By Tibor R. Machan

ISBN-10: 0585194416

ISBN-13: 9780585194417

ISBN-10: 0806129468

ISBN-13: 9780806129464

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Utilitarianism, like many other ethical theories, is tied to broader philosophical positions. One key point in utilitarian ethics is the idea that the good must be identifiable by means of observation. We could not otherwise know what is good-that is, what human beings are supposed to achieve. Ifwe cannot know what is good, and thus cannot learn how to achieve it, then we cannot hold ourselves and others responsible for doing so. Only the things in the world that are perceivable can be known. If there is a good we should strive for, then it must be perceivable.

J. Ayer, a prominent noncognitivist, proposed emotivism, the idea that ethical claims are disguised manifestations of emotion. 1 Noncognitivists include the logical positivists. According to these philosophers, only judgments or statements that could be confirmed by observation could set forth something we know to be true or false. Naturalism Naturalists maintain that ethics is based on human nature. (There are some variations. ) Human nature supposedly encompasses any facts that make us human beings.

As we have seen, then, there may be in nature a form of existence that exhibits free will. The possibility is something to be determined and is not precluded by a narrow worldview or metaphysics that assigns everything just one set of causal features. Nature, which seems to comprise many types and kinds of things, may encompass free will. Having established the possibility offree will, we will shortly consider whether or not it actually exists. We cannot know of free will. Another obstacle considered to interfere with the possibility of free will has to do with the limits of our knowledge.

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A Primer on Ethics by Tibor R. Machan


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