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Philosophy Essay - Is it possible to explain human morality by means of just one principle

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Philosophy Essay - Is it possible to explain human morality by means of just one principle? The top group of moral theories are very in-depth and each of them tries to explain the whole of human morality within their own theory. This is an extremely hard task to accomplish, the whole of the workings of human morality within a few simple rules and ideas. There have been many questions asked and objections raised about all of these theories, however, many of them do come close to a well rounded ideal. The argument that brought about the main distinction in moral theories first appeared in ancient Greece. The famous nomos - physis debate spurned philosophers who began to believe that morality could be reduced down to the view point of an individual person. Thos suggested that everyone has their own set of values and that meant that nothing was wrong or right as it was all based on custom. For example, the people of Ionia used to sell their daughters off as prostitutes so they could collect money for their wedding. Was this right or wrong? In Ionia it seemed to be a perfectly fine thing to do, maybe suggesting that morality is relative and is determined by local communities and customs. Either side of this debate are the moral theories. Deontological ethics are placed more on the physis way of thinking, with it being concerned with the rules for moral behaviour, independent of individuals and their selfish desires. Relativism can be rooted to being selfish, as the moral ideas are brought about the individual mind and therefore it is possible for some one to decide that all their moral standards are in place to help themselves and not others. Contractarianism is a theory that is based on selfishness, it states that everyone is selfish and they are just trying to do better for themselves in their own lives, but in order to maximise this the must try and enlist the help of others to help them achieve this ultimately selfish goal. ...read more.


Too add to these other problems with the calculation of the happiness that is created due to a certain action, there is a problem concerning the total amount that is given when calculating the amount of happiness overall. When a total is given for a number of people's happiness e.g. the 100,000 points created by the coliseum in Rome, it is quite obvious that none of those people actually experience that total in real respects. Not a single person will experience that great happiness so it gives off a feeling that ecstasy is being produced when it could, as it is in this case, just a large amount of people feeling slightly pleased. A major problem which has arisen with this theory which is linked to being too altruistic is a problem case scenario where there has been a coach crash near some cliffs. There are two people left hanging off the edge of the cliff in different places and you only have enough time to save one of the two. One of the people there is a professor of medicine at a university who is days away from cracking the cure for cancer, you know this from seeing him on television yesterday. The other person is your own mother. In deciding how to conduct this decision using a utilitarian calculation it would seem obvious that you would have to save the professor who was about to crack the cure for cancer. The happiness created by the curing of cancer would far exceed the happiness created by the saving of your mother, but this still seems self-evidently wrong. Could you bear to see your own mother fall to her death as you help a total stranger to safety? Utilitarianism also oversteps its mark and intrudes on other important values that are vital to morals and knowledge. For instance, utilitarianism encourages people to tell lies if it increases happiness. If more happiness is brought about by not telling the truth then people should do it. ...read more.


The ideal is to reach an ultimate selfish goal, but helping other people is just an agitating side affect that comes with trying to get to this goal. The free rider is someone who sneaks onto the train without paying for a ticket which everyone else has paid for which seems evil. However, this theory encourages it and suggests that we should admire this person as they have reached the ultimate goal. Tit-for-tat is also a well known method of game playing. On the first round you should always co-operate with your opponent, and for subsequent rounds you should do whatever they do. This encourages a friendly response and positive attitude depending on how they treat you. This seems to suggest that a friendly attitude will lead to a happy life therefore this theory can easily suggest that selfishness is the right way to go about morality. On the other hand, it seems as if that selfishness is contrary to our normal morality due to the lack of appreciation for other people's happiness. This theory seems immoral due to the crucial main driving force, selfishness, even if it does encourage us to be nice to each other. So to round up whether one principle can possibly explain the whole of the human morality system, it seems a rather negative position. The theories that have been explored contain many seemingly true observations about human behaviour and gives good explanations behind many events that take place in everyday life, but they still contain problems are there are a few problem cases for each theory. Nevertheless, it is hard to say that none of these theories are correct in their own fields, but it still seems wrong to say that the theory is correct but when problem cases arise that the idea cannot solve it and another must be used. In my own opinion it seems that one of these theories must be refined to a greater extent to cover more real life situations and cut down on their problem cases by adequate solutions, even by a mixture of the three. ...read more.

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