The “What is morality?” chapter from The Elements of Moral Philosophy chapter had three main cases: baby Theresa, Jody and Mary, and Tracey Lattimer. Here are two discussion prompts about those cases.

The “What is morality?” chapter from The Elements of Moral Philosophy chapter had three main cases: baby Theresa, Jody and Mary, and Tracey Lattimer. Here are two discussion prompts about those cases.

  1. From one of the cases, pick an argument (that is, a conclusion supported by reasons) or an important case that you either agree with or disagree with and explain why you agree or disagree. Explain the argument or claim in detail, so anyone could understand it (even if they weren’t in the class) and then fully explain why you agree or disagree.
  2. From another readings or topic beyond the Elements of Moral Philosophy chapter, pick an argument (that is, a conclusion supported by reasons) or an important case that you either agree with or disagree with and explain why you agree or disagree. Explain the argument or claim in detail, so anyone could understand it (even if they weren’t in the class) and then fully explain why you agree or disagree.

Each response should be at least 150 words.

The “What is morality?” chapter from The Elements of Moral Philosophy chapter had three main cases: baby Theresa, Jody and Mary, and Tracey Lattimer. Here are two discussion prompts about those cases.
1 CHAPTER 1 W hat Is Morality? We are discussing no small matter, but how we ought to live. S ocrates , in P lato’s R EPUBLIC (ca. 390 bc ) 1.1. The Problem of Definition Moral philosophy is the study of what morality is and what it requires of us. As Socrates said, it’s about “how we ought to live”—and why. It would be helpful if we could begin with a simple, uncontroversial definition of what morality is, but unfortunately we cannot. There are many rival theories, each expounding a different conception of what it means to live morally, and any definition that goes beyond Socrates’s simple formulation is bound to offend at least one of them. This should make us cautious, but it need not paralyze us. In this chapter, I will describe the “minimum concep- tion” of morality. As the name suggests, the minimum con- ception is a core that every moral theory should accept, at least as a starting point. First, however, we will examine some moral controversies having to do with handicapped children. This discussion will bring out the features of the minimum conception. 1.2. First Example: Baby Theresa Theresa Ann Campo Pearson, an infant known to the public as “Baby Theresa,” was born in Florida in 1992. Baby Theresa had anencephaly, one of the worst genetic disorders. Anen- cephalic infants are sometimes referred to as “babies without brains,” but that is not quite accurate. Important parts of rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 1rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 1 9/5/14 2:44 PM9/5/14 2:44 PM 2 THE ELEMENTS OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY the brain—the cerebrum and cerebellum—are missing, as is the top of the skull. The brain stem, however, is still there, and so the baby can breathe and possess a heartbeat. In the United States, most cases of anencephaly are detected dur- ing pregnancy, and the fetuses are usually aborted. Of those not aborted, half are stillborn. Only a few hundred are born alive each year, and they usually die within days. Baby Theresa’s story is remarkable only because her par- ents made an unusual request. Knowing that their baby would die soon and could never be conscious, Theresa’s parents vol- unteered her organs for immediate transplant. They thought that her kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, and eyes should go to other children who could benefit from them. Her physicians agreed. Thousands of infants need transplants each year, and there are never enough organs available. But Theresa’s organs were not taken, because Florida law forbids the removal of organs until the donor has died. By the time Baby Theresa died, nine days later, it was too late—her organs had deterio- rated too much to be harvested and transplanted. Baby Theresa’s case was widely debated. Should she have been killed so that her organs could have been used to save other children? A number of professional “ethicists”—people employed by universities, hospitals, and law schools, who get paid to think about such things—were asked by the press to comment. Most of them disagreed with the parents and phy- sicians. Instead, they appealed to time-honored philosophi- cal principles to oppose taking the organs. “It just seems too horrifying to use people as means to other people’s ends,” said one such expert. Another explained: “It’s unethical to kill person A to save person B.” And a third added: “What the parents are really asking for is, Kill this dying baby so that its organs may be used for someone else. Well, that’s really a horrendous proposition.” Is it horrendous? Opinions were divided. These ethicists thought so, while the parents and doctors did not. But we are interested in more than what people happen to believe. We want to know what’s true. Were the parents right or wrong to volunteer their baby’s organs for transplant? To answer this question, we have to ask what reasons, or arguments, can be given on each side. What can be said for or against the parents’ request? rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 2rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 2 9/5/14 2:44 PM9/5/14 2:44 PM WHAT IS MORALITY ? 3 The Benefits Argument. The parents believed that Theresa’s organs were doing her no good, because she was not con- scious and was bound to die soon. The other children, however, could be helped. Thus, the parents seem to have reasoned: If we can benefit someone without harming anyone else, we ought to do so. Transplanting the organs would benefit the other children without harming Baby Theresa. Therefore, we ought to transplant the organs. Is this correct? Not every argument is sound. In addi- tion to knowing what arguments can be given for a view, we also want to know whether those arguments are any good. Generally speaking, an argument is sound if its assumptions are true and the conclusion follows logically from them. In this case, the argument has two assumptions: that we should help someone if no harm would come of it, and that the transplant would help the other children without harming Theresa. We might wonder, however, about the claim that Theresa wouldn’t be harmed. After all, she would die, and isn’t being alive better than being dead? But on reflection, it seems clear that, in these tragic circumstances, the parents were right. Being alive is a benefit only if you can carry on activities and have thoughts, feelings, and relations with other people—in other words, if you have a life . Without such things, biological existence has no value. Therefore, even though Theresa might remain alive for a few more days, it would do her no good. The Benefits Argument, therefore, provides a powerful reason for transplanting the organs. What arguments exist on the other side? The Argument That We Should Not Use People as Means. The ethicists who opposed the transplants offered two arguments. The first was based on the idea that it is wrong to use people as means to other people’s ends . Taking Theresa’s organs would be using her to benefit the other children; therefore, it should not be done. Is this argument sound? The idea that we should not “use” people is appealing, but this idea is vague. What exactly does it mean? “Using people” typically involves violating their autonomy —their ability to decide for themselves how to live their own lives, according to their own desires and values. rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 3rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 3 9/5/14 2:44 PM9/5/14 2:44 PM 4 THE ELEMENTS OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY A person’s autonomy may be violated through manipulation, trickery, or deceit. For example, I may pretend to be your friend, when I am only interested in going out with your sis- ter; or I may lie to you so you’ll give me money; or I may try to convince you that you would enjoy going to a movie, when, really, I only want you to give me a ride. In each case, I am manipulating you in order to get something for myself. Autonomy is also violated when people are forced to do things against their will. This explains why “using people” is wrong; it is wrong because it thwarts their autonomy. Taking Baby Theresa’s organs, however, could not thwart her autonomy, because she has no autonomy—she cannot make decisions, she has no desires, and she cannot value any- thing. Would taking her organs be “using her” in any other morally significant sense? We would, of course, be using her organs for someone else’s benefit. But we do that every time we perform a transplant. We would also be using her organs without her permission. Would that make it wrong? If we were using them against her wishes, then that would be a reason for objecting—it would violate her autonomy. But Baby Theresa has no wishes. When people are unable to make decisions for themselves, and others must step in, there are two reasonable guidelines that might be adopted. First, we might ask, What would be in their own best interests? If we apply this standard to Baby Theresa, there would be no problem with taking her organs, for, as we have already noted, her interests will not be affected. She is not conscious, and she will die soon no matter what. The second guideline appeals to the person’s own pref- erences: We might ask, If she could tell us what she wants, what would she say? This sort of thought is useful when we are deal- ing with people who have preferences (or once had them) but cannot express them—for example, a comatose patient who signed a living will before slipping into the coma. But, sadly, Baby Theresa has no preferences about anything, nor has she ever had any. So we can get no guidance from her, even in our imaginations. The upshot is that we are left to do what we think is best. The Argument from the Wrongness of Killing. The ethicists also appealed to the principle that it is wrong to kill one person rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 4rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 4 9/5/14 2:44 PM9/5/14 2:44 PM WHAT IS MORALITY ? 5 to save another. Taking Theresa’s organs would be killing her to save others, they said; so, taking the organs would be wrong. Is this argument sound? The prohibition against killing is certainly among the most important moral rules. Neverthe- less, few people believe it is always wrong to kill—most peo- ple think there are exceptions, such as killing in self-defense. The question, then, is whether taking Baby Theresa’s organs should be regarded as another exception. There are many reasons to think so: Baby Theresa is not conscious; she will never have a life; she is going to die soon; and taking her organs would help the other babies. Anyone who accepts this will regard the argument as flawed. Usually, it is wrong to kill one person to save another, but not always. There is another possibility. Perhaps we should regard Baby Theresa as already dead. If this sounds crazy, bear in mind that our conception of death has changed over the years. In 1967, the South African doctor Christiaan Barnard performed the first heart transplant in a human being. This was an exciting development; heart transplants could potentially save many lives. It was not clear, however, whether any lives could be saved in the United States. Back then, American law understood death as occurring when the heart stops beating. But once a heart stops beating, it quickly degrades and becomes unsuitable for transplant. Thus, under American law, it was not clear whether any hearts could be legally harvested for transplant. So American law changed. We now understand death as occurring, not when the heart stops beating, but when the brain stops functioning: “brain death” is our new end-of-life standard. This solved the prob- lem about transplants because a brain-dead patient can still have a healthy heart, suitable for transplant. Anencephalics do not meet the technical requirements for brain death as that term is currently defined; but per- haps the definition should be revised to include them. After all, they lack any hope for conscious life, because they have no cerebrum or cerebellum. If the definition of brain death were reformulated to include anencephalics, then we would become accustomed to the idea that these unfortunate infants are stillborn, and so taking their organs would not involve killing them. The Argument from the Wrongness of Killing would then be moot. rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 5rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 5 9/5/14 2:44 PM9/5/14 2:44 PM 6 THE ELEMENTS OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY On the whole, then, the arguments in favor of transplant- ing Baby Theresa’s organs seem stronger than the arguments against it. 1.3. Second Example: Jodie and Mary In August 2000, a young woman from Gozo, an island south of Italy, discovered that she was carrying conjoined twins. Know- ing that the health-care facilities on Gozo couldn’t handle such a birth, she and her husband went to St. Mary’s Hospital in Manchester, England. The infants, known as Mary and Jodie, were joined at the lower abdomen. Their spines were fused, and they had one heart and one pair of lungs between them. Jodie, the stronger one, was providing blood for her sister. No one knows how many sets of conjoined twins are born each year, but the number seems to be in the hundreds. Most die shortly after birth, but some do well. They grow to adult- hood and marry and have children themselves. However, the outlook for Mary and Jodie was grim. The doctors said that without intervention the girls would die within six months. The only hope was an operation to separate them. This would save Jodie, but Mary would die immediately. The parents, who were devout Catholics, opposed the operation on the grounds that it would hasten Mary’s death. “We believe that nature should take its course,” they said. “If it’s God’s will that both our children should not survive, then so be it.” The hospital, hoping to save Jodie, petitioned the courts for permission to perform the operation anyway. The courts agreed, and the operation was performed. As expected, Jodie lived and Mary died. In thinking about this case, we should distinguish the question of who should make the decision from the question of what the decision should be . You might think, for example, that the parents should be the ones to decide, and so the courts were wrong to intrude. But there remains the separate ques- tion of what would be the wisest choice for the parents (or anyone else) to make. We will focus on that question: Would it be right or wrong to separate the twins? The Argument That We Should Save as Many as We Can. The rationale for separating the twins is that we have a choice rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 6rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 6 9/5/14 2:44 PM9/5/14 2:44 PM WHAT IS MORALITY ? 7 between saving one infant or letting both die. Isn’t it plainly better to save one? This argument is so appealing that many people will conclude, without further thought, that the twins should be separated. At the height of the controversy, the Ladies’ Home Journal commissioned a poll to discover what Americans thought. The poll showed that 78% approved of the operation. People were obviously persuaded by the idea that we should save as many as we can. Jodie and Mary’s parents, however, believed that there is an even stronger argument on the other side. The Argument from the Sanctity of Human Life. The parents loved both of their children, and they thought it would be wrong to kill one of them even to save the other. Of course, they were not alone in thinking this. The idea that all human life is precious, regardless of age, race, social class, or handicap, is at the core of the Western moral tradition. In traditional eth- ics, the prohibition against killing innocent humans is absolute. It does not matter if the killing would serve a good purpose; it simply cannot be done. Mary is an innocent human being, and so she may not be killed. Is this argument sound? The judges who heard the case did not think so, for a surprising reason. They denied that the operation would kill Mary. Lord Justice Robert Walker said that the operation would merely separate Mary from her sister and then “she would die, not because she was intentionally killed, but because her own body cannot sus- tain her life.” In other words, the operation wouldn’t kill her; her body’s weakness would. And so, the morality of killing is irrelevant. This response, however, misses the point. It doesn’t mat- ter whether we say that the operation caused Mary’s death, or that her body’s weakness did. Either way, she will be dead, and we will knowingly have hastened her death. That’s the idea behind the traditional prohibition against killing the innocent. There is, however, a more natural objection to the Argu- ment from the Sanctity of Life. Perhaps it is not always wrong to kill innocent human beings. For example, such killings may be right when three conditions are met: (a) the inno- cent human has no future because she is going to die soon rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 7rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 7 9/5/14 2:44 PM9/5/14 2:44 PM 8 THE ELEMENTS OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY no matter what; (b) the innocent human has no wish to go on living, perhaps because she has no wishes at all; and (c) this killing will save others, who can go on to lead full lives. In these rare circumstances, the killing of the innocent might be justified. 1.4. Third Example: Tracy Latimer Tracy Latimer, a 12-year-old victim of cerebral palsy, was killed by her father in 1993. Tracy lived with her family on a prairie farm in Saskatchewan, Canada. One Sunday morning while his wife and other children were at church, Robert Latimer put Tracy in the cab of his pickup truck and piped in exhaust fumes until she died. At the time of her death, Tracy weighed less than 40 pounds, and she was described as “functioning at the mental level of a three-month-old baby.” Mrs. Latimer said that she was relieved to find Tracy dead when she arrived home. She said that she “didn’t have the courage” to do it herself. Robert Latimer was tried for murder, but the judge and jury did not want to treat him harshly. The jury found him guilty of only second-degree murder and recommended that the judge ignore the mandatory 10-year sentence. The judge agreed and sentenced him to one year in prison, followed by a year of confinement to his farm. But the Supreme Court of Canada stepped in and ruled that the mandatory sentence must be imposed. Robert Latimer entered prison in 2001 and was paroled in 2008. Legal questions aside, did Mr. Latimer do anything wrong? This case involves many of the issues that we saw in the other cases. One argument is that Tracy’s life was morally precious, and so her father had no right to kill her. In his defense, it may be said that Tracy’s condition was so cata- strophic that she had no prospects of a “life” in any but a biological sense. Her existence consisted in pointless suffer- ing, and so killing her was an act of mercy. Considering those arguments, it appears that Robert Latimer acted defensibly. His critics, however, made other points. The Argument from the Wrongness of Discriminating against the Handicapped. When the trial court gave Robert Latimer a lenient sentence, many handicapped people felt insulted. rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 8rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 8 9/5/14 2:44 PM9/5/14 2:44 PM WHAT IS MORALITY ? 9 The president of the Saskatoon Voice of People with Disabilities, who has multiple sclerosis, said: “Nobody has the right to decide my life is worth less than yours. That’s the bot- tom line.” Tracy was killed because she was handicapped, he said, and that is unconscionable. Handicapped people should be given the same respect and accorded the same rights as everyone else. What are we to make of this? Discrimination is always a serious matter, because it involves treating some people worse than others, for no good reason. Suppose, for example, that a blind person is refused a job simply because the employer doesn’t like the idea of hiring someone who can’t see. This is no better than refusing to hire someone because she is Hispanic or Jewish or female. Why is this person treated dif- ferently? Is she less able to do the job? Is she less intelligent or less industrious? Does she deserve the job less? Is she less able to benefit from employment? If there is no good reason to exclude her, then it is wrong to do so. Should we think of the death of Tracy Latimer as a case of discrimination against the handicapped? Robert Latimer argued that Tracy’s cerebral palsy was not the issue: “People are saying this is a handicap issue, but they’re wrong. This is a torture issue. It was about mutilation and torture for Tracy.” Just before her death, Tracy had undergone major surgery on her back, hips, and legs, and more surgery was planned. “With the combination of a feeding tube, rods in her back, the leg cut and flopping around and bedsores,” said her father, “how can people say she was a happy little girl?” At the trial, three of Tracy’s physicians testified about the difficulty of control- ling her pain. Thus, Mr. Latimer denied that Tracy was killed because of her disability; she was killed because she was suf- fering without hope of relief. The Slippery Slope Argument. When the Canadian Supreme Court upheld Robert Latimer’s sentence, the director of the Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres said that she was “pleasantly surprised.” “It would have really been the slippery slope, and opening the doors to other people to decide who should live and who should die,” she said. Other disability advocates echoed this idea. We may feel sympathy for Robert Latimer, it was said; we may even think rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 9rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 9 9/5/14 2:44 PM9/5/14 2:44 PM 10 THE ELEMENTS OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY that Tracy Latimer is better off dead. However, it is dangerous to think in this way. If we accept any sort of mercy killing, we will slide down a “slippery slope,” and at the bottom of the slope, all life will be held cheap. Where will we draw the line? If Tracy’s life is not worth protecting, what about the lives of other disabled people? What about the elderly, the infirm, and other “useless” members of society? In this context, Hitler’s program of “racial purification” is often mentioned, implying that we will end up like the Nazis if we take the first step. Similar “slippery slope arguments” have been used on other issues. Abortion, in vitro fertilization (IVF), and human cloning have all been denounced because of what they might lead to. Sometimes, in hindsight, it is evident that the worries were unfounded. This has happened with IVF, a technique for creating embryos in the lab. When Louise Brown, the first “test tube baby,” was born in 1978, there were dire predic- tions about what might be in store for her and for society as a whole. But none of those predictions came true, and IVF has become routine. Since Louise Brown’s birth, over 100,000 American couples have used IVF to have children. Without the benefit of hindsight, however, slippery slope arguments are hard to assess. As the old saying goes, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Rea- sonable people may disagree about what would happen if mercy killing were allowed in cases like Tracy Latimer’s. Those inclined to defend Mr. Latimer may find the dire predictions unrealistic, while those inclined to condemn him may find the predictions sensible. It is worth noting that slippery slope arguments are easy to abuse. If you are opposed to something but have no good arguments against it, you can always make up a prediction about what it might lead to; and no matter how implausible your prediction is, no one can prove you wrong. That is why we should approach such arguments with caution. 1.5. Reason and Impartiality What can we learn from all this about the nature of morality? For starters, we may note two points: first, moral judgments must be backed by good reasons; and second, morality requires the impartial consideration of each individual’s interests. rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 10rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 10 9/5/14 2:44 PM9/5/14 2:44 PM WHAT IS MORALITY ? 11 Moral Reasoning. The cases of Baby Theresa, Jodie and Mary, and Tracy Latimer are liable to arouse strong feelings. Such feelings might be admirable; they might be a sign of moral seriousness. However, they can also get in the way of discover- ing the truth. When we feel strongly about an issue, it is tempt- ing to assume that we simply know what the truth is, without even having to consider the arguments. Unfortunately, how- ever, we cannot rely on our feelings, no matter how powerful they may be. Our feelings may be irrational; they may be the products of prejudice, selfishness, or cultural conditioning. At one time, for example, people’s feelings told them that members of other races were inferior and that slavery was God’s plan. Moreover, people’s feelings vary. In the case of Tracy Latimer, some people feel strongly that her father deserved a long prison term; other people support the father passionately. But both of these feelings cannot be correct. If we assume that our view must be correct, simply because we hold it, then we are just being arrogant. Thus, if we want to discover the truth, we must let our feelings be guided as much as possible by reason. This is the essence of morality. The morally right thing to do is always the thing best supported by the arguments. This is not a narrow point about a small range of moral views; it is a general requirement of logic that must be accepted by everyone. The fundamental point is this: If someone says that you ought to do such-and-such, then you may legitimately ask why; and if no good reason can be given, then you may reject the advice as arbitrary or unfounded. In this way, moral judgments are different from expres- sions of personal taste. If someone says, “I like coffee,” she does not need to have a reason—she is merely stating a fact about her preferences. There is no such thing as “rationally defending” one’s like or dislike of the taste of coffee. On the other hand, if someone says that something is morally wrong, he does need reasons, and if his reasons are legitimate, then other people should accept their force. By the same logic, if he has no good reason for what he says, then he is simply making noise and may be ignored. Of course, not every reason that may be advanced is a good reason. There are bad arguments as well as good ones, rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 11rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 11 9/5/14 2:44 PM9/5/14 2:44 PM 12 THE ELEMENTS OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY and much of the skill of moral thinking consists in discern- ing the difference. But how do we tell the difference? How do we go about assessing arguments? The examples we have considered point to some answers. The first thing is to get one’s facts straight. This may not be as easy as it sounds. Sometimes key facts are unknown. Other times, matters are so complex that even the experts disagree. Yet another problem is human prejudice. Often we want to believe something because it supports our preconcep- tions. Those who disapprove of Robert Latimer’s action, for example, will want to believe the dire predictions of the slip- pery slope argument, while those who approve of his action will want to reject them. It is easy to think of other examples: People who do not want to give to charity often say that chari- ties are inefficient and corrupt, even when their evidence for this is weak; people who dislike homosexuals may say that gay men are all pedophiles, even though very few are; and people who support one political party will say that the other party is to blame for things in Washington, even when they don’t follow the news. The facts exist apart from our wishes, and if we want to think intelligently, then we need to try to see things as they are. Next, we can bring moral principles into play. In our examples, a number of principles were involved: that we should not “use” people; that we should not kill one person to save another; that we should do what will benefit the people affected by our actions; that every life is sacred; and that it is wrong to discriminate against the handicapped. Most moral arguments consist of principles being applied to particular cases, and so we must ask whether the principles are justified and whether they are being applied correctly. It would be nice if there were a simple recipe for con- structing good arguments and avoiding bad ones. Unfortu- nately, there is not. Arguments can go wrong in many ways, and we must always be open to encountering new kinds of error. Yet this should come as no surprise. In every field of study, the rote application of routine methods is no replace- ment for critical thinking. The Requirement of Impartiality. Almost every important moral theory includes a commitment to impartiality. To be rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 12rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 12 9/5/14 2:44 PM9/5/14 2:44 PM WHAT IS MORALITY ? 13 impartial is to treat everyone alike; no one gets special treat- ment. By contrast, to be partial is to show favoritism. Impartiality also requires that we not treat the members of particular groups as inferior. Thus it condemns forms of discrimination like sex- ism and racism. Impartiality is closely related to the idea that moral judg- ments must be backed by good reasons. Consider the rac- ist who thinks that white people deserve all the good jobs. He would like all the doctors, lawyers, business executives, and so on, to be white. Now we can ask for reasons; we can ask why this is thought to be right. Is there something about white people that makes them better fitted for the highest- paying and most prestigious jobs? Are they inherently brighter or harder working? Do they care more about themselves and their families? Would they benefit more from such employ- ment? In each case, the answer is no; and if there is no good reason to treat people differently, then the discrimination is unacceptably arbitrary. The requirement of impartiality, then, is at bottom noth- ing more than a rule against treating people arbitrarily. It for- bids treating one person worse than another when there is no good reason to do so. Yet if this explains why racism is wrong, it also explains why some cases of unequal treatment are not racist. Suppose a movie director were making a film about Fred Shuttlesworth (1922–2011), the heroic African-American civil rights leader. This director would have a good reason not to cast Bryan Cranston in the starring role—namely, that Cranston is white. Such “discrimination” would not be arbi- trary or objectionable. 1.6. The Minimum Conception of Morality We may now state the minimum conception: Morality is, at the very least, the effort to guide one’s conduct by reason—that is, to do what there are the best reasons for doing—while giv- ing equal weight to the interests of each individual affected by one’s action. This paints a picture of what it means to be a conscien- tious moral agent. The conscientious moral agent is someone who is concerned impartially with the interests of everyone affected by what he or she does; who carefully sifts facts and rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 13rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 13 9/5/14 2:44 PM9/5/14 2:44 PM 14 THE ELEMENTS OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY examines their implications; who accepts principles of con- duct only after scrutinizing them to make sure they are justi- fied; who is willing to “listen to reason” even when it means revising prior convictions; and who, finally, is willing to act on these deliberations. As one might expect, not every ethical theory accepts this “minimum.” This picture of the moral agent has been disputed in various ways. However, theories that reject the minimum conception encounter serious difficulties. This is why most moral theories embrace the minimum conception, in one form or another. rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 14rac19065_ch01_001-014.indd 14 9/5/14 2:44 PM9/5/14 2:44 PM
The “What is morality?” chapter from The Elements of Moral Philosophy chapter had three main cases: baby Theresa, Jody and Mary, and Tracey Lattimer. Here are two discussion prompts about those cases.
What was the parent’s argument about what should be done about Baby Theresa? What was their conclusion? What were their reasons or premises? What was the hospital’s and doctors’ main argument about what should be done about Jody and Mary? What was their conclusion? What were their reasons or premises? What was the argument (or arguments) given against what Robert Lattimer did to Tracey? What was his conclusion? What were his reasons or premises? In general, according to Rachels, what do you need to do to engage moral arguments? What’s his “minimal conception of morality”? What are some of the basic facts about racial health disparities for African-American’s health, compared to White Americans? Why are they ethically significant?

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