He refers to this type of ethics as Quandary Ethics (QE) and raises some questions in criticisms of it. Pincoffs begins his piece by establishing a foundation and clarifying QE as opposed to classical ethics. Quandary ethics is defined as an attempt to provide rational grounds for difficult decisions to resolve perplexities that arise in problematic situations; "the ultimate relevance of ethics is to the resolution of problematic situations in which we fall," (191). QE is a newcomer because it does not deal with moral enlightenment, education, or the good for man as classic philosophies do; QE is based upon practicality and applicability and is less concerned with general rules or guidelines for moral behavior. He illustrates his point by comparing QE to Aristotle.
Hume strongly opposes the idea that moral judgments are the conclusion of reason. The role of reason in relation to moral judgments is to be only in relation to the passions. Reason must be slave to man’s passions. Reason is to help man find his moral obligations and duties, but reason does not produce or act on obligation or moral duty; man’s passions motivate one to act. Passion is the criterion for all moral judgments because there are no absolute moral values.
In his work Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche describes the idea of the overman as that which is a creator (Thus Spoke Zarathustra pg.135). The overman does not live by what the masses deem correct or hold the values to which the law is created, but rather he himself is the creator of what he holds to be true and by which he establishes his law. By this understanding, the overman does not seek out the knowledge or companionship of the herd, or those who abide by moral law as defined by Kant, but rather they seek fellow companions who are also
Firstly, Nietzsche was aiming to force a re-evaluation of moral values, specifically the moral values he thought resulted from the re-evaluation of morality achieved by the slaves and priestly caste. His method to achieve this was to look back upon the origin of good and evil and to pose them as a problematic phenomenon in need of an explanation. By re-interpreting good and evil as a socio-historical phenomena Nietzsche sought “to offer a re-evaluation of existing values” in order to limit the negative effects of those values. Nietzsche explained the development of these moral values by providing a naturalistic account of their emergence. This account relied upon psychological mechanisms to explain their victory, the victory of the concept of good and evil, over alternative systems of moral valuations, such as conceptions of good and bad.
On the other hand, Nietzsche disagrees and literally deconstructs the accepted understanding of morality (slave morality) and deems it irrelevant. He proposes the idea of noble morality, which is doing as one desires, over slave morality, which is saying no to the self and practicing selfless love. Nietzsche finds it problematic because it makes humans weaker and prevents creativity from flourishing. Although both Darwin and Nietzsche raised pivotal points in regards to morality, there are a number of flaws in their arguments. Darwin’s view that morality stems from evolution is problematic because it means that one can alter their morals to suit their needs, and adopting Nietzsche’s belief of noble morality can be dangerous because doing as one pleases can not only endanger the said person but also society.
Kant’s deontological ethics is grounded on concepts of duty, the categorical imperative, and good will. Similarly, Arendt utilizes Kant’s categorical imperative and idea of duty to share her account of Adolf Eichmann’s trial. She recognizes that even though Eichmann attempted to live according to a Kantian definition of duty, his behavior did not fit Kant’s moral precepts. Mill, contrastingly, holds a teleological philosophy and uses the concept of consequentialism and utilitarianism to argue against Kant’s morality. In any case, the three philosophers bring thoughtful ethical philosophical concepts which provide new ways to analyze moral conflicts.
Kant argues that human reasoning is limited in its ability to provide an example of true morality. In his essay, he states that what humans perceive as good morals does not necessarily fit the conditions of what can be categorized as universal law of morality. Kant believes that people must hold morality not solely as an idea or set of exceptions but as an absolute idea (Kant 408). This absolute idea should be free of human rationalization in order to create a pure example. He believes this to be the case because within this form of rationalizing what is good from what is wrong there are often cases that stray away from true virtue such as human behavior.
Existentialism is believing that an individual is in charge of their own development through acts of their own will. For this form of beliefs, conformity is a major problem. It is a problem because it does not allow an individual to make their own choices for themselves. Nietzsche focuses less the moral law like Kant does, and is more concerned about how the view of morals has shifted. In older times, being rich and powerful equated being good, while being poor and weak equated being bad.
His solution is that people should be guided by the moral law, which can be discovered by pure reason alone, and which says that any action should be judged by whether or not it could serve as a principle in a universal law. However, I argue that Kant’s proposed ethical system fails in two ways. First, it lacks the compelling power that Kant thinks it has. Second, if the moral law is accessible via reason alone, then different cultures should not come up with the radically different ethical systems that they have come up with over history. Kant wants to establish an true basis for ethics.
Hume sees moral judgements as being caused by sentiments of pain or pleasure within an agent as reason alone can never motivate, whereas Kant see the only moral actions as being those caused by reason alone, or the categorical imperative. I think that both theories have a problem with coming up with absolute moral laws - Hume's theory because absolute morality would appear to be impossible if morality is based on an individual's sentiment, and Kant's theory because it cannot prove the existence of the categorical imperative.