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Lesson 1 Notes - Dr Os Lesson 1 Notes Ethical Concepts...

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Dr. O’s Lesson 1 Notes: Ethical Concepts, Principles and Theories How many of you have not taken a Philosophy course before? Some of you might well ask, "What is Philosophy?” I don’t think there is a single, universally accepted definition of "philosophy", so my (brief) answer shows my particular approach. Philosophers have traditionally tried to CLARIFY and explore certain basic issues, concepts, values, assumptions and beliefs, about the soul (or mind), life and death, the meaning of life, and so on. The best philosophers have also tried to evaluate, to critically assess, any and all claims either in a specific area or regarding just about everything. In this course, you are expected to think for yourself! You will be exposed to conflicting views on just about every topic we look at, so you will not be able to agree with everyone in the textbook! You'll have to make up your own minds on all of the issues or reserve judgment if that is your choice. To return to the question “What is Philosophy?”, above all, it should make us think. For example, what does it mean to say that life is precious or valuable? What does it really mean, what is it really, to be a person or for a person to be dead? Now, what about ethics itself? What exactly is ethics? Before we get to the substantive issues in the course, I will say a few things about ethics in general. It helps to have some background in ethical theory and I'll briefly discuss a few of the most influential ethical theories in Philosophy. Remember, however, that this is not a course on the theories of ethics; it is a course in
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applied ethics. So, we just do not have the time in this course to explore the main ethical theories in much detail. Ethics may consist in examining the nature and functions of ethical judgments and/or in trying to find some criterion or standard of right and wrong which could lead us to "the correct" ethical solution, or to an acceptable and rationally defensible solution to any ethical problem. Biomedical ethics is a branch of applied ethics, or practical ethics, not theoretical ethics. Applied ethics concerns the search for what we ought to do in a given case or class of cases, or what we should not do, and it looks for the best reasons available in order to justify its claims. So, applied ethics is a kind of normative ethics—not just descriptive and explanatory , but prescriptive, evaluative and critical. So, we are not trying to do anthropology, sociology or psychology in this course. Some of us will likely be making all sorts of value judgments here and no doubt we'll get into a few arguments, or at least disagreements, but this is the sort of thing that should keep you from falling asleep, I hope! One thing to remember throughout the course is that the distinctions we make when doing ethics are usually much more subtle than that between something simply being right or wrong. For example, suppose I asked the following question: "Is lying right or wrong?" Well? What is the answer to this question? What is problematic about this question? What is wrong with it?
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