Ethics the elements of moral philosophy
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Ethics The Elements of Moral Philosophy. Chapter 1: What is Morality . 1. What is Morality?. The problem of definition. A minimum conception of morality. Moral Controversies. 2. Moral Controversies. Case1: Baby Theresa Case 2: Jodie and Mary Case 3: Tracy Latimer.

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Ethics the elements of moral philosophy

EthicsThe Elements of Moral Philosophy

Chapter 1: What is Morality

1 what is morality
1. What is Morality?

  • The problem of definition.

  • A minimum conception of morality.

  • Moral Controversies.

2 moral controversies
2. Moral Controversies

  • Case1: Baby Theresa

  • Case 2: Jodie and Mary

  • Case 3: Tracy Latimer

Case 1 baby theresa facts
Case 1: Baby Theresa Facts

  • Theresa was born with anencephaly, a genetic disorder in which the newborn lacks a major part of the brain.

  • Most with this defect are born stillborn or die within the first few weeks.

  • The parents of Theresa wanted to donate her organs to help other children who needed organ transplants.

  • However, to do this they could not wait until Theresa’s heart stopped beating because if they did the organs would deteriorate and would not be any help to other children.

  • Should Theresa’s life be sacrificed to help other children?

Case 1
Case 1

For Transplants

Against Transplants

  • The Benefits Argument: Transplanting Theresa’s organs will benefit many other children and cause no “harm” to anyone.

  • It will cause no harm because Theresa is not conscious, will never be conscious and she will eventually die in a few days.

  • Don’t use others as means only.

  • Killing or taking a life is always wrong even if the person is going to die anyways and even if the doing so would save many other lives.

Case 2 jodie and mary
Case 2: Jodie and Mary

  • Jodie and Mary are conjoined twin embryos.

  • They were joined at the lower abdomen. The spines were fused, and they only had one heart and one set of lungs.

  • If the parents did nothing, both would die. However, if they separated them, then Mary would die but Jodie would survive.

  • The parents were very Catholic and believed they should not interfere; they should allow God’s design to take its course.

  • The hospital and the doctors believed the twins should be separated so that at least Jodie could survive.

  • Should the twins be seperated?

Ethics issues
Ethics Issues

  • This case has two distinct ethical issues:

    (1) Who should decide the fate of Jodie and Mary, the parents or the doctors?

    (2) What is the ethically right thing to do?

  • We are going to examine the second


Don’t separate


  • All life is precious and it is always wrong to take a human life, even if it is with the purpose of saving another human life.

  • Both Mary and Jodie have the same right to life and no one can take that from them.

  • Benefits Argument

  • We have a moral obligation, a moral duty, to save a human life if we can do so.

  • Technically, the doctors are not killing Mary they are simply separating the twins and letting nature take its course.

Case 3 tracy latimer
Case 3: Tracy Latimer

  • Tracy was a 12-year old victim of cerebral palsy.

  • She weighed less than 40 pounds and was functioning at the level of a three-month-old baby.

  • Tracy’s father committed euthanasia (“mercy killing”). He had her inhale exhaust fumes until she died.

  • Tracy’s father was sentenced to only one year in prison and later the Supreme Court in Canada raised it to the mandatory 10 years.


For Euthanasia

Against Euthanasia

  • A version of the benefits argument: Tracy had no real potential to live a “productive life” AND was in intense pain.

  • Tracy had no quality of life and there existed no potential for any improvement of her condition; she was destined to rot away in this terrible and painful condition.

  • Slippery Slope: If we allow Tracy’s father to get away with killing his daughterthen someone else will do it for a less severe illness and pretty soon father’s will be killing their children because they have a severe cold!

  • This “mercy killing” is a act of discrimination against handicapped person and it puts all handicapped people at risk of similar discrimination.

Moral cases
Moral Cases

  • The purpose of analyzing and reflecting on these three moral cases is to demonstrate that several things:

    (1) That ethical positions must be supported by rational arguments (justification or evidence).

    (2) That rational argumentation is the methodology used in ethics.

    (3) That our first intuitions or what our emotions might indicate is right might turn out to be wrong.

    (4) As a result of (3), sometimes we need to separate our emotions and biases from reason, and we should be open to the arguments from all perspectives.


  • Ethical deliberation requires at least two things:

  • Rationality: moral judgments should be supported by good reasons (arguments).

  • Impartiality: the interests and rights of all involved should be considered.

Assessing arguments
Assessing Arguments

  • Facts

  • Conceptual issues

  • Moral Principles

  • We need to separate factual issues from conceptual and value issues.

  • For instance, in discussing abortion there are relevant issues concerning the gestation of the fetus (factual issues), the notion of what makes up a person (conceptual issue) and whether or not iit is morally permissible to kill an innocent person (value issue).

A minimal definition
A minimal Definition

  • “Morality is, at the very least, the effort to guide one’s conduct by reason –that is, to do what there are the best reasons for doing– while giving equal weight to the interests of each individual affected by one’s decision.”