crash course in ethics for bioethics students

crash course in ethics for bioethics students - A Crash...

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A Crash Course in Ethics for the Student of Bioethics F. D. Worrell Outline I. Some Important Ethical Theories A. What Will a Satisfactory Ethical Theory Contain and Do? B. Types of Ethical Theories C. Ethical Subjectivism D. Cultural Relativism E. Divine Command Ethics F. Utilitarianism G. Kant’s Ethics H. Virtue Ethics II. What Is the Proper Relation Between Ethical Theory and Bioethics? Further Reading Works Cited
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1 I. Some Important Ethical Theories This unit serves as an introduction to Normative Ethics. It opens with a brief summary of what a satisfactory ethical theory will look like. The second section paints a broad picture of the types of ethical theories out there, and discusses the large, blanket terms used in the discourse. The remaining sections in this unit explain particular normative ethical theories. The goal is to orient the discussion of each theory towards its consequences for Bioethics—the success of such an attempt varies given the theory in question. Each theory is explained, and then key criticisms are raised against each theory. The goal is not to show that there is no such thing as a satisfactory ethical theory. Instead, the availability of objections against each theory should demonstrate that each theory has its weakness(es) and that there is substantial room for debate in the application of each of the theories presented. Each section on an ethical theory will have three parts. The first will give a brief overview of the theory. The second will discuss some prominent objections to the theory. The final part will explain the implications of the normative theory for bioethics. A. What Will a Satisfactory Ethical Theory Contain and Do? As stated above, normative ethical theories are collections of moral principles that are meant to be action-guiding in the sense that they prescribe or prohibit an action. This is all fine and dandy, but how are we to know which principles an ethical theory should prescribe? A first this question may seem a foolish one to ask. The principles we assent to should be obvious. They will be things to which almost everyone will agree. No doubt, one could point to many great examples to support this: “Thou shalt not kill”, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”, “All people are (all other things being equal) of equal moral standing”, etc. The problem here is two-fold. First, no everyone will assent to the same set of moral principles. A great number of people think it is morally acceptable to kill animals. A great number of people also think that it is not morally acceptable to kill animals for food. There must be some way to relegate between competing principles. Which ought we to adopt? We must have some way to justify an answer. Second, the principles that people will assent to will often be contradictory. Most people think that We need some way to judge one principle as more preferable to adopt than another. Such a method is connected to our moral intuitions. Moral intuitions—also called our pretheoretical
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This note was uploaded on 09/24/2008 for the course PHIL 2025 taught by Professor Worrel during the Spring '08 term at LSU.

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crash course in ethics for bioethics students - A Crash...

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