Phil 20 Exam 1 Notes



  1. Ethics isn’t an exact process which can be empirically verified in the physical world. There are no perfect or exact answers in Ethics.
  2. telos – pursuits and purposes. roughly translates to “going towards”. according to aristotle, the ultimate goal of a human is to be happy.
  3. someone who lives the good life, is someone who understands how to be happy. and the good life/happiness is roughly “an activity of the soul in accordance with some rational principle”
  4. so one learns to live the good life , the rational life, the virtuous life, by means of mentors and practice. living a good and happy life does not occur in a vacuum.
  5. the golden mean – finding the rational middle between two extremes.


  1. So mill is accused of being an epicurean. His accusers are saying that epicureans value physical pleasures over all others. But mill responds by saying that his accusers don’t fully understand epicurean philosophy. A true epicurean philosopher would state that there is a difference in¬†quality between physical and mental pleasures.
  2. utility – the morally correct action is always the action which produces the greatest good for the greatest amount of people.
  3. we ask those who have experienced both mental and physical pleasures to see which they prefer.
  4. it is better to (be able to) experience higher level pleasures (mental) rather than lower level pleasures.
  5. a.) someone would prefer a lower level pleasure because it looks more appealing in the short term (instant gratification) b.) their senses have decayed to a point where the higher level pleasures are no longer appealing
  6. other goals are for the sake of being happy


  1. A priori. – knowledge which does not rely upon sense experience
  2. A posteriori – knowledge which does rely upon sense experience.
  3. Deontology – Ethics based upon one’s intentions rather than the consequences
  4. guidelines steer us away from a chaotic society where there would be no way to effectively make plans/goals
  5. categorical imperative is an a priori principle
  6. categorical imperatives are rules which do not go away depending on an agent’s circumstances. hypothetical imperatives are based upon circumstance. hypothetical imperatives will go away. categorical ¬†imperative is universal rather than conditional (which hypothetical imperatives are).
  7. 3 formulations: a.) act only on that maxim which, at the same time, can be willed as universal law. b.) agents must never be treated as a mere means to an end. c.) no agent may ever have their agency undermined.


  1. Egalitarian – the principle that people are all equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities. This is our western society’s notion of justice. (as fairness)
  2. justice is to a society as truth is to science. in this sense, justice is the first principle of a society.
  3. a.) we should strive to achieve equal opportunity and equal rights b.) the only inequalities should result in an advantage for all members of a society (especially those who are the least well off)
  4. so rawls believes that the minority opinion is drowned out in a society based upon utility. while under the veil, one is concerned with which laws/policies could be universalized.
  5. information: some type of basic understanding of a society.
  6. some decisions would be easy to make: i.e. that I should not have my opportunities restricted based upon my skin color, gender, ethnicity, social class etc… some decisions would be more difficult to make: i.e. how to properly distribute the wealth amongst 360 million people.