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Lecture 3

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Liam Dempsey

PHILOS 2YY3 Dempsey January 9, 2014 Lecture 2 What is Morality? Recall: Defining Morality • Socrates: “We are discussing no small matter, but how we ought to live.” • Ethics/Moral philosophy is the systematic attempt to understand how we ought to live Three Case Studies • Precise definitions are controversial but there are several competing conceptions • Rachels uses three case studies to arrive at what he thinks is a “minimum conception” • Minimum conception: which every moral theory should accept Case Study 1: Baby Theresa • Anencephalic: born without most of the brain (cerebrum and cerebellum) • Some autonomic functions (breathing, heartbeat) • Most cases are either detected and aborted or stillborn • The rest die within weeks Case Study 1: Baby Theresa • Parents volunteered her organs for transplant • To save other babies that CAN be saved • BUT under Florida law, can’t harvest organs until death • Which was too late – organs were wasted • Was this right? • Several “ethicists” thought so: p. 2 • What do you think about the baby Theresa case? • Would it have been wrong to harvest her organs thereby ending her life? The Benefits Argument • Theresa’s organs were doing her no good, but could benefit others • If we can benefit someone without harming someone else, we should do it • BUT is it true that T. would not be harmed? • Rachels: being alive is only beneficial if you are capable of “having a life” Never Use People as a Means Argument • It’s wrong to use people as a means to other people’s ends • Taking T’s organs would do this • BUT is T’s autonomy (her right to decide how to live her life given her desires and values) violated? • P. 3 • Perhaps Not: there is no deceit, trickery, or coercion • Not against her wishes (she has none) • 2 guidelines for making decisions for someone: • 1) is it in her best interest? • Rachels: Since she will soon die, not detrimental to T’s interests • 2) Is it what she would prefer? • Arguably T has no preferences and never will Killing is Wrong Argument • It is wrong to kill one person to save another? 1) BUT is it always wrong? Perhaps T is such an exception • After all, she will soon die in any case 2) Is T even a person? Can we consider her dead already? • After all, she is virtually brain dead Case Study 1: Baby Theresa • Rachels: • Thus the arguments for transplant seem stronger than those against Case Study 2: Tracy Latimer • 12 year old severe cerebral palsy, painlessly killed by her father • 40 pounds, mental level of a 3-month old • No prospects for substantive life • She suffered greatly • Judge and jury decided on leniency • Concluding father acted out of compassion • But supreme court imposed mandatory 10 year sentence • Was this punishment just? Wrongness of Discriminating against Disabled •
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