Study Guides (390,000)
CA (150,000)
UTSG (10,000)
PHL (300)

PHL382 Final Exam notes.docx

Course Code
Jonathan Breslin
Study Guide

This preview shows pages 1-3. to view the full 15 pages of the document.
PHL382 Final Exam notes
Lecture 1: What is death?
Death as an event vs. a process
Process definition, though intuitive is problematic because we could then being
considering people dead even when they‟re not (no single point of telling when
someone is dead)
Death: the end of life
Bernat, Culver, and Gert: death is a process beginning with the failure of
certain organ systems during life (not very practical otherwise hospitals would
be full of decomposing bodies)
B, C and G look a the body as an integration of all or most subsystems
Confusing decomposition/disintegration with death
Death as the “permanent cessation of functioning of the organism as a whole”
R. Veatch: death as a “complete change in the status of a living entity
characterized by the irreversible loss of those characteristics that are essentially
significant to it”
But what defines personhood or human-ness?
All the definitions of death have a notion of complete and irreversible change and
the fundamental nature of an organism in common
Lecture 2: Killing and Related Concepts
We understand death as a damaging and irreversible change to a living organism
Killing is a moral wrong but why?
Harm based approach to killing as a moral wrong:
1. Death is bad
2. When you kill you force death on someone you are forcing bad on them
3. Doing so does a harm to that person
Therefore killing is morally wrong
How is death harmful? Prevents people from achieving future goods, deprives
people of life (an intrinsic good)
Epicurean problem: what could be bad with no bad effects in fact no effects at
- We cannot experience the „bad effects‟ of death because we cannot experience
- Death is the end of experience
- If we cannot experience it then how can it be bad?
- The pain and suffering are a part of the process leading up to death these are
the badness of dying, not death itself
Epicurus‟ claim hinges on the idea that people can only be harmed by things that
they experience

Only pages 1-3 are available for preview. Some parts have been intentionally blurred.

If death is the end of experience then it would not be harmful to me to miss out on
future pleasures because I cannot possibly experience the disappointment of
missing out on these things
Harm after death is not possible for Epicurus because nothing can be experienced
after death
The harm based argument is valid but unsound because the first premise is untrue
Wrongness in killing varies with the amount of harm inflicted?
Harm based argument does not follow from our intuitions about life and death
Epicurus does not draw any distinction between pre-life non-existence and post-
life non-existence
We may perceive death as bad because of the effect it would have on our loved
ones, so perhaps killing is bad because of the harm it does to others
HOWEVER, if this is the case then it would imply that killing someone would not
be wrong if it would not harm others (ex. killing a drifter)
Respect based approach to killing as a moral wrong: killing a person fails to
treat that person as being of equal moral worth
Implication: would it not be wrong to kill someone who is not worthy of this
Problems with both the respect and harm based arguments: we can excuse killing
in war, self-defense, medicine (withholding treatment, withdrawing treatment,
palliative sedation)
2 distinctions: killing vs. letting die, and intention vs. foresight
James Rachels argued for the moral permissibility of active euthanasia
He found the killing vs. letting die distinction irrelevant
Rachels argument 1: Smith and Jones the evil uncles (nephew needs to die for
- same motive, same outcome, different action morally equivalent
- the bare difference between killing and letting die does not, in itself, make a
moral difference in this example
Rachels argument 2: the prohibition against killing endorses the option that leads
to more suffering in many situations
Rachels argument 3: causing someone‟s death is only considered wrong because
death is considered a great evil
If death is not an evil in a particular situation, then causing someone‟s death
shouldn‟t be considered wrong
Why the distinction? Attempting to kill someone involves greater likelihood of
death than attempting to let die
Charles Douglas: the closer one is to the cause of death, the more responsible one
feels for the death

Only pages 1-3 are available for preview. Some parts have been intentionally blurred.

Douglas feels that the distinctions between killing and letting die are not morally
relevant in themselves but they are morally relevant in a broader sense, at least in
a medical context
He also feels that our intuitions are important and must be accommodated in
morality (we psychologically feel a difference through our intuitions)
Our intuitions are not easy to justify or explain but there is a reason that a vast
majority of people hold these intuitions
At the end of the day intuitions are subjective and morality is supposed to be
Lecture 3: Killing to save others
Doctrine of double effect: 1 action with 2 different effects, 1 bad, 1 good
example: self-defense
4 conditions:
- act itself cannot be morally bad or evil (must be morally indifferent)
- the bad effect must not be intended
- the bad effect must not be the means to achieving the good effect
- the good effect and bad effect must be proportional
Cannot achieve good through bad, the end does not justify the means
Intentions are extremely important it does not make sense to be held morally
responsible for every consequence that follows from our actions (moral luck)
1. Trolley driver: keep on course and kill the 5 on your track, or switch to the
track with 1 person tied down and kill the 1
2. Rescue: switch tracks to save 5 vs. the 1 let 1 die to save 5 or let 5 die and
save 1
3. Transplant: surgeon kills 1 person to use their organs to save 5 dying organ
transplant patients (killing 1 as a means to save 5)
In the trolley cases everyone (all 6 people tied down) are at risk whereas with the
organ transplant scenario only the 5 people in need of a transplant are at risk (the
5 patients will eventually die naturally if you do not save them you will „let them
Phillipa Foot: the trolley driver cannot avoid killing in either course of action so it
is better to kill 1 than to kill 5
4. Fat man on the overpass: if you can flip a switch to activate a trap door in the
overpass you can get him to fall onto the track and hit and kill him but in doing so
stop the trolley from running over and killing the 5 people on the track
5. Bystander at the switch: driver is unconscious, if the bystander flips the switch
the trolley will change tracks and kill the 1 person tied to the track and save the 5
tied down on the original track
You're Reading a Preview

Unlock to view full version