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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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?

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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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I’m here, I’m queer, and Fox News can go to hell. (Jordan Chambers)

I can’t really say that ethics was a weird unit for me because what unit isn’t a weird unit for me but let me tell you. Ethics was a weird unit for me. I’ve been weirdly busy since winter break ended so a lot of the time I was too preoccupied to be fully present in class which sucked because I’m sure I would have had a lot of thoughts during discussions but I could pay enough attention to discern some things.

So for personal definitions, utilitarianism is like doing things because they will make you and the people around you happy and the definitions I was given make it seem like actions are good as long as they increase pleasure. On the other hand, the categorical imperative is doing things because they are the right thing to do and carries the belief that actions are only moral if they are done without selfish motivations. So the example I used when I explained all of this to my costume crew (these poor grade nines I work with deal with so much) was that if you see your friend is about to be shot and you jump in the path of the bullet, under utilitarianism this is an ethically good action because your friend will be happy they are not dead and (assuming you survive) you will be happy because your friend is not dead but under the categorical imperative your action is only ethical if your motivation to take the bullet for your friend didn’t take into account your personal feelings (I took the bullet because it is my duty to prevent people from being killed vs. I took the bullet because I would be sad if my friend died).

It’s really hard to try and define your personal ethical perspective using other peoples words because to me it seems like “oh these things are right or wrong because they just are” but theres underlying reasons obviously and trying to justify and explain those is just really hard (A lot of my conclusions relate back to things are perceived differently due to personal background and that comes into play a lot in ethics. Like your ethical perspective is determined by who you are and how you were raised and in what kind of society, etc…). So as best I can figure it, my ethical perspective is mostly utilitarianism but obviously not strictly utilitarianism because that’s just a little ridiculous to think that any person can only do things out of a sense of duty. I agree with some aspects of the categorical imperative though, like there are obviously things I want to do that I don’t out of a sense of duty or because they have been determined ‘wrong’ by society and I think thats okay but also some things are okay to do for selfish reasons if they increase happiness for others (for example I want gender neutral bathrooms to be more commonplace because yes, I’m trans and want a place to feel safe and thats a little selfish, but also because other people who are also trans deserve the same thing because humans should have a right to feel safe). So really I don’t mind things being done for selfish reasons as long as they also increase pleasure for the other people involved.

A problem of ethics that comes to my attention a lot is when advertising companies and brands and artists use the representation of LGBT people (and people of colour but it’s not really my place to talk about that) as a way to further interest in their brands and increase their own wealth. The most recent example that comes to mind is the National Geographic cover that features trans people. Basically, NatGeo ran a piece on transgender people for their january 2017 edition entitled “the gender revolution” and the cover(s) feature photographs of transgender people. How is that an ethical dilemma? Well two things really, National Geographic was just bought by Fox News (yknow, the one with astoundingly conservative bias) and they didn’t actually… compensate their models for the time taken to do the photoshoot. So we have a magazine, owned by a racist and homophobic news source, running a piece that they will profit off of, but not paying their models (trans people, who are overwhelmingly in poverty anyway). Lots of people have varying problems with this cover and so do I but personally I feel like this kind of representation isn’t what some people are calling it, exploitation. When a magazine allows trans people (including a nine-year-old trans girl) to tell their stories in their own way, thats important. It’s selfish of NatGeo to not pay their models, yes, and that may be slightly unethical considering their new affiliations with Fox News but the stories they are telling and the visibility that they are providing the trans community with is potentially lifesaving (The ‘Summary of Reccomendations’ section of this report relates to my point). While it is unlikely that anyone under the age or 16 will actually read a NatGeo magazine, there’s the chance that a young trans kid could see this cover and think ‘maybe I’m not alone’, I know I would’ve liked something like this article when I was younger. To sum up, I don’t think it was unethical for Fox News to use NatGeo to profit off of trans folk, because it does increase happiness of both the people at NatGeo and trans folk/allies, even if it was a little selfish of them.

 

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To Pee, Or Not To Pee: That Is The Question – Urinetown The Musical

Now, I don’t know if you, the reader, have ever had the pleasure of seeing or hearing of a musical by the name of Urinetown (I applaud you if you have), but I think it brings up an interesting moral dilemma that begs to be discussed.

For those unfamiliar with this show (don’t lie to me, you probably are), Urinetown is set in a time of drought that has lasted a long twenty years, and shows no signs of stopping. The town in the show has put in place a system to regulate water usage, the story highlighting one particular aspect of it: toilet regulation. Those in charge can’t let people have private household toilets, and they also can’t have people urinating in the streets, so the Urine Good Company (UGC) sets up public amenities where people need to pay a hefty fee to use the toilets there. And to combat the people’s desire to ignore the public urination laws instead of using the amenities, the penalty for getting caught doing your business anywhere but a public amenity is being sent to the mysterious “Urinetown.”

The story follows those who frequent amenity #9 as they rebel against the UGC by refusing to pay the fee, and using the washroom whenever they want. Of course, this causes conflict with the UGC, but they are eventually overthrown by the revolutionaries. It is revealed throughout the story that the UGC is buying off the legislature so they can do whatever they want and not run into the law. This includes raising amenity fines, the profits, of which, they are using to become fabulously rich, since they have given up on actually trying to find a scientific solution years ago. Furthermore, they have also paid off the police force, which is responsible for sending people to “Urinetown,” but in the words of one of the cops, “there is no Urinetown; we just kill people!”

So, the people of amenity #9 had good reason to take the UGC down, and as the show is coming to a close, things look like they’re going to be good for all in the town. This is soooooooo not the case. The hard truth is that they chose to live good and die fast, using up what little resources they had left in a short period of time, ending the show dead on the stage from dehydration and sickness. Their brief happiness ensured everyone’s death, and the viewer, despite their hate for the UGC, is forced to revaluate the positives of the company and the regime it formed. It is mentioned in a line during the closing number that the UGC was very effective in regulating water consumption, and was able to supply its employees with healthy salaries and good lives that would have lasted for quite a while if not for the revolutionaries. And even though there were people suffering, they were alive, weren’t they?

Herein lies our dilemma, dear reader (if you’re still there), because one is forced to confront two options: Have everyone be happy for a short amount of time (then suffer and die), or have the people suffer a bearable, yet constant amount for a long time and be happy rarely, and experience happiness of a lesser strength than the first option. Otherwise known throughout the show as side “what of today” and “what of tomorrow.”

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May I use your phone?

“So … one hundred percent of the female gender has felt unsafe or harassed while taking public transit, and that’s garbage.” – rough quote from Mr. Jackson, in response to class discussion a few weeks ago about how different genders experience taking public transit

-TRUE STORY AHEAD-

 

life without a phone is very… windy

I travelled alone to Victoria on Sunday, January 18 for a day trip to visit my boyfriend. Unluckily, in a rush to catch the ferry in the morning, I left my phone wedged in the seat pocket of my mom’s car. Because I’m pretty terrible at directions, my method for getting places is to screenshoot (it should be a word) transit routes from looking them up on Google Maps. I panicked for a little while. Although I knew that I could just ask my transit-savvy boyfriend how to get back, I still had a deep-seated feeling that timing the route back to the ferry would be tricky.

Having enjoyed my day without much worry, at the end of it, I decided the safest option was to go to the bus station on the UVic campus at around the same time that I did the previous time I went from Victoria back to Vancouver. There were two buses that were pulling up, and I took the first one. For an hour, I rode on the bus to where I thought would be the ferry terminal, except something was wrong. This was not the familiarly-lit road to Swartz Bay… Instead, this road was getting rapidly darker. In addition, I was one of the only passengers still on the bus, trying my hardest to prevent the panic from exploding.

I got off at the next available stop, a metal bus-shelter, which I might add was the only source of light on the road for almost as far as my eye could see: it was also somewhat secluded by a rock hill and some trees. What reels through my head?

Something bad is going to happen to me and nobody will be around to witness it.

Obviously not the exact bus stop I waited at, but this is just to get a feel for how isolated it was. The sky was darker than this one. Think about your overall fright level while looking at this picture.

Even worse, I absolutely had to find someone with a phone to tell my ride not to come on time (because I was going to have to miss the ferry I wanted to take). The situation was becoming desperate. I don’t think I had ever been so scared to walk alone in the dark, and I was a perfect victim, according to some of those articles: it was near-pitch-dark, I sure as hell was nervous if one could have seen me clearly, and I was in an unfamiliar location. Thankfully, it wasn’t far before I arrived at a checkpoint for a military base, and hoped that there was someone inside. The person inside was a woman. It was as if I relaxed by pure instinct. She let me use her phone, and my innate response was that because she was a woman, I was able to normalize my panic level quite a lot and ask her calmly if I could use her phone.

The rest of the story concludes with my taking the bus downtown and transferring to a different one that got me safely to the ferry terminal. I ended up taking the 9:00 ferry to Vancouver without a problem.

I thank my lucky stars, because it could have been so much worse. Pun intended.

The most intriguing part of this story that strongly relates to this issue is this: the person who let me use her phone in an emergency situation was a woman, and this was relieving to me.

If a man and a woman, both strangers with a cell phone, were equal distances away, who would I choose to help me in my state of emergency?

  • Utilitarianism: I would choose the woman. It is good for a woman to be my aide because it would cause me pain to ask an unknown man for his cell phone, whereas to ask a woman for her cell phone would cause me less pain. Therefore, the more pleasurable option is to ask a woman.
  • Categorical Imperative: I would not choose either, as, according to Kant, it is unacceptable to ever use human beings as means even in dire situations.
  • Behind the Veil of Ignorance: It would not matter who I choose. Ultimately, they both have a phone and are the same distance away from where I am.

As you can see from the multi-hyperlinked sentence, I was alone in the dark and I am not alone in my fear of what could be in it. Society is solving this issue by educating the female gender on how to stay safe when alone. The best defense that women have for being alone at night is, in most cases, just to avoid doing that! It’s sad, but society seems to have succumbed to that all women are targets.

Yes, I know it was pretty dumb of me to not double-check that I had my phone with me before leaving the car, but do you have any other opinions on anything I’ve said? I’m very curious to know: how would you have felt if you were me (retaining the gender you currently are) on the night of January 18th?

 

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Euthanasia By Nadine and Alyssa

Throughout the past few week in class we have been discussing morals and philosophers views on ethics. While diving into an exploration of some ethical issues one stood out for us, that topic being Euthanasia. Euthanasia is the intentional killing of another person as requested by them as they may be facing terminal, painful illness and would rather end their lives immediately than fade away slowly and painfully with time. There are different types of Euthanasia.

  • Voluntary euthanasia: When the person who is killed has requested to be killed.
  • Non-voluntary: When the person who is killed made no request and gave no consent.
  • Involuntary euthanasia: When the person who is killed expressed a wish to the contrary.
  • Assisted suicide: Someone provides an individual with the information, guidance, and means to take his or her own life with the intention that they will be used for this purpose. When it is a doctor who helps another person to kill themselves it is called “physician assisted suicide.”
  • Euthanasia By Action: Intentionally causing a person’s death by performing an action such as by giving a lethal injection.
  • Euthanasia By Omission: Intentionally causing death by not providing necessary and ordinary (usual and customary) care or food and water.

Euthanasia is currently illegal in most of Canada and many other countries around the world. As with all ethical problems, there are two side; for and against. The present law in Canada does not distinguish between euthanasia, assisted suicide and other forms of murder.  The key consideration is the intention to cause death.  Consent or motive – even one of compassion – does not change the reality of killing a human being.

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People who are against Euthanasia are just that for a multitude of reasons.

Many believe that allowing Euthanasia to become a legal norm would weaken society’s value for human life. People with disabilities and illness may soon be viewed as burdens to society as they have the option to die sooner and no longer use up our hospital’s resources and space, a view that would negatively impact the mental health of millions of patients. Every human being has the right to be valued equally in society. By legalizing Euthanasia some may develop the mindset that the weak should simply be disposed of, a view that is detrimental to the equality of our society. Human life should not be a means to an end, it is a good in itself and should be treated as such.

The philosopher Immanuel Kant said that rational human beings should be treated as an end in themselves and not as a means to something else. The fact that we are human has value in itself. Our inherent value doesn’t depend on anything else – it doesn’t depend on whether we are having a good life that we enjoy, or whether we are making other people’s lives better. We exist, so we have value. It applies to us too as we shouldn’t treat ourselves as a means to our own ends meaning that lives should not be taken for the sole reason that it seems like the most effective way to alleviate suffering. To do that, through the eyes of this moral argument, would be to disregard people’s inherent worth. This view is known as the Slippery slope argument, the idea that allowing something seemingly harmless to happen may enable it to eventually spiral and escalate to allowing more worse things, currently unthinkable things, to become the norm. If Euthanasia were to be legalized and made a norm, many believe that vulnerable people will be put under pressure to end their lives. It would be difficult, and possibly impossible, to stop people using persuasion or coercion to get people to request euthanasia when they don’t really want it.

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Euthanasia is usually viewed from the viewpoint of the person who wants to die, but it affects other people too, and their rights should be considered.

  • family and friends
  • medical and other careers
  • other people in a similar situation who may feel pressured by the decision of this patient
  • society’s balance in general

To outline each and every argument against Euthanasia out there would make for a monstrous blog post, so instead here are some of the most common arguments against Euthanasia in point form:

  •  Voluntary euthanasia is the start of a slippery slope that leads to involuntary euthanasia and the killing of people who are thought undesirable
  • Proper palliative care makes euthanasia unnecessary
  • There’s no way of properly regulating euthanasia
  • Allowing euthanasia will lead to less good care for the terminally ill
  • Allowing euthanasia undermines the commitment of doctors and nurses to saving lives
  • Allowing euthanasia will discourage the search for new cures and treatments for the terminally ill
  • Euthanasia undermines the motivation to provide good care for the dying, and good pain relief
  • Euthanasia exposes vulnerable people to pressure to end their lives
  • Moral pressure on elderly relatives by selfish families
  • Moral pressure to free up medical resources
  • Patients who are abandoned by their families may feel euthanasia is the only solution

In contrast, there are many who believe that Euthanasia is something that should be made legal for all people. There are a few different moral approaches that have come to this conclusion.

Protesters

Consequentialism & Utilitarianism would focus on looking at the consequence of the affected people of the situation. John Stuart Mill said in his famous essay that

“good consequences are simply happiness, and happiness is pleasure and freedom from pain – not only physical pain but also distress of other kinds.”

The idea of this explains that there is the possibility of producing most pleasure and the least pain for everyone involved. Mills also stated

“ good consequences depend not only on the quantity of pleasure but also on the quality of the experiences which produce it and of the human being which is developed by them.”

According to this, the right action is something that promotes in oneself and others in a higher happiness.

Another approach to this issue would be Deontology, the idea that some or all actions are right or wrong in themselves because of the type of actions that they are. In this article by Elizabeth Telfer, she explains this concept by stating:

“Examples of these would be John Locke in the seventeenth century, Richard Price in the eighteenth century and David Ross and H. A. Prichard in the twentieth. Some Deontological philosophers speak in terms of duties, others of rights, but for our purposes they may be grouped together. However, we need to distinguish between two kinds of rights. Some rights, commonly called negative rights, are rights not to be treated in certain ways, and there are corresponding duties not to treat the owners of these rights in these ways. Other rights are positive rights to receive goods or services. Other people may have a duty to provide these, though it tends to be difficult to decide exactly who, as with such rights as the right to work.

There are two negative rights, found in most lists, which are particularly relevant to voluntary euthanasia. These are: the right not to be killed, corresponding to a duty not to kill, and the right to liberty corresponding to a duty to respect others’ liberty. I shall say a little about each of these. The notion of a duty not to kill seems at first to rule out euthanasia of any kind, and those who oppose euthanasia sometimes seem to think that all they need to do is to say ‘Thou shalt not kill’ in a suitably solemn voice. But we do not regard the prohibition of killing as absolute: we may think there can be justified wars or justified capital punishment, or that killing in self- defense or defense of others is justified. And it is easier to justify voluntary euthanasia than the killing in these other cases, where the person who dies does not choose to do so. If the reason why in general we ought not to kill is that life is a person’s most precious possession, then that reason can be overturned if the person no longer wants to live.”
-Elizabeth Telfer

The Moral theory of Egoism; the belief that the right action is always that which has the best consequences for the doer of the action, or agent, would further find that Euthanasia should be a legal right.Similar to topic one, this is more about how the doer of the action presents itself to something that benefits him/her. Such as a selfish family member that would rather have the money one gets from a fallen family member.Aristotle’s policy in life is not to pursue our own pleasure but to develop our own flourishing or foster our best selves. This however is the opposite of Egoism. One must find and develop a non-egoistic self. Someone who possesses moral virtues, which includes the act of regarding others values. Such as the idea of a death with dignity. Euthanasia lets someone have their values preserved and their better self is seen at the end, rather than a declined better self.

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In general, those who are for Euthanasia believe that legalizing it and making it accessible to the people who are in dire pain would make their better self shine through at the end of their lifespan, would benefit many families and would give them the freedom to control their own lives.

Like many topics in this world, Euthanasia is extremely controversial. As it stands, Euthanasia is illegal in most of Canada, but there are many arguments against it. As is the case of all ethical situations, there are pro’s and con’s, what you believe and which philosopher you agree with is an opinion thats entirely up to you to form.

 

 

 

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I See You: The Right to Privacy in the Face of Threat

Image taken from www.pixabay.com and used  under Creative Commons License.

Surveillance camera. Image taken from www.pixabay.com and used under Creative Commons License.

In June 2013, Edward Snowden shocked the world when he revealed the staggering extent of the NSA’s surveillance programs. Not limited to collecting data about enemies abroad, the agency was shown to have been amassing huge quantities of information about foreign allies and even its own citizens. Many security holes in software and encryption are a direct result of the NSA, leaving sections of the internet vulnerable to cyber crime. The agency also aggregated vast amounts of personal data, ranging from movement patterns to call records. Even two years after the initial revelations, US citizens and foreign governments alike remain outraged at the audacity of the spy agency’s actions.

Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials.

The New York Times

Proponents of the NSA claim that the agency’s actions were appropriate for reasons of national security. If the government does not have the ability to invade privacy in this manner, they say, then its ability to combat terrorism will be greatly reduced. Some worry about the chance of a additional terrorist incidents such as 9/11 if the government lacks this “essential” power. Another often-repeated point is the Nothing to Hide argument. This argument states that if an individual has not committed any crimes, they shouldn’t worry about being spied upon. If they have committed crimes, the argument continues, then they don’t deserve the right to privacy anyhow.

Edward_Snowden

Edward Snowden. Image taken from http://upload.wikimedia.org/ and modified under Creative Commons License

Those who deem the NSA’s actions unacceptable refute the claims of proponents. Opponents see the NSA’s “pre-emptive strike” surveillance as a complete and utter invasion of personal privacy, prompting distrust in the United States government and its agencies. They dismiss the Nothing to Hide argument out of hand, arguing that it limits freedom, defies the basic human need for privacy, and even leads to an Orwellian society. Hyperbolically mocking the proponents, they ask: don’t walls also impede the government’s ability to catch terrorists?

The conflict at hand here revolves around one moral issue: is the government morally justified in violating an individual’s right to privacy to whatever extent it deems necessary for reasons of national security?

Understandably, different fields of ethics would have varied responses to this question. In particular, two large theories of ethics – utilitarianism and Kant’s Categorical Imperative – would have vastly contrasting views on the subject.

Utility . . . holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.

-John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism

John Stuart Mill’s consequentialist utilitarianism would approach the issue by evaluating the results of the NSA’s actions. Thousands of potential deaths due to terrorist activities, it would evaluate, are far worse then the invasion of the privacy of millions. Viewed as a pain vs. pleasure issue, Mill would say that the potential pain experienced by the family and friends of those killed by terrorist activities would be greater than the mild discomfort of those millions whose privacy is being invaded. Furthermore, many of those victims of privacy invasion may not even be aware of the infractions, causing them no pain whatsoever. Due to this analysis, utilitarianism reasons that the morally correct choice is to invade the privacy of millions of innocent people worldwide (often at no discomfort to them) for the purpose of potentially saving the lives of thousands.

There is therefore only a single categorical imperative, and it is this: Act only on that maxim though which you can at the same time will that is should become a universal law . . .

. . . 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.

-Immanuel Kant, The Categorical Imperative

On the other side of the debate, Kant’s categoricalism would approach the issue in a different manner. It would look at the people who ordered the NSA’s surveillance program, and analyze their motives for committing these invasions of privacy. If an action is not born out of duty and goodwill, says Kant, it cannot possibly be moral. Furthermore, these programs use humans as a means rather than an end – another cardinal sin in Kant’s Categorical Imperative. By using and abusing these innocent’s people information, they fail to recognize these individuals as an endpoint rather than as an easy method of collecting data. To conclude, Kant’s Categorical Imperative would reject the morality of the NSA’s actions on the basis of the uncertain moral basis of the actions and the violation of humanity as an end.

 

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The Road to Murder

 

Before reading the entirety of the post, keep one thing in mind: We are limited to the amount of ‘free will’ we have (or maybe we don’t have free will at all, depending on what you think) and it traps us. This plays a huge role in our topic.

Social Factors:

  • Friends
  • School
  • Culture
  • Religion
  • Social stigma/discrimination

Personal Factors:

  • Parents
  • Adoption
  • Family
  • Needs/wants/desires/goals/dreams
  • Philosophy/ideology
  • Influences
  • Boredom
  • Neglect

Mental Factors:

  • Genetics
  • Mental Illness
  • Pressure/Stress

All of the factors listed above play a part in the road to murder. Society tacitly condones murder by having these factors. An example is boredom; when an individual is bored, and seeks to quell that boredom through murder, society punishes them for doing so. We forget that everyone is different, so naturally, what pleases certain individuals may not please you. We are brought up to think of murder as bad, but it could very well be just like any other interest. Many of us like to listen to music, watch movies, play video games, play sports and the like, so why is murder any different? Isn’t it because we were made to think that way?

Society conditions a certain group of individuals into being the weak; for example, the blacks, the Jews, and First Nations are conditioned to be thought of as the weak. Society conditions Muslims, men, and terrorists in general to be thought of as the strong, because we fear these people and what they are capable of doing.

Society can be categorized into three groups: the weak, the average, and the strong. Using a scale as an example, the weak and the strong are at the ends of the scale, while the average are at the middle. The weak and strong would be categorized at outliers, while the average are categorized as the majority. The strong category would include those with mental capacity and strength that is above average; physical strength; innovative and creative; influential and charismatic; those with interesting and unique ideas; and those with dreams that they are willing to sacrifice everything for to achieve. The weak include those who drop out of school; lose their jobs and homes (homeless); those who are considered “failures” in life by society; those who have no motivation or drive in life to achieve anything; those who are dependent on others even though they have full capability to be independent; those who are socially oppressed against their own will; and those who are physically or mentally disabled.

Society seeks to prolong the survival of the average, the middle class which has the highest chance of survival. It ostracizes the weak and the strong, which leads to these two outliers feeling despair, and thus raising the chances of these two outliers committing acts of violence. These outliers are driven to taking revenge against the average for what society has done against them, in order to give them a sense of purpose which will encourage them to continue living. Society, in doing so, causing itself harm: if it did not ostracize these two outliers, it would not have to deal with the troubles caused by them. Remember, our ‘free will’ is limited or otherwise non-existent (depending on your belief), and therefore, the weak have no opportunities to bring themselves to power and the strong are typically alienated against their will.

Thinking more in-depth about it, there have been numerous pieces of evidence that back our points up. Numerous studies agree that gifted children are more emotional than the average person; blacks and Jews have been kicked around for a good chunk of history; people of different sexual orientations are still being discriminated today.

Some proofs that hit closer to home include: when we bear expectations of our hardworking peers and continuously praise them for their good marks, not knowing that it puts pressure on them; when some parents overlook the good and can only see the bad in you; when you have no say over anything because you’re just a child; when being gifted or being good at something automatically means other people can call you super smart and the fear of disappointing others overtakes you; when you are a certain religion, skin color, nationality, heritage, body size, etc. and you can’t do anything about it, but the media only brings the spotlight to men with “hot” bodies and skinny and tall women. Things like that drive us into a hole, and sometimes, it causes people to crack- to kill, even- and sometimes, the victim of this harm is ourselves.

Therefore, in the interest of the greater good or benefit, society would benefit itself by caring for the two outlier groups in order to maximize the happiness of the average. John Stuart Mill, an extremely important British philosopher who lived in the 19th century put forth the Principle of Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle: “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness”. In this case, society would be justified in judging the two outliers, in order to promote the greatest happiness of the majority. Even though these two outliers would undergo the opposite of happiness (pain), the majority of the average would benefit, therefore justifying these actions.

However, through the lens of Kant’s Categorical Imperative, every human being should be treated as an end in itself. Therefore, society should treat each person in a way that benefits their inherent dignity as a human, and be given help to prevent them from sinking down to a level of violence. This view disagrees with that of Utilitarianism, because it does not condone using people as means. By treating everyone fairly, we would prevent a lot of the trouble that the justice and social system has to deal with.

Is murder justified after being presented with the evidence above? This includes:

  • Murdering for fun (keeping in mind about our points in the first two paragraphs)
  • Murdering because people have cracked under the pressure (keeping in mind about our points in the second to fifth paragraphs)
  • Murdering for the greater good (Mill & Kant paragraphs)

Anything not mentioned on the list above can be posted about, but please don’t direct arguments or discussions towards those points.

 

 

 

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And now, for levity’s sake

If you’re new to xkcd, hover over the image to catch the punchline.

 

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Ethics Discussion Threads on the Go

Metaphysicians

Peace, Joel.

To bring together the various threads of discussion and dialogue we’ve been engaged in as we work through our initial introductions to the principles of moral reasoning put forth by John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant and John Rawls, I’ve collected links to many of the prompts and posts from the unit below. Follow the links in the headings through to the original posts and share your thoughts on the questions and comments emerging in these various discussions.

The Morality of Murder 

  • Do we have certain fundamental rights? (Follow up: What are they? Why can we assume that they exist?)
  • Does a fair procedure justify any result?
  • What is the moral work of consent? In other words, Why does/can consent make the amoral moral?

Part of the Problem: Talking about Systemic Oppression

Is it possible to benefit from the oppression of [racial minorities, other genders, classes, regions, religions] and not be deemed responsible for such oppression? If it is possible to be ‘innocent’ in such a case, under what conditions does such innocence exist?

Colonialism and Reconciliation in Canada

…who bears the responsibility to reduce the amount of discrimination and oppression experienced by [indigenous] groups? Should it fall to the oppressed to liberate themselves from a pervasive society of oppression? Or are we all responsible?

Iowa rules Legal to Fire Woman for being “Too Attractive”

“The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday stood by its ruling that a dentist acted legally when he fired an assistant because he found her too attractive and worried he would try to start an affair.

“Coming to the same conclusion as it did in December, the all-male court found that bosses can fire employees they see as threats to their marriages, even if the subordinates have not engaged in flirtatious or other inappropriate behavior. The court said such firings do not count as illegal sex discrimination because they are motivated by feelings, not gender.”

Systemic Misogyny or Over-Sensitivity? 

  • What do you feel are the merits of these two arguments?
  • Similarly, where do you feel that either of the arguments is vulnerable or weakly articulated?
  • Have you seen others make either case better?
  • Are there further perspectives that these two essays may be leaving out?

Beyond a Formal Acknowledgement

  • How might each of these three moral philosophers (Kant, Mill, Rawls) approach these recent events?
  • Are there ways in which they might agree?
  • Where do you see their thoughts on indigenous land claims diverging?

Rawls and What is a Fair Start? 

  • First of all, what are your impressions of Rawls’ theory next to concepts of Utilitarianism and/or notions of the Categorical Imperative?
  • Second, do you agree that everyone should have the same basic liberties, whether they are a man or a woman, young or old, rich or poor, part of the minority or part of the majority? And if you do, what basic liberties should everyone have?
  • And third, how do you see Rawls’ theory applying to the discussions we have had around systemic oppression in the last week or so? What insights might the theory offer for those looking to combat a misogynistic or racially discriminating culture? Are there other groups or conditions to which Rawls’ insights may oppose?
 
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