Answer to Questions in Applied Ethical Theory (560 words)

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Bertrand finds himself in a situation in which he must perform one of two actions, either A or B. No other actions are possible in this situation, and Bertrand cannot avoid acting. Both choices will lead to considerable suffering.

If Bertrand chooses A, a group of 20 people, which includes Bertrand, will each suffer a great deal, while 1000 others do not suffer at all. If Bertrand chooses B, there will be even greater total suffering, though in this case, all 1020 will suffer equally, and no individual will suffer as much as the 20 (including Bertrand) who would suffer if Bertrand were to choose A .

Furthermore, the reason that A causes less total suffering is that the great suffering of the 20 will (somehow) prevent the greater total suffering that would be caused by B. Nevertheless, even though they are aware of this, at least some of the 20 are unwilling to endure greater suffering for themselves in order to protect everyone else.

Finally, Bertrand and everyone else involved in the situation belong to culture X, in which nearly everyone would judge A to be the morally preferable choice (in part, because the people in culture X worship a god named Skippy, who they believe to have commanded them to choose actions like A when faced with similar choices). As it happens, though, Skippy does not exist. Instead, another god actually does exist, and this actually existing god commands that people choose actions like B over actions like A.

For each of the five following ethical theories, indicate whether the theory would endorse A or B as the morally preferable choice by writing “A” or “B” in each blank and explain why.

• Ethical Egoism endorses ______.
Explain why:

• Ethical Relativism endorses ______.
Explain why:

• Kantian Ethics endorses ______.
Explain why:

• Act Utilitarianism endorses ______.
Explain why:

• Divine Command Theory endorses ______.
Explain why:

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One way in which Kantian ethics could be interpreted as endorsing option A is via the first formulation of Kant’s Categorical Imperative: The idea with this formulation—briefly stated—is that, when faced with a situation requiring a moral choice, one must act only in such a way that could rationally be made into a universal law governing how any similar agent must act in a similar situation. Thus, this formulation of the Categorical Imperative would argue against option...

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