Summaries of classes


Please note that these are summaries, not 'the notes' for the class. These have been prepared by students in the class, and I have posted them here, unchanged, as a ready reference for those who could use a quick idea of what topic(s) have been discussed. But there is no guarantee of accuracy (or even proper spelling)! Caveat lector!



September 10th, 2015  / Angela Mazerolle


What is Ethics?

A branch of philosophy(love of wisdom - trying to become wise)





Philosopher has a toolkit with 2 tools

-reason: capacity to judge. It it natural. All intellectually mature beings have this ability. All arguments should be understood by other intellectually mature beings.

-public evidence: evidence that others have access to.


Philosophy doesn't assume the truth about private ideas, it ask why. It pursues assumptions (what assumptions do you have, what is the root of these assumptions). It looks at facts & values.


*Every argument in class should be able to follow reasoning and have public evidence available.


Where does the evidence come from?

Use critical reasoning to analyze someone else assumptions, facts & values.

If their views arent rights, it is speculative.


There are always answers in ethics, they may be hard & others can disagree or may not be able to answer with certainty for a long time.


Objective = to get answers that we know to be true or believe to be true.


What is ethics? *In text*


Concepts of ethics

-right & wrong

-good & bad

-virtue & vice


Can ethics be called a science?

It can because it deals with issues of conduct, deals with judgements, looks for rules/ principles. Focuses on human conduct.


Science is a systematic study of something.


Ethical questions ( Is it can be replaces with should we)

Is it ethical to harm someone else?

Is it ethical to restrain patients?

Is it ethical to do something against a persons will? (force feed)

Is it ethical to end your life when you choose?

Is it ethical to cheat on your partner?

Is it ethical to go to war?

Is it ethical to be a vegetarian?

Is it ethical to allow refugees into Canada?


You shouldnt have done that = ethical statement


Ethics is looking for a standard/ norm. The norm can be what benefits the community or a right.


Is your body your property?

how do you get something - compensation, gift, work for it.

you do have a right to your own body but the why gets complicated.


Normative ethics - what are the norms/principles that can be used to solve ethical questions.

Metaethics - deals with the meaning of ethical words (ex. good - what is the definition of good?)




September 10th, 2015  / Christena Clark




-          Ethics is a branch of philosophy.

-          Philosophy is defined in two parts

o   PHILO à love/passion

§  Ex) philanthropist is someone who loves human beings

o   SOPHY à wisdom (insight/judgment)

o   Therefore philosophy can be defined as the love of wisdom & trying to become wise

-          Branches of philosophy include; the fundamental principles of reality (metaphysics), ethics, what we know, epistemology, logic


-          A philosopher has two tools à

o   1. REASON – “We all have the capacity to reason”. A capacity to judge that is natural of humans. It is public therefore we should all be able to understand philosophy topics.

o   2. PUBLIC EVIDENCE – that in principle anyone else can access it and understand reasoning between beliefs

o   Philosophy asks the question “WHY” and presumes assumptions


-          Question – What is more important donating a two dollars to charity or buying a cup of coffee?

o   Why do you assume you can do what you want with the money because it is yours?

o   What assumptions can you make?

o   What are the facts?

o   Values we accept such as the desire to do good

-          Sometimes assumptions are the problem, we don’t know all the facts all the time.

-          Reason and evidence aren’t enough; you have to show proof of assumptions/ values.


-          Ethical question – Should you/I/them be a vegetarian?

o   Meat source – protein but only if we need it. (FACT)

o   Normally animals are eaten and caged in pens (VALUES)

§  When is it acceptable to allow pain and suffering?

o   Where should I go to get more information?

§  Find out their (REASONING)

§  Critical reasoning with what the presenter had to say & analyze what they said.

§  One could disagree with their assumptions (VALUES)

§  What is your evidence?

§  What if their views aren’t right? Be speculative.

§  Both views cant be equally right

§  Some answers are harder to prove



-          Ethical question – What is love?

o   Should we love our neighbors? Such as Christian traditions

o   Takes time to figure out the answer of “what is love”


-          What makes Ethics a branch of Philosophy?

o   Defined in many dictionaries such as “ philosophy involves systematizing concepts of right and wrong conduct.”


-          Key concepts of Ethics

o   Rightness, wrongness, good, bad, virtue, vice, self control, truthful, vicious, judgments, conduct, looking for rules

o   All focused on human conduct. Concepts and judgments

o   Looking for rules can be classified as a science

§  What is a science?

·         A systemic study of anything such as astrology if it is done in an organized/ systemic way. Ex) music may not be a science but the history of music may be.


-          Different kinds of Ethical Questions

o   Is it ok to steal?

o   Is it ethical to harm someone else?

o   Are the uses of restraints ethical?

o   Is it ethical to force feed patients?

o   Is it ethical to end your life when you choose?

o   Is it ethical to commit adultery?

o   Is it ethical to go to War?

o   Is it ethical to bring refugees into Canada?

o   Why should I have to pay taxes – leads to extortion


-          You are looking for norms

o   What is the benefit to the community

o   Do what it is your right to do

o   What are the principles to help answer the question

o   The difference between legal and right

o   Conditions on property à heart donation example

o   Is your body property?

o   Does having something mean its my property?


-          Normative Ethics- what are norms of principles to help me solve ethical questions

-          Metaethics – the meaning of ethical terms


Comment: We talked about looking for norms to help answer different ethical questions, however the norms are continuously changing, which can lead to difficulties. Second comment: We talked about norms being a benefit to the community. However in our profession we are not benefiting the community, we are engaged in patient care to one person at most times the expensive of the community.

September 16, 2015 Robyn Billington

Review from last class

-Ethics-part of philosophy.

-Philosophy uses reason as its primary tool.

            -we’re all capable of reason.

            -philosophy uses surroundings to draw reasonable conclusions.

            -can be considered a science (systematic study).

            -aims at providing rational conclusions to problems.

            -answers should be as reasonable as possible, could convince a neutral person.

-Philosophy is rigorous and rational to arrive at reasonable conclusions.

-Ethics focuses on concepts

            -making judgements.

            -ethical norm- what is reasonable to normatively do? Ex) How should I behave?

            -metaethics- deals with ethical terms.



-Studying ethics cannot make you ethical, but if you’re already an ethical person it can improve on your values.

-Ethics is a part of our personal and professional lives.


            -decision making

            -what you’re concerned about ex) climate change

            -should you treat people fairly

            -making judgements ex) public/private issues, how to act

            -character ex) honest, loyal, trustworthy

            -not only doing the right thing but being the right kind of person.





            -decision making ex) how we treat co-workers


-What is the fair way to treat people? (personal & professional)


-Ethical Dilemmas- no decision is the obviously right decision

            -ex) Not enough money in healthcare, how do you choose what/where to make cuts?

-Need to use ethical judgements. Ex) quality of life.

-Have to understand not only our beliefs and values but also understand where other people are coming from.


-Code of Ethics-  non-specific,must make ethical judgements.

            -help with ethical reasoning in our professional capacity.

            -provides guidance, not only for professionals but also for the public as to how they should expect to be treated.

            -shows key values of the profession.

            -guidelines for regulating the profession.

            -note: not all professions have a code of ethics ex) professors.


3 Examples of personal versus professional

1)      You’re a physician, you’ve made a promise but you get an emergency call from the hospital.

-professional commitment trumps personal, see CMA Code of Ethics.

      2)  You’re a soldier ordered to fire a missile at a building. You are unsure whether it is

            a military building or a hospital.

            -you have a duty to obey.

      3) Guard in concentration camp in WWII, ordered to kill but you know they’re innocent


-you do it out of obligation, knowingly it’s unethical to kill innocent people.

September 16, 2015 -
Ronni Beaton

·         All intellectually mature individuals are capable of basic reasoning.

·         Ethics focused on concepts (good/bad, right/wrong) and making judgments.

·         Normative – What values should I have?

·         Metaethics – What does good mean?



·         Affects personal and professional lives

·         Personal

o   Making decisions in life. Should we be concerned about climate change? Should I treat people fairly?

o   Ethics in personal life: Judgments

o   Ethics and character: What kind of person am I? How do I see myself? I want to do the right thing.

·         Professional

o   Have to make decisions about how we treat colleagues in work place.

o   Ethical Dilemma: No decision is the obviously right decision

o   Not only understanding ourselves but also being aware of others.

·         What’s the purpose of the code of ethics?

o   Guides me as a professional. Not just to help the practitioner; also gives the public an idea of what to expect from their practitioner.

·         Nursing is a self-regulated profession. The code of ethics also gives guidelines of the regulation of the profession. The code of ethics comes from professional associations.

·         Why do some professions have codes of ethics and others don’t? These codes give us guidelines but they don’t give us enough. Don’t tell us specifically what to do in certain situations. Have to use ethical reasoning, which means you have to make judgments. These codes by themselves aren’t going to make you ethical. 

·         You are a physician. You make a promise and you get an emergency call from the hospital.

o   Choice is professional responsibility. Conflict of obligations. Obligation to hospital/patient trumps personal obligation.

o   Nurses getting called in to work on their days off. Is it ethical to pretend not to be available?

·         You are a soldier in time of war, and are ordered to fire a missile at a building. You are unsure whether it is a military building or a hospital.

·         A guard at a concentration camp in World War II. He is ordered to kill, but he knows that the people he is told to kill are innocent civilians.

o   Private morality VS professional morality

·         Does personal always trump professional or vice versa? When uncertain about what is going on the decision becomes harder. What do I do in cases of uncertainty?



Thurs. Sept. 17th 2015 Lacey Callaghan                                                                                       

Codes of ethics provide guidelines for you to follow but you must be able to engage in ethical reasoning and make judgments in order to know how to act in both your professional and personal life.

·         Personal Vs. Professional 3 cases:

·         You are a physician. You make a promise and you get an emergency call from the hospital.

·         You are a soldier and your commander tells you to bomb a building but you are unsure if it is an enemy headquarters or something else like a school or hospital.

·         A guard at a concentration camp in World War two. He is ordered to kill, but he knows that the people he is told to kill are innocent civilians.

·         Case study: Jane Jenkins is walking over a bridge that spans a river. As she does so, she sees her philosophy professor splashing about in the water. She shouts “Don’t Worry” and she jumps in. Is what Jane did good?

·         What are we looking at in making an ethical judgment? Intentions, motives and consequences.

·         What do I need to know? Values and facts.

·         Suppose: the professor was just playing in the water. Should she feel good because she had good intentions, was just trying to help, and no harm was done?

·         We don’t actually know what people’s intentions are but the consequences are visible to everyone.

·         Suppose: Jane doesn’t know how to swim, she tries to rescue him, but gets too close and is pulled down by him, and drowns.

·         Do only intentions count; do only consequences count or both, in determining if what Jane did was good?

·         Why do people do good things? Altruism or for selfish reasons (recognition)?

·         Suppose: she is walking alongside someone who has worked as a lifeguard.

·         Or: She hopes to get a reward and some kind of award or medal for doing this.

·         A Framework for ethical decision making (RESPECT):

R- Recognize the moral dimension of the task or problem.

E- Enumerate the guiding and evaluative principles.

S- Specify the facts, including stakeholder and their guiding principles.

P- Plot various action alternatives.

E- Evaluate alternatives in light of principles and stakeholders.

C- Consult and involve stakeholders as appropriate.

T- Tell stakeholders the reasons for the decision.

·         Values: are subjective, we all have them but they may differ from person to person. How do we prioritize them? When it comes to a conflict how do we decide? Examples of values: courage, honesty, respect, loyalty, self-discipline, compassion, dignity, autonomy, and justice.

·         Principles: are not subjective, they are universal rules.

·         Next class: Values Vs. Principles. What makes an ethical principle ethical?



September 17th 2015  - Andrea Campbell

Case Study in our text book:

Jane Jenkins is walking over a bridge that spans a river. As she does so, she sees her philosophy professor splashing about in the water. She shouts ‘Don’t worry,’ and she jumps in.

At this point, can we say whether what Jane did was good? (For example, some people would say that what she did was good – that she had, for example, a good motive – to save someone’s life.

Now, suppose that:

The professor was just playing around in the water.

·         Jane doesn’t know how to swim.

·         she tries to rescue him, but gets too close and is pulled down by him, and drowns.

·         she is not a great swimmer, but is walking alongside someone who has worked as a lifeguard.

·         she hopes to get a reward and some kind of award or medal for doing this.

Do any of these circumstances – and, if so, which –affect the judgement that what Jane did was good?


Two things to consider when making ethical decisions and judgements :

1)      What are we looking at in making an ethical judgement?

2)      What do we need to know about the action to know if it is ethical?

Answer 1) we are looking at the motivation/intent and the consequences. We can also look at the act itself, separate from the intent/motive and the consequences.

We also need to look at the facts, and how do the facts change our understanding of the situation. The same facts should be able to be seen by any intelligent logical person looking at the same situation as you.


Answer 2) we need to know:

The intent/motivation and consequences

We need to know the values (ie, if the intent counts) and what are the nature of the consequences. An action that produces positive consequences, is that considered a good act, and an action that produces bad consequences, I that considered bad?

In order to make an ethical judgement , we need to know values of the person doing the action, and also out own values. However, values are also facts of the situation. Facts are relevant in making an ethical decision.

So, how do we know how to make ethical decisions? We use frameworks. An example of a framework is on page 9 of our text (RESPECT frame work)

Frameworks are used as guides to aid us in ethical decision making, they help us develop good habits. These models are not going to give use specific answers, but they will help us learn how to reason ethically.


As, mentioned above we need to know the facts of a situation in order to make an ethical judgement. Since facts are also values, we need to understand our values and the values of the person in the situation, but also we need to understand what values are.

What is a value? Values are subjective. We may have the same values as others, but our ranking of the importance of these values may be different. Values can also differ between person to person and society to society.

Our personal values may also conflict with each other, meaning that people can be inconsistent in their values.

How do we deal with conflicts of values? We use principles. Principles are not subjective, they are objective. They are fundamental, universal rules.


September 23, 2015 -- Leah Churchill

Review of last class

-We must practice ethics/philosophy to develop the skill

-Must train ourselves on what to look for

-Objective of ethics = come to a reasonable decision. There may not always be a ‘right’ answer, but there are those that are more reasonable than others.


-          Subjective, feelings, beliefs

-          Most people share values

-          Some may weigh values differently, ie: “I value loyalty over honesty”, “civic loyalties are more important than personal”

-          How do I figure out what to do if my values conflict? Examine principles.


-          Normative rules, rules of conduct

-          Ie: “Do what makes most people happy”, “do no harm” (non-maleficence)

-          Helps to try to resolve conflicts of values


Case study:

Case of Dr. Olivieri, a physician and researcher at a children’s hospital, affiliated with University of Toronto, who signed a contract to test a new drug. The university was looking for funding from the drug company. Dr Olivieri signed a confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement in order to do this research on the new drug.

She noted that the children developed iron toxicity, precursor to cirrhosis of the liver, and immediately stopped testing and demanded that the parents of the children be informed. The company said they would not, they had confidentiality forms signed. They confiscated all medications being trialed, fired Dr Olivieri, she received threatening letters from co-workers.

What is her legal duty? What is her ethical duty?

*RESPECT model framework

R (recognise the moral issues)

-          She has an ethical obligation to herself, the treatment of her patients, the confidentiality agreement (what are its limits? When is it ok to break it?), her colleagues and employer

E (enumerate guiding and evaluative principles)

-          Beneficence, non-maleficence

-          Do your duty as a professional, maintain professional integrity

-          Duty to oneself

S (specify the facts, including stakeholders and their principles)

-          She is a physician/researcher, an expert in her field

-          She signed a confidentiality agreement

-          She conducted a study and found dangerous results

-          If she releases the results there will be harm to the university

P (Plot various action alternatives)

-          Stop the trial, say nothing/do nothing more

-          Go public with the info

-          Could have investigated more, talked with other researchers, checked that she did not make a mistake, make the company aware of the results

-          Continued the study and hope no one figured out the issue

E (Evaluate alternatives in light of principles and stakeholders)

-          Professional legal duties vs. legal duties to the company due to confidentiality

-          Check results with company/colleagues (however they may have found the same results)

-          Hold a press conference => ethically, may break confidentiality if it prevents harm being done to someone

*to do nothing is a bad option

*to be a whistle blower may not be a good idea if you haven’t checked your data, made sure you are 100% correct in your findings


In the end she held a press conference, lost her job, went through 7 years of litigation, and finally was found to have made the right decision and done the right thing. But was it all in her own best interest, to have gone through so much personally?

A key role in working through this scenario is evaluating the principles involved:


*do no harm


Some things are a matter of:

1)      Prudence – ie: tying shoelaces to avoid injury to self or others, causing avoidable disruption and possible medical resources

2)      Preference – subjective, differs amongst people, relative, can vary across cultures

Ethics – should be objective, and have guidelines that apply to everyone – all rational beings.


September 24, 2015 - 
Phillip Cooper


Using ethical PRINCIPLES we may weigh ALTERNATIVES  to make JUDGEMENTS. But...

Which principles are useful in ethical reasoning, and which problematic?

3 common elements of 'dead end' theories of ethics: they are not universalizable, not authoritative and they often reflect merely prudence or personal preference.

Examples of such theories:



 a. Individual moral subjectivism; b. communal moral conventionalism.

     Premise: there are no ethical standards ('ethical facts') which apply to all people in all places at all times (as an objectivist would claim); therefore ethics must relate to individuals or to cultures.
                                   e.g. "When in (Ancient) Rome...." re slavery.

The moral subjectivist would argue that moral matters are entirely a matter of individual opinion. Therefore contradictory views can both be right, there can be no proof one way or another and conflict can thereby be avoided in a tolerant pluralistic society, where people are free to opt out of beliefs shared by most members of their own culture.

Where do these varying values come from and are there good reasons to believe in and adopt one of two or more conflicting points of ethical view? The values we choose reflect our needs, the action which is 'right' for ME - which meets my needs, makes me feel better, something of which I approve or which is beneficial to me.

BUT where do these values come from, and is moral subjectivism a credible theory?

24 September 2015 -- Sarah Beattie



What criteria do ethical principles have to meet? Ethics involves weighing right and wrong, values, making judgments. If we do not have principles, we are lost. Which principles are useful, and which are problematic? What principles are helpful?


Elements of Principles of theories of ethics:

1.    Universal

a.    In physics, you have principle that every effect must have a cause. What if someone said there was no cause? We all work off of this basic principle. We have this rule that for ever effect in the universe, there is a cause. Another basic principle we have is the principle of non-contradiction. A thing cannot both be and not be at the same time in the same place. These are principles we use and depend upon. These principles, we say, are universal. Principles advocated by dead end theories of ethics cannot claim to be universal.

2.    Authoritative

a.    They ought to govern our lives even when the law tells us differently. Ethical principles should be supremely authoritative. The law should fit ethic, not ethics fitted to the law.

                                          i.    Why shouldn’t we kill people? Because “Thou shalt not kill”? Is it just a law because we don’t do it? This cannot be the case, because we do. It’s illegal for religious and ethical reasons, probably. But is it always wrong? Perhaps not in self-defence.

b.    We have laws because it is normally unethical to kill. Sometimes principles take priority over the law. Is it okay for you to take from a wealthy person if your family is starving? Legally, no. But what about ethically? The authority of ethics in these extreme cases might take priority over the law.

c.    Ethics, presumably, is not just about what you like and don’t like. It tells you what your obligations are.

d.    In ethics, we’re not looking for preference, prudence, etiquette, or custom. We’re looking for things that are authoritative and ‘universalizable’.


Theories About Ethics


We will come to see that these are ‘dead end’ theories of ethics. Relativism is a potentially confusing term. We will discuss relativism today, cover other theories in upcoming classes. Egoism says to always act in your own self-interest. Legalism says to do whatever the law says; do whatever you are told. Amoralism asks “Why shouldn’t I kill someone?” There is no ‘oughtness’ in this theory. There is an indifference to ethical norms or obligations in this theory.



Relativism might say something like “There is no ethical standard that applies to all human beings at all times.”

Could be relative to

(a)  subject (moral subjectivism), or

(b)  culture (conventionalism)


Ethical standards are not always just relative from culture to culture, but even within the same culture over a period of time. In Canada, we cannot own slaves. 300 years ago, we could own slaves. Have we grown in our moral knowledge? One sense of relativism is that there are standards but they vary from culture to culture, time to time. (Conventionalism). 

            Yet within our own culture today, ethical standards vary. Some people adhere to Biblical principles, pursue what causes the most happiness, virtue, self-interest. It’s not just that standards vary from culture to culture. Some would say that “there are as many standards of good as there are people in the world.” Standards can also be relative from person to person. (Moral Subjectivism).


Moral Subjectivism and Conventionalism are both opposed to Objectivism. Objectivism says that if slavery is wrong, then it is always wrong. It was wrong in the past, it is wrong now. People can be mistaken. Was there ever really a time where the world was flat? No. An objectivist would say that just like scientific facts, there are ethical facts. There are some things, like friendship, that all cultures seem to value.

There are at least some reasons why people hold these views. Whether their reasons are good or not is what we will discuss.  

Moral Subjectivism (There are reasons for believing in moral subjectivism. Are they good reasons?)

All people have are their feelings, opinions, beliefs. Suppose I said that euthanasia is good, but you say it is wrong. About our disagreement, a moral subjectivist would say both of us are right. In ethical disagreement, there is no way to determine who is right and who is wrong. Because there is no objective way to resolve the debate. This fits with how many people think about controversial ethical decisions today.

Reasons why people hold this theory:

·         There is no proof that one opinion is right and another is wrong

·         There is difference in opinion

·         There is no consensus

·         This view allows for ‘tolerance’ (put up with/don’t dare to criticize other people’s views) when you live in a pluralistic world

·         All a matter of private belief – not public ethics

Likely, we come to these views through our upbringing. Religion. Feelings, opinions, belief are all informed by this, but yet we have a choice. We can give it up, opt out of our culture or tradition.

Where do our values come from? Our needs. In some societies, they may hold value of private property. Perhaps in their society there is not a lot to go around, so they hold on to what they have. In North America, bodily autonomy is very important to us. We see it as very important to be able to make choices and govern oneself. Our values reflect needs, interests. There are certain things that, given your needs, you ought to do. If there are certain individual needs that I have, that you don’t, we might have different values. In subjectivism, there is no reason why my needs should affect your values.


What does this position mean?

1.    If someone thinks that an action is right, then it is right --- period. If someone thinks and action is wrong, then it is wrong --- period. BUT … then, “It is right and it is wrong.” We arrive at a contradiction.

2.    No judgment or action is simply right or wrong (i.e. right or wrong period), but is right or wrong to individuals.

a.    If I say that X is wrong, I mean that X is wrong to/for me.

b.    If you say that X is right, you mean that X is right to/for you.


Sept, 30th, 2015 -- Ruby Curwin


Case Study

-Ought the hospital/staff respect Mr. X’s requests?

·         Yes- autonomy, identity

·         “Yes”- if others do it

·         No- risk of liability, possible harm


Reasons for adopting moral objectivism:

-Objectivism seems to go to far (no right or wrong)

-Intelligent people disagree (nobody can decide, personal preference)

-Seems to be no proof on ethical issues

-Values are based on needs/interests and they vary

-Importance of toleration in pluralist societies


You may say:

-When something is right, its right period

·         Leads to contradictions

-Nothing is right or wrong period, but right or wrong to individuals

·         This avoids contradictions


What does “right for me” and “wrong for me” mean?

·         Enjoyable, preferred, pleasant, beneficial


How do you know what is wrong for you?

·         It is wrong because I think its wrong

·         But thinking doesn’t make something wrong

·         You could make a mistake (I think this way, but I could be wrong)


Good is not just what you think it is, it has to be more


A related problem:

-I think it is wrong vs. I think it isn’t wrong

1. Then we stop talking about what is right (matter of morality) but about what an individual thinks (matter of history, psychology)

2. Moreover, the two people aren’t really disagreeing

3. Moral subjectivism means that there is no moral disagreement (and no morality) at all


Moral conventionalism (Cultural relativism)

- The very same action that is right in one country/period may be wrong in another

·         Different cultures have different values

a) This is how we acquire moral values

b) There seems to be no other source

c) We share many moral views with members of our culture but do not with members of other cultures; nothing is universally believed to be right

-Vary rarely do we get our views outside of our culture

-No way to prove one culture’s values are better than another



a) Flat earth- people believed this was true, which follows along with cultural relativism

·         We know otherwise due to scientific evidence


October 1st, 2015 - Mackenzie Dawson

Theories of Ethics:

·         People generally hold these theories

·         All theories of ethics are “dead-end” theories -> if you follow these theories, you cannot do ethics


“There is proof in ethics.”


In order to have proof, you must have:

·         Reasons that are clear, true, relevant and give sufficient evidence

·         Proof -> reasonable but not infallible; not reasonable to doubt


Mr. X Story

Mr. X wants alterative remedies/therapy.  Ought the hospital staff respect Mr. X’s request?


Two Arguments:

1.      HCP should give patients what they want, therefore HCP should give Mr. X his requested alternative remedies.

2.      Alternative remedies are risky and dangerous. HCP should not do things that are risky and dangerous, therefore Mr. X should not get his alternative remedies.


Mr. X ‘wants’ alternative remedies.

§  Can’t be true until we know what ‘wants’ means

§  How much does he want it?

§  Must be clear

§  Then ask, “Is this true?”

   HCP should give patients what they want.

§  Is this true?

§  If yes, then Mr. X should get his alternative remedies

§  Becomes reasonable


How do I evaluate arguments?

·         Reasons, evidence, proof

o   But what counts as a good proof? Does it matter if it convinces people or not?


Moral Conventionalism

·         The very same action which is right in one country/period may be wrong in another

o   This is how we acquire moral values

o   Nothing is universally believed to be right

o   We share our moral views with members of our culture

·         Criticisms:

o   Flat earth – true in one country but not in another?

o   Moral Reform

§  Is right = what that culture believes to be right

§  Is wrong = what that culture believes to be wrong

§  Moral Reformer: “What my culture believes to be right is WRONG

§  Therefore, if moral conventionalism is true, this means: “What my culture believes to be right is what my culture believes to be wrong.”

·         Contradiction

·         Moral conventionalism can’t be true

Female Genital Mutilation

Two Arguments:

1.      It’s harmful. HCP should not do what is harmful, therefore HCP should not allow/condone FGM.

2.      FGM is beneficial. HCP should do what is beneficial, therefore HCP should allow FGM.


Are HCP ethically required to report cases of FGM to the authorities?

§  Some women want FGM due to traditions, culture, wanting to fit in, etc.

      If you are a moral conventionalist, what do you do?

§  There is no universal standard

§  If it is right in that culture, then let it be?

October 7 - Kyla DeYoung

Summary of subjectivism and conventionalism:

We are looking for principles when talking about theories about ethics. However these are not the same as values (subjective).   Principles should help us to sort out conflicts between values, by working as laws or rules.


Do theories really give us rules/principles to sort out problems?


Subjectivism:  Describes how we feel, which is not helpful.  Different people have thoughts and views and they may disagree (which is okay).  Sometimes our interests corrupt our decision-making.


Conventionalism: Think is this reasonable?  Many cultures have different practices, but does that make their principles and values right?  Just because we learn something in a culture does not make it true.  For example 1 + 1 = 2 is true no matter what culture you’re in; it’s proven independently of culture.  If values are based on culture, all you have to do is take a poll to find the right answer.  But what if that culture is wrong?  Therefore culture should not determine all values, as there cannot be a way to ethically disagree.  Conventionalists often confuse moral principle with moral practice.   Just because practices may differ does not mean the underlying principle is different.  For example, burping after a meal may be a sign of appreciation in some cultures, however here in Canada we do not show our appreciation that way.



Is the underlying motive of human action, self interest should always come first. People should do what is good/helps themselves before anything else.


Psychological egoism: All actions are based on pleasure, even altruistic people must take pride in themselves, it must be rewarding to be doing something good for others.  Why would you do something if it doesn’t help or benefit you? (Mandeville, pg 33).  Sigmund Freud proposed the idea of id/ego and superego, where id is basic desire, which is internalized by social conventions.  In psychological egoism, the result is pleasurable, and all steps are taken to get to that end reward.  It’s in self-interest of someone, they should do it, but what if they are wrong?  There is nothing ethical about this theory, it is not telling us how to act.  It is simply stating a fact, that we get pleasure of out actions relating to self-interest.  However, just because you feel pleasure after an event does not mean it was the reason you did it.  There are exceptions to this theory, making it untrue.  You may think that your motive is good, however you could be wrong.  It is quite implausible that all motives are self-interested.  There is not really enough evidence to support egoism


Ethical egoism: People ought to act in a way that maximizes their own self-interest.  If you don’t look after yourself, who will?  You should only help others if it’s in your own self-interest.

October 8 -Antonia Di Castri



-Make judgements about what is right and wrong, good and bad, etc.

-Decisions about what human beings ought or ought not, rationally, to do


Psychological Egoism:

-Theory of motivation

-Doesn’t tell us what we ought to do, but rather what we are

-Sometimes used as a basis for ethical egoism


Ethical Egoism:

-People ought to act in a way that maximizes their own self-interest

-Possibly based off psychological egoism

-Ethical egoism is rational (reason for it)

-My existence and wellbeing are fundamentally valuable (am I then more valuable than you? Or you more than me?)

-In order to protect and preserve my existence and wellbeing, I need to look out for myself

-There is no reason to be concerned about others (I might feel like doing so because other people are beings of value, but there is nothing unreasonable in not doing so unless it helps me in some way)

-I ought therefore, to act in a way that maximizes my own self-interest

-If I want something, and you want it too, how ought I to act?

-I ought to be an egoist but others ought not – only one person should be an egoist and that’s me

-I’m better off if you sacrifice yourself for me

-Not a universal principle but rather an individual one

-Social vs. individual – egoist would say that social is only valuable inasmuch as it ultimately benefits the self

-Must ask oneself:

            -Do we really know what is best?

            -Do we know what is in our self-interest?

            -What is fundamentally valuable here?

-Why is my existence so important?

-Arguments against ethical egoism:

-Could we make ethical egoism a universal policy? Ethical egoism is a matter of private policy because nobody else can be an ethical egoist!

-Can this be genuinely ethical?

-Aren’t some things more important than our own wellbeing?

-Should I always come first?


-Moral subjectivism, conventionalism and egoism all won’t work!

Case Study: Taking a sick day because one is ill, because one’s dear friend is ill or because one has errands to run

-A legalist would say one must follow the rules – the rule for sick days is that they are allotted for a reason so do with them what you will!



October 14 - Alexa Dill


Legalists- what is legal is ethical.  It is what you (morally) ought to do.  If the law tells us that we can do it, we do it.  You may be a legalist because it is easy because you may think the law is clear.  You may also do it because it is the law and you need to do it. 


Zero Tolerance Rules- if you did it you are in trouble, it does not matter how/why you did it.  Example: cheating on an exam.


            People are afraid of consequences, or who just want to please and follow the rules may want to be a legalist.  Some consequences of legalism are: there are different rules within the law and the law can be vague.  For example: Gambling- the law says it is not allowed, however there are horse races in which people take bets and therefore the law is not always clear and may have exceptions. The code of ethics says that we need to provide safe and compassionate care, but what is compassionate care?  The law can also be inconsistent, ad contradictory.  Example: it is illegal to pay for sex, but legal to receive. 

            Legalism puts potentially unjustified trust in law makers.  What if the law makers are bias? And, different countries have different laws.  Following the law does not always make things clearer. Legal does not mean ethical.  Some people may say that the law may be wrong/ immoral.


If legalism is suppose to male things more clear, there will be problems because you cannot claim to be ethical by following the law.  Legalism fails because it does not want to recognize that legal is not equal to ethical.


Amoralism- does not possess ethical notions, and does not subscribe to any moral code.

1.      Radical: complete rejection of the existence of the moral good

2.      Moderate: I know what is right but why should I care?



Metaphysical: no human nature or purpose and therefore no goal, no final good, no destiny for humanity

Epistemological: not possible to know objective truth or cannot explain or justify moral behavior or behaviors are not right or wrong, they just are.

Anthropological: human freedom is an absolute- beyond good and evil.


Could someone be a consistent Amoralist? Thinking there as no morals anyway/ anywhere?


Amoralist would think we are higher up in the food chain, we are vulnerable.


Does an amoralist have a mental illness?


October 15 - Cassie Fahey


·         Aim of ethic- have to go back and remind self, increase your level of ethical understanding and ethical reasoning. The study of ethics is important to you, gives you values, helps you make judgments and shows that it is reasonable to do what you ought to do.

·         Need to identify basic reasonable values and principles.

·         Some people say ethics is just opinion. This is a problem.

·         Having opinions but having your reasons and being able to justify it.  

·         Ethics looks for reasonable principles and reasonable values to make judgements/ evaluations/ prescriptions.

The principles need to be:

·         Universal

·         Normative: supremely authorities and have priority over law

·         Not just matters of prudence, subjective self-interest, cultural social practices

·         What ethics says is that ethics is important to life because it can go over law, because its supported by laws.

·         The aim of ethics is to end at dead end theories fails.

·         Subjectivism- own opinions

·         Conventulalism- what culture does

·         Legalism- follow what the law says

·         Looking for principles and values that you can justify and apply them.

Religious theory of ethics

·         Ethics is somehow based on religious beliefs

·         In any culture ethical beliefs are rooted in religion

·         Religion will tell you how to live, how you ought to treat others

·         Christianity- 10 commandments

·         Don’t kill, steal, cheat, lust, lie, curse.

·         If you look at these, they are problems, why not do these things? Because god commands it. It is kind of reasonable imagine society without these rules

·         Religion is the foundation of ethics but there is another way to look at it, is it reasonable.

Divine command theory

·         Order in the universeà God is the source of order

·         There are things that give us order and stability. Based more on an order than anyone telling us what to do. This is where we all learn what is good/ bad, right/ wrong, our religious influences.

·         When people want to challenge the commandments, what is preventing them killing? à the law. Why should people be able to lie, steal, or kill if I can get away with it?

·         Religion would say “maybe you avoid the law, but someone/ God is watching!” God insures where the law fails there is still a punishment in the end.

·         Societies that have a higher religious belief are more stable

·         Religious beliefs claim to be universal, some people have a strong sense of law

·         Strong- applies to everyone, even if you don’t believe it (Islam)

·         Weak- only applies to people who follow religion (Buddhism)


·         Some of the commandments don’t apply to ethics. Are they absolute? à where is the room for conscious and expectation?   

·         Religion is the source of ethics based on who’s interpretations. How can I be sure that this is the correct way to interpretation of the commandments- you would have to have justifications

·         What do you know what you really can/can’t do- weak

·         Pg 56- loving neighbour good? God commands its and it ends up arguing in a circle.

·         If divine command theory is true- God does things, because God does things

·         This theory is right in some sense but not strong

Rights theory

·         Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

·         Where do these rights come from? Country- government, can take it away too, but can you complain? (Some rights come from Government). Even the government has to recognize the rights of people and if they limit any of them they have to justify it. Maybe ethics is founded on basic human rights.

·         Priorities of rights can over power the law. If rights come from the government they can cancel them, if rights came from nature then the government cannot cancel them. 


October 21 - Lily Gordon

Rights based ethics- example is the CNA code of ethics (this talks about human rights) If professional duties tell you one thing and your employer tells you another you do what is right for the patient. 


What is a right? A right is a power, or an entitlement (such as to vote.) A right is one that no one can interfere with; it is their obligation not to interfere!


Human Right- we, as humans, have this right because we are human… It is a natural right. All humans have a right to life and to live. If we all have these rights than we all have an ethical claim of what we can do, and what others will have to deal with from our actions. So, we can let others do what they want as long as it doesn’t disrupt our human rights, this shows that these rights are pluralistic and reciprocal. This is a nice thing.

These rights are challenged, or in conflict with other rights on page 61- HIV/AIDS question.


Liberties- are basic human rights that state to do your own good in your own way.


Civil rights- Are basic rights that we have in any society. (Right to vote, right to free speech, the right to practice religion, right to participation in elections etc.).

The law decides the civil rights- what age must you be to vote? 18… Who decided that? The law.


Legal rights- these rights vary from society to society (drinking age, age to vote, age to drive, age to join the army).


October 22nd 2015: Laura Gray


Midterm, Rights Based Theory & Consequentialism/Utilitarianism

Midterm will include a definition section (3 or 4 concepts explained), Short essay question 120 words, longer essay question 300 words with a case.

Rights Based Ethics:

-        We spoke about this last class. What you ought to do? Look at rights.

-        Is this theory consistent? Applicable? Reasonable?

-        The HIV/AIDS case… conflict of rights for the patients who are sick and need medicine… although the researchers believe it is their property. How is this resolved? Right to life vs. right to property.

-        Outside standard/common good

-        Dr. Dawson not prescribing birth control…. Freedom of religion, practice how he likes. But women want this service. How do we solve this? Is there a limit on rights? Can you impose your values on others?

-        Guarantee of rights and freedom in constitution act

-        We won’t solve problems just by looking at rights, we have to look outside.

-        To provide us with extra help let’s look at consequentialism/utilitarianism.


-        Determined by consequences

-        John Stuart Mill: What is the standard of right action? What makes an act right?

-        What’s right and wrong isn’t what just makes me happy, it’s the greatest number… Are people generally better off? What kind of things cause society pleasure?

-        Mill is a hedonist

-        It’s easy to live a pleasure full live…. Just be a pig!

-        Not a life of constant pleasure, different kinds of pleasure.

-        Sensual pleasure, a glass of wine. Some increase in quantity or quality. Higher pleasures.

-        We can prove that some pleasures are higher than others by means of an empirical test by appealing to people with experience.

-        Based on human nature: what motivates human beings to act?

-        Whose pleasure counts? 1.) The whole of sentient creation, anything that can feel pleasure and pain. 2.) An underlying equality in utilitarianism: each to count for one and no one for more than one

-        Quote from textbook

-        Case on page 65. Consequences, greatest happiness.



October 28, 2015 - Alyssa Gosbee   

Rights Based Theory

When looking at theories it is important to think about how they fit into the real world or policies. For example – How would a rights based theory fit into a health care policy?

Is there a right to health since it is not on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

We have rights but we have problems when our rights conflict. We need to look for something more objective.

Consequentialism aims to resolve these conflicts. The type of consequentialism we look at is utilitarianism, which is doing what makes the most people happy overall. An action is right if it promotes the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people and an action is wrong when it doesn’t. This happiness is of sentient beings – those who experience pleasure and pain (human beings).

What is happiness? The presence of pleasure and avoidance of pain.

How much pleasure? It varies from person to person based on the activity. There are degrees of pleasure and a quality of pleasure.

Example utilitarianism questions:

            Should expensive medications be covered by the health care system?

            Should we devote scare resources to people over 80 years old?

Why should anyone believe that consequentialism is plausible?


Why people might work for the general happiness when they naturally seem to seek only their own.

-          An identity of interests of persons

Ex. Why respect the law? à Safety and security of people

-          “Sanctions”: Internal and external

Ex. Penalties à people want to avoid public ridicule/shame or feeling of guilt

Usually external and internal sanctions work together

Is it reasonable to promote this view?


We ought to be concerned about others – then we ought to be concerned about others at least as much as ourselves.

1.      Happiness is a good

2.      Each individual’s happiness is a good to the individual (i.e. Intrinsically valuable)

3.      General happiness is a good to the aggregate/sum of persons (i.e. Everyone recognizes that general happiness is intrinsically valuable)

4.      Therefore, we all ought to pursue the general happiness

Format of the midterm exam – October 29th

1.      Explain the difference between pairs. Define both and state the difference between the concepts. ½ dozen of these and write 90 words on each. Some choice.

2.      Identify some theory that a person is using in an argument. Be able to justify why the person is using the theory and how you might respond. Applies to all theories. Some choice and you choose one. Write 150 words.

3.      Case Study question. What way would you respond to this? Can use a specific model to get through the case. Justify what option you choose. Be familiar with the Code of Ethics. Write 300 words.  

October 29 - midterm

November 4 - Rachel Kluska

Ethical Principles & Rules of Consequentialism

-        Do what promotes the greatest happiness in the greatest number of people

-        Class example #1: would increasing Nova Scotia taxes to pay for twinning the highway promote the greatest happiness? Would increasing tax cause a little or a lot of pain, how much pain is acceptable? When does someone else’s pain outweigh your own pain?

-        Class example #2: are you justified to kill a person, to experiment on them if it’s for the greater good or promotes the greatest happiness of people? Is it a fair response to feel guilty at the thought of killing another person for the greater good? Everyone is counted while considering what outcome will produce the greatest happiness, but not everyone will be treated fairly or directly benefit from said outcome

-        Class example #3: why do we allow physician assisted death? Does it relieve a person’s pain/suffering? How can one argue someone’s pain over pleasure? If someone is suffering, they should be put to death.

-        Not everyone will be treated fairly with utilitarianism

-        Should someone be rewarded with what they deserve based on merit, or should they be rewarded out of want & greed

-        Does utilitarianism have room for natural affection?

-        What are the consequences, the restraints that utilitarianism overlooks?

-        Why is utilitarianism concerned with outcomes over the intentions of a person? Motive, human rights, morals?



-        Focuses on duty

-         You may have a duty to fulfill but as stated in the nursing code of ethics, you can withdraw your care if you’re uncomfortable or at risk

-        What is the difference between duty & obligation? Duty tells you what you must do, obligation is what you “ought” to do

-        Duty is generally nonnegotiable

-        You have an obligation to treat yourself with respect, to take care of yourself before you fulfill your obligations to others

-        How do you find out what your duty in life is? It must be a universal duty and applies to all human beings

-        Everyone should be treated fairly due to intrinsic value

-        If you are to perform your duty, is it considered to be good? Is it good for something?

-        How much of our lives are a hypothetical good? Does anything ever really last as a good?

-        Is good will the only thing that is truly good and can remain good over a period of time?

-        Is beauty good? Is courage good? Intelligence?

-        Only analyzing consequences cannot discover the will or intention of a person

-        What motivates people to do anything?

November 5, 2015 - Tristan Thibodeau


Deontological Ethics

-        Why is autonomy, dignity, and intrinsic value important?

-        Holds that:

o   There are universal ethical principles that are foundational

o   They determine the basic duties or obligations of all human beings

-        A good will is the only thing that is good without qualification

o   Other things can be used as evil, accept a good will

o   Even if there are bad outcome, it does not matter as long as you acted with a good will

-        Three kinds of motives for a good will

o   Self interest = where we calculate the benefits to ourselves before acting

o   Inclination = where we just “feel” like acting in this way

o   Duty = where we believe it is the right thing to do

-        Which of these motives can provide me with a good will?

o   Something that will always he the right intention/motive

o   Which can be applied to everyone

-        Need universal rule

o   Which motive can be the basis for these rules

-        Self interest will vary

o   If I need this course than it’s in my self interest, once I pass it, it’s not in my self interest

-        Inclination won't give a universal rule

o   May love someone one day and hate them then next

o   I ought to be loyal to my wife, is conditional

o   “If it is in my self interest than I ought to do it”

-        “I must do it” = categorical, absolute, my duty

-        A distinction between hypothetical and categorical

o   Universal rule has to be categorical

-        How do people find out their duty?

o   Everyone is capable, without a lot of experience

o   Ability to reason



-        First, must find out the maxim: “a general principle under which a person in fact wills a particular action”

o   Willed to get up, eat breakfast, walk out the door and into class

o   Making a choice, have principle, decision

-        What is it that I choose to do now?

-        Quote page 72

-        Motive of duty = you are here because you ought to be here

-        What I must do as if it is the law

-        Second, could this maxim be universal and necessary

-        Must ask yourself, when I have a maxim could it be universal like the law?

o   Could I will everyone to do the same thing in the situation I am in

-        If I act on my maxim, I am committing myself to act the same way in the same situation. If acting on this maxim is legitimate, than its legitimate for all other people to act on it as well

-        The first formulation of the categorical imperative

o   “I am never to act otherwise than so that I can also will that my maxim should become a universal law”

o   if you can cheat someone coming into your store, than you should cheat everyone

-        Suicide is unethical

o   Will everyone to do it

o   Irrational to will everyone end their life

o   Can’t will it for everyone, can’t will it for myself

o   Absolute rule, no exceptions for myself

November 11 & 12
mid term pause

November 18  -  Cameron Veinot

Deontology Cont’d
•    Says there is a basic ethical principle
•    Ethics is not based on love/inclination as it can change over time
•    Need a universal, stable principle
o    Constant, unchanging

•    Duty is the purpose of ethics
o    What is your duty? How do you find out what it is?
o    Reason can tell you what your duty is
o    Start with your maxim, subjective principle of the will
o    Could I make it so my intention can apply to all people at all times
o    If reason tells you that you can do this than it is a universal principle

•    Categorical Imperative (CI)
o    Gives what you’re thinking of a test of willing it to everyone through reason
o    If it passes this test then do it, if not then don’t

•    Second way of looking at the CI
o    What is the function of the CI?
    To tell a person to make her will good, and to give her a way of testing whether she is acting morally
    The capacity for good will is in all of us
    So, each of us must act in a way so that every individual can act according to the CI
    Others must not be used as a “means”
•    “every rational being exists as an end in himself and not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will”
    Always treat people as though they are a means to an end, but ethically valuable, with respect

•    Autonomy is discovering what you ought to do and then doing it, through good will
•    This view of humanity lies at the root of three key ethical values
o    Dignity
o    Autonomy
o    Intrinsic Value

•    Page 74 – People aren’t things, they are priceless/having intrinsic value, autonomy is discovering, and voluntarily submitting oneself to moral law. Dignity is an objective characteristic

•    READ page 76 ~Ecihmann~ for next class
•    Returned and discussed midterm for remainder of class

November 19 - Angela Simms

Midterm exam review:

·       Reviewed question #3 case study