Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Organ Donation Ethics – EmmaJ

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My personal ethics can be simply summed up as 1) Treat others how you want to be treated and 2) happiness must be pursued with an awareness of the people around you. As Eleanor Roosevelt says, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.” In the study of Ethics, like all areas of philosophy, there is never a definitive answer and different people will have different opinions on what is right and wrong based on their own unique experiences. I believe that as long as you have good intentions and you can make peace with your decision, it can be considered the “right decision”. Every moral dilemma is unique and there are more variables than could ever be properly represented in an ethical calculus equation, I don’t there is or ever will be the perfect formula.

In terms of the essays we have studied in class, I agree most strongly with John Rawls’ Theory of Justice because I feel it is closest to my personal morals. When the Veil of Ignorance comes into play it forces people to have compassion for all areas of humanity and develop rules for a society where all are given basic liberties and equal rights. I also appreciate the idea that some inequalities must exist so long as they are beneficial to everyone, especially the disadvantaged. I believe that slight inequalities, so long as they are not excessively harmful, help move society forward and motivate people to work to improve themselves and increase their own success and happiness. Additionally, the happiness gained from helping empower those who are less fortunate is a higher level happiness than can ever be purchased.

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In theory Utilitarianism seems like a good idea, especially when carried out by self-aware thinkers full of integrity, however these conditions aren’t common in the real-world. Pursuing one’s own pleasure and avoiding pain are the perfect conditions for creating a crude, narcissistic and stagnant society. I believe it is far too easy for utilitarianism to be abused and used to justify unethical actions. From genocides to nuclear bombs, some of the most horrible things in history have been done for “the greater good”. While “majority rules” may be good for deciding what type of pizza to order, it is too simple to make decisions pertaining to human lives.

I align with Kant’s ideas regarding Good Will and that the right things must be done for the right reasons. If you have good and noble intentions it is easy to live with your decisions regardless of the outcomes they may create. I also agree that people, or more specifically rational beings, should not be used as a means to an end and that everyone has value. However, this point becomes murky when it comes to the topic of my ethical inquiry: deceased organ donation.

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Deceased organ donors are people who have either been in accidents that render them brain dead or who have suffered a cardiac death. Deceased organ donors can be any age and a single donor can save up to 8 lives and benefit up to 75 people. At first deceased organ donation in Canada may not seem like a very serious ethical dilemma, people are free to consult their personal morals and register to become an organ donor if they so choose. However, this system is not working and many people believe it needs to be changed. While organ donors save many lives every year, the majority of people waiting for an organ transplant don’t receive one because they die first. This is due to the fact that hundreds of healthy, useable, and in demand organs are buried and cremated every day. Deceased organ donation also raises many tough questions like “what does it mean to be dead?” or “what does it mean to be alive?” and “is there an afterlife?”

A large misconception about deceased organ donation is that it is condemned by most religions but this is not the case. Major world religions including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and Buddhism all support organ donation or encourage their followers to act on their own conscience. In many cases these religions refer to organ donation as an honourable act of charity and love.

When it comes down to it there is really only one big problem: no one wants to think about dying. According to the Canadian Transport Society, 90% of Canadians say they support organ donation but less than 20% have made plans to donate. People tend to avoid conversations regarding organ donation with their loved ones and put off making plans until it is too late. This issue is only exaggerated by Canada’s current Opt-In System for organ donation.

There are currently two types of models in place for organ donation globally: Opt-In, where citizens are required to sign up on registry to express their wishes to become a donor and the more controversial Opt-Out system. In an Opt-In or Presumed Consent system all citizens are assumed to be organ donors unless they sign up on a registry to express their wishes to not donate their organs. While presumed consent may seem extreme, it has successfully increased the organ donation pool in countries including Spain, Greece, Finland, and most recently France. On January 1st, 2017 the presumed consent law came into effect in France and since then Canadian politicians have begun to express their interest in implementing similar laws. This idea is especially popular in Saskatchewan where less than 1% of eligible people are registered organ donors.

Taking organ donation systems a step further, some people believe that consent is not necessary for organ donation and that people should have a duty to donate organs for the good of the society. Some ethicists even go as far to say that it is immoral for a person to decline consent for donation of their organs. These ideas support the Conscription Model, simply put the state owns your body and anyone who can donate must.

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Utilitarianism

In a utilitarian society I believe the most likely system for organ donation would be an opt-out system. The happiness resulting from people gaining extra years of life would likely override any unhappiness regarding presumed consent. Additionally, the ability to register to abstain from donation would at least appease those against organ donation and provide them with a personal sense of happiness. However, in a utilitarian society I believe there is a serious risk for abuse happiness for the majority that could lead to inhumane methods for obtaining organs more extreme than organ conscription. For example, supporting the needs of “the greater good” could lead to the justification of the sacrifice of a living person in order to save the lives of 8 sick people. When laws only exist to uphold the happiness of society the rights of individuals are not protected.

Categorical Imperative

A main point of Kant’s Categorical Imperative is “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end…” This may seem to be in conflict with organ donation as it can be interpreted as literally using someone as a tool to survive. However, under an opt-in system and even an opt-out system where people can easily abstain, I believe Kant would support organ donation. Organ donation is done with a good will, it is meant to save the lives of others and therefore it is good. Furthermore, once an individual is in a braindead or has suffered a cardiac death they are no longer able to really Be or exist as a rational being.

 

A Theory of Justice

I believe that behind the veil of ignorance everyone would recognize the demand for organs and agree to put policies in place to increase donation, knowing full well that they may be the person in need or the person donating. I believe that the most likely system put into place would be the opt-out system because it would provide a larger donor pool and increase the chances of sick people receiving an organ in a timely fashion. I also believe that there would be a focus on government regulation of organ donation in order to ensure the distribution of organs is as fair as possible. In a Rawlsian society illegal organ harvesting and trade wouldn’t occur since it is the powerful preying on the vulnerable.

I believe that every theory of ethics or moral system would support organ donation in one way or another. Can’t it be assumed that for an otherwise terminally ill person a new lease on life would be the ultimate happiness for not only them but their loved ones as well? For this reason I support organ donation and the implementation of a Presumed Consent Law. I also encourage you to look into becoming an organ donor and have the uncomfortable but necessary conversations with your loved ones.

 

 

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I’m Doing This for the Wrong Reasons, and THAT’S OKAY. (Ethics) – Matthew Gosselin

Watch out, we’re jumping into hyperspace because I have no time to finish this but LETS GOOOOOOOOOOO

Personal Definitions:

Utilitarianism:

I like math and formulae. I like utilitarianism. Everything should end in a net positive result no matter what motives, actions or events are involved. A perfect action in a circumstance is one that would maximize the happiness of every person involved without granting any pain or displeasure to anyone. The equation would look something like this, and would be a ratio. ((Number of people who gained happiness)*(Average degree of happiness obtained))/((Number of people who received unhappiness)*(Average degree of unhappiness obtained)) A ratio like this, if put in practical use, would have to be determined as to how large the ratio must be to be considered moral. If the ratio is simply more than 1:1, then it would easily allow people to defend themselves on the case of mass murder, such as the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to stop the war, due to the fact that it “saved” more than 60,000 people. Granted, you are not able to accurately say the degree of happiness or pain that is received by each person involved. (To be in any way possible as well to avoid complete bias, there would need to be one government of the world to implement this.)

Categorical Imperative:

This one is sketchy, and even harder to implement. However, it is a feel-good perspective on morality. (WHICH COMPLETELY RUINS THE OBJECTIVE OF IT.) The Categorical Imperative is an action and motive-based code of ethics. If you have a pure heart, and your intentions are pure, the results of your actions are negligible. You are to act as though your actions determine the universal law of what actions to take in those scenarios. If you see someone on the sidewalk who has fallen down and seems injured, and you believe that helping is the right thing to do, then do it. You should act this way because you believe that if anyone falls down, people should have a natural inclination to help them back up. In some ways it restores a sense of humanity, but there are some loopholes in this picture. For starters, if everyone immediately rushed to help up people who have fallen down, there would be more car accidents on pedestrians running to help people. An infinite number of things would be changed because of every single universal law. Also laws may conflict with another simply because of a different motive when approaching the same scenario. People inherently have different ideas on what, “the right thing to do,” may be, and there is no way to properly determine what it is unless a democratic vote of the world is in place, in which it would simply favor utilitarianism in my opinion. (By benefiting the most people.) Finally, you may approach the same scenario as someone else and take the same action but be considered immoral due to having the “wrong” motive. (Not to mention the fact that having pure moral is nearly impossible, due to a natural self-satisfaction gained by believing that you’re doing the right thing. Also it’s nearly impossible to not see a shred of self-interest in every action taking place.) Not only that, the, “right thing to do,” might end in a terrible result for many people.

What Do I Use:

In all honesty, I act upon a morality separate from both of these, because I am human and am naturally inclined towards self-interest over others’ interests. If two strangers and I were strapped to separate train tracks with no means of escape, and a train was on its way, and the only way for me to live was to use a mic strapped to me to tell the conductor to change course onto the other train tracks and kill the other people, I would do it. Nearly every single person would. I’m sorry that I value my life above others. (Besides, there’s always the idea of solipsism.) To what degree, I’m not sure. I don’t know how many people it would take on those other train tracks for me to change my decision to suicide, and for what moral reason. Would it be simply to preserve life (Utilitarianism), or because it’s the right thing to do (Categorical Imperative), or because I’d like to be remembered as a hero? (“Poor” moral reasoning) However, I am able to say that I would like to incorporate Utilitarianism more into my everyday life. Not simply by means of results, but the process involved before I take action. I would like to talk to and understand people more before I take actions that could cause negative results on others, and specifically how it would impact them to know if my actions are moral. I would also like to be able to make a decision that would benefit the whole instead of just my little slice.

One Current Issue:

An issue I believe needs solving is that of massive corporations, such as Walmart and McDonald’s. Although they provide services to which many people enjoy, the cut that the CEO’s are taking is massive. The Walmart family is worth roughly $130 billion dollars, but they pay over 90% of their employees minimum wage. I believe there should always be incentive and ability for people to become wealthy, but not at the expense of others to this degree. A perspective that includes both Utilitarianism and the Categorical Imperative ideas would be beneficial. First of all, within the Categorical Imperative, there lies the simple value that states it is morally wrong to deprive your workers from basic needs in life. A utilitarian point of view would state that the mediocre degree of happiness cherished by the ridiculously rich Walton family is heavily outweighed by the sadness experienced by the thousands of workers employed by Walmart. In a world enforced by Utilitarianism, they would be forced to bite the bullet and improve the pay and quality of life of their workers. Finally, self-interest can even be incorporated with this example. If this action was to take place, Walmart would gain a better reputation as a respected company that pays workers fairly and treats them with care. This, in exchange, would elevate the number of customers walking in the door and number of applicants.

Matthew Gosselin

Empirical Philosopher

 

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Mr. Jackson please don’t grade this

If you trace back to the video shown in class that posed the question of whether it is right or wrong to push a fat man off a bridge to save 5 people who are about to be ran over by a trolley cart, or to witness them die by not pushing him over, my intuitive answer was to not push the fat man over the bridge. Wouldn’t it be unjust to incorporate an irrelevant person to the narrative simply because I couldn’t tolerate a higher level of misery in quantity? Or is it even more unjust to have authority to decrease the amount of misery by knowing the end-result, but not taking any form of initiative to change the ultimate outcome?

Utilitarianism is the concept in which the core of morality is dependent on increasing the amount of pleasure in the world; utilitarianism puts emphasis on consequences more than its intent. Such theory supports the idea of epistemic responsibility that I mentioned in my Metaphysics post (I don’t recommend reading that); epistemic responsibility is the concept that everyone has responsibility regarding our beliefs. Going in parallel with the idea of there being no such thing as, “private beliefs” and our beliefs have a way of spreading whether it is through our actions or choices, maybe the focus of morality should be on the consequences and results more than its pure intent. Utilitarianism argues that actions should be measured by how much happiness it produces, which means that one should be aware of how much happiness an action could create.

So are morality and ethical views an objective, or subjective matter? Let’s say that we say morality is an objective matter. One of the effects of defining morality to be objective is that it automatically eliminates the concept of cultural moral relativism. Perceiving morality to be an absolute means that some cultures are “wrong” for their perspectives; doesn’t this give an underlying message that some cultures are superior over others? Isn’t this contradictory to the idea of creating more happiness in the world if it wipes out certain cultures from believing in certain things? Or does the concept only apply to cultures that seriously infringe others rights to safety and freedom? Even though cultural moral relativism might provide reasoning behind why genocides and wars happen, there is also the danger of normalizing cultures that crudely infringed others lives, the most extreme example is the Nazi culture. Kantianism supports the idea of there being a supreme principle of morality; Kant believed in one acting regardless of purpose, but on maxims that you could will that everyone else approves, one which is consistent.

So if there is no moral realism and morality wasn’t about the grounding problem, there is no absolute in morality. My personal viewpoint is that is morality is subjective, it almost explains why all the shameful historical events happened (this could be anything, but I’m thinking of events like the KKK, witch hunts, etc). These events should never be justified, although it is easier to understand the stem of it if morality is handled to be a subjective matter.

So let’s go back to the fat man and the trolley cart incident. Unless you strongly root for the utilitarian view, our intuitions tell us that pushing an innocent bystander, the fat man in this case is wrong. Why it is wrong, I believe, is because of his status of being a “bystander” and because I took the action to be involved in a murder when the alternative was an accident. I do understand that pushing the fat man would ultimately make more people happier, yet there is a vast distinction between a crime and an accident. How are you morally right if you were just responsible of a death?

me rn

I define morality to be an intuition; if you do something simply because others say it is right or because you want to seem like a “good person” I think that is being good for the wrong reasons, thus, contradictory to its intent. I am not completely solid on whether morality is absolute or not, but I am currently shifted on the side that it is subjective, as it is the only way to explain disagreements in humanity. There definitely is a “more popular” belief or “more politically correct” viewpoints; however, I am not in the position to say any of them are “better” than others; it is undeniable that some of them are about everyone being treated equally, which goes back to the concept of utilitarianism.

 

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ethical embryo? – kirsten

Ethics are a set of moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior. My personal definition of ethics follows most lineally along the basics of the categorical imperative. This view of ethics focuses on the intentions behind an action. I find myself supporting this theory in the way it suggests that a person with pure intentions and a good will is good in themselves. This way of thinking promotes the idea that if there is heart and good intentions behind an action, it is a good action regardless of the outcome. This ideology believes there may be a person of good will whose actions may produce something negative. This unfortunate accident may come from ignorance or forces out of one’s control, which does not necessarily mean they are a bad person, but more likely a good person who simply made a mistake. we cannot truly ever tell anyone’s intensions but our own, which makes it troublesome to decipher between people who have a good will and those who do not. this intangible idea of deciding the good in an action by the intention of the actor leads people to the other train of thought, utilitarianism. This idealism believes that the good of an action is in the action itself and what it produces. I do believe that every action has value, I do think where an action comes from is important. Being honest because your moral self wants to be is purer than being honest so people will think you are honest, or because we are socially inclined to be honest. In my life, i like to live along the beliefs of the categorical imperative for I try to be a good person for the sake of being a good person. I believe the reason behind why I do what I do matters, and that how I get there should be just as important as the fact that I make it. Over my high school career, I have found it easier when trying to not judge people by their actions. I never know where someone is coming from or the true intentions for their actions, and I should never give them a title that I don’t know if they deserve. Through this way of thought I have become a large fan of the assume innocent until proven guilty cliché. When someone’s actions may bring a negative outcome, I try and assume that the intentions were there, and something simply fell out of line along the execution.

 

My topic of ethics I would like to discuss is embryo modification. The basic idea of this practice is to genetically modify an embryo while growing in the mother’s womb, changing the natural dna and therefore life of the to-be baby. This is an idea I would like to support. Through genetic modification we could put an end to debilitating diseases, allow every child to be born with the ideal genetics for survival, and create a world where everyone’s biological quality of life is at the maximum. Unfortunately, this would only work in the ideal world where there is no corruption, greed, or financial power structure. With the presence of corruption and greed this biological miracle can be easily turned into a weapon of self interest. Couples whose child would be born with all the fundamental genetics to survive could try and manipulate their embryo for non-crucial and trivial reasons such as to meet typical beauty standards, or improve athletic growth, ect. These reasons are not void for change, and succumbing to them could create a world lacking diversity. This procedure would also cost a fair amount of money. It would be a problem for those who are not economically privileged, for their children may be born into a world where they have little to no quality of life, when others can have children who contain a biological jackpot of desired genetics. The potential good that could come from this project is revolutionary and I would like to believe that all variables would line up to see that nobody would have to suffer with degenerative diseases. Unfortunately, there are so many ways that this project could go wrong that I believe it would be irresponsible to release this science to world of corruption we currently live in. maybe one day with equal opportunity we could attempt this project, but even then, there would have to be strict restrictions on what should be changed. This would require someone to decide if a genetic abnormality was severe enough to change, which I don’t think anyone has the right to do. I am fascinated by this topic and would like to support it, but I am currently not able to put my faith in society for my own scientific inquiries if it could mean destruction.

 

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Katie Crompton – The Cost of Education

As someone who is currently in the process of applying to universities and preparing to get into incredible debt once actually getting accepted into a post-secondary institute, I have witnessed first hand just how expensive post-secondary is. There has been many debates about low cost or free post-secondary education. Especially with the senate confirmation hearing in the USA of Trump’s Secretary of Education nominee, Betsy DeVos (sorry but this post has nothing to do with grizzly bears). There is a video of Bernie Sanders (FEEL THE BERN) questioning DeVos on her views on post-secondary education costs which has been attached right here.

This video covers a few topics but it shows what the democratic and republican views are on free or low cost post-secondary education. In summary, the democratic view is that it is a good investment to send all students who want to receive a higher level of education to school, regardless of their ability to pay for the current price of tuition. The republican view is that it’s simply too much of an investment for the country.

In his Theory of Justice, John Rawls says,

“…a society satisfying the principles of justice as fairness comes as close as a society can to being a voluntary scheme, for it meets the principles which free and equal persons would assent to under circumstances that are fair.”

Personally, I believe that everyone should be given equal opportunity to succeed. If someone or something excludes a particular group or prevents anyone from living their life the way they deserve, that is morally wrong. There are so many brilliant people in the world who aren’t able to go to university because they are disadvantaged somehow, especially financially.  If we were to apply the Theory of Justice to financial statuses, then that would justify free/low cost post-secondary education. By giving everyone access to advanced education after high school it would give more people the opportunity to find work that pays more than minimum wage, which is near impossible to live off of but that’s another conversation. Though I believe that being under the veil of ignorance is beneficial in some situations, it isn’t practical in others. In this situation, ignoring a potential student’s financial standing, ethnicity, gender, etc. is good, but universities must still take a student’s academic standing and potential into consideration, in order to make sure that these students are fit to go into the careers they are studying for. By enabling free or low cost post secondary education, you are making sure that a higher education is more accessible, not a guarantee for all. This would make society more productive and and create a more inclusive environment.

 

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Hermione Granger Would Understand Ethics (And Other Wizardry) – Claire

I have struggled a great deal with ethics. Admittedly, I am the type of person who tries to do ‘the right thing.’ When a situation arises and there is no black and white, no right and wrong, I freak out a bit, so you can only imagine what ethics has been doing to me. I have sat down to write this post several times, and have ended up staring at a blank screen with the cursor blinking before me (you know that feeling…the definition of ugh). I was getting to the point where I thought I would have no post to hand in at all.

*I tried to find a gif of Nicely from Guys and Dolls saying “it came to me sort of funny, like a dream…” but couldn’t find one, so instead imagine Waleed Hakeem saying this*

I’ve been re-reading the Harry Potter series over the past few months, and have enjoyed drawing parallels from what I’ve been reading to what we’ve been learning in Philosophy. I believe that, from reading this series while taking this course, I have a greater appreciation for these books as well as a better understanding of philosophy. I recently forced my dad to watch the one of the movies with me, and was trying to explain the Houses and how I knew that I was Gryffindor from taking an online quiz on Pottermore, the Harry Potter fan site (I know, I know, I could not possibly sound geekier). It was as I was explaining this that I recalled one of the questions that had come up during the quiz —one that I had struggled with —and was able to relate to ethics.

“You can rescue a baby or the only bottle of a potion that could save one thousand lives. Which do you save?

a) the bottle, the chance of saving one thousand lives is too important to miss
b) the baby, the bottle only might save one thousand lives”

When I was taking the quiz, my first thought was “both! Find a loophole and save both!” only to remember that I was taking a quiz, none of it was real and that I had to choose one or the other. Cue panic.

Reminding myself that it was not real and that no one would perish from my decision, I chose to save the bottle over the baby; this was because I was thinking along the lines of Utilitarianism and the concept of greater happiness. Yes, losing one life would be horrible (especially a baby’s…why would Pottermore think this is an okay question to ask? WHY?), but the possibility of one thousand lives being lost was just as horrifying. If I could save more lives and make more people happy in the long run, would I not choose to? Shouldn’t I want to create Greater Happiness? Did this make me a bad person, choosing more lives over a baby’s? The question never specified the ages of the thousands of people the bottle could save; there could have been babies in the mix too! Multiple babies! And children, and siblings, and parents…I felt like I had to justify my answer to myself.  I felt guilty, as if I had pushed the “fat man” off the bridge to save the five workers below on the tracks that the speeding trolley cart was headed towards. Sure, I saved more lives in the long run and made more people happy, but what about me? Was sacrificing my own happiness and living with that guilt worth it? Of course, those are two very different situations and Pottermore never specifies the circumstances of which I would be choosing the bottle or the baby. The idea of Utilitarianism seemed right at the time, but it felt wrong.

WWHGD: What Would Hermione Granger Do?

(if you’re feeling like killing some time and want to actually watch me make the decision to choose the bottle over the baby, click here and go to 5:41)

I want to be completely honest: I’m still not sure what I believe when it comes to making a decision regarding happiness and ethics. My instinct, to do the right thing, does not work if what is right is not defined. I don’t want to pretend that I have come out of this unit as a changed person who now knows exactly what she stands for and believes in and could make ethical decisions and be happy with them, because that’s not the truth. I am, however, more aware of my struggle in making ethical decisions and know that it’s not something I can shrug off the way I used to. I want to be able to make my own decisions and not rely on others to tell me what they think is right from wrong. It’s something I’m working on, and will continue to work on.

 

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Conduct Does Not Equal Rulebook: Emma F.

While recently reading the book Originals by Adam Grant, I was intrigued by a study that was presented on the topic of raising children. The study evaluated discipline techniques of  parents of non-Jewish people who housed Jews during the Holocaust, and the parents of those who did not. What separated these two groups? The study determined that those who were raised to develop their own moral conduct were more likely to be compassionate individuals (the group that housed Jews in danger). These people’s parents were more likely to encourage their children to consider how their actions affected others. The other group, conversely, was more likely to have been raised in a rule based system, which removed the need for the child to think about what they personally considered to be right and wrong; these people were more likely to be a part of the group that did not house Jewish people.

Although there are more nuances to this experiment that I presented, I think it speaks to some of the value of ethics as a topic of philosophical discussion. As Dr. Sandell noted in his lectures on Moral Philosophy, the discussion of ethics is supposed to “make the familiar unfamiliar”, to put a microscope to our actions and discover the basis of our moral decision-making. Throughout this unit, I’ve learned that the developing our own morals does not mean creating a set of hard-and-fast rules to follow, but identifying values that will guide us as we unpack difficult situations and make decisions. This is the ‘moral conduct’ mentioned in the experiment above. For me, the value of ethics outside of the classrooms is to promote a sort of independence in our actions. When we stand by the values we deem important, we can put more confidence in our idea of the ‘good’ or ‘moral’ action. When we look to Hollywood and other entertainment industries, the push and pull of good and bad, the hero and the villain, is obvious; however, in a world where our problems are not so clear cut, it is crucial that we think for ourselves, and that our morals are self-generated.

On the other hand, ethics in the classroom has been an interesting ride. Like I said before, the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is instilled at a young age, but I hadn’t really been exposed to the subtleties of the schools of thought that drive moral decision making, the two that we touched on being Utilitarianism and the Categorical Imperative. Like most of my classmates, I can’t marry myself to the values of one or another, but there are some threads within each that I find attractive.

Categorical Imperative: Probably the largest confirmation of this school of thought in my own moral conduct is my belief that some actions have more moral value than others. This was made clear to me after Eric presented a scenario in class:

A boy has a chocolate bar, sees a homeless man in need and sacrifices his own chocolately desires to give the bar to the homeless man. In another situation, a boy has a chocolate bar and takes a bite, decides he doesn’t like it, then passes it on to the homeless man in need.

Assuming that both situations have the same outcome (let’s say the man receives the same amount of chocolate), I would say that the decision of the boy in the first situation holds more moral value. The key part is that the boy makes a sacrifice, and although he thinks that he will enjoy the chocolate bar, he places the homeless man’s needs above his own. The decision is driven by a contemplation of needs and an overall selflessness. The other situation, although not immoral in my eyes, isn’t first prompted by an independent action towards charity, but as a secondary option that was fulfilled when his primary course of action (eating the chocolate bar) wasn’t so pleasant.

Of course, there are other conditions to explore in this scenario, such as whether or not the first boy performed his action for the praise of onlookers or as for fuel his own ego, but the principle remains the same. The good will of a person does affect the moral worth of the decision, and in general, if the will of a person is rooted in greed or exploitation, then it cannot be considered a ‘good will’. This would also mean that a a positive result could spring from an absence of good will, and that a negative result could spring from an action of good will, and these are the conditions that this school of thought upholds.

Utilitarianism: “Do the thing that makes the most people content” has some problematic strings attached, so for the sake of concision, I’ll stick to the parts that I consider the most personally useful. In the most basic sense, utilitarianism just seems practical; it support the act of letting people vote on a course of action, and implementing the most popular choice. In other ways, there are grey spaces that are made when we ask the questions “Does some people’s contentment matter more than others?” and “Should we consider what is best for a society’s function over the contentment of a group of people”?

However, I do believe in the notion that we do often have to make sacrifices for the sake of overall gain. What makes ‘most’ people happy or satisfied isn’t often what makes all people happy or satisfied, and we must accept that we may sometimes be on the sacrificing side so that there can be a net positive reaction. For example, this can manifest in the classroom when a student sacrifices their act of contributing to a discussion so that others may speak, contribute, and diversify the discussion. When organizing an event, an organizing member may volunteer to do a tedious or grueling task that is unpleasant but will ensure the success of the event and the enjoyment of many people. These examples are just simple situations of sacrifice.

It is very important to add that this doesn’t apply to situations of human rights. There is a crucial distinction to be made in the statement that certain groups of people should not experience reduced levels of human rights (legal, social, political, etc.) so that other groups should have more power. Although this situation is nuanced in many facets of our international society, I cannot say it is moral.

Now it’s time to put these ethical discussions to work.

The moral dilemma that I want to examine is this: to trigger warning or not to trigger warning?

For those of you new to the term ‘trigger warning’, it is a ‘statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc., alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material (often used to introduce a description of such content)’. I am interested to discuss the place of trigger warnings within the slam poetry community, where there has been a continuous conversation about whether or not artists should use before performing a potentially distressing piece. It is not uncommon to attend a poetry slam and see poets delivering trigger warnings for sexual assault, drug abuse, self-harm, and other topics associated with emotional trauma.

The pro-trigger warning side seems obvious at first. If artists can let people know about an upcoming sensitive topic, then those who might find the topic harmful can mentally prepare themselves or remove themselves from the environment. From a utilitarian perspective, we are increasing the amount of net happiness because those who may have experienced unhappiness from the artistic presentation were able to remove themselves completely. From this perspective, trigger warnings seem courteous and fair.

However, I do think this situation is a bit more faceted than that. I’ve recently been speaking with several of poets in the community about their thoughts on trigger warnings, and have uncovered a few more layers. Firstly, one of these poets was confident in saying that taking care of your audience is a responsibility of the artist on stage, but that this care doesn’t have to come in the form of a trigger warning; we want art to illicit vivid experiences in our audiences, so audience care (in it’s ideal form) means not preventing these experiences from happening. A crucial process in attending a poetry slam is facing emotions that are difficult to deal with, and ‘interrogating’ those feelings further (my friend noted that if she doesn’t feel uncomfortable at one point in a slam, she considers it a failure). This stand point challenges the utilitarian perspective because it claims that what is most challenging can also the most valuable. Being prompted to examine our feelings of discomfort isn’t often a purely joyful act, but it is still worth doing because it can lead to intrapersonal understanding, for example.

However, for these moments of discomfort and contemplation to take place, we do need to be in a mentally sound and lucid state of mind, and for some individuals, a certain topic may inhibit this state. That is the main push and pull of the trigger warning discussion. But where does our moral responsibility exist in this conversation?

I do agree that it is our responsibility to take care of the audience- to deliver a thoughtfully crafted poem that resonates with others an delivers a message. If we are using trigger warnings as permission to ourselves to present shockingly graphic and devastating material, we have to consider the value of such a piece.

Secondly, in terms of responsibility, we also have to consider that it is impossible to prevent all emotionally harmful reactions from occurring. We simply cannot always be sure of what kinds of things can act as triggers for different people (smells, locations, objects), and although we can try our best to be cognizant of the effect of our words, they have different connotations within different people’s lives. It is also important to point out that the real world doesn’t have trigger warnings- we can encounter triggering things in our day-to-day life, and it is important (to a healthy level) that we keep the slam space from turning into a sanitized space free of discomfort or challenging topics. I believe it is important for audience members to realize that when they enter a slam, they are acknowledging the possibility that they may hear or view things that will make them feel things (those things not always being pleasant), and that the organizers of the slam should also publicly acknowledge this possibility as well (this is commonly done in Vancouver). The slam, as my friend said, is a microcosm of our real world, and we should treat it as such. This means that the community values artistic diversity and experience, but does not tolerate hate speech, for example.

The conversation could definitely go on. For me, the trigger warning conversation is very intriguing because it is so closely tied to a community that I am a part of. The conversation also changes and evolves when we speak about trigger warnings on educational material, social media, and other social situations.

To tie back to what I said earlier about moral conduct, the discussion of trigger warnings doesn’t have to be one that decides whether or not we ultimately use them. We have to ask ourselves why we might use them, the effects it has on the people around us, and the ways we can change our mode of action to accomplish the same goal. I would love to hear what you have to say about the topic, so please drop a comment!

 

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When am I not talking about abortion honestly

Utilitarianism is the theory that actions should be taken based on their interpreted outcome. If your actions lead to an outcome in which the most happiness and least pain is generated, then the more just your action is. Basically, you’re always acting for the greater good, no matter the actions you take. An example of utilitarianism would be from the trolley problem; choosing to kill one person in order to let 5 live instead. This is taking action for sake of the greater good, even though it means sacrificing one life. Utilitarianism differs from Kant’s theory of the categorical imperative which is based on every individual’s moral compass. The obligation we have to our own morals overpowers our desires and inclinations. An example of categorical imperative would be buying and giving food to a homeless person you see. Having a categorical imperative is also having no ulterior motives for the things you do-you do something for the sole purpose of it to benefit someone else.

There are parts of both of these theories that I agree with and try to incorporate into my own morality. In terms of utilitarianism, I feel like I have always tried to be a people pleaser and a problem solver, so the concept of making choices to benefit all parties makes a lot of sense to me. On the other hand, I associate with the categorical imperative as I have a strong sense of justice and am a strong believer in doing things for the right reason. I think it’s important to have a balance between these theories, as there are many good things to take away from them. However, there are cons as well. Because utilitarianism evaluates actions based on their consequences, it can become tricky in certain situations. For example, we discussed in class the scenario of the army(the good guys) holding a person from a terrorist group(the bad guys) hostage and deciding to torture them in order to gain information that would ultimately help them save lives. In order to help the greater good, would you be willing to compromise your morals? As for the categorical imperative, it focusses more on the meaning behind actions rather than the consequences which can also be troublesome in certain situations.

A global issue that comes to mind when thinking about moral philosophy, is the controversy around abortion. Approaching this topic as someone who is pro-choice makes all the solutions seem very logical and easy to understand. On one hand, you have the pro-choice argument which is that abortion should be legal and accessible to all women because it’s their body and their choice. On the other hand, there is the pro-life argument which is that abortion should not be legal because it is the murder of a fetus. Looking at this with a utilitarian outlook, the option that has the best consequences is the pro-choice. There are many reasons why women choose to get abortions for ex. not being financially or mentally stable enough to raise a child. If this is the case, if the woman is forced to keep the child, it will most likely create a difficult life for not only the mom but the child as well. If the mother chooses to get an abortion, I believe its because she thinks it’s the best possible option for herself and her child. By forcing women to not have abortions, it creates anxiety and heartache, as well as some women will go through unsafe means to get one. So basically, by this school of thought, the pro-choice option generates the most happiness and therefore abortion should be legal everywhere. This also ties in with the categorical imperative, because choosing an option that is best for the mother and the child is morally right, and its unfair to deny this option.

Ethics was one of my favourite units; I loved learning about these theories as well as discussing hypothetical situations around them. I think this stuff is super important to be aware of and understand, because it’s applicable to everyone and everything.

 

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Do it for the vine (gram)

Utilitarianism is a system of ethics according to which the rightness or wrongness of an action should be judged by its consequences. The goal of utilitarian ethics is to promote the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Therefore because utilitarianism focuses on the happiness of the majority, which to be fair is most practical, it does not account the happiness of the minority. An example of utilitarianism is if a pharmaceutical company releases a drug with approved side effects, because the drug is able to help more people than are bothered by the minor side effects. This act of utilitarianism showcases the “ends justify the means” mentality. Utilitarianism major fault is that the “little guy” doesn’t get his way, for this reason, I would not consider myself to fully follow the utilitarianism ways. Although I do agree with Mills concept of higher and lower pleasures. The best example I can think of, for a person who just recently found a new love for hiking, is that the view after a day long hike, is much more gratifying than one that you took a gondola/elevator to get to and that the amount of work and time put into something accounts for how much pleasure that thing will give you.

Categorical Imperative is an unconditional moral obligation that is binding in all circumstances and is not dependent on a person’s inclination or purpose. While I agree with the idea of doing things for because it is the right thing to do. I find it hard to wrap my head around a deed that is truly in the nature of good will, for I find that it’s easy to find an ulterior motive behind every action. What I interpreted from Kant’s Categorical Imperative, was that if you commit an act that benefits someone, yet one of the reasons you did it was to feel good about yourself, the act itself is not good anymore, and I don’t agree. The example I came across are the countless videos you see on Facebook, Instagram etc. of people doing good deeds, whether its giving food to the homeless or rescuing animals. This issue I have with these videos, is that it’s hard to detect whether the person is doing the deed out of the goodness in their hearts OR because they have a camera filming they want to flex and try to get as many likes and shares as possible. Now while these people may want fame, I still believe that it’s a good deed because in hoping for a viral video, in turn they are still helping someone out and I believe that that is still good.

 

 

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My ethical and moral stance on how we stop ISIS


Biologically and chemically there is almost know difference between us and the apes. But because we have ethics and we have morals, we are humans. Beings with a capital B that can accomplish great and horrible things. In ethics there are two majorities that philosophers alike find themselves in, utilitarianism and Kant’s – Categorical Imperative

 

Utilitarianism

  • Do what will benefit the majority, involving…
  • Risking the life or lives of the few over the many
  • Doing wrong to stop more wrong
  • Be like your enemies to control your enemies

Kant’s – Categorical Imperative

  • Let’s not be our enemies
  • Hold our honor
  • And solve our difficulties earnestly so that when they are gone, we don’t need to use them again to solve them.

But what does that mean?

 

 

 

What it means that if we go about things with Utilitarian intentions our problems should be by logic, unsolvable and infinite.

  • People keep on getting killed so we need to kill the people doing the killing
  • We have now eliminated the killers of the people
  • But now, we have inspired more people to kill

And the list continues.

 

 

My ethical issue is the armed forces going into schools with goals of easy recruitment. Though wrongfully preaching to the young that dying can be a great thing is not illegal, it is morally wrong. Let’s face it, we always want what we cannot have and young people, my peers, are no exception to the rule. We are not eighteen, we cannot vote and as a result, we cannot enlist. Because of this restriction we as humans make it our magnum opus to break it, naturally. Young people are not allowed to do many a great things and enlisting in the armed forces is one them. But, it is when the government uses the anticipation we all feel to get what they want whether it is power, control or money it is then, morally wrong.

But the burning question I know we are all asking is “, wouldn’t be for the better good. I mean sure we shouldn’t enlist our young but it’s to stop ISIS.” Are we all in agreement that ISIS and various other terrorist groups are bad not just by what they do= but who they include in they’re wrong doings. ISIS along with the US military, recruits the young. Similar tactics are used and the cycle of utilitarianism continues. More young people die requiring more young people to die on the opposing side and so on and so forth.

 

I am pro categorical Imperative. If we don’t be our enemies our enemies won’t be us and that’s my moral and ethical stance.

 
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