Priorities and Conflicts

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3.3 Normative Ethics --- Virtue and Value Theory --- Conflicts between Values


Theory of Value and Virtue

Priorities and Conflicts”



Teaching objectives:


  • Understand the prioritisation of intrinsic values/virtues when conflicts occur

  • Intrinsic values take precedence over instrumental values

  • With reference to Utilitarianism or Deontology to prioritise intrinsic values



Suggested teaching period: 5 lessons

Teacher shall first prepare:

  • Knowledge Content of the Subject (5): Priority of and conflicts between virtues and values

  • Worksheet (1): Story --- China’s One Child Policy

  • Worksheet (2): Story --- The conflict between a successful businessperson and a devoted Christian

  • Worksheet (3): Story --- Yue Fei and the Twelve Medallions

  • Worksheet (4): Story --- Buddha leaving home

  • Worksheet (5): Story --- Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac



Teaching process:

      1. Ask students to define “intrinsic values” and “instrumental values”.



      1. The teacher should first teach Knowledge Content of the Subject (5): Priority of and conflicts between virtues and values, and should emphasise the principles of prioritising values and virtues.





      1. Divide the students into groups of 4 or 5, and give each group one of the following worksheets:

Worksheet (1): Story --- China’s One Child Policy

Worksheet (2): Story --- The conflict between a successful businessperson and a devoted Christian

Worksheet (3): Story --- Yue Fei and the Twelve Medallions

Worksheet (4): Story --- Buddha leaving home

Worksheet (5): Story --- Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac

Ask the students to discuss the worksheets in their groups, and then one representative of each group is selected to report their views.


4. Once students have given their opinions, the teacher may explain and give out answers.


Knowledge Content of the Subject (5):

Priority and conflicts between virtues and values
Situations where virtues can conflict

In ancient or even modern societies, conflicts would frequently occur between different virtues and values, and when situations of mutual incompatibility occurred, virtues and values should be prioritised. The rationales of Value Theory, Virtue Theory and Utilitarianism are all different. The latter attempts to search for a single formula of judgement which acts as the final standard for moral judgements, so that what complies with the formula is moral, and what does not comply is immoral.

Virtue Theory and Value Theory do not acknowledge the existence of such a formula. They do not decide whether something is moral on the basis of individual actions; instead, they make judgements based on factors such as the person carrying out the action’s motives, environment, personal relationship networks and identity, analysing the situation from that person’s perspective before determining whether the action is moral. For these reasons, when conflicts between different virtues occur, it is simply not possible to find a single principle capable of judging who is right and who is wrong. For example, which of “loyalty” and “filial piety” is more important? When “honesty” and “compassion” may contradict one another, which should we choose? We cannot and should not simply give an inevitable answer.

Although Virtue Ethics cannot provide us with a definite answer, it can still direct our thinking and provide principles for reference.
Ways of thinking when conflicts occur

1. Intrinsic values are more important than instrumental values

Things of instrumental value are only of value because they can achieve other objectives or because they provide people with higher values. When they are in conflict with things of intrinsic value, things which are already of value in themselves, instrumental values are of secondary importance. For example, the goal of being “polite” is to obtain the respect of others, and so in this situation, politeness is an instrumental value to win the respect of others; when it conflicts with “life”, something of intrinsic value, life will take precedence in most normal situations.
2. What choices would a moral person make when faced with this problem?

Virtue Ethics stresses the need to think from someone else’s perspective, and to try and think what a moral person would do. It is underpinned by “humanism”, and so it avoids putting certain “moral rules” above this “humanism”.



Worksheet (1): Story --- China’s One Child Policy

From Deng Xiaoping’s speech at the CCP’s 1980 Theoretical Conference:

“If we want to make China achieve the Four Modernisations, there are at least two key characteristics that must be seen. One relates to China’s poor foundations The second is that China has a large population and little arable land. China now has a population of over 900 million, of which 80% live in the rural area. There are both advantages and disadvantages to having so many people. In a situation where production is not yet developed enough, food, education and employment are all serious problems. We must strengthen our work on family planning, but even if the population ceases to grow after so many years, the problem of the large population will continue to exist for a certain period of time. This situation of little arable land and a large population, particularly a large rural population, cannot easily be changed. This is a characteristic which China’s modernisation and construction must take into account.”





From a speech given by Deng Xiaoping in 1986 upon meeting the Japanese prime minister:

“China’s implementation of strict population growth controls is in our own vital interests. It is a major strategic policy of China. Some people outside the country want China not to implement family planning – they want China to remain in an impoverished state forever.”






“Citizens have the right to reproduction as well as the obligation to practise family planning according to law. Both husband and wife bear equal responsibility for family planning.




Population and Family Planning Law of the People's Republic of China, Article 18: “The State maintains its current policy for reproduction, encouraging late marriage and childbearing and advocating one child per couple. Where the requirements specified by laws and regulations are met, plans for a second child, if requested, may be made. Specific measures in this regard shall be formulated by the people's congress or its standing committee of a province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government. Family planning shall also be introduced to the ethnic peoples. Specific measures in this regard shall be formulated by the people's congress or its standing committee of a province, autonomous region or municipality directly under the Central Government.”





Some of those opposed believe that the issue of childbearing should be freely decided by the family, and the government has no right to interfere. Many foreign human rights organisations have consistently criticised the Family Planning Policy as a violation of human rights.

In addition, during the promotion of the One Child Policy, many “forcible abortions” and inhumane events have taken place.









People opposed to Family Planning in China believe:

The average per capita income of China’s urban population is much higher than that of the rural population, but they generally have only one child, while people in rural areas may have two children. This results in a situation where there are insufficient resources to enable these rural children to receive good education and live in a good social environment. At the same time, the only children of urban residents are always excessively pampered, leading to an increasingly gap between rich and poor.

In addition, well educated people who are in a good financial situation generally have fewer children or even no children, while those in a comparatively poor financial situation are often led by traditional ideas to disobey the Family Planning Policy, and give birth to more children more frequently. In this way, the Family Planning Policy causes a drop in the proportion of children who come from families with good financial circumstances.


  1. What are the reasons for opposing or supporting China’s One Child Policy? Please give three reasons for each side.

Reasons for supporting the One Child Policy:

  1.                _

                 


  1.                _

                 

  1.                _

                 

Reasons for opposing the One Child Policy:

1.                



                 

2.                



                 

3.                



                 

What virtues and values do the three reasons above involve?

  1. ____________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  2. ____________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  3. ____________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

What virtues and values do the three reasons above involve?

  1. ________ __ (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  2. ________ __(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  3. _________ _(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

Those opposed to the One Child Policy believe it “violates the human rights of the individual”.

Those in favour of the One Child Policy believe it “protects the national interests of China”.

Analyse this situation from a perspective of Virtue Ethics. Is the One Child Policy moral? Discuss it in terms of “value conflicts”.

Perspective 1: Intrinsic values are more important than instrumental values

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

Perspective 2: Use other theories to help – Utilitarianism and Deontology

________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

Perspective 3: What choices would a moral person make when faced with these issues?

___________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________


Suggested Answers


Reasons for supporting the One Child Policy:

  1. A large population may result in serious problems including food, employment and education.

  2. The One Child Policy is an issue of vital interests, as overpopulation may result in China remaining poor in the long term.

  3. It makes society more stable.

Reasons for opposing the One Child Policy:

  1. Childbearing is a human right, and issues of childbearing should be decided by the family.

2. The One Child Policy may lead to forcible abortions, an indirect form of murder, and murder is immoral.

  1. Childbearing is governed by God, and so the One Child Policy is a violation of nature.

What virtues and values do the three reasons above involve?

  1. Improving quality of life (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  2. Eliminating poverty (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  3. Social stability (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

What virtues and values do the three reasons above involve?

  1. Human rights (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  2. Cherishing life (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  3. Nature______(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

Those opposed to the One Child Policy believe it “violates the rights of the individual”.

Those in favour of the One Child Policy believe it “protects the national interests of China”.

Analyse this situation from a perspective of Virtue Ethics. Is the One Child Policy moral? Discuss it in terms of “value conflicts”.

Perspective 1: Intrinsic values are more important than instrumental values


Answer 1: “Human rights” are an intrinsic values, and so they already have inherent moral value; “the national interest”, however, is only an instrumental value, as it can achieve another value or objective. We must protect the country’s national interests, as the rights of the individual can only be protected when the country is stable, prosperous and developed.

Answer 2: “Protecting the national interest” and “patriotism” are intrinsic values, and so they already have inherent moral value; while “rights” are only instrumental values, as they achieve another value or objective. We must protect the rights of the individual, as society in general and the entire country can only fully develop when the rights of the individual are protected.

Perspective 2: Use other theories to help – Utilitarianism and Deontology



Answer 1: Analysing the situation from a Utilitarian perspective, the morality of an action is determined by whether it “brings happiness to the most people”. The One Child Policy only has an impact upon the individual rights and interests of people of childbearing age, but is in the interests of society as a whole, and protects the interests of 1.2 billion people in China. Consequently, the “national interest” is more important than the “rights of the individual”.

Answer 2: Analysing the situation from a Utilitarian perspective, the morality of an action is determined by whether it “brings happiness to the most people”. The One Child Policy directly affects the individual rights of 1.2 billion people throughout China, but does not ensure that the objective of “protecting the national interest” can be achieved. The “national interest” is never more than a slogan, and so the “rights of the individual” are more important than the “national interest”.

Perspective 3: What choices would a moral person make when faced with these issues?


Answer 1: A moral person would value feelings, and whether something is moral can only be emotionally sensed by putting oneself in the persons place and experiencing his/her situation. The feelings toward damaging the “rights of the individual” of those involved are the deepest and the most direct; in contrast to the “rights of the individual”, the “national interest” is comparatively distant and indirect, and is also not substantive or predictable. Consequently, a moral person would believe that the “rights of the individual” are more important than the “national interest”.

Answer 2: A moral person would “sacrifice the small self for the greater self”. He/She would certainly put the greater good before their personal interests, as the gains or losses of the individual are not important. Consequently, he/she would feel that the “national interest” is more important than the “rights of the individual”.

Worksheet (2): Story --- The conflict between a successful businessperson and a devoted Christian

The main goal of business is to make profits. In today’s society, success in business is always defined and measured by how much money you can make, and the more you earn, the more successful you are considered to be. If your business income is only sufficient to make ends meet, or is less than that of an ordinary employee, such that you are not able to live a particularly comfortable life, this is considered unsuccessful. Ambition, tenacity and success are always considered virtues, but where do you actually make money? If you want to succeed, if you pursue your goals with determination and put money first at all times, do you sacrifice other virtues in the process, thereby creating a conflict with your “success”?



What makes a successful businessperson in our modern and capitalised society? Adam Smith has already given us one answer. Guides telling us how to be successful or how to become successful businesspeople are now very popular, and are a common sight in bookshops. Take a close look at the methods for becoming successful below, which are taken from several famous scholars and writers of such guides.




In The Wealth of Nations, “Adam Smith, the father of capitalism, proposes that people’s motives for engaging in economic activity are selfish and greedy. They further their commercial activities only to allow themselves to make greater profits and bring greater benefit to themselves. This work includes the following famous quotation:

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regards to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.”






How to become a “successful capitalist”:

1. Calculate the profits, avoid losses

2. Never be satisfied with the status quo, aim higher

3. Increase your capital to avoid being outbid

4. Always keep a competitive state of mind, eliminate the weak and keep the strong

5. Always strive for change, minimise the inertia

6. Grab opportunities, avoid anything negative

7. Learn how to control and manage other people










What personality traits does a successful businessperson have?

1. Strong motivation to move upward

2. Clear, definite goal for the “first pot of gold”

3. Believes in their own abilities

4. Puts work first

5. Has the courage to constantly try new ideas and revise their thinking

6. Understands and is good at calculating benefits

7. Capable of proactively striking out towards goals



What characteristics should a successful businessperson and a devoted Christian have?


A successful businessperson should have the following characteristics:

  1. _______________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  2. _______________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  3. _______________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

A devoted Christian should have the following characteristics:

  1. _______________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  2. _______________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  3. _______________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)



Analysing from a perspective of Virtue Ethics, which of “ambition” and “contentment” is more important? Discuss in terms of “value conflicts”.

Perspective 1: Intrinsic values are more important than instrumental values

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

Perspective 2: Use other theories to help – Utilitarianism and Deontology

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

Perspective 3: What choices would a moral person make when faced with these issues?

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________





Suggested Answers


A successful businessperson should have the following characteristics:

  1. Good at calculating benefits (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  2. Ambition (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  3. Competitive spirit (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

A devoted Christian should have the following characteristics:

  1. Contentment (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  2. Not attracted by fame and fortune (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  3. Spirit of sacrifice (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

Analysing from a perspective of Virtue Ethics, which of “ambition” and “contentment” is more important? Discuss in terms of “value conflicts”.

Perspective 1: Intrinsic values are more important than instrumental values

Answer 1: “Ambition” is an intrinsic value, and so has inherent moral value, and most people in society acknowledge the importance of “ambition”. “Contentment”, however, is an instrumental value, as it can achieve other values or goals; through “contentment”, we can have a sense of security and achieve peace of mind, and therefore ambition is more important than “contentment”.

Answer 2: “Contentment” is an intrinsic value, and so has inherent moral value, and most people in society acknowledge the importance of “contentment”. “Ambition”, however, is an instrumental value, as it can achieve other values or goals; through “ambition”, we can obtain wealth, success and happiness.

Perspective 2: Use other theories to help – Utilitarianism and Deontology

Answer 1: Analysing the situation from a Utilitarian perspective, the morality of an action is determined by whether it “brings happiness to the most people”. If a person has “ambition”, they are more likely to succeed and obtain wealth and power, bringing benefits to themselves and the people around them. However, a person who is “content” with what they have will always pursue their own peace of mind, and is less likely to bring benefits and happiness to those close to them. Consequently, “ambition” is more important than “contentment”.

Answer 2: Analysing the situation from a Utilitarian perspective, the morality of an action is determined by whether it “brings happiness to the most people”. If a person has “ambition”, they are likely to be more driven, selfish and manipulative, and will often hurt those around them. However, a person who is “content” with what they have is more likely to have an easy-going and considerate personality, and they will therefore bring happiness and benefits to others. Consequently, “contentment” is more important than “ambition”.

Perspective 3: What choices would a moral person make when faced with these issues?

Answer 1: A moral person would not be overly interested in fame or fortune, and would view the pursuit of glory as mere vanity. Although such vulgar qualities as “ambition” are admired by common people, they would not place much value on them. Consequently, they would certainly view “contentment” as more important than “ambition”.

Answer 2: A moral person would also be wise and like to help others, as well as knowing how to put other people’s interests before themselves. If you want to help people, you must first help yourself, as a person must have sufficient wealth, capabilities and expertise before they can help others. “Ambition” allows one to obtain these things, and so a moral person would therefore certainly regard “ambition” as more important than “contentment”.


Worksheet (3): Story --- Yue Fei and the Twelve Medallions


Yue Fei and the Twelve Medallions

Yue Fei, from Tangyin in Xiangzhou, was a famous general who fought against the Jurchens in the late Northern Song era. He earned great honour in the field, winning battle after battle.


In the last years of the Song, the Jurchen army made frequent incursions into Chinese territory, massacring ordinary Chinese people, raping and pillaging. Yue Fei led the Chinese army to defeat the Jurchen and attack Zhuxianzhen, surrounding the Jurchen encampment. Yue Fei and his Yue Army struck at the heart of the enemy, routing the Jurchen forces until they were on the brink of bringing peace to the people.
However, the Song Emperor Gaozong, wanted to sue for peace by giving up Huaibei to the Jurchen, and incited by Prime Minister Qin Hui, who was secretly in league with the Jurchen, he sent out gold medallions to Yue Fei to summon him back to the court. Yue Fei believed that the Yue Army could attack and defeat the Jurchen at their main encampment, bring peace and prosperity to the people. This was such a rare opportunity that Yue Fei wrote the first memorial to the emperor opposing his recall to the court. This situation repeated itself until the emperor had sent a total of twelve golden medallions to him ordering him and his forces back to the court.

Finally, Yue Fei’s loyal nature won out and he obeyed the emperor’s orders to return to the court. After his return, Prime Minister Qin Hui bribed Yue Fei’s former assistants to accuse him of treason. When the magistrate examined the case, he could find no evidence that Yue Fei had committed treason, but sentenced him to death on the charge that “maybe there was” such evidence.


What reasons were there for supporting and opposing the return of Yue Fei’s army to the court? Please give three for each side.

Reasons for supporting the army’s return to the court:

  1. _________________________________



  1. _________________________________

____________________________________

  1. _________________________________

____________________________________

Reasons for opposing the army’s return to the court:

  1. ________________________________

__________________________________

2. ________________________________ __________________________________

3._________________________________

__________________________________



Which virtues and values do the three reasons above involve?

1. ____________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)



  1. _____________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  2. _____________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

Which virtues and values do the three reasons above involve?

  1. __________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  2. __________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  3. __________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

Analysing from a perspective of Virtue Ethics, which of “loyalty to one’s ruler” and “saving the common people” is more important? Discuss in terms of “value conflicts”.

Perspective 1: Intrinsic values are more important than instrumental values

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

Perspective 2: Use other theories to help – Utilitarianism and Deontology

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

Perspective 3: What choices would a moral person make when faced with these issues?

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________



Suggested Answers


Reasons for supporting the army’s return to the court:

  1. The decision to recall the army to the court was an imperial decree, and the “ruler’s order cannot be violated”.

  2. If he did not return to the court after the twelfth medallion, he would anger the emperor and risk execution.

  3. If he did not return to the court, he might cause his subordinates to be implicated and share his guilt.

Reasons for opposing the army’s return to the court:

  1. In order to win the war, they needed to take advantage of their victories and pursue the enemy.

  2. It was necessary to completely destroy the enemy, in order to bring peace and prosperity to the lives of the common people.

  3. “When the general is on an expedition, he does not always follow the ruler’s orders”. As a general, Yue Fei best understood the military situation, and disobeying imperial orders would be consistent with military law.

Which virtues and values do the three reasons above involve?

  1. Obeying the ruler’s orders (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  2. Protecting lives (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)
  3. Considering one’s subordinates (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)


Which virtues and values do the three reasons above involve?

  1. Victory (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  2. Saving the common people (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  3. Obeying the law (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

Analysing from a perspective of Virtue Ethics, which of “loyalty to one’s ruler” and “saving the common people” is more important? Discuss in terms of “value conflicts”.

Perspective 1: Intrinsic values are more important than instrumental values

Suggested Answer 1: “Saving the common people” is an intrinsic value, and so has inherent moral value, and most people in society acknowledge the importance of “saving the common people”. “Contentment” is an instrumental value, as it can achieve other values and objectives. The ruler is the head of the country, and through “loyalty to the ruler”, we can provide the ruler with a contented, harmonious environment in which to manage the affairs of the country and bring happiness to the lives of the people.

Perspective 2: Use other theories to help – Utilitarianism and Deontology

Suggested Answer 2: Analysing the situation from a Utilitarian perspective, the morality of an action is determined by whether it “brings happiness to the most people”. If a person is willing to carry out actions which “save the common people”, this will bring happiness to millions of people. However, “loyalty to the ruler” benefits only to a “contented ruler. Consequently, “saving the lives of the common people” is more important than “loyalty to the ruler”.

Perspective 3: What choices would a moral person make when faced with these issues?


A moral person would certainly be sympathetic, and if they saw people suffering with their own eyes, they would put themselves in their place, and would undoubtedly choose to save the lives of the common people.



Worksheet (4): Story --- Buddha leaves home


Yasodharā and Siddhārtha leave home

After Prince Siddhārtha married at age 19, he lived in the palace for another ten years. He began to think deeply about the physical world, and his inquiries led him to become aware of the illusions and suffering of life, and issues such as the plight of the weak at the mercy of the strong, the selfishness and conflicts between people, and each person’s aging, sickness and death. He felt that if he did not personally leave home to cultivate himself, he would not be able achieve his objective of helping people to leave behind suffering and obtain happiness.


  At this time, his wife Yasodharā was already pregnant with his child, and was about to give birth. The prince waited until soon after she gave birth, before leaving in the middle of the night, fleeing the city, determined to cultivate himself.

  For the court at Kapilavastu, this was an earth-shattering event. When the prince’s driver returned to the palace with the prince’s empty carriage in tow, he reported to the king that the prince had shaved his head, put on common clothes and left his home. When Yasodharā, Siddhārtha’s wife, heard the news, she was so stricken with grief that she nearly went mad. She rebuked the driver viciously, saying that he should not have taken the prince out into the forest without telling her. Then she cursed the prince’s horse, saying it should not have secretly carried her husband out of the palace without a sound. Yasodharā then laid down on the ground and wailed for a while, before pouring out her feelings, thoughts and opinions on the prince’s departure:

  “Oh, my husband! I have done my best to do all that a wife should do. Why did you still abandon me and leave without even saying a word? I have to follow the man I marry, however he may be. Oh, my husband! When the kings of the past went into the mountains to cultivate themselves, they took their wives with them. Those kings did not find their path to enlightenment obstructed by their wives! My husband, some people shave their heads together with their wives. They leave home to cultivate themselves, living an ascetic life and giving their best horses, jewels and wealth to charity, facing the future and obtaining enlightenment and karmic rewards together. Why are you so mean that you suddenly abandon me and leave here alone to lead a religious life? Can it be that you hope to practice the ascetic life to thirty-third heaven, cultivating yourself so that you can experience the joy of living together with Lakshmi, the Goddess of Heaven?”
   Yasodharā was a chaste, determined and an understanding woman. In fact, Siddhārtha had married her precisely because she was not the kind of woman whom he needed to worry about, and he had then secretly left her.
  Once Yasodharā had vented her frustrations, the shock of the sudden news dissipated, and in a rational state, she made this vow:

  “From this day forward, until I see the prince again, I will never again sleep on my old bed. I will not bathe with scented water, bejewel myself, beautify my body, put on makeup or wear beautiful clothes; I will not use precious stones, perfume, scented oils, hair adornments or necklaces. I will give up tasteful flavours, and will not eat delicious foods or alcoholic drinks. I will not arrange or decorate my hair. Although my body will still live in the palace, I also want to live an ascetic life as in the forests.” From this time, Siddhārtha practiced asceticism in the mountains for six years, and Yasodharā did the same in the palace.

Adapted from Ven Sheng Yan Stories of the Sages


  1. What reasons are there to support or oppose Prince Siddhārtha’s decision to leave home and cultivate himself? Give three reasons for each side.

Reasons for supporting “the prince leaving home to cultivate himself”:

  1. ________________________ ____

____________________________ ___

  1. ________________________ ____

____________________________ ____

  1. ________________________ ____

____________________________ ____

Reasons for opposing “the prince leaving home to cultivate himself”:

  1. ________________________________

___________________________________

2. ________________________________

___________________________________


  1. ________________________________

___________________________________

Which virtues and values do the three reasons above involve?

1. ____________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

2.____________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

3.____________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)



Which virtues and values do the three reasons above involve?

1. ______________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

2. ______________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

3. ______________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)


Analysing from a perspective of Virtue Ethics, which of “performing the duties of a husband” and “seeking truth” is more important? Discuss in terms of “value conflicts”.

Perspective 1: Intrinsic values are more important than instrumental values

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

Perspective 2: Use other theories to help – Utilitarianism and Deontology

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

Perspective 3: What choices would a moral person make when faced with these issues?

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________


Suggested Answers

Reasons for supporting “the prince leaving home to cultivate himself”:

  1. He should devote himself to seeking out the causes of suffering, in order to help others leave behind suffering and attain happiness.

  2. As the head of the household, a husband has the right to live as he wishes.

  3. The prince hoped to leave home and cultivate himself to seek out the true goodness and beauty of life, which is the highest aspiration of humanity.

Reasons for opposing “the prince leaving home to cultivate himself”:

  1. The prince should take care of his wife and newborn son, he should perform his duty as a husband and father.

  2. The prince must love and care for his wife, and should not abandon his wife and child, as it would make his wife sad and heartbroken.

  3. The prince should be filial and respect his parents' wishes; he should not disobey his parents command not to leave home to leave a religious life.

Which virtues and values do the three reasons above involve?

  1. Helping others (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  2. Rights (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  3. Seeking the truth (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

Which virtues and values do the three reasons above involve?

  1. Performing one’s duty (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  2. Loving and caring for his wife (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  3. Filial piety (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

Analysing from a perspective of Virtue Ethics, which of “performing the duties of a husband” and “seeking truth” is more important? Discuss in terms of “value conflicts”.
Perspective 1: Intrinsic values are more important than instrumental values

Answer 1: “Seeking truth” is an intrinsic value, and so has inherent moral value, and most people in society acknowledge the importance of “seeking truth”. “Performing one’s duty” is only an instrumental value, as it can achieve other values or objectives. Through “performing one’s duty”, we can keep our word and obtain the trust of others. Consequently “seeking the truth” is more important than “performing one’s duties”.

Answer 2: “Performing one’s duty” is an intrinsic value, and so has inherent moral value, and most people in society acknowledge the importance of “performing one’s duty”. “Seeking the truth” is only an instrumental value, as it can achieve other values or objectives. After we have sought the truth, we may become trustworthy people who willingly accept responsibility. The aim of “seeking the truth” is always to “carry out one’s duty”, and so “performing one’s duty” is more important than “seeking truth”.

Perspective 2: Use other theories to help – Utilitarianism and Deontology

Answer 1: Analysing the situation from a Utilitarian perspective, the morality of an action is determined by whether it “brings happiness to the most people”. If a person is willing to “perform their duty”, they will bring joy and happiness to those around them. However, choosing to “seek the truth” is always a relatively selfish decision, as it only brings peace of mind and joy to oneself.

Answer 2: Analysing the situation from a Utilitarian perspective, the morality of an action is determined by whether it “brings happiness to the most people”. A person who “seeks truth” can bring happiness to the whole of humanity. However, “performing one’s duty” only brings happiness to the wife, a single person. Consequently, “seeking truth” is more important than “performing one’s duty”.

Perspective 3: What choices would a moral person make when faced with these issues?

Answer 1: A moral person would be sympathetic, and so they would love and care for their family, and would not be able to bear seeing their family suffer. Consequently, they would inevitably believe that “performing one’s duty” is more important than “seeking truth”.

Answer 2: A moral person would be wise, and so would know the relative importance of things, and be able to put aside their selfish desires for the happiness of humanity. Consequently, they would inevitably believe that “seeking truth” is more important than “performing one’s duty”.




Worksheet (5): Story ---Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac


Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac
God wanted to test Abraham, and so he called to him, “Abraham.” Abraham answered, “I am here.” God said, “Bring your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and sacrifice him to me on the mountaintop I have shown you.”
Thus, Abraham woke up early in the morning, and taking with him a donkey, two servants, his son Isaac, and chopped firewood for sacrificial use, he set out for the place that God had indicated to him. They travelled for three days until Abraham lifted his head and saw the place in the distance. Abraham said to his servants, “Wait here with the donkey, and I will return here after my son and I have made the sacrifices.” Abraham gave the firewood to his son Isaac to carry, and carried the fire and the knife himself. Thus, the two climbed the mountain together.
Isaac said to Abraham, “Look, father. There is firewood, a knife and fire, but where is the lamb for burnt offering?” Abraham replied, “My beloved son, God has already prepared the lamb for the sacrifice”. The two continued to climb the mountain together, until they reached the place that God had indicated. Abraham then set up an altar, laid the firewood, bound up his son Isaac and placed him on the firewood of the altar. Abraham then took the knife and prepared to kill his son as a sacrifice.

Suddenly, an angel called to him from heaven. “Abraham. You would never harm Isaac, and so now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” Abraham looked up to his surprise, saw a ram with its horns caught in a thicket. He then took the ram and offered it in place of his son.

Adapted from the Bible, Genesis 22





  1. What reasons are there to support or oppose Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac? Give three for each side.

Reasons for supporting Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac:

  1. ___________________________________

___________________________________

  1. ___________________________________

___________________________________

  1. ___________________________________

___________________________________

Reasons for opposing Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac:

  1. __________________________________

___________________________________

2. _________________________________

___________________________________

3. _________________________________

___________________________________


Which virtues and values do the three reasons above involve?

  1. Piety_______(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  2. ___________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  3. ___________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

Which virtues and values do the three reasons above involve?

  1. Treasuring life(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  2. Valuing family(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  3. ___________(Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

Analysing from a perspective of Virtue Ethics, which of “piety” and “treasuring life” is more important? Discuss in terms of “value conflicts”.

Perspective 1: Intrinsic values are more important than instrumental values

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

Perspective 2: Use other theories to help – Utilitarianism and Deontology

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________


Perspective 3: What choices would a moral person make when faced with these issues?

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________



Suggested Answers

Reasons for supporting Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac:

  1. God is all-knowing and benevolent; the things God asks us to do always stem from his good intentions.

  2. God is very gracious to us, and we should have faith and trust in him.

  3. God is omnipotent – he can do anything; even if Isaac had died, God could bring him back to life.

Reasons for opposing Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac:

  1. Life is the most previous thing, and you cannot harm another person’s life under any circumstances.

  2. Ending someone’s life simply because God tells us to is a superstitious behaviour.

  3. Killing someone without even asking the reason why is an evil act, and opposing such an act is just.

Which virtues and values do the three reasons above involve?
  1. Benevolence (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)


  2. Faith in God (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  3. Omnipotence (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

Which virtues and values do the three reasons above involve?

  1. Treasuring life (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  2. Opposing superstition (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

  3. Justice (Intrinsic/Instrumental Value)

Analysing from a perspective of Virtue Ethics, which of “piety” and “treasuring life” is more important? Discuss in terms of “value conflicts”.
Perspective 1: Intrinsic values are more important than instrumental values

Answer 1: “Treasuring life” is an intrinsic value, and so has inherent moral value, and most people in society acknowledge the importance of “treasuring life”. “Faith in God” is only an instrumental value, as it can achieve other values or objectives. Through carrying out the responsibilities God gives us, we can obtain truth, goodness and beauty. Consequently “treasuring life” is more important than “faith in God”.

Answer 2: “Faith” is an intrinsic value, and so has inherent moral value, and most people in society acknowledge the importance of “faith”. “Treasuring life” is only an instrumental value, as it can achieve other values or objectives. Through carrying out the responsibilities God gives us, we can obtain truth, goodness and beauty. Consequently “treasuring life” is more important than “faith in God”. A person’s death may be significant or insignificant; there is no problem with dying for moral values, and so “faith in God” is more important than “treasuring life”.

Perspective 2: Use other theories to help – Utilitarianism and Deontology

Answer 1: Analysing the situation from a Utilitarian perspective, the morality of an action is determined by whether it “brings happiness to the most people”. “Faith in God” is acknowledged as important only by those with religious faith, while “treasuring life” is acknowledged by the vast majority of people, and so “treasuring life” will bring them happiness and joy. Consequently, “treasuring life” is more important.

Perspective 3: What choices would a moral person make when faced with these issues?

Answer 1: For a moral person, their religion is always the pillar of the spirituality and morality. Religion plays a very important role in their life. Without it, they could easily lose their direction and integrity as a person, and lose their sense of morality. Death can be significant or insignificant, but they would be willing to lay down their life for their faith. Consequently, they would believe that “faith in God” is more important.



Answer 2: A moral person would be sympathetic, and if they saw people suffering, they would put themselves in their place and choose to treasure life.






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