Critical Thinking Report:
Moral Claims & Theories
- Review Sections 9.1 and 9.5 in the webtext to develop your understanding of the concepts of a “moral claim” and “moral theories.” (attached)
State your position on the issue from the ProCon.org website (
issue I choose is “school uniforms”, Pro 3).
- Describe the moral claim that is being asserted by your position.
- Identify the moral theory in Section 9.5 on which this moral claim is grounded and explain the reasons why.
The completed assignment should be approximately 500 words (2 pages).
The assignment should follow guidelines for clear and organized writing:
· Include an introductory paragraph and concluding paragraph.
· Address main ideas in body paragraphs with a topic sentence and supporting sentences.
· Adhere to standard rules of English grammar, punctuation, mechanics, and spelling.
The assignment should follow these APA Style formatting and citation requirements:
· Be typed, double spaced, using Times New Roman font (size 12), with one-inch margins on all sides.
· In-text citations and the References page must follow APA Style format.
· Include a cover page containing the title of the assignment, the student’s name, the professor’s name, the course title, and the date. The cover page and the reference page are not included in the required assignment page length.
Critical Thinking Report: Moral Claims and Theories
9.1 Ethical Claims Both ethics and morals involve considerations about what’s right and wrong. The term “ethics” derives from the Greek word ethos, meaning character, while “moral” comes from the Latin word moralis, meaning ethical. So the words “ethics” and “morals” are often used interchangeably. For most of this text, we’ve been exploring the ways that people provide support that a claim is true. But now we’re exploring something quite different: how people provide support that a claim is right—not “right” in the sense of being accurate but “right” in the sense of being the morally correct thing to do. Not everything has a moral dimension. Some things, like arithmetic, are amoral. The equation 2 + 2 = 4 is neither good nor bad, it’s just true. In contrast, consider the following claim: It is wrong to eat meat. This is still a conclusion, and to persuade others to believe it we will need to construct an argument (i.e., provide sound reasoning to support this conclusion). So we’re still dealing with claims and arguments, fallacies and sources, and so on, but we’ve completely left the realm of science, with its observable phenomena and replicable experiments. We’re in the land of ethics now. We learn ethics like we learn everything else: through a mixture of personal experience and shared knowledge. Every society possesses a sense that some things are right and others are wrong. Generally speaking, we believe that it is good to help other people and bad to hurt them. We learn this from our own reactions to things as we grow up and develop our sense of self. And these lessons are reinforced by parents, teachers, friends, and strangers, as well as in the stories of our culture. A Few Helpful Terms for Discussing Ethics Ethics: thinking and reasoning about right and wrong. Moral principles: rules of conduct that guide an individual’s actions to take into account the interests of other people. Excuse: a reason offered for breaking a moral principle in a given situation. Justification: an argument claiming that violating some moral principle is actually the right course of action in a given situation. Killing is wrong… (moral principle) … unless you are killing someone as punishment for killing someone else.(justification) Moral dilemma: a situation in which there is not an obvious ethically right or wrong answer, often because there are two moral principles in conflict with each other. An armed man has entered a school and is killing children. It’s wrong to kill. Should I kill him to keep him from killing others?
Critical Thinking Report: Moral Claims and Theories
9.5 Moral Theories All moral claims are grounded in some moral theory. It is the nature of such claims that they are based on a system of beliefs about what is right and wrong, just and unjust. The table below lists a handful of the moral theories you are most likely to encounter in ethical arguments today. It’s important to note that each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. Moral theories give you general guidelines, but you still usually have to apply moral reasoning in individual cases to test them out. For example, none of these theories explicitly claim that killing is wrong. The theories are more about how you would ground your claim that killing is wrong. Moral theories are also not mutually exclusive. The argument that killing is wrong could be grounded in all of these theories. Whether they know it or not, everyone has a moral theory. It is inescapable. Even if their moral theory is that there are no morals, that still represents a moral theory. But not all moral theories are equal—some hold up to critical thinking better than others. You may see wisdom in all of these perspectives, or you may strongly identify with a single one. Regardless, it’s important for you to recognize the potential weaknesses in any moral theory you favor, and it’s helpful for you to understand why others find legitimacy in the moral theories they employ. Theory Criticisms Kantian Ethics Immanuel Kant put forth the categorical imperative, which states that you should only act on moral principles that you would be willing to turn into universal laws mandating that everyone act the same way. This is a version of the question, “How would you like it if everyone did that?” Any two people who want to get married should be able to. This theory is so absolute that it sometimes goes against moral common sense. It’s wrong to kiss my spouse because I would not like it if everyone kissed my spouse. Utilitarianism The morally right course of action is the one that will produce the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people. The only thing that matters is the consequences of the action, not the intentions behind the action (the ends justify the means). Ignores people’s rights, duties, and intentions. Could be used to justify an act that most would consider morally wrong because it inflicts harm on one person unjustly, even if it brings great happiness to many others. It’s okay to steal money from my neighbor and take my family on a vacation, because then my whole family would be happy, and only my neighbor would be harmed. Ethical Egoism Doing whatever is best for your own interests or would make you happy. This is not necessarily the same thing as doing whatever you want in the moment, because that might not be in your best interests in the long term. Can be used to justify terrible actions. Ethical Altruism Doing whatever is best for others or would bring the greatest amount of happiness to people besides yourself. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what is best for everyone involved. Authoritarian Moral Theory Doing whatever an authority figure (a teacher, your boss, the president, etc.) tells you is the right thing to do. You’re sacrificing your critical thinking skills when you blindly follow what someone else says without scrutinizing it. Religious Absolutism Doing whatever your religion, deity, or sacred text says is right. Like the authoritarian moral theory, it can be dangerous to blindly follow any authority. There is enduring controversy over which religion is the “correct” one. Historically, religion has been used to justify many actions generally considered immoral. Moral Relativism Believing that morality is completely subjective and each person decides for themselves what they think is right. Implies that you can’t pass judgment on anybody for anything, assuming they’re doing what they believe is right. Becomes contradictory—what if you believe an action is wrong and another person believes the same action is right? According to moral relativism, the action would then seem to be both right and wrong. Cultural Relativism Believing that whatever your culture approves of is the right thing for you to do. Has the same problems as moral relativism. How do you determine what counts as a culture or group? And what if there is disagreement within that group? Religious Relativism Believing that whatever your religion approves of is the right thing for you to do. Has the same problems as the other relativism theories.