Intro to NEB


The Fundamental Project of the Normative Ethics of Behavior:
The attempt to discover, properly formulate, and defend a criterion of moral rightness for act tokens.


act type - a kind of action
- e.g., running, walking, writing, taking notes, walking to class, cloning a human being, winning the World Series
- act types are repeatable

act token - a particular action performed by particular person ("the agent") in a particular place at a particular time
- e.g., the particular walk I took to class today, Marilyn Monroe's singing of Happy Birthday to JFK, the particular act of reading you are performing right now
- act tokens are not repeatable


morally right - morally permissible; ok to perform, morally speaking; allowed by morality; "ethical".

x is morally wrong =df. x is not morally right

x is morally obligatory =df. it would be wrong not to perform x


P is a necessary condition for Q : P is required for Q; Q won't happen unless P does; no Q without P; Q only if P.
- examples:
"Being unmarried is a necessary condition for being a bachelor"
"Taking every exam is necessary for passing this course"
"Being at least 35 years old is a necessary condition for being president"

NEB-2: Intro to NEB

P is a sufficient condition for Q : P is enough for Q; if P happens, so will Q; P's occurring guarantees that Q will occur; if P, then Q.
- examples:
"Being a father is a sufficient condition for being a parent"
"Acing every exam is sufficient for passing this course"
"Winning every state is sufficient for winning the presidency"

A criterion of morally right action is an explanatory statement of necessary and sufficient conditions for the moral rightness of act tokens.
- 'explanatory' means that the criterion must explain what makes right actions right.
- criteria are also called theories.
- a criterion, or theory, or moral rightness is a statement of this form:

an act token, x, is morally right if and only if _____ x _____


Sample Theories

GHP: an act is morally right if and only if it produces the greatest happiness for the greatest number

10C: an act is morally right if and only if it does not violate any of the Ten Commandments.


Sample Argument (an argument against 10C)

1. If 10C is true, then Abe's acts of beating up his children are morally permissible.
2. These acts are not morally permissible.
3. Therefore, 10C is not true.



argument - a collection of statements, the last of which (the conclusion) is supposed to follow from the others (the premises).

an argument is valid =df. if its premises are true, then its conclusion must also be true.
it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion to be false
- if an argument is valid, then its conclusion really does follow from its premises
- validity does not require truth: an argument in which every line is false can still be valid

an argument is sound =df. it is valid and every premise is true.


Sample Arguments

1. All humans are mortal.
2. Socrates is human.
3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

1. All cats are reptiles.
2. All reptiles are toaster ovens.
2. Therefore, all cats are toaster ovens.

1. If evolution is true, then we evolved from apes.
2. We did not evolve from apes.
3. Therefore, evolution is not true.

1. A fetus is a person.
2. If a fetus is a person, then abortion is wrong.
3. Therefore, abortion is wrong.