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 14, 2017

Version 1:
Skye Bennett 

Ethics is not about opinions.

-        Try to make a defense you can present to a judge

-        Provide reasons to do what you did

-        It is not based on ideology

-        Clearly state your judgement and evidence

Ethics is a subfield of philosophy.


Example of an ethical dilemma:

Dr. Nancy Olivieri agreed to test a new drug for a pharma company and she signed a confidentiality contract (a legally binding document). She discovered the drug causes liver toxicity in her patients who are just children. She wants to tell the parents of her patients but the company says no. She will be in violation of her contract and will face legal action against her.

What should Dr. Olivieri do?

-        What is her legal duty? Her ethical duty?

-        Consequences impact her family, her career and professional reputation, her coworkers and employers, and the well-being of her patients

-        Values: accountability, beneficence, self-interest, respect for the law, loyalty

-        She must balance the weight of these values

-        Principles: one must be authoritative, sometimes the law is unethical and must be changed

Some principles can take priority over the law, so the law gets changed.

Dr. Oliveiri decided to choose ethics over the law. If the law is not right, sometimes we challenge it.


Ethics deals with rules of conduct.

-        A field of discipline, a study of judgements

-        Good and bad, virtues, reason

-        Attempts to clearly define concepts of right and wrong and to understand these concepts

-        Make sure judgements are reasonable and correct

-        Demonstrate and prove


Normative questions: what ought I to do? To be?

-        Standards = self-interest vs. altruism, respect and dignity


Metaethical issue: what does right and wrong really mean? What is objective?

In the medical code of ethics/conduct, the first responsibility is to consider the wellbeing of the patient.

Code of Ethics for Nurses provides:

-        Norms for RNs across Canada

-        Guidelines for nurses

-        Accountability and self-regulation

-        Expectations for the public

-        Professional standards

-        Usefulness, but it has limitations

The code of ethics does not solve problems. You need values and principles to solve ethical problems.

Version 2: Erin Alexander



à Not an ideology, Religion

·       State clearly what your judgment is and what your evidence is if you can’t do that.. is it ethical?

·       Present to someone who is impartial (Anyone can do it)

à The point of ethics is to make judgments reasons that you can defend



Basis for decision (code of ethics)                    à in class discussion regarding ethics case

à Fundamental responsibility

·       Society

·       Profession



·       Accountability                                 à ability to balance values (what is more important)

·       Do good (beneficence)                                         prioritizing

·       Self interest

·       Respect for the law

·       Loyalty

                                                             à Authoritative Principles à to help answer problems


I.E: Dignity might take priority over respect for the law

·       The law could be wrong the law then could be altered


What is Ethics?                                        à Define

·       Deals with judgments

·       Approval and disapproval

·       “dealing with rules of conduct”

·       “The practical normative study of the rightness or wrongness of human conduct as known by natural reason”



è what you ought to do

è judgments about your specific conduct

Ethics the understanding of conduct

è specific things can and may be proven


judgments need to be reasonable or correct

·       used and applied correctly

·       demonstrate or prove



Two categories in Ethics:


Normative Questions: (ought to do)

1.     What sort of career should I leave?                Standard à self-interest, Altruism

2.     What standards should I follow?

a.      Always respect people’s dignity

(Identifying a norm following a norm)


Meta- Ethical:


Code of Ethics:

·       Help us to identify norms and standards of the profession

·       Things that are legal may not be professional


Ethical Reasoning:

·       Facts

·       Values

·       Principles


Ending class question:

·       Difference between principles and values? 

September 21, 2017

Version 1: Courtney Brooks

· Ethics is a study or a science- in relation to mortality (ethics can be moral). Often ethics and morality go hand and hand.

o Ethics focus- on social norms and procedures.

o Mortality- behaviours of said person (ex. What an individual or societies belief of what is ought to be right or wrong).

· Ethics can be applicable to professional and person life.

o Professional life- Code of Ethics (this is a general guideline of expectations as professionals, informs the general public of expectations of care/professionalism, and for guiding self-regulating professionals). The dilemma with this code of ethics is even when following these principles, one can still make unethical decisions (ex. signing a confidentiality agreement, then seeing an even bigger per say, ethical dilemma, such as evidence of harm on the community or individuals health).

o The code of ethics does not apply to every profession- some jobs have set standards how an individual is ought to act (ex. honest, open, respect for dignity). Ethical dilemmas in a professional setting will get less complex with experience in the health care field- though, that being said, you should always strive to advance this skill.

o Personal life- Making ethical decisions every day, like when consulting about ethical issues. Also, it is applied when giving facts to others, when trying to persuade them (ex. When an individual states “she is a good person” or “was wrong to do an action”).

Making ethical decisions

· People focus on different thigs when making ethical judgements:

o What exactly are we looking for?

o What do we need to know?

Model of ethical decision making: RESPECT

R- Recognize moral dimensions of the problem

E- Establish guidelines and evaluate principles

S- Specify facts

P- Plot action alternatives

E- Evaluate alternatives in light of principle

C- Consult stakeholders as appropriate

T- Tell reason for decision

The relation of practise to ethical principles & theories

· Ethical principle- many things involved- values, personal values, professional values, and what it means to do well (ex. Never treat others as a stepping stone to your goals).

Principles- Objective- norms, laws, rules (something you can use to defend in front of a judge).

Values- Subjective- dignity, non-maleficence, autonomy, justice, and accountability.

Ethics is not just analyzing facts and values but prioritizing them.

People may change values & principles depending on how they carry out in practise.

· Ex: Comparing different institutions on their statement of values:

Ottawa Hospital: Core values


A commitment to quality

Work together

St. Martha’s: Core values

Respecting people in all life stages (not preforming therapeutic abortions, euthanasia)

Welcoming a diversity of people

Caring for all without discrimination

· Principle & values- Which are most important...have to assess relative weight between ethics and scientific reasoning (ex. Climate change).

Have to ask questions like:

§ What does this relate to the future? (often like the past unless something has changed)

§ Why does it occur?

§ Trends?

Cause à effect

Characteristics of an ethical theory

· It allows us to make judgement- about human behaviour, conduct and results of those acts.

· It is the basis of certain rules & principles (even when they are complex).

· Universal- applicable to all people- not just opinions of a set group.

· Supremely authoritative (overriding) - (ex. Ethics does not always win, challenging social norms and laws).

· Punishments- for not following principles or rules.

· Reduce conflict- that is the goal.


· Relativism defined- not one moral standard that is applied to all people at once.

o Two different approaches to ethics:

1. Personal relativism- differs person to person (individuals own belief).

2. Conventional- Basis of one’s cultural or society (a right in one country is not always right in others) (ex. Slavery).

Both approaches have no objective standard.

Version 2: Delia Boulton

Morality vs. Ethics Ethics: socially accepted norms
Morality: individual behaviour (society, upbringing). Our relationship to our own principles. 
Advocacy: something you ought not or to do, where ethics comes out in personal life
Professional life: follows a code of ethics 
A code of ethics by itself may not provide all the answers. You never stop training to be ethical. It should get easier as you go along. 
Solving an ethical problem involves:
  1. Being able to identify the ethical issue of a situation
  2. Looking at all of the values: 
According to the fundamental responsibilities of a HCP, the well-being of the patient comes first and foremost. 

Values (subjective) vs. Principles (objective rational assessment)

Ethical Reasoning: aims at what is reasonable even if it isn’t what you’d like. 
What happens when values come into conflict?

The Respect Model: a set of guidelines

Characteristics of an ethical theory

Laws are almost universal
“these rules are supremely authoritative or overriding as a guide to actions”

Principles that don’t work: relativism

September 28th, 2017 - Siobhan Carr


How can I make an ethical judgement?

-    an example of an ethical judgment is putting your cat down when it is sick or allowing your mother to be euthanized.


Ethics trumps the law and what is ethical might not be legal. Ethics are supremely overriding. For example, in Canada euthanasia was not legal, however there was still people doing it.

-    what you legally ought to do

-    what you ought to do for your own self-intrest

-    what you ought to do for others sake

is not necessarily what you ethically ought to do.


So, how do you make an ethical judgement??

-    facts

-    values; honesty, dignity, accountability, non-maleficence, justice and loyalty

-    principles; determine what values you choose to follow, and you should be able to justify your principles.


*when values conflict (they are subjective), use principles.

*people will disagree with what principle you choose to follow.


What kind of principles do you use??

-     are genuinly ethical

-     help make decisions

-     principles may fail

-     and principles may conflict

-     you must decide which principle is best for your current situation



   Moral subjectivism; focuses on others, it is a matter of personal choice. Maybe we all have different ethical principles, and who is to say who is right and who is wrong.


What does believing in subjectivism mean?

-     it says that both people are telling the truth

-     there is no way of choosing who is right

-     no right answer

-     not open to proving or justifying your view

-     if there are no universal principles, it might just be subjective

-     if you cannot believe in objectivism

-     in pluralistic societies, it allows people to believe in what they want to believe

-     there seems to be no proof on ethical issues

-     ** a psychological report is not an ethical issue**

-     in some cases we stop thinking about what is right and we are then thinking about how people feel, then two people are not disagreeing


In other words.. moral subjectivism means there is no moral disagreement, and no morality at all, moral subjectivism avoids ethics and it is not helpful in solving problems. If ethics were about feelings you could never make a decision.


   Conventionalism; this focuses on the idea that ethical standards vary from culture to culture, place to place or time period to time period. This is another kind of relativism.

-     The very same action which is right in one country or time period, may be wrong in another.

-     Is there a reason to believe that some cultures are more intelligent or more ethical than others?

-     Culture is how we acquire moral values

-     There seems to be no other sources

-     We share many of our moral values with members of our culture, but do not with members of other cultures; nothing is universally believed to be right

-     Values can be rooted into culture

-     Different cultures, different values


If my culture says that X is wrong, than X is wrong

If my culture says that X is right, than X is right


-     If conventionalism is true, than there is no moral reform, but of course we want moral reform, so logically conventionalism cannot be true.

-     Just because some cultures think something is true, does not mean it is true.


Example of conventionalism;


            The ethical issue of female genital mutilation (FGM) challenges conventionalism. If it happens in 29 countries worldwide, but not in currently in Canada. In those countries they are not asking you to participate in FGM, however that is how they choose to do things and it is a part of their culture. In a healthcare setting you might come across someone who has been mutilated.


If you are not a subjectivist or conventionalist, you are an objectivist. There are many kinds of objectivist principles.

-     Objectivism holds the view that there are facts in ethics, that there are statements that are true and there are statements that are false.

-     Ethical matters are cognitive and it is not what people think, feel or believe.

-     If you are a rational, well-educated person, you should be able to come to the same conclusions as another rational, well-educated person.

October 5, 2017 - Laura Currie

Ex. Should I go home for thanks giving?  

“Yes”: Value family (duty, self-interest) 

 “No”: Value academics (self-interest) 



*Review from last class* 



Ex. Cultural practice of ridding a community of the elderly who consume resources and can no longer contribute to the community. 

Ex. “The world is flat”, “Caucasian people are superior”, “Men are superior to women” 



Not in Canada but yes in some other countries 

Debate. Cultural norm in some societies- expected behaviour in some cultures. Causes harm to the females’ body. 

Ex. Cannot donate live saving organs if you yourself will be severely injured or die 


Ex “good” harms could be piercings/ tattoos, hating practicing but becoming more proficient at a skill. 


Version 2: Nicholas Bergen

How can I make up an ethical judgement? - facts, values (subjective), principles 

- "ethics trumps law" - certain cases require further investigation in the sense that ethical decisions are not always lawful (ex. clinician offering abortions before they were legal)

- ethical judgements involve moral obligations ("what ought to be done")

- when values conflict regarding an ethical judgement, one uses their principles as a basis to prioritize their values and make the decision 

- principles act as a set of rules; they need to be justified and reasonable to oneself and others (ex. V=d/t) - some principles do not provide ethical judgements (they are unreasonable/unjustifiable) 


- moral subjectivism: moral & ethical matters are a product of personal opinion ("both are right, impossible to decide which is more right.. = dead end) 


- moral & ethical matters are a product of ethnicity, race, culture, etc. 

- rules/principles are not universal and individuals outside of a certain culture have no place to intervene (ex. female genital mutilation) 


- true/false ; there are facts in ethics and ethical matters are cognitive and driven by reason & logic

- all people who think, feel, and believe the same should some up with the same judgement ("the right judgement") 

- not concerned with opinions or feelings 

reasons for adopting moral subjectivism: 

- objectivism seems to go too far 

- intelligent people disagree 

- values are based on needs/ interests, and these vary 

- there seems to be no proof on ethical values 

-- when a disagreement/argument goes down the path of thoughts, feelings, opinion; it is no longer concerned with a matter of morality (ethics), but a matter of psychology, history, subjectivism, etc. 

--subjectivism allows for difference in emotion & opinion at the cost of reaching an ethical conclusion because the argument has now changed to a discussion of subjective opinion/emotion (I THINK abortion is wrong vs abortion IS wrong) 

--conventionalism (cultural relativism) asserts that the same action which is right in one country/period may be wrong in another --> nothing is universally believed to be right (most anthropologists) ; includes no moral reform

October 5th, 2017                     Chloe Corkum


There are three (3) things for ethical reasoning:

1)      Facts

2)      Values

3)      Principles

-     Without all of these, you can’t engage in ethical reasoning.

-     Almost everything we do requires ethical choice.


Ethical reasoning: pertains to the right or wrong of human conduct; need to know if it’s right or wrong without concerning our feelings


Dead end questions or theories: they do not help us much ethically


Should I go home for thanksgiving?

-     “Should” has an ethical component

-     If I have an obligation to my family (value)

-     Does my mother/father expect me to be there? Do I have a duty to be there? (stronger value)

-     I would like to do this/I would feel lonely if I didn’t/isolated (self-interest)

-     Con: I have an academic reason for staying - if I go home, will I be working on midterm preparation?

   There has to be a way to figure out how to draw a conclusion how pros and cons have been lined up.


These may not be life changing but they are examples of ethical choices:

-     Should I take the weekend off?

-     Should I go to the movie?

-     Should I have a few drinks with friends after class on Friday?


Should I (prof) give bonus points for people showing up to class?

-     Should I punish those who don’t come?

-     What if someone has a good reason for not being here? (e.g. family emergency)

-     There are risks associated with this



-     If you think it’s wrong for you, end of story.

-     If you think it’s right for you, end of story.

   But WHY?

-     Our ethical discussion is going no where. We’re no longer talking about euthanasia, we’re talking about our feelings towards euthanasia and you can’t be wrong about your feelings.


You can’t have an objective answer to “what is the best kind of ice cream?”

-     How do we come up with a right or wrong regarding ethics and the best flavour of ice cream?


-     One of the problems about subjectivism is that it’s based on our personal feelings & you can’t be wrong about your own feelings.

-     Subjectivism is helping us towards ethical judgement.

-     Subjectivism doesn't help us answer whether a question is right or wrong.


We all lie, probably everyday - should it be against the law to lie?

-     What should the limits of lying be?

-     Other things that are more extreme than lying should be legislated, however, it is too difficult to enforce actual laws against lying and disproportionate


Moral Conventionalism (Cultural Relativism)

-     “The very same action which is right in one country/period, may be wrong in another.”


a)      This is how we acquire moral values

b)      There seems to be no other choice

c)      We share many of our moral views with members of our culture (e.g. attitudes toward human life), but do not with members of other cultures; nothing is universal believed to be right


A problem with conventionalism

-     What a culture believes doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true.

-     The “flat earth” example: some cultures think that the earth is flat. Just because we believe something, doesn't mean it’s right/true. The earth is scientifically proven to not be flat.


Do we have the right to tell someone their view is wrong?

-     If someone believes something false - should they be challenged?

-     You do not have the right to criticize/challenge someone else’s view

-     Tolerate diversity

-     People don't want to be culturally insensitive



1)      Moral Reform

-     “is right”  = what the cultures believes to be right

-     “is wrong” = what the culture believes to be wrong

-     If we substitute “what my cultures believes to be right” for “is right” or “what my cultures believes to be wrong” for “is wrong”…

-     Cultural relativism becomes: “the very same action which my culture believes to be right in one country/period may be wrong in another” OR “the very same action which my culture believes to be wrong in one country/period may be wrong in another”


Should I have to give consent to donate a kidney? Yes.

What about two kidneys? This is not allowed - there has to be a limit to some things.

-     If a physician were to do a heart transplant with the consent of an alive man, the physician would be prosecuted for murder regardless of the consent.


-     Objectivism seems to go too far

-     Intelligent people disagree (if someone disagrees with you and they are an intelligent person - hear them out)

-     There seems to be no proof on ethical issues

-     Values are based on needs/interests, these vary (two cultures can have the same values but different practices)

-     The importance of toleration in pluralistic societies


Case Study: Female Genital Mutilation

1)      Is it legal?

2)      Duty to report?

3)      Is it ethical?

4)      Does it cause harm? (Harm is hurting someone physically, emotionally, any trauma, etc.)


Harms are sometimes good, they help you become better. But unnecessary harm is bad. So maybe, FGM is harmful. Is it a necessary harm or unnecessary harm?

   When a person/culture thinks it is okay or not okay - we’re back to the subjectivism with feelings.

Is it a matter of consent? Does consent matter?

-     When you’re a minor, your parents or the government have the ability to consent for you. Therefore, your parents must known what’s best/right for you.


Case Study: In some jobs, people are legally entitle to take a “sick day” and no MD note is required to verify any illness


a)      One does it in order to take care of personal business (e.g. take car to the shop)

b)      One does it to visit a sick friend

c)      One does it become she is ill

   Is there any moral difference? No one is monitoring this.

-     If you call in sick and you are not sick… you are 1) lying and 2) abusing the system

-     Some people say ethical issues are so difficult… They say, “I’ll just do what the law says, I’ll do whatever is legal.” This is legalism.



-     What is legal IS what you (morally) ought to do

-     “You ought to do X, provided it is within the limits of the law”


-     People are afraid of the consequences - if I go against what I ought to do (legally or whatever), maybe there will be repercussions/consequences

-     People don’t want to take personal responsibility - they do not want to be challenged

-     Some people want others to choose for them because they do not want to deal with the consequences. If someone were to tell me what to do, I might still feel guilty for following through but not as much because “you told me to do it!”


MIDTERM (possibly)

-     Definitions (ex. subjectivism, legalism, etc.)

-     Why would someone believe that theory?

-     What are some problems with these theories?

-     Do you support this view or not?

-     Will provide use with a case study and potentially ask something along the lines of: “how do you think a subjectivist or conventionalist would view this?”



October 12th -  Linden Dale


The Big Ethical Questions:





Why choose this? Why is following the laws the right thing to do?

-A group of highly skilled individuals set these laws in place so there must be a reason for this; a societal consensus

-laws protect you from harm/punishment

-laws give clarity on decision making


To participate in medical aid and dying some criteria must be met:

-must be over the age of 18

-patient must give consent and have the capacity to make decisions

-patient must have a diagnosis of a grievous condition of suffering that will end in death

*The question is should I follow the law, or should I do as the patient wishes


Ways to help make these decisions are principles

Values can provide some guidance but they often conflict with another individual’s values


Example 2:

Should the Canadian gov. impose controls and restrictions on off shore mining by Canadian companies.?

-one view is that they should because people in the area need help, it is bad for companies to cause harm, if it is causing harm something should be done to stop it

-a legalist point of view would say that no nothing should be done because the laws allow it, morality is determined by what the law says


-Laws do not consider every ethical decision that may be addressed, therefore legalism cannot always be the answer to decisions. Eg. Lying is not ethical but there are no laws against it so a legalist would deem lying okay


Practical problems:

1.     The law is not always clear; it must be interpreted

-or the law can be complex, permitting something in one situation but not another

       2.    They can be (apparently) inconsistent or contradictory

       3.    Legalism puts potentially unjustified trust in law makers

       4.    Different countries have different laws




Ethical problems:

1.     The law may be wrong/immoral

2.     It implies that might(law) makes right (ethics)

-the right moral action is what the law says you should do


Overall legalism doesn’t give a principle about what you should ethically do


Theories about ethics: eg. Relativism, subjectivism, objectivism etc.

They don’t work because they don’t meet certain standards of ethical decision making


Amoralism (no morality):

-they believe morality is nonsense

-people are merely “stuff”

-there are no values and one thing doesn’t have greater value than something else

eg. A coffee cup has the same value as a human being

-Ethical problems are imaginary


Amoral Persons:

-either do not possess ethical notions at all or they do not subscribe to any moral code

 2 Kinds:

-Radical: complete rejection of the existence of the moral good

-Moderate: “I know what is right, but why should I care?”



1.     Metaphysical: No human nature or purpose, and so no goal, no final good, no destiny for humanity(Nihilism)

2.     Epistemological: Not possible to know objective truth or can’t explain or justify moral behavior


Ethical Egoism

-regardless of what I am naturally inclined to do, I ought to be motivated to maximize own self interest

Why believe this?

1.     In order to survive, I need to look after myself

2.     Only I can best look after myself

3.     There is no reason to be concerned about others


Psychological Egoism

-the only thing anyone is capable of desiring or pursuing ultimately is his/her own happiness/desire

-not an ethical theory!



October 12th, 2017  -  Gavin Druhan


·       Should/ Ought = Ethical question/ ethical theory

·       Ex: Should I provide medical aid in dying as a physician?


1.     Needs/ Principles ex: Persistence

2.     Values

3.     Facts/ arguments 

        ^ All things you need to solve or start to solve an ethical dilemma.


Theories ABOUT Ethics: Relativism, Legalism, Subjectivism…. Don’t work in real life ethics because they do not meet at least one characteristic of an ethical theory.


Characteristics of an ethical theory:

1.     Enables us to make judgements and prescriptions about human behaviour/ conduct/ acts or the results of those acts.

2.     These judgements are based on certain rules or principles.

3.     These rules or principles are universal.

4.     These rules or principles are supremely authoritative or overriding as a guide to action.


Legalism= The law is the guiding value/ principle, everything in the law is ethically correct.

The downside is the law is not always ethically correct in all situations.

Legalism practical problems:

1.     Law not always clear, must be interpreted, or law could be complex.

2.     The law can be apparently inconsistent or contradictory.

3.     Puts potentially unjustified trust in law makers.

4.     Different countries have different laws.


SHOULD not be ethical by region, SHOULD be viewed as ethical everywhere.

Everyone has their own theory, Subjectivism, conventionalism, legalism, etc. but these do not actually solve the ethical problem since they don’t have all the ethical characteristics.


Amoralism= We live in a materialistic world, and no values exist.

No ethical notions at all.

And if there is: do not subscribe to any moral code.

Two types of Amoralism:

1.     Radical= Complete rejection of the existence of moral good.

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


Arguments for Amoralism:

1)     Metaphysical: No human nature or purpose; and so no good, no final good, no destiny for humanity (Nihilism)

2)     Epistemological: Not possible to know objective truth, can’t explain or justify moral behaviour.


Ethical Egoism= Regardless of what I am naturally inclined to do, I ought to be motivated to maximise own self- interest.

To survive I need to look after myself.

There is no reason to look after others

People are beings of desire, we want our own good.


Psychological egoism= The only thing that people can desire, or pursue ultimately is their own happiness/ desire.


 October 19th, 2017 - Natalie Ebbett       


The difference between theories about ethics (ch.2) and ethical theories (ch.3):

-        Theories about ethics aspire to be ethical theories because they claim to give us a way to meet ethical principles but will fail to meet the criteria


-        Ethical theories therefore meet the criteria, but not all will succeed as some  are more plausible then others


Finishing Chapter 2:

-        Ethical Egoism: says you ought to act or behave in a way that promotes your best self-interest/happiness


-        Psychological egoism: says that it is natural behavior to act in a way that promotes your best self-interest/happiness


Reasons to believe/follow ethical egoism:

-        An ethical egoist may say that “only I can best look after myself better than anyone else”


-        An ethical egoist may also say that “If I want to survive then I ought to act in a way that best promotes my own self-interest”


Reasons to believe/follow psychological egoism:

-        The ‘desire for pleasure’ argument


An ethical egoist would argue that if we are ‘built’ this way, or naturally behave in a way that promotes our own self-interest, then we ought to act this way as well to ensure our natural intentions are being followed through. Therefore, if psychological egoism is true than ethical egoism is true as well.


Reasons for arguing egoism:

-        Actions are not always done as a result to feel pleasure – may be done out of love, care for others, or out of duty.


-        We cannot predict that the future pleasure we are looking for will actually happen


-        Egoism cannot be universalized because a true ethical egoist would run into conflict of limitations if everyone were an ethical egoist, therefore they would rather everyone were not ethical egoists instead to better their self-interest.


What makes an argument a good argument?

-        Should be consistent

-        Requires sufficient/relevant evidence, facts, reasoning that have to be true


Ethical Theories (Ch.3 – not on midterm):

Ethical Theories:

-        Provides us with standards that are universalized, and are objective and are supremely authoritative or overriding

-        Provide evidence/proof

We will be looking at about 7 different theories, not all theories will be successful and are plausible.

Intro to the Religion ethical theory:

-        Provides a standard, and a strong set of rules that are objective


-        Do not confuse with conventionalism


Arguments towards religious based ethics:

-        The difficulty with religious based ethics is if you have already accepted the authority of your religion – no natural reason and public experience by definition


-        Content: from chapters 1 and 2


-        Format: 3 parts (Part 1+2 worth 25% each and are choiced questions, Part 3 worth 50% and is mandatory)


-        Part 1: will contain definitions to define
Ex: “Define ethical egoism” “How is moral subjectivism different from conventionalism?”


-        Part 2: will contain small and simple scenarios that are shorter and more clearer than part 3


-        Part 3: A case study question - Should spend roughly 30 minutes on this question


-        Ex: “How would a legalist solve this case” with reasoning why this theory could be applied to this case


-        Will be asked how we would solve the case using our own views by forming a good argument



October 19th - Emma Dominix


Difference between ethical theories and theories about ethics:

·        Theories About Ethics: claim to give us ways to arrive at an ethical principal. They aspire to be ethical principles but fail due to not meeting the requirements (as outlined in chapter one of text)

·        Ethical Theory: These are the theories that succeed at meeting the requirements. However, not all ethical theories can be true, some have to be stronger and more plausible than others.

Ethical Egoism

·        Is a theory that promotes self interest and about what you ought to do – you ought to act in a way that promotes self interest; what makes this theory ethical is the part about what you ought to do

Psychological Egoism

·        Matter of psychological fact on how people behave; people will always behave in a way to try and maximize self interest. This fact does not tell you how you ought to behave, however, t is giving you evidence for ethical egoism

Conducting a good agreement

·        An argument is a series of statements to make you believe other statements – it has an ending, it is you trying to get others to believe what you want them to believe  

·        To go about proving things you need to get good evidence to support your argument

·        There are 2 things you need to make a good argument

Ø  1) Your reasons have to be true (evidence and facts); if they are not true it will not be a good argument

Ø  2) Good reasoning – reasons that provide you with sufficient evidence that are relevant to the subject. With sufficient evidence there are low and high degrees of it, you want to be on the high side of it when making an agreement.

Ø  Ex) All swans are white because I saw swans at the zoo and they were all white à This is true and relevant but does not have sufficient evidence. Saying that you have seen 1000 swans and they were all white is better, saying there is no documented sightings of swans of any other color is even better

·        When making a good argument this is also true about ethical theories ; do these statements overcome doubt, do they have enough evidence.

Why believe Ethical Egoism

·        Statement 1) “Only I can look out for myself because I want to survive”

Ø  What if you are a child or an older adult, then you would want others looking out for you for your survival

·        Statement 2) “And if I want to survive and if the only way to survive is to pursue self interest then you ought to do it, therefore you act in this way”

Ø  If we do no know if this is true then these reasons are weak

·        If both statements are true then egoism is probably true, only if they are true; egoism could be true but not because of these statements – sometimes you think you have a good argument until you spell it out

·        Even if these reasons are true for yourself, the reasons need to be universal in order to be true

·        Reasons you might adopt this:

Ø  You don’t really have a choice

Ø  If psychological egoist – they say this is a fact, you are wired this way, therefore you don’t get a choice

Ø  Have to ask if these reasons are plausible

Ø  Ex: Lincoln and the Pigs; Lincoln saved the pigs in order to feel peace of mind ( did it out of self interest)

·        When is comes down to action, what gives you the motive?

·        If psychological egoism is true then that means that ethical egoism is true- to have pleasure or to avoid pain?

·        Do you always get pleasure when you do what you want?

Ø  Sometimes you differ pleasure to get greater pleasure ; you may not get a lot of pleasure while studying but you do if you get good grades

·        “I only wanted pleasure when I acted”

Ø  you can have other motives for your choice of action such as love, duty, going on a whim, so this statement is false.

Ø  Action is NOT always for means of pleasure, yes sometimes we do but this but it is not always the case

Ø  Even though you are not experiencing pleasure in every action, you think you’ll have greater pleasure down the road, however, we cannot guarantee this is going to happen because we cannot predict the future, so we do not always act in a way of self interest but hope it will be

Ethical Principles

·        These are true everywhere- they are universal

·        Ethical theories provide ethical principles which should be true for most people everywhere and sometimes ethics should take priority over the law (law in general describe what people must do most of the time).

·        When looking at ethical theories they have to be universal and sometimes challenge the law

Is Ethical Egoism Universal?

·        What would happen if your self interest conflicts with someone else? If you encourage other people to pursue self interest will that conflict with you?

·        As a good egoist and you believing it is a good theory then you go and tell everyone else to become one. What would happen if you both want the same thing? Who would give in? would you wat competitors or people to go for their self interest even if it conflicts yours?

·        Could you universalize Ethical Egoism?- if everyone in the world was one then there would most likely be conflict but you do not want conflict, you want to get the most possible, therefore not everyone should be an ethical egoist

·        You cannot universalize it because then it would go against your own interest

·        Ethical theories have to be universal and if they are not then they cannot be ethical theories, therefore Ethical Egoism is not an ethical theory, it is a theory about ethics. 

Ethical Theories

·        Providing us standers of acting rightly

·        They are universal and tells you what you ought to do even if it is against what society wants you to do

·        If universal – they are not subjective and conventionalist, they are objective ; just like laws of since are objective

·        If offer universal principles then they have to be objective


·        is an ethical theory because it is a standard.

·        It says here is a standard and a strong sense it is for everyone.

·        Has a sense of you don’t have to believe it but you’re wrong ; the groups knows people might not follow them but tell you that you should.

·        Buddha – what he said does not just apply to the people from thousands of years ago, it still is applying to people of today

·        There are truths that are objective even if people don’t believe of follow, religion tells you things that are true and if you do not believe them the are still true – it was always true and then you have special profits that come and pass the information along. These are truths even before no one knew it and would still be true even if no one was living on earth

Religion Based Ethics

·        They apply to people who are already members of the group and to everyone else,  however they may not know so you have to tell them

·        The difficult part: unless you already except something about this religion you probably will not believe these truths

·        Has authority over people who belong to the group but generally open to other people joining; but if not already part of it, the question is why should I join?

·        Philosophical Ethics- says if you have a reason and experience then you can know it is true; Religion Based Ethics does not say this.

Ø  Religion based has special people who receive the information and then pass it along to the rest of the people. Not everyone already knows this information naturally

Ø  Ex: Buddha had insight on nature of reality but did not get their on own. Philosophical Ethics says if you think long and hard enough you can get the information on your own

·        Religion Advantage: has objective in strong sense

·        Religion Disadvantage: hard to get people to believe if they do not already belong





·        The midterm will consist of 3 parts ; Part 3 will be worth 50% of your mark, part 1 and 2 will be worth about ¼

·        The midterm will only be on chapter 1 and 2

·        Will have 1 hour and 30 minutes to write

·        If you answer the reading questions in the chapters you’ll have fewer problems with the questions than if you cannot

·        Part 3 : will deal with a case we have not seen yet. First you have to figure out what the ethical dilemma is. It will give you 2 or 3 theories of ethics – you will say what these theories are and then describe how they would solve the case. You have to assume these theories are intelligent and think of their “good” reasons as to as to why you would believe them. You then will describe how you yourself would solve this case ( not using any theories), what you come up with will probably be philosophical and about what every other person could follow. For both theories and your own way you have to come up with reasons why you would do it this way and you have to solve the case. Should take about 30 minutes to answer question

·        Part 1: will have choice from several questions. These questions are more focused on understanding concepts, example define ethical egoist or moral subjectivism, or how does moral subjectivism differ from conventionalism?  ; explain what concepts mean and comparing them

·        Part 2: you will be given a scenario, ex; you are walking by park and you see someone who needs help but you are own way to important meeting what would a theory say (will be given the theory) and why- looking for reasons and logical thinking to getting there. 


October 26, 2017  Olivia Harris

·        Ethics is not based on philosophical reason/arguments, but on religion (practices, texts). It is not a part of human reason and what we believe to be right and wrong, but instead is based on information we're given in scriptures, text, and culture.

·        example: "do unto others as you would have them do unto you"

·        Why should you do certain things?

·        punishment , if you disobey

·        rewards, if  you obey

·        The rules which we follow come from scripture, which is from a person of faith, and ultimately comes from God.

·        God commands what we do

·        "Thou shalt not kill" - similar to the "divine command theory" (monotheism)

1.      the standard of right/wrong is what God commands/wills

·        could God command anything?

2.      Since God is unchanging, this standard never changes

3.      If we follow this standard, we will be happy/happier

·        There's a kind of order in the universe - if there isn't any order, how can we do anything?

·        We assume order when the earth revolves around the sun.

·        Creates order, consistency

·        God as a principle of order & organization