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Philosophy 2730F/G Study Guide - Final Guide: Fairness Doctrine, Basic Fighter Maneuvers, Propaganda Model

Course Code
PHIL 2730F/G
Dean Proessel
Study Guide

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Philosophy 2730: Media Ethics Final Notes
Introduction to Ethical Theory
Consequentialist theory
insists that the rightness of actions depend solely on their consequences or results
The leading consequentialist theory is utilitarian (devised by Jeremy Bentham)
the right actions are those that result in the most beneficial balance of good over bad
consequences for everyone involved
it says that we should maximize the non-moral good (the utility) of everyone affected, regardless
of the contrary urgings of moral rules or unbending moral principles
Utilitarianism asks of you that you maximize utility
Asking who will be affected how will they be affected and to think through the consequences of
each act
Jeremy Bentham:
o good is synonymous with something associated with pleasure, bad is associated with
John Stewart Mill:
o classical conception disagrees with Bentham; he wants a more refined notion of pleasure
o to him, there are lower and higher level pleasures and those who strive for lower only do
so because they have never experienced higher level
o An action is right if it produces happiness; it is wrong if it does not
Ethical Egoism
Another consequentialist theory; wanting to maximize pleasure for self over pain
Counter to the utilitarian claim that all count equally
The only reason with ethical egoism that you would look out for the interests of others would be if
it positively benefits yourself
How Do We Justify This Theory?
Psychological Egoism: appeal to psychology we simply are self interested. People who engage
in altruistic actions are only doing it because they derive self satisfaction from that altruism
Information Ethics as a Guide for the Media Spence
Normative framework: the general principles that guide ethical and epistemological conduct
Epistemological Conduct: pertains to matters concerning knowledge (a justified true belief)
Ethical Conduct: pertains to matters concerning morality, both private and public, harm minimization,
increase of the common good, and respect for human fundamental rights
Role of the Media: the dissemination and communication of information to the public
Objectivity: the ability to give conflicting evidence its due weight, without being influenced by personal
preferences or prejudice
Diligence: the requirement that all relevant evidence is gathered and assessed and that all feasible
hypotheses which makes sense of that evidence are considered
Reasonable Moral Disagreement: there is more than one good solution to a specific moral problem
because all cultures have different conceptions of justice, truthfulness, integrity, etc.
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Information: knowledge codified in a form which makes it available to others
the term information implies:
o that there is a relationship between provider and receiver because information is
always targeted at a potential audience
o that since information is a type of knowledge, both provider and receiver of the
information must be aiming at the truth
information has its own role morality that both empowers and constrains the conduct of
its disseminators
information is the basis of both old media and new media
if information is not true, it is misinformation or disinformation
General rationale informing the normative for evaluation of ethical issues in the media:
1. Role Morality: the ethical principles, rules, and values to which a professional practice is
committed, by virtue of its professional role. Examples:
a. Police: the principles of justice, and the rule of law
b. Media professionals: truthfulness, reliability, objectivity, independence,
2. Code of Ethics: The role morality of a particular profession sets, in turn, its own internal rules
and codes of conduct for the ethical regulation of that practice. Example:
a. a journalistic code of ethics
3. Universal Public Morality: the morality which is constituted by principles, rules, and values to
which all of us committed by virtue of being rational human beings. Example:
a. the values of freedom and well-being
4. Ethical Commitments from Role Morality: by determining the role moralities of media
professions, we can then identify and evaluate specific ethical issues that arise in media
5. Role Morality is Constrained by Universal Public Morality: on the basis of universal public
morality, we are able to judge whether media practices generally conform to its ethical
requirements. Example:
a. deception by the media is morally prohibited by UPM even if the role morality allows
covert deception for maximum persuasion of its messages
b. If practices do not conform, then they are considered ethically unacceptable or
THEREFORE, the role of the media determines the role moralities of the media, which are
constrained by universal public morality.
The Normative Structure of Informal Action
Information has a Dual Normative Structure
The Dual Obligation Information Theory [DOIT] model (which is a ‘thin’ theory) is comprised of
two main parts:
1. Information has an inherent normative structure that commits us to certain
epistemological and ethical commitments.
a. if information is a type of knowledge, it must comply with the epistemological
conditions of knowledge
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b. these epistemological conditions also commit its disseminators to certain ethical
(and epistemological) values such as honesty, sincerity, truthfulness,
trustworthiness, reliability, fairness, and justice
2. The negligent or purposeful abuse of information in violation of the
epistemological and ethical commitments is a violation of universal rights
a. specifically, to freedom, well-being, and the security of the capacity for self-
b. the abuse of information constitutes:
i. a violation of epistemological and ethical commitments
ii. a violation of universal rights to freedom and well-being to which we are
There are four distinct processes to the provision of information:
1. Evidence gathering and assessment
a. requires objectivity
b. requires diligence (which often conflicts behaviour under UPM)
2. Transforming or codifying that knowledge to information
a. requires accuracy
b. requires accessibility (how likely it will be understood); these sometimes conflict
3. The transmission of that information to others
a. must be accessible and physically available
4. The acceptance of the information by those others
a. there must be a sense of trustworthiness in the disseminator
New Media, New Ethical Issues?
new technology provides major challenges to traditional media organizations, affecting
the way we gather, process, and consume information
o difficulty of quality control (haste = weakened accuracy)
o who is reporting and publishing news? (may not be aware of the role moralities;
may have overt ethical indiscretions such as a disguised marketing campaign)
new technologies offer a way to better inform people and for people to become
o opportunity for cross-cultural news perspectives in an easily accessible medium
o acts as a self-correcting mechanism (inconsistency with other reports)
Key Goods in the Media and New Media Journalism
journalist’s justified beliefs without truth still must meet, at least, some justificatory criteria.
What are these criteria?
basic sources of justification: perceptions, memory, inductive influence
derivative sources of justification: deriving information from what a source said
o ex. high office holders have been given more legitimacy to their words by voters
o ex. a lone witness’s testimony will be more relevant based just on luck
reductionism: brings into questions one’s trustworthiness is a justification
o ex. A is justified in accepting B’s testimony only if A is justified in believing that
the B is reliable based on sources other than the testimony
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