By Tibor R. Machan
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Extra resources for A Primer on Ethics
In tum, a utilitarian society would be more likely to be individualist than collectivist. Many utilitarians argue that it is impossible to engage in interpersonal utility comparisons, because we simply cannot weigh and compare the importance to different people of their preferences, desires, and welfare, either physical or psychic. Consequently the only way to secure the greatest happiness of the greatest number is by forgoing central economic planning and moral paternalism in general. Allowing everyone to engage in the pursuit of personal happiness is the best route to the greatest happiness of the greatest number.
Plato and Kant were metaethical cognitivists. A. J. Ayer, a prominent noncognitivist, proposed emotivism, the idea that ethical claims are disguised manifestations of emotion. 1 Noncognitivists include the logical positivists. According to these philosophers, only judgments or statements that could be confirmed by observation could set forth something we know to be true or false. Naturalism Naturalists maintain that ethics is based on human nature. (There are some variations. ) Human nature supposedly encompasses any facts that make us human beings.
The determinist wants us to believe in determinism and in fact believes that we ought to do so rather than subscribe to the notion of free will. " That is, when we say that someone ought to do something, we presume both capacity and the power to choose. The determinist is thus implicitly saying that it is up to us to decide whether to regard determinism or free will as the better doctrine. This statement, however, assumes that we are free to decide! In other words, we cannot even defend determinism without assuming that we have the power to make choices about arguments, evidence, and the operation of reasoning itself.