What is Ethical Theory and What Does It Mean?June 27, 2021
According to Dewey Real moral goals; It is progress towards the satisfaction of human needs and desires, the continuous improvement of people in moral sensibility, and the practical realization of a better social world.
“A good person is one who is on the way to becoming better, no matter how morally worthless he is. … Growth itself is the only moral ‘goal’.” However, as long as certain results are achieved, moral good or moral goals can be mentioned.
There are no absolute good or bad; each case is a particular case and requires particular investigation methods. The greatest good is the elimination of the greatest evil or the satisfaction of man’s greatest needs. The choice between good and evil is not made on a theoretical basis, but with the aim of reducing or mitigating as much as possible the particular evils that bother one.
Dewey was neither an optimist nor a pessimist. Like James, he was a meliorist and believed that the world could only be made better by man’s determination to bring about desirable results. Neither happiness nor goodness can reach complete perfection because they are but steps to higher levels of moral progress.
Moreover, as developed further in the Quest for Certainty (certainty), Dewey’s theory of value is the utilitarian goal of achieving whatever is actually desired, and its progress towards what is most desirable and most satisfying, what is worthy of praise, love, and enjoyment. He made a distinction between his own goal in the form of
Satisfactory or desirable courses of action must respond to certain qualifyable conditions that can be determined in advance, and as such must be based on judgments, calculations or valuations that will serve as guides to future action. “Judgments about values are judgments about conditions and the consequences of objects experienced; judgments about what should regulate the formation of our desires, feelings, and pleasures.” Value exists only where there is satisfaction. The fulfillment of certain conditions transforms satisfactions into values.
Moral laws can be compared to physical laws in that they serve as formulas, guiding us in making certain responses under given conditions. Moral laws are not absolute rules that never allow exceptions. Since it is human nature to act rather than just to think or to create theories, theory separated from concrete action is empty, sterile, or fruitless. The function of the mind is to serve action, and it is useful to man when action obeys the dictates of the mind. Values should be seen as practically meaningful good things that result from intellectually directed activity.
“All morality is social,” said Dewey, emphasizing the principle that moral responsibility is social. Man cannot live in a society without assuming moral obligations. If one disregards the moral order of one’s own society, then he will most likely be able to escape it by entering a savage society, but even there it is impossible to avoid moral principles altogether, for he will find that he has merely exchanged one set of obligations for another. Man would not be obliged to be moral only if he were alone in the world, but then the question would not arise.
Rights are also social because a person cannot assert their rights without accepting responsibility for them. Claiming the right to free speech for oneself brings with it the responsibility to respect the free speech rights of others. Immoral behavior is harmful to the whole society, and for this reason, dangerous individuals who violate the boundaries are removed from society.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook