1: What is Morality?


The Capitol: where Congress makes laws
Washington DC

  • Define and appropriately use important terms such as ethics, morality, premise, conclusion, and soundness
  • Reflect upon ways of living responsibly in a world where people have diverse ethical beliefs

I. What are ethics?

Key Terms


  • A. Defining Ethics
    • Morals vs. Ethics
    • Value - what we esteem, based on standards, subjective
    • Evaluating the justification and logic of moral beliefs
  • B. How we determine our values
    • 1. General Principles
      • Bumper Sticker Philosophy
      • Too general to be an ethical theory
    • 2. Practical Conclusions
      • Concern with the consequence
      • Inadequate for many ethical dilemmas be an ethical theory
    • 3. Emotional Pronouncements
      • I think it's wrong because it makes me feel bad
      • Emotions are inconsistent

II. Moral Controversy #1

  • A. Baby Theresa
    • Born with anencephaly
    • Important parts of the brain are missing, the brain stem is present 
    • Parents want to donate her organs for transplant
    • Doctors are legally prevented from doing so
  • B. Nature of an Argument
    • Cicero - vital to understand thoroughly opposing opinions in order to argue better against them   
    • True - all of the supporting reasons and assumptions are true
    • Valid - the reasons are related to and support the conclusions
    • Sound - the argument has true assumptions and the conclusion follows logically from them
  • C. Moral Controversy with Baby Theresa
    • The benefits argument
    • The argument that we should not use people as a means
    • The argument from the wrongness of killing

III. Moral Controversy #2

  • A. Jodie and Mary
    • Conjoined twins
    • Without separation, they would die in 6 months
    • Mother refused permission for the operation
    • Doctors sought legal intervention and were granted the right to operate
    • Jodie, the stronger twin, survived; Mary did not
  • B. Moral Controversy with Jodi and Mary
    • The argument to save as many as we can
    • The argument from the sanctity of human life

IV. Moral Controversy #3

  • Tracy Latimer
    • 12 year old victim of cerebral palsy killed by her father in 1993
    • In constant pain, functioning as a 3 month old infant
    • Father originally sentenced to 1 year in prison
    • Supreme Court overturned sentence for 10 years as mandated by law
  • B. Moral Controversy with Tracy Latimer
    • The argument for the end of suffering
    • The argument from wrongness of discriminating against the handicapped
    • The slippery slope argument

V. Nature of Morality

  • A. Moral judgments must be backed by good reasons
  • B. Morality requires impartial consideration of all individual interests