Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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The Wrongly Convicted: David Milgaard

In January of 1969, 16-year-old David Milgaard and his friends Ron Wilson and Nichol John took a trip across Canada while under the influence of various drugs. While the friends were in Saskatoon, 20-year-old nursing student Gail Miller was found dead in a snowbank.

“The David Milgaard Story” by Carl Karp and Cecil Rosner

At the time Milgaard and his friends were picking up their friend Albert Cadrain (from his parents home), Cadrain’s family had been renting out their basement to Larry Fisher. Tipped off by Cadrain (who later admitted he was mostly interested in the $2000 reward for information), RCMP officers arrested Milgaard in May of 1969. He was then sent back to Saskatchewan, where he was charged with the murder of Gail Miller. Cadrain testified he had seen Milgaard return the night of Miller’s murder in blood-stained clothing. Wilson and John were also called to testify against Milgaard; they had told police they had been with him the entire day and that they believed him to be innocent but changed their stories for the court. Wilson had later recanted his testimony, saying he had been told he was under suspicion and wanted to alleviate the pressure on himself. David Milgaard was convicted of 1st degree murder and sentenced to life in prison on January 31, 1970 – exactly a year after Miller’s murder. He was 17 years old at the time of his sentencing.

I speak of the plight of David Milgaard,” said Liberal MP Lloyd Axworthy “who has spent the last 21 years of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit. Yet for the last two years, the Department of Justice has been sitting on an application to reopen his case. But rather than review these conclusive reports, rather than appreciate the agony and trauma of the Milgaard family, the Minister of Justice refuses to act.” After twenty-three years in a maximum security prison, Milgaard was exonerated at the age of 40. Using Axworthy’s argument, we can determine that:


Premise 1: The murder of a Canadian citizen is a crime.

Premise 2: David Milgaard is in prison for the murder of Gail Miller.

Premise 3: David Milgaard was wrongly convicted.

Conclusion: Therefore, David Milgaard should not have been convicted.


By analyzing the above argument, we can easily discover if Lloyd Axworthy’s argument is a sound one.

Premise 1: Murdering a Canadian citizen is in fact a crime, therefore this is true.

Premise 2: David Milgaard did spend over 23 years in a Canadian prison after being wrongfully charged with both raping and murdering a young woman. Thus, this premise is also true.

Premise 3: At the time Axworthy spoke out about this case many believe Milgaard was solely responsible for what tragedy had happened, however in 2015 we know that he had been wrongly convicted and is truly innocent.

So when looking at Axworthy’s statement after David Milgaard had been released, the syllogism is true, valid and sound.

 

 

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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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How Can We Define Family – Kelly

parent (noun) – a father or a mother
mother (noun – a woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth
father (noun) – a man in relation to his natural child or children
child (noun) – a young human being below the age of full physical development or below the legal age of majority; a son or daughter at any age

This is how the dictionary defines a family.

Never once, in all these definitions, is the well being of the child taken into account.

About 32000 sexual assaults on women which result in pregnancy occur each year in the United States.  In approximately 10000 of these cases, the female victim, the mother, decides to continue the pregnancy and keep the child.  For whatever the reason, these women choose not to abort their babies, and prepare themselves to raise the child of their attacker.

As a brief side note, I would like to point out that every single one of these 32000 annual sexual assaults which result in pregnancy could be, in fact, a legitimate rape.  In spite of what Mr. Todd Akin would have you believe, there is no biological chemical in the female anatomy which prevents pregnancy from instances of rape.  On the contrary, ovulation is heightened with anxiety, anger, and fear, so the probability of pregnancy from a sexual assault is actually greater than that of a consenting and safe sexual encounter.

But this is not a piece on legitimate rape, or any other kind of rape for that matter.  This is a piece on the privileges and obligations of each person and of the state to protect the victims, perpetrators, and consequential beings resulting from rape.  After all, every living being has to follow a code of both legal and moral rights and responsibilities.

At conception, every child, every person in the world, has a biological mother and father.  That fact does not change until the day that person dies.  In a regular, consenting and safe relationship, the mother and the father share legal rights and responsibilities to the child.  If the couple is together, they both live with and provide for the child in the way which best benefits the child and the family as a whole.  If the parents are not in a relationship, family court measures are taken to determine what living situation is in the best interest of the child in question.  Legal rights to custody and visitation are decided, as well as legal responsibilities and obligations such as child support are dictated.  The court ruling determines what will most benefit all the parties involved, with an ultimate and primary focus on the child.

What if the child was conceived during a sexual assault?

What happens if the only reason that the child in question exists is because the child’s biological father raped the child’s biological mother?

What happens to the rights and responsibilities of everyone in question, the mother, father, and the child?

In the United States, paternal rights are constitutional.  It violates the American constitution to prevent a parent from having access to his or her child, unless parental termination has been ruled by a Supreme Court.  In cases of both statutory and forcible rape, the father has both legal paternal rights and responsibilities to the child.  If desired, the father can petition and sue for legal rights to visitation and even custody of a child he produced during a sexual assault.

So the question comes simply down to who’s best interests are in need of protection, and how can that be accomplished.

Wendy Murphy, a Massachusetts attorney, represented a client in a case such as this.  Her client had been raped at the age of 14 and became pregnant from a twenty-year-old male.  Three years later, the mother was attempting to move on with her life, to raise her child as a single mother, and to keep the idea of her child completely independent of her sexual assault.  As the child was reaching her third Birthday, the biological father, and rapist, sought to fulfill his legal paternal rights, which, under American constitution, includes visitation.  The state law allows the father, the criminal rapist, to have rights to the child, completely disregarding the crime he committed against the child’s mother.

So the state of Massachusetts believes that it is in the best interest of the child to be allowed visitation from a rapist?  Or does it simply believe that the rights of the criminal are more valuable than the rights of the victims of the crime?

In another case, Shauna Prewitt was in the process of dealing with pursuing charges of her rape when her rapist attempted to sue her for legal rights to her daughter.  The state of Missouri, Ms. Prewitt’s home state, has very similar rulings to Massachusetts, that fathers have both rights and responsibilities to their children, which are protected by the American constitution.  In this case, paternal rights were very quickly terminated to the offender.  This means that, while he does not have visitation rights, the father is also not obliged to provide financial child support to Ms. Prewitt.

This begs the question: should sexual offenders be obliged to support, but not allow having rights to their children?

The problem with legislature such as the above two examples is that it opens the door for further manipulation of the victim by the assailant.  ‘If you drop requests for child support, I will stop suing for visitation rights.’  ‘If you stop your accusations of rape, I will stop suing for visitation rights.’  In an attempt to protect her child, a mother will go to extraordinary lengths.  How could it possibly be in the best interest of the child to be used as a pawn in victimization by his or her father?

In this sense, Canada gets it right.  Instead of constitutional rights, custody rights are based on the Provincial Tests of the Best Interest of the Child.  This can be petitioned by anyone, be it a godmother or a biological father or a maternal grandmother.  Whoever can prove that they are the guardian that is most beneficial to the development, growth, maturation, and life of the child will be awarded with primary custody.  The test includes history of violence, love and affection, and the type of situation in which this would put the child and the guardian in the future.  This also eliminates the idea of parental termination.  If twenty years down the road the father is a changed and reformed man, or the child later wants to seek knowledge of his or her parent, contact can be made.  Unlike in the United States, Canadian policy sees an immediate plan which can be altered dependent on changes which may occur in the future.

So what does this all ultimately mean?  In short, I think Canada has it figured out better than the United States for the most part in this case.  It is clearly immoral for a rapist to be able to use child support or refraining from suing for custody as a bargaining chip to prevent incrimination.  But that might not always be the case.  It is also immoral to say that any man who has been accused by a pregnant women of rape and subsequent pregnancy to be declared future parental rights.  Both of these situations clearly open up way too much opportunity for abuse of the legal system.

So what do I believe?  I believe that once a child is in existence, he or she should be the ultimate priority.  Whatever the best circumstance for the child’s upbringing should be the one in which he or she lives, whether that is proven to be with the mother, father, grandparents, or anyone else.  I also believe that these decisions should not be permanent.  If a living situation is not working out ideally for the child, something must be changed.  Likewise, if a past assailant becomes a changed man and the child wishes to seek his or her father, this should be a legally available option.

I ultimately believe that the child is most important.  And this brings me back to where I began, defining a family.  Each member of a family is simply defined by who they are related to.  However, family is defined differently.

family (noun) – a group consisting of parents and children living together in a suitable household

Family is a group.  Family involves togetherness.  Family is suitable.

And I ultimately think that, no matter what, this is the situation in which I child should be raised.

 

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Ethics Blogging Assignment and Readings

Image from the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

Image from the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

Having crested the mid-point of the semester’s study of Philosophy 12, the face to face participants in the course have taken a brief respite from the class blog and focused on classroom-based activities and assignments.

As a synthesis of collaborative learning and knowledge-construction, two weeks ago the group delivered an hourlong, four-part lecture on Epistemology. This last week saw the class split into groups to prepare creative lessons / resources on Ethics to be shared with middle school students sometime next week. As these projects move forward with filming, songwriting, and illustration, this week will include a few different discussions of ethical questions and issues, both in class and on the blog.

Each of the for-credit participants will be asked to submit a post introducing and summarizing a moden ethical issue. These posts should roughly respond to the following criteria:

      • Describe the context, stakeholders, and ramifications of different outcomes of the debate. 
      • Summarize the key questions involved in processing the issue. 
      • Explore ways in which the debate could be framed in a larger context or conversation (eg. what is the essential question at stake?)
      • Outline past philosophers’ attempts to answer questions involved with this issue, and whether their wisdom can be applied to contemporary times. 

In addition to the standing invitation for our open online participants to join in the various discussions that these posts will likely illicit, and to ask questions, push back, or explore these issues and debates alongside our for-credit students, we would also welcome posts you might like to share with us outlining events or questions we might be overlooking.

If you haven’t yet, you can still drop your details in the course signup form and be added as an author on the blog. Also be sure to join us on Twitter by following the class hashtag at #philosophy12.

Some suggested areas of inquiry in the coming week:

Lying, Cheating and Stealing

Survey finds less cheating in high schools
““Changes in children’s behavior of this magnitude suggest a major shift in parenting and school involvement in issues of honesty and character,” Josephson said in a statement.

“Brian Jacob, a professor of education policy at the University of Michigan, said providing students with more information is one way to help curb cheating in schools. For instance, Jacob, who has looked at plagiarism in college, said research shows that you can help students understand, through tools such as an online tutorial, what constitutes plagiarism and strategies to avoid it.”

Freedom of Expression & Censorship

Bradley Manning: a tale of liberty lost in America
“Whatever one thinks of Manning’s alleged acts, he appears the classic whistleblower. This information could have been sold for substantial sums to a foreign government or a terror group. Instead he apparently knowingly risked his liberty to show them to the world because – he said when he believed he was speaking in private – he wanted to trigger “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms”.

War

Rethinking the Just War
“Can war be justified? Is there such a thing as morally proper conduct in war?

“With Veterans’ Day upon us and, with the Obama administration preparing to face another four years of geopolitical choices in unstable regions, The Stone is featuring recent work by Jeff McMahan, a philosopher and professor at Rutgers University, on “just war theory” — a set of ethical principles pertaining to violent conflict, whose origins can be traced back to Augustine, that still influence the politics and morality of war today. The work will be published in two parts on consecutive days — the first dealing with the background and history of the traditional just war theory, and second consisting of the author’s critique of that theory.”

Euthanasia

Appeal Court upholds exemption from doctor-assisted suicide ban
“Gloria Taylor’s right to avoid a “frightening and repugnant” death in the clutches of Lou Gehrig’s disease shouldn’t be sacrificed because the courts have yet to decide the fate of Canada’s doctor-assisted suicide ban, a judge ruled Friday as she upheld the British Columbia woman’s personal exemption from the law.

“The woman from West Kelowna, B.C., who was diagnosed with ALS three years ago and whose health continues to deteriorate, was among the plaintiffs in a landmark case that saw the B.C. Supreme Court strike down Canada’s ban on doctor-assisted suicide as unconstitutional.

“While the court suspended its decision, Taylor was granted an immediate exemption, making her the only person in Canada who can legally die with the help of a doctor.”

Genetics

Human Evolution Enters an Exciting New Phase
“Most of the mutations that we found arose in the last 200 generations or so. There hasn’t been much time for random change or deterministic change through natural selection,” said geneticist Joshua Akey of the University of Washington, co-author of the Nov. 28 Nature study. “We have a repository of all this new variation for humanity to use as a substrate. In a way, we’re more evolvable now than at any time in our history.”

Conservation & Preservation of the Environment

What is Education for? by David Orr
We are accustomed to thinking of learning as good in and of itself. But as environmental educator David Orr reminds us, our education up till now has in some ways created a monster. This essay is adapted from his commencement address to the graduating class of 1990 at Arkansas College. It prompted many in our office to wonder why such speeches are made at the end, rather than the beginning, of the collegiate experience.”

Treatment of Non-Human Animals

Animals Can Tell Right from Wrong
“Until recently, humans were thought to be the only species to experience complex emotions and have a sense of morality.

“But Prof Marc Bekoff, an ecologist at University of Colorado, Boulder, believes that morals are “hard-wired” into the brains of all mammals and provide the “social glue” that allow often aggressive and competitive animals to live together in groups.”

New Science Emboldens Long Shot Bid for Dolphin, Whale Rights
“Just a few decades ago, cetacean rights would have been considered a purely sentimental rather than scientifically supportable idea. But scientifically if not yet legally, evidence is overwhelming that cetaceans are special.

“At a purely neuroanatomical level, their brains are as complex as our own. Their brains are also big — and not simply because cetaceans are large. Dolphins and whales have brains that are exceptional for their size, second only to modern humans in being larger than one would expect. They also possess neurological structures that, in humans, are linked to high-level social and intellectual function.”

Intellectual Property

Remix, Aggregation, Plagiarism, Oh My
“Remixing is the 4th most nefarious form of plagarism, and mashups are #7…at least according to these 900 teachers and instructors. This saddens me because I happen to consider these two activities some of the most creative and original cultural actshappening today. And to think there are 900 some instructors and teachers out there who do not recognize the creative value  and sheer amount of work it takes to create something new and original out of what existed before.”

Ethics in Business

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Business Ethics
“This entry focuses generally on academic business ethics, more particularly on the philosophically-informed part of business ethics, and most particularly on the constellation of philosophically-relevant questions that inform the main conversation and ongoing disagreement among academic business ethicists. It covers: (1) the history of business ethics as an academic endeavor; (2) the focus on the corporation in academic business ethics; (3) the treatment of the employment relation in academic business ethics; (4) the treatment of transnational issues in academic business ethics; and (5) criticism of the focus and implicit methodology of academic business ethics.”

Advertising

Rogers Misleading Advertising Case: Truth-In-Advertising Laws Violate Our Rights, Telecom Giant Says
“Telecom giant Rogers is arguing before an Ontario court that truth-in-advertising rules are a violation of its right to freedom of expression, according to a news report.

“Postmedia’s Sarah Schmidt reports that Rogers is challenging a $10-million fine levied on it for misleading advertising by the federal Competition Bureau by arguing that being forced to test its products before making claims about them is a violation of freedom of expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

 
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