Ethics

Ethics / 9.1 Ethical Claims Questions: 0 of 3 complete (0%) | 0 of 2 correct (0%)

Ethical Claims

Both ethics and morals involve considerations about what’s right and wrong. The term “ethics” derives from the Greek word ethos, meaning character, while “moral” comes from the Latin word moralis, meaning ethical. So the words “ethics” and “morals” are often used interchangeably.

For most of this text, we’ve been exploring the ways that people provide support that a claim is true. But now we’re exploring something quite different: how people provide support that a claim is right—not “right” in the sense of accurate but “right” in the sense of morally the correct thing to do.

Not everything has a moral dimension. Some things, like arithmetic, are amoral. The equation 2 + 2 = 4 is neither good nor bad, it’s just true. In contrast, consider the following claim:

It is wrong to eat meat.

This is still a conclusion, and to persuade others to believe it, we will need to construct an argument (i.e., provide sound reasoning to support this conclusion). So we’re still dealing with claims and arguments, fallacies and sources, and so on. But we’ve completely left the realm of science, with its observable phenomena and replicable experiments. We’re in the land of ethics now.

We learn ethics like we learn everything else, through a mixture of personal experience and shared knowledge. Every society possesses a sense that some things are right and others are wrong. Generally speaking, we believe that it is good to help other people and bad to hurt them. We learn this from our own reactions to things as we grow up and develop our sense of self. And these lessons are reinforced by parents, teachers, friends, and strangers, as well as in the stories of our culture.

A Few Helpful Terms for Discussing Ethics

Ethics: thinking and reasoning about right and wrong.

Moral principles: rules of conduct that guide an individual’s actions to take into account the interests of other people.

Excuse: a reason offered for breaking a moral principle in a given situation.

Justification: an argument claiming that violating some moral principle is actually the right course of action in a given situation.

Killing is wrong… (moral principle)

… unless you are killing someone as punishment for killing someone else. (justification)

Moral dilemma: a situation in which there is not an obvious ethically right or wrong answer, often because there are two moral principles in conflict with each other.

An armed man has entered a school and is killing children.

It’s wrong to kill.

Should I kill him to keep him from killing others?

Answer the following questions about the material above.

How do moral claims differ from other types of claims?

· They make a claim about what’s right and wrong.

· They contain a premise and a conclusion.

· There’s no such thing as a fallacy in a moral claim.

· They must be supported by evidence.

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Kayla normally believes that a mother should make her child as happy as possible. However, Kayla took away her daughter’s favorite toy for a day and explained to her husband that it was because the girl had thrown a tantrum in the grocery store and needed to be taught a lesson. Which of the following is Kayla providing?

· a moral principle

· a justification

· a moral dilemma

· an amoral claim

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Describe an example of a moral dilemma that you have encountered in your own life. 9.2 Practice: Ethical Claims

9.3 Ethical Reasoning 9.4 Practice: Ethical Reasoning 9.5 Moral Theories 9.6 Practice: Moral Theories

· 10 Case Study

 10.1 Introduction to the Case Study 10.2 Multiple Perspectives 10.3 Exploring the Context 10.4 Taking Sides 10.5 Debating Whether to Act 10.6 Challenging Credibility

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Practice: Ethical Claims

Is It Ethical to Refuse to Hire Smokers?

The following pair of articles, which appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine in April 2013, explore the controversies surrounding the question of whether or not it is ethically appropriate for institutions to adopt policies of not hiring smokers.

Read the two articles below, then answer the following questions.

Conflicts and Compromises in Not Hiring Smokers

The Ethics of Not Hiring Smokers

Which of the following provides the BEST generalization about the two articles?

· Both “Conflicts” and “Ethics” recognize the moral dilemma at stake, but “Conflicts” ultimately takes a stance against the practice while “Ethics” argues in favor of it.

· After analyzing the moral dilemma at stake, both “Conflicts” and “Ethics” conclude that it is ethical to adapt a practice of not hiring smokers.

· Both “Conflicts” and “Ethics” recognize the moral dilemma at stake, but “Conflicts” ultimately takes a stance in favor of the practice while “Ethics” argues against it.

· After analyzing the moral dilemma at stake, both “Conflicts” and “Ethics” conclude that it is unethical to adapt a practice of not hiring smokers.

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Which of the following statements from the articles has a moral dimension?

· Finding employment is becoming increasingly difficult for smokers.

· Tobacco use is responsible for approximately 440,000 deaths in the United States each year.

· It is fair to exclude smokers because they are responsible for raising health care costs.

· About 70 percent of smokers say they want to quit, but only 2 to 3 percent succeed each year.

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Using the information in these two articles, explain how an institution’s decision whether or not to adopt policies against hiring smokers is a moral dilemma.

 

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In “Conflicts,” click the link to view the figure titled “Proposed Ladder of Interventions to Reduce Tobacco Use.” In your opinion, what is the highest ladder rung where the practice described is still ethical? Explain.

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Which of the following arguments does the “Conflicts” article use to justify moving up the intervention ladder?

· Smokers choose to smoke, so they deserve the penalizing actions prescribed on the higher rungs.

· Smokers appreciate it when institutions adopt the practices higher up the ladder.

· The prescribed actions on the lower rungs haven’t done enough to deter people from smoking.

· Companies would save a lot of money in health insurance if they fenced out smokers.

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According to “Ethics,” health care organizations posed the argument that “their employees must serve as role models for patients and that only nonsmokers can do so.” Explain whether you agree or disagree with that statement, and why.

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Poll

After reading both articles, indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with the following statement: It is unethical to refuse to hire smokers.

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· Strongly agree

· Agree

· Neither agree nor disagree

· Disagree

· Strongly disagree

Ethics / 9.3 Ethical Reasoning Questions: 0 of 3 complete (0%) | 0 of 2 correct (0%)

Ethical Reasoning

Can we reason about something as seemingly subjective as right and wrong? Well, we’re in real trouble if we can’t. We do it every day. And ethical reasoning forms a part of the most important decisions we make as individuals, organizations, and a society. Consider the following questions:

Should I forgive my brother?

Should we pay our employees based on the value they generate?

Should our country go to war?

Just like arguments for anything else, arguments for right and wrong make claims and employ reasoning in which premises are offered to support a conclusion.

Premise: Jason plagiarized his term paper.

Premise: Plagiarism is wrong.

Conclusion: Therefore, Jason was wrong to plagiarize his term paper.

Going beyond true or false to draw a conclusion about right and wrong is what makes this particular argument an ethical one. Such arguments often follow this basic pattern:

1. Premise that makes an amoral statement about a specific situation (simple fact)

2. Premise that makes a moral statement about a moral principle (right or wrong)

3. Conclusion that demonstrates a moral statement regarding the specific situation

Premise: Panhandlers often spend the money that passers-by give them on alcohol and drugs. (amoral claim stated as a simple fact)

Premise: It’s wrong to give people money that is going to be spent on alcohol and drugs. (moral statement about a moral principle)

Conclusion: Therefore, you should stop giving money to panhandlers. (conclusion that demonstrates how the moral statement applies to the specific situation)

The ethical arguments we encounter daily typically have an unstated ethical statement (an enthymeme). For instance, you’d be more likely to hear the above argument stated as something like:

Panhandlers usually just spend the money that passers-by give them on alcohol and drugs, so you should stop giving them your cash.

Formal analysis is easier when you articulate the implied claim that “You shouldn’t give people money that is going to be spent on alcohol and drugs.” Likewise, you might hear the earlier example abbreviated as “Jason plagiarized his term paper, so he was in the wrong,” hiding the implied claim that “plagiarism is wrong.”

Articulating the implied moral claim uncovers the deductive syllogism, making it easier to analyze, and calls attention to the assumed moral statement to enable scrutiny. Just like with any valid deductive argument, you would want to analyze the truth of both premises before you accept the conclusion about what you “should” be doing.

Answer the following questions about the material above.

Consider the following ethical argument:

1. Driving while intoxicated puts the lives of others at risk.

2. It is wrong to put the lives of others at risk.

3. Therefore, driving while intoxicated is wrong.

Which of the following explains why premise number 2 is a “moral statement about a moral principle”?

· It’s an objective statement that can be backed up by statistics.

· It makes a claim about risk.

· It applies a moral principle to a specific situation.

· It’s a general statement about how something is right or wrong.

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Marquell says, “Stem cell research is wrong, because it often involves the destruction of human embryos.” What is the implied moral statement in Marquell’s enthymeme?

· Stem cell research is not likely to cure any diseases.

· Marquell has personal experience with stem cell research.

· It is wrong to research cures for diseases.

· It is wrong to destroy human embryos.

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Why is it often beneficial to articulate the assumed moral statement in a moral argument, such as in the example above?

 

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Practice: Ethical Reasoning

A Dietary Dilemma

There are many reasons that people choose a vegetarian diet, and sometimes those reasons are ethical ones. But are there also ethical arguments for why you shouldn’t be a vegetarian? In 2012, the New York Times ran a contest to see who could come up with the most persuasive argument in favor of eating meat. In response to this contest, a blogger offers his own moral argument for why eating meat is unethical.

Read the two articles below, and then answer the following questions.

A Simple Argument for Vegetarianism

Give Thanks to Meat

What assumption did the New York Times “Ethicist” contest call into question?

· It is natural and right to eat meat.

· Eating meat causes suffering to animals.

· It is possible to avoid meat and still enjoy a healthy diet.

· Meat-eaters don’t care about animal suffering.

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In the ethical argument that the author of “A Simple Argument” presents, which of the following statements functions as the amoral statement of the argument?

· Trivial human interests don’t justify overriding or disregarding vital animal interests.

· Meat-eating causes avoidable suffering.

· It’s wrong, other things being equal, to be the cause of avoidable suffering.

· Therefore, meat-eating is wrong.

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The author thinks more people will argue with the second statement. Why do you think this is (or is not) the case?

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What is the central argument of “Give Thanks to Meat”?

 

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The author of “A Simple Argument” suggests that the pleasure derived from eating meat is the only human interest at stake in the activity, but the author of “Give Thanks” argues that eating meat also has which of the following benefits?

· feeding your family a nutritious diet

· providing financial support to farmers who raise livestock

· living in the most ecologically benign way

· preventing animal overpopulation

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List two explicit premises that you find most compelling in “Give Thanks to Meat.”

Ethics / 9.5 Moral Theories Questions: 0 of 3 complete (0%) | 0 of 2 correct (0%)

Moral Theories

All moral claims are grounded in some moral theory. It is the nature of such claims that they are based on a system of beliefs about what is right and wrong, just and unjust.

The table below lists a handful of the moral theories you are most likely to encounter in ethical arguments today. It’s important to note that each one has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Moral theories give you general guidelines, but you still usually have to apply moral reasoning in individual cases to test them out. For example, none of these theories explicitly claims that killing is wrong. The theories are more about how you would ground your claim that killing is wrong.

Moral theories are also not mutually exclusive. The argument that killing is wrong could be grounded in all of these theories.

Whether they know it or not, everyone has a moral theory. It is inescapable. Even if their moral theory is that there are no morals, that still represents a moral theory. But not all moral theories are equal—some hold up to critical thinking better than others.

You may see wisdom in all of these perspectives, or you may strongly identify with a single one. Regardless, it’s important for you to recognize the potential weaknesses in any moral theory you favor, and it’s helpful for you to understand why others find legitimacy in the moral theories they employ.

Theory Criticisms
Kantian Ethics

· Immanuel Kant put forth the categorical imperative, which states that you should only act on moral principles that you would be willing to turn into universal laws mandating that everyone act the same way.

· This is a version of the question, “How would you like it if everyone did that?”

Any two people who want to get married should be able to.

· This theory is so absolute that it sometimes goes against moral common sense.

It’s wrong to kiss my spouse because I would not like it if everyone kissed my spouse.

Utilitarianism

· The morally right course of action is the one that will produce the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people.

· The only thing that matters is the consequences of the action, not the intentions behind the action (the ends justify the means).

· Ignores people’s rights, duties, and intentions.

· Could be used to justify an act that most would consider morally wrong because it inflicts harm on one person unjustly, even if it brings great happiness many others.

It’s okay to steal money from my neighbor and take my family on a vacation, because then my whole family would be happy and only my neighbor would be harmed.

Ethical Egoism

· Doing whatever is best for your own interests or would make you happy.

· This is not necessarily the same thing as doing whatever you want in the moment, because that might not be in your best interests in the long term.

· Can be used to justify terrible actions.
Ethical Altruism

· Doing whatever is best for others or would bring the greatest amount of happiness to people besides yourself.

· Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what is best for everyone involved.
Authoritarian Moral Theory

· Doing whatever an authority figure (a teacher, your boss, the president, etc.) tells you is the right thing to do.

· You’re sacrificing your critical thinking skills when you blindly follow what someone else says without scrutinizing it.
Religious Absolutism

· Doing whatever your religion, deity, or sacred text says is right.

· Like the authoritarian moral theory, it can be dangerous to blindly follow any authority.

· There is enduring controversy over which religion is the “correct” one.

· Historically, religion has been has been used to justify many actions generally considered immoral.

Moral Relativism

· Believing that morality is completely subjective and each person decides for themselves what they think is right.

· Implies that you can’t pass judgment on anybody for anything, assuming they’re doing what they believe is right.

· Becomes contradictory—what if you believe an action is wrong and another person believes the same action is right? According to moral relativism, the action would then seem to be both right and wrong.

Cultural Relativism

· Believing that whatever your culture approves of is the right thing for you to do.

· Has the same problems as moral relativism.

· How do you determine what counts as a culture or group? And what if there is disagreement within that group?

Religious Relativism

· Believing that whatever your religion approves of is the right thing for you to do.

· Has the same problems as the other relativism theories.

Answer the following questions about the material above.

Hayley reads online about tribes in Papua New Guinea that inflict cuts on young boys because they believe the experience will turn them into disciplined men. She tells her friend Celia that this practice is wrong because her parents taught her that corporal punishment for children is always wrong. What moral theory is she using?

· religious absolutism

· ethical egoism

· authoritarian moral theory

· utilitarian moral theory

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Celia claims that you can’t pass judgment on the practices of tribes in Papua New Guinea because they have their own cultural norms and the right to decide for themselves what’s right and wrong. What moral theory is she using?

· cultural relativism

· ethical altruism

· utilitarian moral theory

· religious absolutism

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Give an example of a moral dilemma in which a moral theory based on utilitarianism would suggest one course of action while a moral theory based on religious absolutism would suggest a different one.

 

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Practice: Moral Theories

A Disinterested Party?

The purpose of marketing is to persuade people to get excited about a product. If people are getting excited, then does it matter whether or not they know they’re being marketed to? The following piece from 60 Minutes explores a moral dilemma about the fine line between marketing and deception.

Watch the video below, and then answer the following questions.

YouTube video. https://youtu.be/p7LTEFCH54g. Uploaded March 15, 2009, by litez16. To activate captions, first click the play button and then click the CC button in the embedded player. For a text transcript, follow the link below.

Read Text Version

What is stealth marketing?

· online advertising through social networking sites

· apparel that displays corporate logos

· product placement in movies and TV shows

· marketers simulating personal recommendations in real-life situations

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What makes stealth marketing different from traditional marketing?

 

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Why might some people think that stealth marketing is unethical?

 

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Suppose you conducted a survey of all the people you had approached through a stealth marketing campaign and found that the majority of them were happy to be introduced to a new product, and only a small minority were angry at being deceived. Under which moral theory could you use that as evidence that stealth marketing is a morally correct course of action?

· Kantian Ethics

· Authoritarian Moral Theory

· Utilitarianism

· Ethical Egoism

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If a person agreed with Malcolm Gladwell and argued that stealth marketing is unethical because it is always wrong to deceive people, which moral theory would the person be using to justify this moral statement?

· Authoritarian Moral Theory

· Kantian Ethics

· Utilitarianism

· Ethical Altruism

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If a person agreed with Malcolm Gladwell and argued that stealth marketing is unethical because it dilutes the power of real word-of-mouth communication, thus doing more harm than good in the long run, which moral theory would the person be using to justify this moral statement?

· Religious Absolutism

· Utilitarianism

· Ethical Egoism

· Kantian Ethics

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Suppose you had a product you were promoting with stealth marketing and you justified your tactics by saying, “Stealth marketing is the right thing to do because it will help me make the most money on my product.” Which moral theory would you be employing?

· Ethical Altruism

· Ethical Egoism

· Authoritarian Moral Theory

· Kantian Ethics

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Poll

Which of the following best describes your opinion on stealth marketing?

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· I love this idea! It’s a creative and innovative way to promote new products.

· Nothing wrong with it. No one’s forcing you to buy the product; they’re just exposing you to it.

· I wouldn’t mind being deceived into making a purchase by a stealth marketer as long as I was happy with the product.

· I would be very annoyed if I found out that I purchased a product promoted by a stealth marketer.

· I hate it this idea. It’s unethical to engage in a fabricated personal interaction just to promote a product.

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