+234 813 0686 500
+234 809 3423 853
info@grossarchive.com

AN APPRAISAL OF THE BASIS OF MORAL OBLIGATION

  • Type:Project
  • Chapters:4
  • Pages:120
  • Methodology:ANALYTIC AND LOGICAL METHOD
  • Reference:YES
  • Format:Microsoft Word
(Philosophy Project Topics & Materials)
AN APPRAISAL OF THE BASIS OF MORAL OBLIGATION

PROPOSAL
The subject matter of this essay is the philosophical problem of the foundation of moral obligation. On what foundation, if any, does morality lie? What or who grounds the rightness or wrongness of moral actions? These questions, though they appear trivial and innocuous have eluded permanent or satisfactory answers. They have eluded answers and solutions not because of lack of attempt but because the answers offered seem to have either made the problem more complicated by raising newer questions about the problem or the solutions themselves are not conclusive.
 Down the age, philosophers and scholars have written and argued about the problem from different perspectives. Some have argued that the basis of moral obligation is God, such that if God does not exist, there would be no binding moral obligation. This view is known as divine command theory. It has been argued in other quarters that one’s culture is the basis of moral obligation and this means morality becomes relative to culture. This is called cultural relativism.
 It is the task of this essay then, to give an appraisal of divine command theory and cultural relativism against the backdrop of the basis of moral obligation.
 Within this parameter, I shall present the divine command theory of William of Ockham and Philip Quinn, the cultural relativism of Protagoras and Richard Rorty, then give reasons why these systems are less plausible and thereafter, argue that rationality is the proper basis of moral obligation. It should be noted that the Duty Ethics of Immanuel Kant will be presented as one of the major source of moral obligation, though it is not within the scope of this essay to evaluate Kantian Ethics.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER ONE
GENERAL INTRODUCTION
1.1    Background of the Study…………………………………
1.2    The Statement of the Problem……………………………
1.3    Purpose of the Study……………………………………...
1.4    Significance of the Study………………………………...
1.5    Scope of the Study………………………………………..
1.6    Methodology………………………………………………
1.7    Literature Review…………………………………………
References……………………………………………...
CHAPTER TWO
THE CONCEPT OF ETHICS AND MORAL OBLIGATION
2.1    The Meaning of Ethics………………………………………
2.2    The Relationship between Ethics and Morality…………….
2.3    What is Morality?..................................................................
2.4    Why do we need Morality?…………………………………
2.5    What is Moral Obligation?………………………………….
References…………………………………………………..
CHAPTER THREE
SOME SOURCES OF MORAL OBLIGATION
3.2    The Divine Command Theory………………………………
3.2.1    William of Ockham…………………………………………
3.2.2    Philip Quinn………………………………………………...
3.3    Cultural Relativism…………………………………………
3.3.1    Protagoras…………………………………………………..
3.3.2    Richard Rorty………………………………………………
3.4    Kant’s Duty Ethics................................................................
References………………………………………………….

CHAPTER FOUR
EVALUATION
4.1    The Divine Command Theory………………………………
4.1.1    Evaluation of the Divine Command Theory of William of Ockham………………………
4.1.2    Evaluation of the Divine Command Theory of Philip Quinn………………………………
4.2    Cultural Relativism………………………………………………………………………
4.2.1    Evaluation of the Cultural Relativism of Protagoras………………………………………
4.2.2    Evaluation of the Cultural Relativism of Richard Rorty………......………..……………….
4.3    Rationality as the Basis of Moral Obligation……….................................................................
4.3.1    Autonomy of Rationality…………………………………..
4.3.2    Secular Reasoning………………………………………….
4.3.3    Cultural and Religious Ethical Modifications………………
4.3.4    Theoretical and Practical Reasoning………………………..
4.4     Conclusion………………………………………………….
References………………………………………………….
Bibliography………………………………………………..

CHAPTER ONE
GENERAL INTRODUCTION
BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
     The dispute over what constitutes the proper basis of moral obligation has many ramifications. The divine command theory claims that God is the basis of morality, such that what counts as good or bad depends entirely on the dictate or will of God. Cultural relativism, on the other hand, stresses that there is no universal moral standard because morality is relative to culture. What is considered morally acceptable in one culture is often taken as a taboo in another. A more radical reaction to this perennial controversy is the one taken by those I would partly call the naturalists. The naturalists argue that the foundation of morality is human rationality, such that there is moral objectivity since what is morally right or wrong is so, independent of the dictate or will of God, commands of culture and/or the belief and opinion of any individual.
     The medieval philosophy cum theologian William of Ockham and the contemporary theologian and philosopher Philip Quinn were proponents of divine command theory. They saw the universe and all that exists as the creation of God. God created all things including morals. Morality is an important aspect of human relationship and if there were to exist objective moral standards, then there necessarily must exist a foundation that this principle lies; they argued that this foundation is God. The dictate or will of God is what make things and actions morally right or wrong.
     The sophist, Protagoras and the contemporary neo-pragmatist Richard Rorty were cultural relativists. Protagoras considered man the standard of everything, but as enticing as this may seem it nonetheless leads us to the philosophy of cultural relativism in the sense that what is good for one person or group of persons could justifiably be bad for another or group of persons. Protagoras was quoted by Plato as saying “the way things appear to me, in that way they exist for me; and the way things appear to you, in that way they exist for you”1. Richard Rorty followed the pragmatic gesture of practical consequences, that whatever works is what is true. If a belief works for a given community then it is true for that community and if the same belief fails to work for another community then it is not true for that community.
     Philosophers who have attacked the divine command theory and cultural relativism do so in support of a naturalistic-based foundation of moral obligation which makes the basis of morality, rationality, secular reasoning and not God or culture. Their argument rests on the premise that reality is objective, not subjective so things exist independently of perception, what is morally right or wrong is so regardless of dictate, will or belief.
THE STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
     There are some proposed sources of moral obligation that are in conflict with each other. It is argued in this essay that the ground for moral obligation is human rationality. The idea that morality rests upon the dictate or will of God is championed by divine command theorists. Another view sees morality as a social convention so the foundation of moral obligation must be culture. This is cultural relativism. Immanuel Kant rested moral obligation on duty, such that it is one’s duty to be moral and the rightness or wrongness of actions is independent of their consequences.
     The problem is this; if moral obligation depends on the dictate or will of God then we are forced to ask this seemingly trivial question “does God command this particular action because it is morally right or is it morally right because God commands it?” 2. it is in answering this question that the divine command theorist encounters a difficulty. A defender of the theory may respond that an action if morally right because God commands it. However, the implication of this response is that if God commanded that we inflict suffering on others for fun, then doing so would be morally right. We would be obligated to do so, because God commanded it. This is because, on divine command theory, the reason inflicting such suffering is wrong is that God commands us not to do it. However, if God commanded us to inflict such suffering, doing so would become morally right3. The problem for divine command theorists, then, is that God’s command establishes what is morally right and wrong and therefore the foundation of morality becomes arbitrary, which then allows for morally reprehensible actions to become morally obligatory. This is one of many problems with the view.
     If cultural relativism is correct then evaluation and judgments would be futile. Plato thought that such a qualification reveals the inconsistency of the whole doctrine. If the way things appear to me and works for me, in that way they exist for me, and the way things appear to you and works for you, in that way they exist for you, then it appears to me that this whole doctrine is false. Cultural relativism then has the logical property of not being able to deny the truth of its contradiction. On that level, cultural relativism stands to cause more problems in ethical discourse since it guarantees the truth value of every claim, even the claim that “cultural relativism does not guarantee the truth value of every claim” and this is blatantly false.
     At the evaluating part of this essay, I shall provide an alternative route to objective moral standard, one that sees human rationality as the basis of moral obligation.
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
     The aim of this essay is to argue in favor of human rationality as the basis of moral obligation.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
     At the end of this essay, I shall be able to show that there is need for a better understanding of the basis of moral obligation and thus lead to a better comprehension of the problem.
     The divine command theory claims that morality is somehow dependent upon God, and that moral obligation consists in obedience to God’s commands. This theory includes the claim that the morally right action is the one God commands or prescribes4. The specific content of these divine commands varies according to the particular religion and the particular view of the individual divine command theorists, but all versions hold in common, the claim that morality and moral obligations ultimately depend on the dictate or will of God. This theistic-based theory has been and continues to be highly controversial since it presents numerous ethical and ontological implications that philosophers have refused to ignore. One implication is that if moral actions and obligation depends on the will of God then morality rests on an arbitrary ground, a basis that is likely to change at anytime since God can then command, for example, the torture of children and the divine command theorist would then be morally obligated to perform the action since by God’s dictate it is the right thing to do.
     Cultural relativism in its broadest sense claims that moral judgments, adjudications or right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust, etc are embedded in specific cultural, historical or conceptual background, and that their authority is restricted and relative to their context5. In other words, the cultural relativist denies that there is a single true morality. They stress that moral objectivism is impossible since every position is from a specific point of view, therefore judgments and evaluations in ethical discourse are futile.
     A naturalistic-based foundation of moral obligation argues that the basis of morality is human rationality such that there is moral objectivity and the status of moral actions are indeed independent of the dictate or will of God or cultural belief.
     This essay then shall lead to the fructification of the truth about the basis of moral obligation and I shall argue that the foundation of morality and moral obligation is human rationality.
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
     An appraisal of the basis of moral obligation in which the attainment of truth is paramount falls within the ambit of this essay.
     I shall attempt to make reference to the works of other philosophers who have contributed by way of providing answers to this fundamental problem. Thereafter, I shall give an evaluation of their theories and conclude.
     This essay splits itself into four parts of four chapters. Chapter one which is the first part is a general introduction of the essay. Chapter two presents the meaning of ethics, relationship between ethics and morality, what morality entails, why we need morality and finally, the meaning of moral obligation. This is the second part of the essay. Chapter three begins part three, it is the province where I shall explain some proposed sources of moral obligation such as; divine command theory, cultural relativism and Kantian ethics of duty. The fourth part of this essay is an evaluation of these sources of moral obligation, save Kantian ethics of duty. It also argues in favor of a naturalistic-based foundation of moral obligation and it ends with arguments to support my claim.
METHODOLOGY
As it is often the case in every philosophical engagement, I shall adopt the analytic and logical method. Analytic because it is expedient for us to meticulously grasp the central point of every philosophical thought being evaluated. Logical because one must draw an inference from arguments presented by these thoughts.
LITERATURE REVIEW
The first book to be reviewed is Philip Quinn’s Divine Commands and Moral Requirements, (1978). Here Quinn insisted that morality is at least, in some way dependent on the will of God and this idea is an important theme in the history of philosophy. He went on to stress that:
The idea has not been taken seriously in recent times by prominent moral philosophers because it has been assumed that the view has often been shown to be quite implausible in the light of accepted modern doctrine of morality6.
     Based on the belief that this assumption is mistaken, Quinn wrote this book in order to take a fresh look at the issue. He asked whether some versions of the claim that morality depends upon divine commands can be defeated against serious and sustained philosophical criticism. He thinks not.
     The book also explores whether significantly different versions of the theory can be formulated and finally, it attempts to discover whether the theories are consistent with or can be grafted on other recent theories of the logic of some moral concepts.
     The second book to be reviewed is a philosophical debate held at Union College, Schenctady, New York in October 8, 1993 titled; Is The Basis of Morality Natural or Supernatural? By William Lane Craig and Richard Taylor. Part of the debate was whether man can be good without God. The Christian divine command theorist, William Lane Craig argued in favor of supernaturalism, maintaining that God is the basis of moral obligation while Prof. Richard Taylor criticized this view and supported naturalism. He stressed that we can be and are indeed good without God7. Taylor began the opening statement of the debate by explaining that he had come in contact with atheists who uphold moral virtues so well that he questioned the significance of religious ethics.
     Craig started his opening remark by arguing that God has to necessarily exist in order for there to be objective moral standard and since there are objective moral standards then it follows that God is the basis of this objective standard8.
     As a result of Craig’s claim, Taylor asked the question, if torturing innocent people would be morally right if God does not exist? Craig responded by showing some consequences if God does not exist, he thought, as did Dostoyvesky, “all things are permitted once you get rid of God”9.
     I shall make reference to these arguments since they constitute a greater part of what I am writing against and speaking for.
     The third book to be reviewed is Richard Rorty’s Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, (1979). Rorty attempt to dissolve so-called philosophical problems instead of solving them by exposing them as pseudo-problems that only exist in the language-game of Analytic philosophy. Rorty opts out of the traditional objective and subjective dialogue in favor of a communal version of truth. He argued that what is true is simply an honorific title knowers bestow on claims, what is true depends on what the community says10.
     The fourth book under review is Jeremy Bentham’s Introduction to the Principle of Morals and Legislation, (1789). This book is a presentation of an ethical theory that actions are right insofar as they produce pleasure or prevent pain, and is an explanation of a political theory that the purpose of civil or criminal laws is to maximize the amount of pleasure or happiness that may be enjoyed by society.
     Bentham maintained that the principle of utility is the only sufficient ground for deciding whether an action is morally right or wrong.
     He rejected the notion that the law of reason is a sufficient principle of morality. For him, such concepts as common sense, the law of reason and the law of nature are only theoretical or speculative principles and cannot be practically applied to every situation11. He thereafter attacked divine command theory on the grounds that it has no practical use because we cannot learn what is right, wrong, bad, good or evil by first learning that something is comfortable to God’s will and then inferring that it is right, wrong, good or bad12.
     The fifth book under review is Jerry Coyne’s As Atheists Knows We Can Be Good Without God, an article published by USA Today at the summer of 2011. Here, Coyne, the American philosopher and social reformer attacked and questioned some fundamental religious-based ethics vis-à-vis secular reasoning.
     Coyne indicated that moral and immoral actions can be promoted by religions but morality itself cannot come from God since as atheists know we can be good without God13. He mentioned the fact that this observation was recognized by philosophers since the time of Plato.
     On another level, Coyne argued that with the adjustments of religious ethics, it follows that God did not change his mind but rather, these adjustments occurred because of secular improvements in morality which forced religions to “clean up its act”14.
     This short article is of great importance to this essay because it is a source of material to further express my opinion on the subject matter of this essay. This article, it is safe to say, mirrors my thoughts.
     The sixth book to be reviewed is Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason, an electronic version of the original 1781 book of the same title. It was produced by Charles Aldarondo and Daniel Widger, published in 2006 and translated by J. M Meikhlejohn.
     Although all of Kant’s work contains relations to his ethical theories, he clearly defined them in the Critique of Practical Reason. Kant did not attempt to tell people what to do, but to help people determine how to behave by using their rationality. Kant worked during the period of the Enlightenment where thinkers began to embrace the use of reason in virtually all aspects of reality. As part of this tradition, Kant based his ethical theory on the belief that reason should be used to determine what ought to be done. In doing so, he developed five formulations of his moral law; his first formulation was the Categorical Imperative; from this, he derived the formula of Universal Law; the formula of Humanity as an End in Itself, the formula of Autonomy and the Kingdom of Ends.
     Kant constructed a morality which was based on the concept of duty. He defined this by stating that an action is only good if it is performed out of duty towards the moral law15.
END NOTES
1.    Plato, Thaetetus, Benjamin Jowett (trans.), (Gutenberg Ebooks: New York, 2008) p. 26
2.    M. Austin, “Divine Command Theory” in Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (2006 Edition), John Fieser (ed.), retrieved from www.iep.edu/divine-c/#H2, January 7, 2013. p. 14
3.    ibid
4.    ibid., p. 1
5.    M. Baghramian, A Brief History of Relativism, (Routledge: New York, 2004) p. 217
6.    P. Quinn, Divine Commands and Moral Requirements, (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1978) p. 28
7.    W. L Craig and R. Taylor, “Is the Basis of Morality Natural or Supernatural?”, (Union College: New York, 1973) p. 7
8.    ibid
9.    F. Dostoyevsky, The Brother’s Karamazov, C. Garnett (trans.), (Sigment Classics: New York, 1957) p. 11
10.    R. Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, (Princeton University Press: New York, 1979) p. 166
11.    J. Bentham, Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1789) p. 68
12.    ibid
13.    J. Coyne, “As Atheists Knows We Can Be Good Without God”, (USA Today: Chicago, 2011) p. 4
14.    ibid
15.    I. Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, J.M.A Meikhjohn (trans.), (Gutenberg Ebooks: Oxford, 2006)

AN APPRAISAL OF THE BASIS OF MORAL OBLIGATION

Share This

Details

Type Project
Department Philosophy
Project ID PHI0174
Price ₦3,000 ($9)
Chapters 4 Chapters
No of Pages 120 Pages
Methodology ANALYTIC AND LOGICAL METHOD
Reference YES
Format Microsoft Word

500
Leave a comment...

    Details

    Type Project
    Department Philosophy
    Project ID PHI0174
    Price ₦3,000 ($9)
    Chapters 4 Chapters
    No of Pages 120 Pages
    Methodology ANALYTIC AND LOGICAL METHOD
    Reference YES
    Format Microsoft Word

    Related Works

    TABLE OF CASES PAGES Archbold (Freightage) Ltd. v. S. Spnaglett Ltd (1981) 1 Q.B. 374 41 Asfar v. Blindell  (1896) 1 Q.B. 123 45 Boardance v. Phipps  (1967) 2 A.C. 46 58 Casebourn v. Avery and Houston  (1887) S.T.L.R. 795 41 Dakin v. Oxley  (1864) 15 C.B.N. 648 44... Continue Reading
    LIFE CRISIS (An Evaluative Rediscovery) CHAPTER   ONE DEFINITION OF THE CONCEPTS OF MAN 1.1     Origin of Man- An Evolutionary/Scientific... Continue Reading
    ABSTRACT The research project was on cash budgeting as a basis for making a decision. The whole work has been divided into five chapter.Chapter one: Introduction of the project. Chapter two talks on literature review, Chapter three, takes eared of the methodology, Chapter four is about findings and chapter five is about conclusion and... Continue Reading
    A CASE STUDY OF STATE EDUCATION COMMISSION ABSTRACT This research work seeks to find out the accounting as a basis for managing public expenditure using education commission Enugu as study. For cause on the inadequate in our various government parastatals, the systematic random sampling... Continue Reading
    ABSTRACT The research project was on cash budgeting as a basis for making a decision. The whole work has been divided into five chapter. Chapter one: Introduction of the project. Chapter two talks on literature review, Chapter three, takes eared of the methodology, Chapter four is about findings and chapter five is about conclusion and... Continue Reading
    IN ADANI IN UZO-UWANI LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF ENUGU STATE CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION 1.1 Background of the Study The struggles of Nigeria farmers in finding ways to increase farm income, interest in “adding value” to raw agricultural products has grown... Continue Reading
    TABLE OF CONTENT Title page i Dedication ii Acknowledgement iii Table of contents iv  List of table v  Proposal vi  CHAPTER ONE  1.0 Introduction  1.1 Background of the study  1.2 Statement of the problem  1.3 Purpose of the study  1.4... Continue Reading
    CASH BUDGETING AS A BASIS FOR DECISION MAKING. (A CASE STUDY OF AGUATA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA). PROPOSALS In management audit they attempted to aid the management of the organisation by providing it with information and analysis useful in the process of control. Management audit can also be significant in financial accounting area.For many year... Continue Reading
    ABSTRACT The society at large views public money as an opportunity to enriching themselves since it is not for any body beside it is our nation cake as always stated. People with questionable intentions makes good use of this opportunity in looking away most of this funds which were kept under their control as leaders. It is on the above points,... Continue Reading
                                                            Abstract: The study investigated the impact of cash accounting basis on financial statement transparency in tertiary institutions in Nigeria using Ekiti State as a case study. The population of the study includes relevant staff in the... Continue Reading