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The Nature and Significance of Ethics

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					The Nature and Significance
        of Ethics
Importance of Ethical Decision-making in
emerging scientific technologies:

   Biotechnology
   Information Technology
Ethical (moral) vs. scientific or empirical
discourse:

       Facts vs. Values
Some examples:

1A. You are walking passed me in a crowded room,
  and you accidentally trip on my foot.

1B. I put my foot out on purpose to trip you.



2A. A town gets decimated because of an earthquake.

2B. A town gets decimated because of a bomb.
Facts vs. Values:

   Physical Facts: Scientifically measurable by
    physical operations and instruments. Facts
    are value-neutral.
   Values: issues of of moral rights and wrongs,
    good and bad, moral responsibility, rights,
    obligations; questions of moral ideals: Not
    scientifically measurable. They must be
    understood by philosophical analysis and
    reflection.
Facts vs. Values:

   Factual Statement: We created and used the atomic
    bomb.
   Value Statement: Creating and using the atomic
    bomb was morally right (morally wrong).

   Factual statement: someday we will have the
    technology to clone human beings.
   Value statement: It is morally acceptable
    (unacceptable) to clone human beings
Facts vs. Values:

   Factual Statement: scientists often perform
    painful experiments on animals.

   Value Statement: it is morally acceptable
    (morally required, morally wrong) for us to
    perform painful experiments on animals.
Making Moral Decisions--Some
Inappropriate Ways:

   Appeal to Authority
   Appeal to Law
   Appeal exclusively to self-interest
Making Moral Decisions—One
Problematic Way:


   Appeal to conscience as a faculty of moral
    perception
Some Guidelines for Making Ethical
Decisions:

   1. Choose correct moral language.

   2. Be as clear as you can about the facts,
    both empirical and philosophical

   3. Consider the relevant moral principles and
    rules, and make your best judgment.
Some Guidelines for Making Ethical
Decisions:
   Choose Correct Moral Language:
      Often, the way in which you initially
      conceptualize a situation will affect
      what moral conclusions you will make.
Some Guidelines for Making Ethical
Decisions:

     Be as clear as you can about the
     facts, both empirical and
     philosophical.
Stem Cell Research: Relevant Empirical
Facts:

   The embryos which provide the source of the
    stem cells are at the blastocyst stage; they
    are a clump of 150 cells, 7 days after
    conception.

   Stem cell research promises to provide cures
    for serious diseases.
Stem Cell Research—Relevant
philosophical facts. Differing views:


   The 7 day-old 150 cell embryo is (choose
    one):
        a) a person
        b) a potential person
        c) a blueprint for a person
        d) none of the above since it can still split
    into two persons (twins)
Some Guidelines for Making Ethical
Decisions:


   3. Consider the relevant moral principles and
    rules, and make your best judgment
Classical Ethical Theories:

   Utilitarianism

   Deontology

   Virtue Ethics

Others: Ethics of Care, casuistic ethics, etc.
Utilitarianism:


   An action is right if and only if it achieves the
    greatest good for the greatest number.
Deontology:
(Greek: deon-duty; logos-science)


   An action is right if it is an action of a certain
    kind; if it is your duty to perform. An action is
    wrong if it is your duty not to perform.

   For example, always wrong to torture, rape,
    enslave someone, no matter what the
    consequences are.
Deontology—some examples:

   The Ten Commandments:
      Thou shalt not murder, commit
      adultery, steal, bear false witness, covet
      they neighbor’s wife.

   The Golden Rule:
     “Do unto others what you would have
      others do unto you.”
Deontology—some examples:

   The Categorical Imperative (Immanuel Kant):

      Everyone should be treated with equal
      fairness and respect, regardless of the
      consequences.
Virtue (Character) Ethics:

   I should decide what actions I should perform
    based on my idea of what it is to be a good
    person.

      A good person, for example, lives up to the
     ideals of integrity, courage, loyalty,
     trustworthiness, generosity.
Example--Animal Experimentation:

   Utilitarianism—Pro:
    The greatest good (at least for humans) is
    achieved if we do animal experiments without
    spending effort to protect the animals

   Deontology--Con:
    We have no right to do whatever we want to
    animals. It is wrong to abuse them for our
    own benefit.
Example--Animal Experimentation:

   Virtue (Character) Ethics—Con:
       To cause pain to animals is below the
       threshold of what my ideal is for being
       human. I think it’s wrong to be that kind of
       person.
Example--Genetically Modified Foods:

   Utilitarianism—Pro:
      We are able to increase the nutritional benefits and
    yield of crops, using genetic modification.

   Utilitarianism—Con:
      “The greatest good for the greatest number”
    includes future generations. We are obligated to
    protect future generations from dangerous genetic
    modifications.
Example--Genetically Modified Foods:

   Deontology—Con:

   It’s wrong in the sense of unnatural to have
    the genes from one species inserted into
    another.

   Humans have no right to “play God”
Final Guidelines for Ethical Reasoning:

   Stay open-minded. Challenge your own
    views. It’s not enough just to hold a position,
    you must be able to support it with good
    reasons.

   Challenge the views of others if you disagree
    with them, but do so respectfully and
    considerately.
Final Guidelines for Ethical Reasoning:

   Philosophical discussion loses most of its
    value if it’s used as a place to dominate or
    show off.

   Philosophical discussion is best done as a
    community enterprise, where all the
    discussants work together to get closer to the
    truth.

				
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posted:4/17/2013
language:English
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