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Frameworks for Moral Arguments

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Presentation on theme: "Frameworks for Moral Arguments"— Presentation transcript:

1 Frameworks for Moral Arguments
From “Medicine and Moral Arguments” by Carol Levine, in Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Bioethical Issues, 3rd ed.

2 Definitions Morality: “The general term for an individual’s or society’s standards of conduct, both actual and ideal, and of the character traits that determine whether people are considered “good” or “bad.” Ethics: “A broad set of moral principles (or one overriding principle) that is used in measuring human conduct.

3 Descriptive Ethics “The scientific study of morality…a scientist…can describe in empirical terms what the moral beliefs, judgments, or actions of individuals or societies are and what reasons are given for the way they act or believe.”

4 Metaethics “…approaches the subject of morality…as an analysis of the concepts, terms, and method of reasoning…meanings of moral terms and logic.”

5 Normative Ethics “…reflects on the kinds of actions and principles that will promote moral behavior.” Rejects moral relativism With careful moral reasoning and reflection, people can discern the “more moral” solutions to ethical dilemmas. Examples: business ethics, military ethics, bioethics, etc.

6 Ethical Theories Divine Law Teleological Theories
Deontological Theories Natural Law Theory Theory of Virtue

7 Divine Law In Western traditions, “the law of God is interpreted in terms of human moral principles.” However, a theory of ethics must be accessible to all people, not just followers of a particular faith.

8 Teleological Theories
from the Greek telos, or end The end justifies the means. Examples Utilitarianism argues that “an act is moral if it brings more good consequences than bad ones.” Situational Ethics argues that “true Christian morality does not blindly follow moral rules but acts from love and sensitivity to the particular situation and the needs of those involved.”

9 Deontological Theories
from the Greek deon, or duty “The rightness or wrongness of an act…should be judged on whether it conforms to a moral principle or rule, not on whether it leads to good or bad consequences.” Example “Kant’s Categorical Imperative…says that all persons have equal moral worth and no rule can be moral unless all people can apply it autonomously to all other human beings.” John Rawls’ social justice theory argues that “some action is good only if it benefits the least well off.”

10 Natural Law Theory St. Thomas Aquinas developed this theory that states “Actions are morally right if they accord with our nature as human beings.” We have the ability to reason, and by exercising our intelligence we can discern right action.

11 Theory of Virtue Has roots in the Aristotelian tradition
“…stresses not the morality of any particular actions or rules but the disposition of individuals to act morally, to be virtuous.”

12 Ethical Principles Three most important principles:
Respect for persons Beneficence Justice

13 Respect for Persons “Individuals should be treated as autonomous agents.” “Persons with diminished autonomy are entitled to protection.” Derivation from Kant: “Because human beings have the capacity for rational action and moral choice, they have a value independent of anything they do or can provide to others…should be treated in a way that respects their independent choices and judgments.” Two important moral rules (in bioethics) are derived from the principle of respect: informed consent and truth-telling; others include confidentiality and privacy.

14 Beneficence from the Latin bene, or good
Frankena’s four elements of beneficence: 1) One ought not to inflict evil or harm. 2) One ought to prevent evil or harm. 3) One ought to remove evil or harm. 4) One ought to do or promote good.

15 Justice “what is fair” or “what is deserved”
“An injustice occurs when some benefit to which a person is entitled is denied without good reason or when some burden is imposed unduly.” “Equals should be treated equally.” “Some distinctions—such as age, experience, competence, physical condition, and the like—can justify unequal treatment. “Those who appeal to the principle of justice are most concerned about which distinctions can be made legitimately and which ones cannot.”

16 Conflicting Principles
No easy solution! We must interpret and weigh the issues with regard to these fundamental principles. Then we make hard choices.

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