Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, January 23, 2017

Quiz Jan 24

Post your alternative quiz questions, & claim a base for each. Post a 250+ word weekly essay & claim a RUN. Be thinking about a midterm group report topic/text, we need to nail those down by the end of the month and procure texts ASAP. Some lucky group, determined by lot if not by the Volunteer spirit, will go first on Feb 9, and before then will need to post a reading selection (or a link thereto), a quiz over that material, and discussion questions. If you have a topic in mind but haven't yet identified two group partners, post a query/solicitation. We'll take time in class to prepare reports.

BB2 - Moral Theories
1. (T/F) In the Mayor's Dilemma, one of the possible actions considered is to set an example of defiance.

2. Which theory has been dominant in bioethics and often used by many health professionals?

3. In deontological theory, what is the difference between hypothetical and categorical imperatives?

4. What ethical principle (and whose), in the name of rational consistency, absolute dutifulness, and mutual respect, "requires unconditional obedience and overrides our preferences and desires" with respect to things like lying, for example?

5. What would Kant say about Tuskegee, or about the murderer "at our door"?

6. What more do we want from a moral theory than Kant gives us?

7. What is the distinctive question in virtue ethics?

8. What Greek philosopher was one of the earliest exponents of virtue ethics?

9. Paraphrase the Harm Principle. Who was its author?

10. Name one of the Four Principles in Beauchamp and Childress's theories on biomedical ethics?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS (Please post yours too, & claim a base for each)

  • How would you resolve the dilemma, if you were Mayor?
  • Do you consider yourself more an ethical consequentialist/utilitarian, pragmatist, deontologist, virtue ethicist, or none of the above? Is it possible to be ethically responsible without first clarifying and claiming your own theoretical ethical commitments? 
  • Do you agree with Peter Singer that the ethical choice which best serves the goal of minimizing pain and suffering requires ending lives?
  • Is a felicific calculus such as Jeremy Bentham proposed possible, or practical?
  • Would life in Huxley's Brave New World really be nightmarish and dystopian, if universal happiness were its result?
  • Kant's categorical imperative requires always treating individuals respectfully, as ends in themselves and never as means to any other social or collective good. Can you imagine any scenario in which it would be ethically correct to violate that imperative, in the name of medical progress or social welfare?
  • Is virtue ethics "elitist and utopian" in its quest to articulate the conditions of a good life and death for all? Are virtues and vices culturally relative? 36-7
Theory and Bioethics
As a species of practical ethics, bioethics exhibits a complex and contested relationship to philosophical theory. On the one hand, many who teach and write in this interdisciplinary field are philosophers who naturally believe that their specific contribution to the field—their “expertise,” if you will—consists in the application of distinctly philosophical methods, including various kinds of ethical theory, to practical problems arising in biomedical research, clinical medicine, and public health. But on the other hand, many who work in the area of bioethics, including many philosophers, are highly skeptical of the so-called “applied ethics” model of moral reasoning, in which exemplars of high theory (e.g., consequentialist utilitarianism, Kantian deontology, rights-based theories, natural law, etc.) are directly “applied” to practical problems. Indeed, most philosophically-inclined contributors to the bioethics literature have eschewed high moral theory in favor of various modes of moral reasoning falling on a spectrum between the strong particularism of various strains of casuistry or narrative ethics, on one end, and the mid-level norms of the enormously influential “principlism” of Beauchamp and Childress, on the other (Beauchamp and Childress, 2009).[1] According to philosophers Robert K. Fullinwider (2008) and Will Kymlicka (1996), bioethics in the public domain can and should go about its business as a species of ethical reflection independently of any reliance upon high-flying ethical theory...

...bioethics has witnessed the emergence of several interesting varieties of anti-theory, including various strains or combinations of casuistry, narrative ethics, feminism, and pragmatism. Although each of these alternative methodological approaches features more moderate variants that reserve a legitimate place for moral principles and even for some kinds of theory, their stronger anti-theory incarnations unite in rejecting any justificatory role either for high moral theory or mid-level moral principles.

Whereas theorists tend to favor top-down, deductivist modes of thinking, the anti-theorists embrace bottom-up (but not too far up) modalities of thought, such as common law jurisprudence in which the factual particularities of the case take center stage (Arras 1990). Whereas theorists tend to emphasize the capacity of our ordinary moral experience to be neatly ordered and systematized, the anti-theorists emphasize the cultural embeddedness, particularities, and ineradicable untidiness of our moral lives (Elliott 1999). And whereas theorists aspire to construct symmetrical cathedrals of normative thought, the anti-theorists tend to conceive of the moral life as Wittgenstein conceived of language itself, i.e., as a haphazardly evolving city consisting of a maze of ever-expanding little streets, alleyways and squares.

According to Robert K. Fullinwider (2007), a partisan of the anti-theoretical wing of practical ethics, the right way to think about public policy is to think about public policy, not about metaphysics, epistemology, or normative theory. He believes that, apart from training in clear analytical thinking, most of the contents of the philosopher's standard-issue toolkit are decidedly ill-suited to the task of practical ethics. Dismissing applied moral theory as “an occupational hazard” of philosophers, Fullinwider wishes to resurrect and redeem the approach to moral problems shared by the much-maligned ancient sophists and early modern (Jesuit) casuists, an approach defined by scrupulous attention to context and detail, rhetorical persuasiveness, sympathetic comprehension of social and institutional practices, an aversion to systematic reasoning, and insouciance (or downright hostility) towards moral theory. Dismissing philosophical theory as “cloudland,” Fullinwider argues that common sense morality and actual social practices, positive laws, and institutions should form the basis of practical ethics and social criticism...
SEP (continues)
Pragmatic Bioethics, Second Edition
Edited by Glenn McGee

Modern scientific and medical advances bring new complexity and urgency to ethical issues in health care and biomedical research. This book applies the American philosophical theory of pragmatism to such bioethics. Critics of pragmatism argue that it lacks a universal moral foundation. Yet it is this very lack of a metaphysical dividing line between facts and values that makes pragmatism such a rigorous and appropriate method for solving problems in bioethics. For pragmatism, ethics is a way of satisfying the complex demands of multiple individuals and groups in a contingent and changing world. Pragmatism also demands careful attention to the ways in which scientific advances change our values and ethics.The essays in this book present different approaches to pragmatism and different ways of applying pragmatism to scientific and medical matters. They use pragmatism to guide thinking about such timely topics as stem cell research, human cloning, genetic testing, human enhancement, and care for the poor and aging. This new edition contains three new chapters, on difficulties with applying pragmatism to law and bioethics, on helping people to die, and on embryonic stem cell research.

Bioethics for Beginners maps the giant dilemmas posed by new technologies and medical choices, using 60 cases taken from our headlines, and from the worlds of medicine and science. This eminently readable book takes it one case at a time, shedding light on the social, economic and legal side of 21st century medicine while giving the reader an informed basis on which to answer personal, practical questions. Unlocking the debate behind the headlines, this book combines clear thinking with the very latest in science and medicine, enabling readers to decide for themselves exactly what the scientific future should hold.

Pragmatist Bioethics in John Lachs’s Perspective: an Outline
09/01/2016 by Krzysztof Skowronski
Chris Skowroński, Opole University, Poland/Berlin Forum, Germany

There have always been controversies over the practicality of philosophy even when given authors claimed in their books and lectures that philosophy and ethics are vitally important for the members of the public. Yet not always have they been convincing in their claims. For some audiences, academic philosophers seem to stay closed within the university rooms and heard by hardly anybody else than the students and other professors. John Lachs (1934-) is serious when he demands that philosophers, especially the pragmatist philosophers, should go out of their lecture rooms and give something more substantial to the life of the community they have been living in.

Lachs has been able to produce his own way of practicing the practical version of pragmatist philosophy, and this is at least for two reasons. First, he insists that philosophers do not practice philosophy by merely talking, teaching and writing about practicality, but rather by engaging themselves in particular social matters, for example: by making their own lives exemplary, by being public intellectuals, by being effective in education, heard in political disputes, and – most interestingly for me now — by being instrumental for those who face tough existential dilemmas, ethical purposes, and bioethical choices. Second, he tries to link the pragmatic philosophy with some practical aspects of the Stoic philosophy — taken predominantly from the Late (Roman) Stoics and, to some degree, from George Santayana and other contemporary thinkers — to produce ‘stoic pragmatism’ as the title of one of his recent books announces (Stoic Pragmatism, 2012). I emphasize the term ‘practical’ because Lachs rejects the Stoics’ metaphysics (with the notions of fatum and providentia as deterministic factors) and the Stoics’ theology/cosmology (with the notions of logos and pneuma as divine factors). Instead, to the basic traits of this stoic component of Lachs’s pragmatism belong: searching for wisdom, creating a meaningful life as a singular task for each of us with the awareness of our self-limitations and the need of renunciation on some occasions; seeing philosophy as (self-) therapy that helps overcome personal crises or dealing with occasional depressions, and, finally, being ready to go away when the time has come due to the natural limitations of human nature... (continues)
 CDC abruptly cancels long-planned conference on climate change and health

With little warning or explanation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently canceled a major climate change conference that had been scheduled for next month in Atlanta.

The Climate and Health Summit, which had been in the works for months, was intended as a chance for public health officials around the country to learn more about the mounting evidence of the risks to human health posed by the changing climate. But CDC officials abruptly canceled the conference before President Trump’s inauguration, sending a terse email on Jan. 9 to those who had been scheduled to speak at the event. The message did not explain the reason behind the decision.

“Unfortunately, we are unable to hold the Summit in February 2017,” CDC officials wrote, adding that the agency is “currently exploring” whether it could reschedule the event later in the year.

[On White House website, Obama climate priorities vanish, replaced by Trump’s focus on energy production]

In a statement on Monday, the CDC did not offer any further explanation about the reasons for the cancellation, which was first reported by E&E News. The agency said only that it began notifying registered participants on Dec. 22 that the meeting had been postponed. It also said it was considering options for rescheduling the even “while considering budget priorities for the fiscal year 2017.” Officials noted the “potential overlap” with an American Public Health Association conference planned on the same topic later this year.

APHA’s executive director, Georges Benjamin — who was scheduled to be a keynote speaker at the CDC summit next month — said agency officials decided to preemptively call off the event, rather than risk running afoul of an incoming president who has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax” and has nominated climate change skeptics to his Cabinet.

“They ran it up the flagpole and realized that it was so close to the inauguration, the chances of it being canceled were pretty real with the administration that was coming in,” said Benjamin, whose organization was one of the summit’s promoters. “Some might argue they should have said, ‘We’re going to do this and make them tell us no.’ But that was the decision they made. We should think of this as a strategic retreat.”

[Climate change poses a severe risk to global health, says new report]

Another scheduled speaker, Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, argued that the summit should have gone forward, no matter who had just been sworn in as the next president. He said he fears the move will set a precedent of government officials self-silencing, in part over fears of reprisal or loss of funding, rather than standing behind the established science around climate change.

“I don’t know why they canceled the meeting, but I do know the meeting was important and should have been held. Politics is politics, but protecting the health of our citizens is one of our government’s most important obligations to us,” Maibach said in an email. “Climate change is bad for America, and bad for the world, in so many ways. One of these ways is that it is harming our health, already, and is likely to get much worse over the next few decades unless we take action. As the nation’s public health agency, we need CDC to be fully engaged in protecting our health from climate change.”

Evidence has continued to mount that climate change could pose major health risks to people around the world over the course of the 21st century.

A report published in the Lancet last year, which included 45 authors in Europe and China, found that aggressively tackling the problem of climate change could be “the greatest global health opportunity of this century,” but that not addressing the problem “threatens to undermine the last half century of gains in development and global health.”

[As the climate changes, risks to human health will accelerate, White House warns]

The Obama administration also viewed the problem as a serious threat, and the White House last year held its own summit on climate change and public health. The Obama White House also undertook multiple initiatives to highlight the links between climate and health, most recently issuing a 300-page report last summer that underscored how a warming climate could exacerbate major public health problems.

Among the threats: Millions more deaths caused by extreme heat. More frequent outbreaks of diseases transmitted by ticks and mosquitoes. Longer allergy seasons. Worsening air quality that could result in thousands more premature deaths each year from respiratory problems.

Benjamin said Monday that he hopes the CDC will reschedule the summit. But even if it doesn’t, he said his organization and other groups will continue to spotlight the ominous connections between the planet’s changing climate and threats to human health.

“We’re committed to making sure the nation knows about the effects of climate change on health,” he said. “If anyone doesn’t think this is a severe problem, they are fooling themselves.”

Read more at Energy & Environment:

These are the two environmental rules the Republican Congress is trying to kill first

The huge crack in this Antarctic ice shelf just grew by another 6 miles

America’s first ‘clean coal’ plant is now operational — and another one is on the way

Trump Revives Keystone Oil Pipeline That Obama Blocked

President Trump continued dismantling his predecessor’s policies by clearing the way for a project that stirred years of debate over the balance between energy production and preventing climate change.

Barack Obama rejected the proposed 1,179-mile pipeline in 2015, arguing that it would undercut American leadership in curbing the reliance on carbon energy.


  1. Discussion Questions:

    1. Is it truly possible to identify a common morality across the span of human cultures; and if so, what would be the tenets?

    1. I think it's safe to say that there is a common sense of morality consisting of very basic yet globally accepted rules. "No killing, no stealing, no lying" and such unless we find ourselves in a situation in which these rules must be dergarded for an individual due to a threat to other people. I suppose that raises more questions of who can decide under what circumstances these rules can be broken. It's difficult to unite all people under a single idea of morality when we all hold different ideals and desires.

  2. Extra Questions:
    1) What is the "danger of elitism" in virtue ethics? (p.35)
    2) What was Aristotle's (flaws and exclusionary) model of a virtuous person? (p.37)

    DQ: Would you trust Kant to hide you from a murderer?

  3. Extra Quiz Questions:
    1. The best-known consequentialist theory is __________________ by Jeremy Bentham states that actions are right according to whether they produce the greatest amount of happiness and the least amount of pain for the greatest number of people. (p. 20)
    2. Australian philosopher __________________________ argues we need to make our choices by seeking to minimize pain and suffering, in some cases at a cost, if need be, of ending lives. (p. 21)
    3. One argument Campbell suggest for justifying capital punishment on consequentialist grounds, is that executed criminals could provide _________________________ (p. 24)
    4. How would Kant solve the Mayor’s Dilemma? (p. 27)
    5. French Philosopher __________________________ believed a true democracy would be one-party state, since political parties merely result in compromises between rival interest groups. (p. 39)

    1. Anwers:
      1) utilitarianism
      2) Peter Singer
      3) steady supply of organs
      4) Kant would say that he must disobey the colonel; moral law is only certainty
      5) Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  4. Discussion Topics
    1. What is your definition of a virtuous person? Is it culturally influenced like Aristotle?

    2. Which Theory stands out most to you? Is there one you dislike?