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Philosophy 302: Ethics
Case Study: Internal Moral Standards (Solution)

Abstract:  One means of solving the case study is offered, and some general conclusions about the difference between moral standards and ethical standards is illustrated.

Most persons do not have much difficulty assessing which situations are better or worse than others. The fact that we can set up a hierarchy of values indicates we have an internal moral standard of some sort.

To get an idea of this hierarchy of values, we will do the following analysis:

(1)  Separate the emotive appeals and establish a rule against the activity.
(2)  Then, generalize to the general category of action.
3)  Thereby, when looking at the categories, we can see that which we tend to value most deeply.

The fact that different persons differ on their values indicates differences in temperament, upbringing, experience, and thought.

Moral Rule

General Category

[A] One should not use one's position to derive unscrupulously profit or advantage

Money, property

[B] One should immediately help those who are seriously hurt.

Survival

[C] Class prejudice and repression of civil liberty should not be tolerated

Freedom, liberty

[D] Religious leaders should not condone war.

Religion

[E] The political community should not take precedence over one's family.

Politics, family

 Generalizations made by a previous class divided in three groups are shown as follows (rated from worst to best):

Group I

Group II

Group III

Survival

Survival

Survival

Religion

Freedom

Religion

Freedom

Religion

Property

Politics

Property

Freedom

Property

Politics

Politics

Would the fact that all groups agree that the Survival situation is the worst indicate anything about a universal standard? Would data of this kind be relevant to the question of whether a universal ethical standard can be formulated?


Recommended Sources

Ethical Relativism: The objections to Ethical Relativism are ourlined.

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