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Exploring the Depths of Moral Theory: Unveiling Ethical Observations

Aug 3, 2023 | 0 comments

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Aug 3, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

A moral theory is a structured principle that is based on recurrent observations that attempt to describe and rationalize a range of ethical judgments about certain cases (Timmons 3). Timmons states that moral theory is set to explain why a certain action is wrong or right and why we ought to act in a certain way. In other words, it’s a theory of how wrong and right is determined (3).

According to Timmons the theoretical aim of the moral-ethical theory is to discover the fundamental nature of what is wrong and what is right to be able to clarify in regards to the action that makes something right or wrong, good or bad( 4).


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The practical aim is fundamental in moral theory as it deals with the desire to have some method to follow when on the dilemma of what is wrong and what is right, good or bad (Timmons 3). As per Timmons, the main focus of the practical aim is to determine a decision process that can be used to monitor correct moral reasoning about issues of moral apprehensions (3).

Timmons explains that the notion of good in regards to moral theory touches on the benefits (4). For example, we can say if you want to pound nails a hammer is good for the job. What makes the hammer exemplary is what enables it to stand out when considering the pounding of nails. Biologically we can also say the air is good for living beings as it is of benefit to the living (Timmons 4).

On the other hand, what is right is basically what conforms to the rules and regulations. For example, if one picks a wallet with money and identification documents. The right thing to do is to return the money to the owner because it’s wrong to keep something that doesn’t belong to you (Timmons 6).

According to Timmons, the following criteria are used in evaluating moral theory; first, the deontic evaluation category is also referred to as the category of the right of action which is used in the evaluation of the morality of actions (7). In other words the rightness and the wrongness of an action. Timmons points out that, the second criteria are teleology which takes good as the primary action and it tends to derive right from the good (8).

Devine command theory runs in the idea and principles of religion (Timmons 9). Which always implies that good action, behavior, or choice is the one that God Commands and the one that God forbids is evil? Furthermore, Timmons expounds that to this, the theory asserts that for an individual to be moral he has to abide by God’s commandment (9). An example of this is how God commands us not to steal in the holy books if one does steal that means he goes contrary to God’s commandment and hence the individual is wrong.

In support of the divine theory, Kierkegaard outlines the fact that having faith in God can lead to an individual transformation and that person will be considered as ‘good’ this goes hand in hand with the diving theory because with faith and belief in God one would automatically follow his commands. The knight of faith according to Kierkegaard show an act of self-assertion and a total surrender to the supreme God.

Timmons argues that the Euthyphro dilemma was authored by Plato to refute the divine command theory (11). Plato’s concern about the nature of goodness questioned whether something is considered as good because God says it is good or does God see it as good because it is good (Timmons 11).

Euthyphro incoherent divine command theory, first, it throws to the trash the notion of if God says something is good then it is good, this would mean that God can say anything is good and no matter how evil that is, it will be considered good because God said so (Timmons 12).

Timmons (12) defines moral relativism as the notion that ethical standards, the position of right or wrong, good or bad, and morality are subject to individual choice because they are culturally based. Timmons explains that it is based on the fact that one should independently decide what is right for themselves and no one has a right to judge the other based on the individual choice (14).

Strong relativism is the claim that a judgment in one environment context or culture and this same judgment may be false in another.

According to Timmons (15), weak relativism claims that there may be a belief or judgment that is true in one culture or framework and false in another mainly because that belief or culture is not present or expressible in the second framework. Timmons mentions that different cultures have got unique concepts that are customized to that culture and make the culture unique from any other, in this regard what they may consider as true or false in some cultures that concept doesn’t exist at all (14).

Timmons argues that moral relativism is better than any other (14). Simply because it is a wider and applicable more personal form of relativistic thinking as compared to others. It is difficult to put standardization to all the moral because what might be good to me is bad to you, therefore, the judgment of a right and wrong or good or bad is based on individual preferences and moral relativism capture all that (Timmons 15).

Emphasis is made by Timmons stating that moral theory is inconsistent with other moral theories because of its defensive nature (16). It only comes into place in a defensive way it can only be used to excuse or allow certain activities and when it comes to condemning it can never be used.

Perspectivism is a philosophical principle that states individual knowledge of a subject is strictly limited by the individual perception, in other words, perspectivism comprises of judgments of truths and value in regards to an individual point of view and his ability of perception (Timmons 16).

In a master, morality s also referred to as noble morality. Timmons expresses that, it picks out a mental state that is noble as well as proud; thus focusing on individuals instead of their actions (18). First, ‘bad’ defines ‘despicable’ as well as ‘lowly’, furthermore it describes individuals who exhibit behavior which is concerned, cowardly as well as petty in regards to what is essential instead of greatness. It dissociates itself with the notion of free will.

The good traits that are recognized by the noble person are that of equals and the treatment of the people that are subordinate to them is not considered to be a matter of morality at all. Timmons says that a noble morality evokes mutual respect to the equals and this makes the subordinates be subjected to fear and make them submissive to what their masters seem moral (18). Noble people consider themselves as the source of value and therefore determining what is good or not. ‘Good’ comes from self- affirmation, they don’t need the people who are not their equals to saying they are good, because being good is a celebration of the individuals own greatness and power.

Timmons illustrates that slave morality starts with refuting the master morality (18). It sees the trait of a noble person as evil and morality would be achieved when they are done away with. According to Timmons, the focus is on the shared agony and oppression and whatever it takes to get them out of the agony is morally good (4). Unlike noble morality, it inspires humility and patience, and traits such as pity, sacrifice, and selflessness are considered good. Slave morality questions the obvious pleasure of a noble person; by arguing that morality should be equal and standardized to everyone it rejects hierarchy.

The lamp and the birds of prey are used by Nietzsche as an example that holds the opinion that it is bad to mark an action as good or bad. The bad of prey might be seen as evil by the lamp simply for carrying out its natural course. Considering the birds of prey needs to feed on the lamp for its survival.

Through the bird and the lamp metaphor, Nietzsche seeks to use the bird of prey and the lamp to declare that the environment that weak men have created for themselves is invalid. In this scenario, he likens predators to a natural man and contrasts that weak man who keenly chooses to be the prey so that he can blame the predator.

Nietzsche believes that this perspective is ultimate to understanding morality because it looks at good and evil in regards to the biological nature together. He sees that there is nothing in nature with value. He actually points out the fact that we can’t compel morality to the forces of nature.

Works Cited

Timmons, M. (2013). Moral theory: An introduction. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

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