Tok ethics: The Source of Morality

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ToK Ethics: The Source of Morality

In our everyday lives we often use the words ethics and morality interchangeably…… in ToK we consider morality to be our sense of right and wrong and ethics to be the area of knowledge that examines this sense of morality and the moral codes we develop from it….

So where do these ‘morals’ that we investigate in the area of knowledge known as ethics come from... how do we gain our sense of right and wrong?

Task 1: From where do you think you acquired your sense of right and wrong?... be explicit and give an example for each source or idea that you have.

There are 5 commonly accepted sources for morality… they are

  1. Human Nature

  2. Religion

  3. Observation & Reason

  4. Emotional Empathy

  5. Social & Political

Task2: Explain what you think is meant by each of the categories and attempt to exemplify it.

Task 3: For each of your examples of how you acquired your morality as described above decide which of the 5 categories it fits. Justify your decision.

Task 4: Consider the following debate on the killing of Osama Bin Laden… - listen to the audio cast from BBC Radio 4’s Moral maze… (just the introduction where the key speakers make their first point)

For the tens of thousands of Americans celebrating on the streets of New York and Washington the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of US special forces was justice done at last. But for many the joy wasn't just prompted by the justice of his death; there was also retribution and revenge. The fact that he wasn't brought before a court and given the due process that our democracy demands didn't seem to trouble many, if any of them. And why should it? bin Laden was undoubtedly directly responsible for ordering the deaths of thousands of people and had inspired others to carry out many more horrific murders in his name. We don't know if those sent to get him had a shoot to kill policy, but a dead bin Laden conveniently avoids the messy prospect of a drawn-out trial, imprisonment and probable death sentence anyway. If anyone deserved it, surely it was him and didn't the nature of his crimes demand the retribution of his death?

Should we worry about the niceties of judicial process when it comes to the likes of terrorists? There are many who'd say that after the bombing of the US embassy in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, where more than 200 lost their lives and over 5000 were injured, that there was enough evidence and opportunity to justify killing bin Laden then. If we'd have been pro-active at that time the world would have been spared 9/11, the invasion of Afghanistan and possibly Iraq and countless lives would have been saved. And if we ruthlessly use lethal force against terrorists like bin Laden, because of the threat they pose to our lives and democracy, why not against someone like Colonel Gaddafi who arguably has just as much blood on his hands through the sponsoring of terrorism around the world and who, with his oil wealth and the power of the state behind him, has the means to produce weapons of mass destruction which really would threaten our civilisation. BBC 2011 – Moral Maze

Task 5: What Moral arguments are raised here in the introduction?

Task 6: Which of the sources of morality do you think come into play?

Task 7: What is your opinion of this issue… on what basis do you make this ethical judgment? Try to consider the nature of your own morality and your own perceptions.

The above debate is one example of a moral dilemma… now write down three other moral dilemmas that we may encounter in our lives.

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