Monday, September 9, 2013.
Philosophy 2D03Lecture 1
• Why should we do the right thing?
• Why should we avoid doing the wrong thing?
o Bad consequences
o Social expectations
o It’s wrong
• The recognitions that an act is right/wrong provides a reason for doing it/not doing it.
• Arise when there are moral reasons for accepting contrary positions
• Should women be allowed to have abortion on demand?
o Yes: Women have a right to control their own bodies
o No: It is wrong to take a human life (including the lives of unborn
• Dilemmas religious, business, political, healthcare
o I.e. Abortion, euthanasia
Philosophical Approaches to Moral Dilemmas
Analysis of the arguments
Appeal to general ethical theories
General Ethical Theories
Studying general ethical theories help clarify key bioethical concepts
• Moral Judgments cannot be justified empirically by appealing to principles
• Principle > Judgment
• “Abortion is wrong because we should never take a human life”
• Never take a human life (Principle) > Abortion is wrong (Judgment)
• Reject principle
o Attacking the principlereject it i.e. self defense, save somebody else…
taking human life is justifiable
• Reject application of principle: Challenge application of principle to particular case
Rejecting Moral Justifications
• Show that there is another moral principle, which supports the contrary position
• Never take a human life > Abortion is wrong
• Respect Autonomy > Abortion is permissible
Theory and Argument • How does an understanding of ethical theory help assess moral arguments
o By helping to identify and clarify genuine moral principles
o By identifying relevant contextual factors
Makes it easier to identify when principle is being correctly or
• 2 main variants
o Act Utilitarianism (AU)
o Rule Utilitarianisms (RU)
• Jeremy Bentham (17481832)
• What makes an action right/wrong?
o The consequences
• An action is right if it has good consequences (utility) and a wrong if it has bad
• 2 questions which any AU needs to answer
o What is utility (the good)?
o Whose utility determines rightness/wrongness?
• Some examples of utility/disutility:
o Pleasure and pain (Bentham)
o Happiness and unhappiness (Mill)
o Preferences and Dispreferences (Singer)
• Whose utility determines the rightness/wrongness of an act?
o The utility
• Principle of Utility (P