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PHIL106
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  1. PHIL106 Contemporary Ethical Issues

  2. Lecture Etiquette • Asking questions • Arriving late & leaving early • Cell phones • Sleeping

  3. PHIL106: Contemporary Ethical Issues • The issues • The morality of advertising • The morality of the death penalty • The morality of euthanasia • The abortion debate • Life boat ethics • The morality of cloning • The morality of genetic engineering • The method • Discussion of justified arguments

  4. Is Advertising Immoral? • Does advertising manipulate us into buying things that we don’t need? • Does advertising coerce us into buying things that are bad for us? • Does exposure to advertising make us unhappy?

  5. The Morality of the Death Penalty • The death penalty is still doled out in many places around the world • Should the death penalty ever be used as punishment for wrong doing?

  6. The Morality of Euthanasia • Should doctors be able to kill people if all of the following criteria about those people are met? • They’re in chronic pain, • They’ve no chance of recovery, • They’ve little time left to live, and • They want to die

  7. The Abortion Debate • Should parents be allowed to abort their unborn children if they choose to? • Is there a point of the pregnancy after which abortion should not be permitted?

  8. Life Boat Ethics • What do you do when the life boat is full to capacity and there are more people trying to get in? • They will die if you leave them • You might all die if you let them on

  9. The Morality of Cloning • Identical twins (and triplets!) are effectively genetic clones • Many animals have been cloned in the lab (sheep, dogs, mice etc.) • Should human cloning be banned?

  10. The Morality of Genetic Engineering • Some people are born with genetic diseases or advantages (better looking etc) • Should genetic engineering of humans be allowed at all? • And, if so, what things should we be allowed to use it for?

  11. For Next Time • Read: • The Course Outline, • ‘The Debate over Utilitarianism’ (1997) by James Rachels, and • ‘A Simplified Account of Kant’s Ethics’ (1997) by Onora O’Neill. – See PHIL264 - 2008 reader • Get ready to discuss: • How to justify ethical claims

  12. PHIL106 Justifying Ethical Claims

  13. Types of Claims • Descriptive (usually amoral) • “Those seats are red” • Evaluative (can be amoral) • “Her essay was excellent” • Moral (never amoral) • “Dan is a (morally) bad person” • Assume there are such things as morally right and wrong

  14. Ethics • Concerned with justifying moral claims • Can use theories • Should use consistent and rationally compelling reasoning • We are going to apply ethics to contemporary moral controversies in this course

  15. Why Do We Need It? • If we want to make the world a better place… • People have different moral beliefs • Ethics allows for better discussion • And, might help us find the answer

  16. A Test Case • 18 year old brother and sister on holiday together alone • After much consideration, they have protected consensual sex • They never tell anyone about it or ever do it again • They both enjoyed it and remain very good friends • Is what they did morally wrong?

  17. Brother-Sister Incest • In Germany people are regularly prosecuted for this • Sent to jail, fined • Have their children taken away • The risk of genetic disease is similar to two consenting adults when one has a genetic disease • Which is allowed, but incest isn’t • Article (more info on this couple)

  18. Ethical Theories • Can be applied to situations and should provide a moral verdict • No theory seems to work perfectly • This may be a problem with our moral beliefs • No general agreement on a ‘best’ theory

  19. Utilitarianism • The morally right act is the one that maximises overall happiness • Look at the options • Try to predict how much happiness and suffering will be produced by each option • Choose the one that should produce the most ‘net happiness’

  20. Utilitarianism – E.G. • You have cheated on your partner • Morally speaking, should you tell them? • Weigh up the options • How much happiness and suffering would you expect to be produced by each option?

  21. Kantianism • Always act in a way that respects the rationality of others • Think before you act • Will this action treat anyone as a mere means? • Basically, you mustn’t use people without their consent

  22. Kantianism – E.G. • You have cheated on your partner • Morally speaking, should you tell them? • Which action would best respect their rationality? • Would you be using them as a mere means? • If they ask, you mustn’t lie

  23. Argument by Analogy • To argue that an act is moral: • Show that it is the same as something your opponent thinks is moral • It only needs to be the same in the morally relevant ways • Reverse for immoral acts

  24. Arg. by Analogy – E.G. • Genetic engineering kids to be smarter • Some say it is morally the same as sending them to a better school • Is this a good analogy? • Are these two acts morally equivalent?

  25. Divine Command Theory • An act is moral or immoral if God thinks it to be so • E.g. for Catholics: • GE of people is a sin, • But good schooling is not • But, why would God endorse one and not the other? • The answer to this question could be your justification

  26. The Law • An act is immoral if it breaks a law • But, the law is usually thought to follow morality

  27. Another Test Case • Mike bought a bunch of Rugby 7s tickets when they first went on sale. • He later auctioned them on trademe, making $500 profit. • Is what Mike has done immoral? • What factors might your verdict depend on?