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Joseph Butler

Joseph Butler

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Joseph Butler

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  1. Joseph Butler • Starter – Reminder of Butler from timeline • Odd One Out… • Conscience Animals Humans • Intuitive Reason Innate • Selfless Selfish Golden Rule • God Wrong Conscience

  2. Joseph Butler (1692-1752) Intuitive Conscience • Butler thought that our natural instincts and affections are shaped by reason in two ways: • Prudence (self-interest) • Benevolence (the happiness of others) • He believed that it was the faculty of conscience (or reflection) that distinguishes us from other animals.

  3. Joseph Butler (1692-1752) Intuitive Conscience • ‘There is a principle of reflection in men by which they distinguish between approval and disapproval of their own actions… this principle in man is conscience.’ (Dissertation on the Nature of Virtue) • For Butler, conscience directs us away from focusing on ourselves and towards the happiness or interest of others.

  4. Joseph Butler (1692-1752) Intuitive Conscience • He agreed with Aquinas that conscience could both determine and judge the rightness and wrongness of actions. • However, he believed that conscience was activated in situations without any introspection and that • It has the ultimate authority in ethical judgements.

  5. Joseph Butler (1692-1752) Intuitive Conscience • He argued that conscience • ‘Magisterially exerts itself spontaneously.’ • He held that conscience gives us instant intuitive judgements about what we should do. • He wrote: • ‘Had it strength as it has right; had it power as it had manifest authority, it would absolutely govern the world.’

  6. Joseph Butler (1692-1752) Intuitive Conscience • N.B.Conscience for Butler is both authoritative and automatic in the way it operates when a moral decision needs to be made. • He held that conscience was at the very essence of our humanity and that it had a vital place in human experience. • He believed that conscience was a person’s God given guide to right conduct and that its demands must therefore always be followed.

  7. Butler’s View of Conscience Evaluated • D.M. Mackinnon rejects Butler’s idea that conscience is a capacity. • He objects that Butler gives to intuitive judgements of conscience an ultimacy and an authority that they can’t have. • Intuitive judgements vary from person to person and need rigorous appraisal. • Further, an intuitive conscience, which is obeyed unquestioningly, could be used to justify all sorts of acts. • For this reason, the Catholic Church adopts Aquinas’position, which gives weight to conscience but allows for error when conscience directs a person to go against the law of God through ignorance.

  8. Conscience: Nineteenth Century Thought • John Stuart Mill said that • Conscience can either be strong or weak and • That a strong conscience needs to be developed. • “It is not because men’s desires are strong that they act ill, it is because their consciences are weak. There is no natural connection between strong impulses and a weak conscience. The natural connection is the other way.” • (J.S. Mill ‘Essay on Liberty’)

  9. Questions • 1 – Tie together the notion of self-respect with that of focusing on others • 2 – How can Butler’s view that conscience can never be mistaken, explain criminal behaviour? • 3 – How does God fit into Butler’s conscience? • 4 – How is conscience that separator between sentient beings? • 5 – What does it mean to act immorally? • 6 – How does Butler’s view differ from Aquinas’? • 7 – What do two A-words do to help explain Butler’s point? • 8 – What does D.M Mackinnon have to say on the subject?

  10. Extension and Summary • Ext – When finished take Mill handout from teacher. How does this challenge Butler’s view? • Plenary – re-do the odd ones out on the mini-whiteboards • Now on the other side, form a sentence for each one