an introduction to ethics applied ethics: animal rights and abortion

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  • Slide 1
  • An Introduction to Ethics Applied Ethics: Animal Rights and Abortion
  • Slide 2
  • Applied Ethics? Normative ethics aims to answer the question: what principle, if any, should we follow?, or by what standard should an action be judged good or bad?. Applied, or practical, ethics examines concrete cases and looks at how the normative considerations can guide our judgements in problematic (disputable) cases.
  • Slide 3
  • Applied Ethics Topics of interest include: Abortion Euthanasia Animal Rights Suicide Free Speech Drug Use
  • Slide 4
  • Applied Ethics The most prominent applied ethicist is, without a doubt, Peter Singer whose book Practical Ethics raised many of the debates we have today.
  • Slide 5
  • Animal Rights One of Singers most important contributions (and certainly the one hes most noted for) is to the debate surrounding Animal Rights
  • Slide 6
  • Animal Rights Singer begins his paper All animals are equal by looking at a variety of liberation movements (black emancipation, female suffrage, &c.). Equality is a problematic term if everyone should have equal rights (e.g. men should have the right to an abortion) We do not have equal rights, therefore we are not equal? What are we then asserting when we say all human beings, despite race, creed, gender, &c., are equal?
  • Slide 7
  • Animal Rights Equality of talents? (obviously not.) People seem to be different in almost every respect different physical features, dispositions, feelings, skills, mental capacities, physical capacities &c. Should we, then, jettison the idea of equality as something to strive for?
  • Slide 8
  • Animal Rights Well, no. Knowing a persons race, sex (or whatever) will not tell you anything about that persons capacities there are no differences between the races and sexes as such. Does this help the egalitarian? Plea to dignity
  • Slide 9
  • Animal Rights Whats all this got to do with animal rights? We extend certain rights to humans regardless of that humans capacity. The Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge has as many rights (generally speaking) as the village idiot. Why do we stop with humans?
  • Slide 10
  • Animal Rights Speciesism Talk of humans vs. animals might be problematic Two pictures: {humans} {animals} humans and animals are distinct (exclusive) sets.
  • Slide 11
  • Animal Rights Speciesism Talk of humans vs. animals might be problematic Two pictures: {humans} {animals} humans and animals are distinct (exclusive) sets. Animals = {humans and non-humans} humans are a sort of animal.
  • Slide 12
  • Animal Rights Speciesism We should probably accept picture two but we act as if picture one were true. If picture two is true and if we should be extending rights to things that are different in capacity (animals are different in degree not in type), then why shouldnt animals be bearers of rights?
  • Slide 13
  • Animal Rights If women and men have a different set of rights (men dont have a right to an abortion that would be just plain strange), then cant we say animals have a different set of rights still? What rights should we grant a non-human person?(person = bearer of rights)
  • Slide 14
  • Animal Rights Quick questions Should animal suffering be regarded as less important than human suffering? What justification do we have for this? Is speciesism as bad as racism/sexism/x-ism?
  • Slide 15
  • Break
  • Slide 16
  • Abortion Two thoughts 1. A woman has a right to decide what happens in and to her body. 2. All persons have a right to life. Holding these two premises could cause problems for discussing abortion
  • Slide 17
  • Abortion Thought one can accommodate the view that abortion is permissible. Thought two might not. Thoughts for thought two?
  • Slide 18
  • Abortion All persons have the right to life. What counts as a person? Does this right trump ALL OTHER considerations?
  • Slide 19
  • Abortion All persons have the right to life. What counts as a person? Person from conception? If not, why not? [] to choose a point in this development and say before this point the thing is not a person, after this point it is a person is to make an arbitrary choice, a choice for which the nature of things no good reason can be given. (Judith Jarvis Thompson)
  • Slide 20
  • Abortion Does this right trump ALL OTHER considerations? 1. Threat to mothers health? 2. Incest/Rape (classic cases)? 3. Inconvenience?
  • Slide 21
  • Abortion 1. Threat to mothers health. Suppose a woman has become pregnant, and now learns that she has a cardiac condition such that she will die if she carries the baby to term. What may be done for her? The foetus, being a person, has a right to life, but as the mother is a person too, so has she a right to life. Presumably, they have an equal right to life?
  • Slide 22
  • Abortion 2. Incest/Rape. Why should the circumstances of conception matter to the foetus? Does the moral status of the foetus change depending on how it was conceived? Imagine: Sorry, you dont have a right to life as you werent conceived in a morally satisfactory way. Responses?
  • Slide 23
  • Abortion 3. Inconvenience/balance of suffering The (potential) mother might have current projects and a goal directed future a child might interrupt. Given (or, perhaps, assuming) the foetus does not feel pain at a certain point of its development, and given that the mother will be aggrieved to abandon her projects, then the balance of suffering weighs in favour of the womans right to an abortion. Good argument?
  • Slide 24
  • Abortion A woman has a right to decide what happens in and to her body. Do rights to life trump a womans right to decide what happens in and to her body?
  • Slide 25
  • Abortion JJ Thomsons violinist case: You wake up in the morning and you find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious [famous] violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinists circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own.
  • Slide 26
  • Abortion The director of the hospital now tells you, Look, were sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinsit now is plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, its only for nine months. [] Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation? No doubt it would be very nice of you if you did, a great kindness. But do you have to accede to it? What if it were not nine months, but nine years?
  • Slide 27
  • Abortion What if the director of the hospital says, Tough luck, I agree, but youve now got to stay in bed, with the violinist plugged into you, for the rest of your life. Because remember this. All persons have a right to life, and violinists are persons. Granted you have a right to decide what happens in and to your body, but a persons right to life outweighs your right to decide what happens in and to your body
  • Slide 28
  • Abortion Thoughts?

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