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Ethics Final Examination

Terms in this set (105)

I ask them to imagine that their route to the university takes them past a shallow pond. One morning, I say to them, you notice a child has fallen in and appears to be drowning. To wade in and pull the child out would be easy but it will mean that you get your clothes wet and muddy, and by the time you go home and change you will have missed your first class.
I then ask the students: do you have any obligation to rescue the child? Unanimously, the students say they do. The importance of saving a child so far outweighs the cost of getting one's clothes muddy and missing a class, that they refuse to consider it any kind of excuse for not saving the child. Does it make a difference, I ask, that there are other people walking past the pond who would equally be able to rescue the child but are not doing so? No, the students reply, the fact that others are not doing what they ought to do is no reason why I should not do what I ought to do.
Once we are all clear about our obligations to rescue the drowning child in front of us, I ask: would it make any difference if the child were far away, in another country perhaps, but similarly in danger of death, and equally within your means to save, at no great cost - and absolutely no danger - to yourself? Virtually all agree that distance and nationality make no moral difference to the situation. I then point out that we are all in that situation of the person passing the shallow pond: we can all save lives of people, both children and adults, who would otherwise die, and we can do so at a very small cost to us: the cost of a new CD, a shirt or a night out at a restaurant or concert, can mean the difference between life and death to more than one person somewhere in the world - and overseas aid agencies like Oxfam overcome the problem of acting at a distance.
Spinach: If the joke works the subject matter is all about us, our responses, our likings, preferences, etc. (ex. subjective matters- being glad you do not like spinach because if you did then you would eat it and spinach is gross; not taking into account that if you did like spinach then you would not think it was gross) and if the joke doesn't work the subject matter is more objective (ex. being glad you didn't live decades ago because then you would think the Earth revolves around the Sun- this is a normal and factual statement to make). When this test is applied to moral issues (ex. racism) it falls on the objective side (being glad you didn't live in the 19th century because then you would have accepted slavery and racism is a perfectly rational statement to make)
Disagreement: phenomenal state of someone engaged in a moral disagreement: feels like an objective matter (like scientific, not about taste). Test about what it feels like to engage in disagreement. Disagreement about chocolate is just you stating your preference and maybe trying to convince the other to agree but in global warming case, it feels like trying to prove an objective truth, one that exists independent of our beliefs and preferences. When discussing moral issue you care deeply about (ex. abortion) it feels like you're disagreeing over factual matters, it's an objective matter of fact that exists independently of us and our disagreement. Phenomenology of deliberation indicates morality is objective.
Counterfactual: transport yourself back to ancient time with slavery, was accepted. You still think it's wrong which makes you think that the wrongness of slavery does not move with people's intersubjective attitudes. "Had our beliefs and practices been very different, would it still have been true that so-and-so?" For subjective matters, such as fashion, that is not true (if top hats are out of style but then everyone starts wearing top hats again then top hats are no longer out of style). For objective matters it is still true regardless of beliefs/ practices (in the past when people did not think that cigarettes were bad for you so they still smoked them, cigarettes were still indeed bad for your health, even though people did not believe it it was still true). For moral issues, if they are objective (which this tests suggests) then the moral truths hold even if no one believes it is wrong (ex. even if gender discrimination was practiced and people at the time did not believe it was wrong, the wrongness remains; even if the people accept gender-based discrimination, the discrimination is not acceptable)