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The lecture is a discussion of humanistic ethics from a philosophical perspective. The discussion focuses on three areas of humanistic ethics: utilitarianism, humanistic relativism, and ethical humanism.
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The lecturer states that the utilitarianism position is the most influential in public life, especially in England and America. Utilitarianism has three premises. The first is a humanistic one that says “man is the ethical ultimate”. The second premise is Hedonism. This says “happiness is the highest good for man”. The third is the utilitarian principle, which says “the moral imperative is to maximize happiness”. The lecture gives several examples to show the dilemmas that utilitarianism presents. For instance, the utilitarian gives an argument that all Jews should be exterminated because this will leave the world a better place. This statement is contradictory, because extermination of the Jews causes misery to them, thus contradicting the utilitarian principle and hedonism.
The other form of humanistic ethics is humanistic relativism. Pythagoras describes humanistic relativism as the view that man is the measurable ultimate of “which is good that is good, which is bad that is bad, and which is wrong that is wrong”. This means that man is the “measuring rod” for good and bad in the world. As a result, there is no absolute truth as it is relative to the circumstance, culture, and perception of an individual. Basing ethics on universal principles of morality is a contradiction of the principle of relativism. Also, viewing man as the absolute measuring rod contradicts relativism as there may be different opinions concerning the authority of man. Relativists do not take into consideration the question of why man is free from the lens of relativism. This weakness makes humanistic relativism internally self destructive.
Ethical humanism is the third form of humanistic ethics. The humanistic position here is “man is the ethical ultimate”. The position claims that man has a certain dignity or worthiness. This is also the same for a woman. Thus, all human beings, because of their humanness, possess dignity. There is universal equality in dignity in all human beings. Two premises define humanistic egalitarianism. The first is that, although there is presumably biological continuity in all living things, there is a moral discrepancy between humans and non-humans. One of the given examples is an individual's action to stop a wildfire because he/she knows the usefulness of the forest. Contrarily, trees in the forest lack insight of their usefulness. Thus, a chasm exists between humans and non-humans. The second premise is that there is an infinite mismatch between a human and a subhuman. However, questions arise about why human beings are superior to non-humans. The controversy lies in how and why human beings define ethical equality. It cannot be said that all men reason the same as discrepancies abound in how men reason. In fact, men are “notoriously unequal”. For instance, if men possess the same worthiness as proposed, then all men would have the same intelligence quotient, personality, and so forth. Because this is wrong, ethical humanism leads to the suggestion that some people are more human than others. Indeed, humanistic egalitarianism ends in humanistic lack of egalitarianism. That is why Aristotle and other scholars support the view that humans are unequal.
Self reputation is the dilemma resulting from humanistic ethics based on utilitarianism, humanistic relativism, and ethical humanism. There is inhumanity which arises from humanity, absolutism which arises from relativism, and inequality arising from equality. These dilemmas arise because of systematically neglecting transcendence, the fact that makes men truly human. Transcendence is particularly crucial for a genuine egalitarian ethic. In that case, theology cannot be overlooked in the pursuit of genuine ethics.