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study guide

15 Pages
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Department
Philosophy
Course Code
PHL 302
Professor
Glen Hoffmann

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October 2, 2009
NURSING ETHICS – LECTURE 3
I – Ethical Theories
We have begun the course with an inquiry into theoretical ethics.
What theoretical framework should govern the examination of ethical
issues?
This is a normative project: what norms, principles, or standards ought
to govern the moral propriety of actions?
Before we can begin to examine ethical issues or dilemmas that arise
in particular healthcare situations, we need one or more theoretical
frameworks to apply to these dilemmas.
1
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Last week, we discussed one ethical theory: utilitarianism.
Utilitarianism: actions that maximize utility (bring about the most
utility for the most amount of people) and minimize disutility are
morally justified.
This week, we will look another important ethical theory: deontology
(or Kantian ethics).
Next week we will look at another prominent ethical theory: virtue
ethics.
2
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II – Deontology
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was a highly influential German
philosopher of the 18th century.
His importance in the history of philosophy is enormous.
His contributions were mostly in the areas of epistemology,
metaphysics, aesthetics and ethics.
As far as ethics goes, Kant was the first to propose the theory known
asdeontology.
Deontology, like all normative ethical theories, attempts to supply us
with norms to govern the moral propriety of actions.
Deontic: duty or obligation based.
Logos: logic or rationality.
Kants deontological theory views ethics as being based on a logic of
duty.
We will first go over the central features of this theory, and then some
virtues and drawbacks of it.
3
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1 October 2, 2009 NURSING ETHICS – LECTURE 3 I – Ethical Theories • We have begun the course with an inquiry into theoretical ethics. • What theoretical framework should govern the examination of ethical issues? • This is a normative project: what norms, principles, or standards ought to govern the moral propriety of actions? • Before we can begin to examine ethical issues or dilemmas that arise in particular healthcare situations, we need one or more theoretical frameworks to apply to these dilemmas. www.notesolution.com 2 • Last week, we discussed one ethical theory: utilitarianism. • Utilitarianism: actions that maximize utility (bring about the most utility for the most amount of people) and minimize disutility are morally justified. • This week, we will look another important ethical theory: deontology (or Kantian ethics). • Next week we will look at another prominent ethical theory: virtue ethics. www.notesolution.com 3 II – Deontology • Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was a highly influential German th philosopher of the 18 century. • His importance in the history of philosophy is enormous. • His contributions were mostly in the areas of epistemology, metaphysics, aesthetics and ethics. • As far as ethics goes, Kant was the first to propose the theory known as ‘deontology’. • Deontology, like all normative ethical theories, attempts to supply us with norms to govern the moral propriety of actions. • ‘Deontic’: duty or obligation based. • ‘Logos’: logic or rationality. • Kant’s deontological theory views ethics as being based on a logic of duty. • We will first go over the central features of this theory, and then some virtues and drawbacks of it. www.notesolution.com 4 III – Deontology: Central Features of the Theory • The first main feature of Kant’s deontological ethical theory is that it is a duty-based theory. • This implies that it contrasts with consequentialist theories. • Consequentialism: the moral justification of actions is assessed based on the consequences of those actions. • Unlike any version of consequentialism, deontology does not morally assess actions based strictly on their consequences. • Rather, actions are primarily morally assessed in and of themselves. -Is the action itself a good one? -More specifically, for the deontologist, the question is not whether the action has the right kinds of consequences but whether it is done for the right kinds of reasons. www.notesolution.com 5 • The question is, what does it mean for an action to be performed for the right reasons? -For the deontologist, an action performed for the right reasons is an action that one has a duty to perform. -Generally speaking, if one acts out of a sense of duty, they are acting for the right reasons. • Now we might ask, what does Kant mean when he says that we need to act ‘out of a sense of duty’ to be acting in a morally praiseworthy way? -The simple answer is that we need to act in accordance with the maxim that we treat every person as an end in him or herself and never merely as a means to our own ends. • As we will see, it is quite complex how this kind of maxim is supposed to govern the propriety of moral actions, but let’s leave aside that point for now. www.notesolution.com 6 • Another feature of Kant’s deontological ethical theory is that it is reason based. • Utilitarianism, we’ve seen, is in a sense not based on reason. • True, we need to calculate the expected utility of an action in a rational manner to assess its moral status. • But ultimately what enters into the utilitarian calculus are not reasons but inclinations desires, pleasures, preferences. • Inclinations would appear to be psychological rather than logical or rational phenomena. • Kant, on the other hand, claims that the moral assessment of actions has a rational basis in the form of the duty-based reasons (i.e., logical reasons) we have to perform certain actions and to avoid certain others. • Kant claims that once we look at what reason dictates our duties are, we isolate a rational basis for the moral assessment of actions. www.notesolution.com 7 • The third main feature of Kant’s deontology is that it holds that the moral assessment of actions has an objective basis. • This goes hand in hand with the second feature. • The moral assessment of actions is supposed to be based on the logic of duty. • Duty is supposed to provide us with reasons, to govern the moral assessment of actions, which are rational (by definition) and objective they apply universally. • One way to see this point is to take a look at what Kant claims is the rational and objective test for the moral propriety of any action. • Kant claims that for an action to be morally beyond reproach, the action needs to be universalizable in the sense that it can be willed as a universal law. E.G.: I must only keep my promises when they benefit me. -This cannot be universalized without contradiction. -It undermines the practice of promise-giving (no one would put stock in promises). www.notesolution.com 8 E.G.: one should never lie. -Kant calls this a ‘categorical imperative’. -It tells us what to do in all situations. -This can be universalized, at least wit
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