Ethics and Needs: The Relationship Between the Various Concepts of Moral Philosophy and the Concept of Need

Clarke, Anthony Joseph (1988) Ethics and Needs: The Relationship Between the Various Concepts of Moral Philosophy and the Concept of Need. MLitt(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This work attempts to show that moral goodness is of the same kind as other forms of goodness, and that it is typically exhibited where a moral act is performed in order to satisfy the needs of someone other than the agent, just as other instances of goodness, e.g. instrumental, plainly arise due to the capacity of something to meet our needs. Thus, needs are claimed to be the content of ethics or morality, and morality is seen as the most general form of ethics. It is the ethics of needers, a code which enables the co-existence and mutual help of needing beings, including man, in the pursuit of their needs, the attainment of their objectives and goals. We are thus addressing ourselves to the problem of the content of morality, as outlined so ably and eloquently by G.J. Warnock.(see Warnock, 1967.) The context of this problem is given, and traced back to the challenge moral philosophy received from logical positivism in the early decades of this century. We state our method and assumptions carefully. We assume that there is an additional 'level' or 'order' of morality where the content, if any, of morality is to be found. Our method then will be to attempt to discern and formalise any concomitant or correlative differences between levels, i.e. between moral language and those situations about which it is used. An analysis of need is given, showing that it is closely associated with the preconditions of attaining objectives and goals.Its relationship to desire, purposiveness, actions and ought-statements (particularly moral ought-statements) is investigated. Need shares many logical features with value (e.g. being a means to an end, being related to goals), and this is examined closely to show how needs are related to rights, interests and welfare, the notion of 'rightness', and moral goodness. Moral goodness is shown to be associated, perhaps indirectly but essentially, with the satisfaction of what is called 'heteronomous' needs, which are claimed here to be the content of morality. These needs are defined as the needs which we have for the actions of others, in either a positive or negative sense. The claim that these needs constitute the content of morality is further investigated by looking at the common conception of intrinsic value, in that moral goodness is often felt to be intrinsic, and not susceptible to an instrumental account. Intrinsic value is shown to be a form of instrumental, while the alternative transcendental view of it is shown to be unacceptable. Utilitarianism is examined, to show that needs, rather than happiness or pleasure, provides a more satisfactory content for the moral, as well as providing us with a theoretical basis from which to account for the inadequacies of Utilitarianism. An account of intrinsic moral goods, and an explanation of how intrinsic evaluation arises with regard to moral matters, is then given. The possibility of value-judgements, and value discourse in general, being either true or false, i.e. being indicative statements like any other, is examined: it is concluded that scepticism in this area would appear to be unfounded. The moral realism outlined seems to provide an adequate empirical basis to ground the assertion that moral judgements are as factual as any other. Lastly, the problems remaining for moral realism were looked at: what is the nature of a moral being? What about the other features of morality, drawn attention to by G.J. Warnock, e.g. the apparently endemic indecisiveness of moral argument? Just what is the role of the moral philosopher in moral debate? These are some of the problems which must be tackled if the issue about the content of morality is resolved.

Item Type: Thesis (MLitt(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Philosophy, Ethics
Date of Award: 1988
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1988-77779
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2020 11:53
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2020 11:53

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