Discussion Questions

From  Chapter 10: Moral Justification (Beauchamp & Childress): For this question, briefly compare and contrast the  top-down (pp. 426-432),  bottom-up (pp. 432-439) and  reflective equilibrium (pp. 439-444) models of justification in ethics.

From  Chapter 2: The Requirements of Practical Reason (Curlin & Tollefsen): In this chapter, the authors raise a crucial question: “How do we get from awareness of the basic good of human action to making moral decisions in pursuing those goods?” (p. 36) One answer to this question that many philosophers have defended is a view called  consequentialism (or sometimes  utilitarianism, understood as a particular version or kind of consequentialism). For this question, please answer the following: (a) Briefly explain how Curlin and Tollefsen define consequentialism and utilitarianism; and (b) Briefly explain the three objections that the authors raise against consequentialism. (pp. 37-38)


Top-down Model of Justification in Ethics: This approach starts from general moral principles and then applies them to specific cases to determine what is the morally right course of action. This model is also known as deontological ethics, as it focuses on duty, rights, and rules.

Bottom-up Model of Justification in Ethics: In contrast, this approach starts from the specifics of a situation and then generalizes to derive moral principles. This model is also known as consequentialist ethics, as it focuses on the outcomes and consequences of an action.

Reflective Equilibrium Model of Justification in Ethics: This approach combines elements from both top-down and bottom-up models and seeks to reconcile them through a process of reflection and reconsideration. It involves revising both general principles and specific judgments in light of each other, until a coherent and stable set of moral beliefs is reached.

Consequentialism: Curlin and Tollefsen define consequentialism as a moral theory that judges the rightness or wrongness of an action based solely on its consequences. Utilitarianism is a particular form of consequentialism that judges the morality of an action based on the overall balance of pleasure and pain it produces.

Three objections to Consequentialism:

  1. It can justify immoral acts, such as lying or breaking promises, if the consequences are deemed good.
  2. It fails to recognize the inherent value of moral principles, such as honesty and justice.
  3. It does not take into account the moral obligations and duties that exist independently of the consequences they produce.

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