflect on the readings in Shafer-Landau, Living Ethics, Chapters 5, 6, 8 and 9 on the first four normative theories in ethics – consequentialism, Kantian ethics, natural law, and prima facie duties. You are also encouraged to interact with other relevant readings we’ve done up to this point such as the insights drawn from the RSL readings in Chapter 3.

Critical Response Paper Question

Shafer-Landau argues in Chapters 5, 6, 8 and 9 of Living Ethics that there are various attempts among moral philosophers to offer and defend a normative approach to ethics. What does it mean to say that an approach to ethics is normative? According to the readings, what is the essential thing a moral philosopher attempting to do in setting forth an ethical theory? (Think about what philosophers do in general and try to apply this to the field of ethics.) Trace through the arguments of the four normative theories and take about two sentences to briefly summarize each approach.

Next, identify at least one of the major objections each ethical theory or approach in question must satisfactorily answer if it is to be successful. What objection do you think is the most damaging to the ethical approach in question? Offer good philosophical arguments for your position. Which ethical approach, given its tensions, objections, and aims, has the most promise of being a defensible position? Again, support your conclusion with good reasons and arguments.

Finally, what normative theory best identifies your approach to ethics? Why? Keep in mind the difference between ethics and morality. Morality speaks to the kinds of behaviors you find acceptable and unacceptable. Ethics speaks to the evidential reasons and arguments for why you subscribe to a particular theory. Consequently, a critical response is not about how you feel but how you argue your position from a philosophical perspective.

The design behind this assignment is to allow you to showcase your understanding of the basic concepts inherent to a philosophical discussion of normative ethics.

Points for Consideration

You will notice that a philosophical exercise such as this is comprised of a mixture of objective answers and debatable points of view. In other words, you must first have a correct conceptual understanding of the normative approaches in question before you can offer a substantive critical analysis. No one is required to agree with your critical analysis, and your grade is not based on whether you are deemed right or wrong. You grade is based on your ability to reflect good philosophical reasoning, the way you’ve seen it presented in the readings.

Keep in mind that the purpose of a written assignment is to write. So, while there is a word count of 1200-1500 words, you are strongly encouraged to produce a paper of sufficient length to clearly and concisely cover the critical nuances necessary for a substantive discussion of the question.

Hints Along the Way

As all good philosophical arguments go, the conclusion is only as good as the premises from which it follows. If we reject the truth of the premises or premises, or if the premise is expressed as a definition we find inadequate or objectionable on good rational grounds, it’s difficult to make a rational defense for the conclusion. For example, what does it mean to say that morality is objective, that human reason discovers universal moral principles of morality, or that, through the use of human reason we can see whether certain moral theories, whether objective or subjective, suffer from various indefensible inconsistencies?

Be sure to carefully define your terms. What is meant by objectivism? What is meant by relativism? What does it mean to say that a theory is normative?

Is there such a thing as a universal moral intuition that can be used as the basis for objective moral truth?

Keep in mind that these are only points for consideration. I’m asking you to think about these questions as you work through your paper—that is, they are intended as a primer. A good deal of critical analysis is about asking the right kinds of questions and thinking through various implications.

The real value of the paper is to allow yourself to go through the process of reflective thinking. This means you’ll want to start sooner rather than later to allow yourself plenty of time to introspect on the ideas in question.

Don’t forget to provide generous (several) in-text citations as you go along. A superior paper, among other things, keeps a close hand on its sources. Academic integrity and responsibility involves documenting the concepts, ideas, expressions, and specific language to a given discussion. Always give credit where credit is due and showcase the quality of your response by directing your readers to the material with which you are interacting.