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Our ethics course consists of six units, which are described below. You will work through the
material in the textbook, using the Study Guide to provide you with additional guidance and
examples. Submit the assignments in order, either via mail or email. After you complete Unit
Three, you should schedule your Midterm Exam. After you complete Unit Six, you should
schedule your Final Exam.
Unit One: Moral Theory (Assignment One)
Unit Two: Abortion and Genetic Engineering (Assignment Two)
Unit Three: Euthanasia and the Death Penalty (Assignment Three)
Midterm Exam
Unit Four: Sexuality, Marriage, and Motherhood (Assignment Four)
Unit Five: Freedom of Speech and Racial Discrimination (Assignment Five)
Unit Six: Terrorism and Environmental Ethics (Assignment Six)
Final Exam
All written work is subject to plagiarism detection software review. Identified instances of
cheating or plagiarism will follow the Academic Integrity statement in the Syllabus.
Adams State University â?? Extended Studies©
Page 7 of 44
September 2016
Unit One: Moral Theory
Reading: Chapter 1 from Analyzing Moral Issues.
In this first unit, we will dive into heavy water immediately. The first unit covers all the major
ethical theories which we will use throughout the rest of the course to analyze topics. So this first
unit involves a lot of conceptual work and vocabulary.
Letâ??s get started. The first bit of vocabulary to consider helps us distinguish questions about how
to actually behave from questions about the very meaning of moral terminology. The first
category of questions includes such issues as whether it is okay to tell a lie and whether the use
of violence in self-defense is morally acceptable. The second category, however, is more
fundamental, and has to do with what it means for an action to be morally required or morally
wrong. We call the first category of questions normative, and the second category metaethical.
Even in this first unit, we will consider normative questions because it is difficult to think of
ethics in practical terms without looking at specific situations. However, the bulk of our reading
will cover metaethical issues. We will be looking at a series of ethical theories which attempt to
define moral terms. For example, according to the theory of Utilitarianism, what it means for
something to be a morally acceptable action is that the consequences of that action tend to
produce more overall happiness than other possible actions. According to the theory of Ethical
Egoism, what it means for something to be morally wrong is for the action to do less to advance
the moral agentâ??s (the person who is doing the act) self-interest than some other action. Each
universalist theory, which means each theory which is not relativistic, offers a definition of moral
rightness or moral goodness.
An easy way to differentiate between universalist and relativistic moral theories is to ask whether
the theory says that any specific act is morally wrong. If the theory says that genocide is morally
wrong, for example, then the theory is a universalist theory. If the theory says that nothing is
genuinely morally wrong, although certain actions might be considered wrong within a culture or
frowned on by individuals, then the theory is relativistic.
We will often use the phrase â??apply a moral theory in order to do an analysisâ? in this course. For
example, you might be asked to apply the moral theory of Utilitarianism to the issue of
euthanasia in order to determine what analysis Utilitarianism provides. What that means,
practically speaking, is that we are thinking about the definitions of moral rightness and
wrongness provided by a specific ethical theory as those definitions would apply to a specific
topic in order to find out whether, according to that theory, the actions are morally permissible or
not. As you read through the chapter, you will see that Deontology says that such actions as lying
and murder are always morally wrong. So, if we apply Deontology to the topic of lying, the
analysis we will reach is that lying is always morally wrong according to Deontology. In many
cases, though, the analysis is less straight-forward, and a theory might say that under certain
Adams State University â?? Extended Studies©
Page 11 of 44
September 2016
Assignment One: Moral Theory
In this assignment, you will need to provide answers to the following five short answer
questions. A good answer will be a complete paragraph of around 200-250 words.
The assignment will be graded based on the completeness of the answers and the academic
quality of the writing.
All written work is subject to plagiarism detection software review. Identified instances of
cheating or plagiarism will follow the Academic Integrity statement in the Syllabus.
1. Consider an instance when someone uses Divine Command theory to justify an act that
many people would consider immoral, such as the killing of a doctor who provides
abortions, or a terrorist who plants a car bomb. Compare the analysis of Divine
Command theory to Deontology as it applies to the instance you are considering. Explain
what kind of moral evaluation each theory would yield.
2. Judith Boss claims that ethical egoism would only work well in a â??community of equals.â?
Evaluate this claim. Do you agree with her assessment, or disagree? Explain why.
3. Consider the recent proposal by some biologists to drive certain species of mosquito
which carry deadly diseases extinct with the use of genetic technology. If we apply
Utilitarianism to this proposal, what would the moral evaluation of the act be?
4. Virtue ethicists are sometimes criticized because, the critics claim, the moral values
upheld by any given virtue ethicist can only be the virtues of that individualâ??s culture. Do
you see any significant differences between Cultural Relativism and Virtue Ethics?
5. Natural Law theory and the theory of Natural Rights both claim, in some sense, to be
based on things that human beings should be able to intuitively or â??naturallyâ? determine
about the world. Compare the two theories. Do you think either theory reflects a
genuinely natural account of morality? Explain.
Adams State University â?? Extended Studies©
Page 13 of 44
September 2016
Unit Two: Abortion and Genetic Engineering
Reading: Chapters 2-3 from Analyzing Moral Issues.
This unit addresses the application of medical science to human life. We should begin by noting
immediately that there is a tremendously wide range of views about the moral status of medicine.
Some people believe, due to religious beliefs, that medical interventions are inherently immoral.
Some people believe that blood transfusions or organ transplants or surgical operations, even to
save lives, are morally wrong. Others might believe that some medical interventions are morally
acceptable, but believe that medical interventions which are not strictly necessary for life-saving,
such as plastic surgery or other elective procedures, are immoral. And still others might believe
that any technological procedure humans can develop which could potentially provide benefits of
any kind to human beings are morally acceptable.
We will be reading specifically about the topics of abortion and genetic engineering. In both
cases, the chapter begins with a historical account of the development of the technological
procedures and the legal status of the use of those procedures in the United States. We then
proceed to an application of certain moral theories to cases associated with each topic.
It is crucial to note that most ethical theories will not support broad generalizations about
controversial topics. One reason that topics become so controversial is that there are frequently
important considerations which seem to weigh both for and against actions within a given
category. Depending on how we weigh various considerations, we are likely to find ourselves in
a general camp with people who see the category of actions as morally permissible or morally
impermissible. However, once we begin examining specific cases rather than the general
category, we might find that we view some specific cases as morally permissible even if we
think that, in general, acts in that category are morally wrong. So, for example, someone who
believes that abortions in general are morally wrong might still believe that a woman who
became pregnant intentionally, only to learn that her ectopic pregnancy threatens both her own
life and that of the fetus, would be morally justified in aborting the fetus.
In the case of genetic engineering, one important distinction to note is that between enhancement
and medical help. Procedures which enhance an individualâ??s well-being, strength, or physical
abilities might be considered different from procedures which could cure a disease or otherwise
serve as a medical intervention to help end suffering.
Important vocabulary from Unit Two:
Medical abortion
Surgical abortion
Moral autonomy
Violin analogy
Moral status of the fetus
Adams State University â?? Extended Studies©
Page 14 of 44
September 2016
Assignment Two: Abortion and Genetic Engineering
In this assignment, you will need to provide answers to the following five short answer
questions. A good answer will be a complete paragraph of around 200-250 words.
The assignment will be graded based on the completeness of the answers and the academic
quality of the writing.
All written work is subject to plagiarism detection software review. Identified instances of
cheating or plagiarism will follow the Academic Integrity statement in the Syllabus.
1. Most religions and sacred religious texts developed prior to the development of the
medical technology used to perform abortions and most forms of genetic engineering.
Does that indicate that Divine Command Theory must be silent about the moral status of
actions involving abortion and genetic engineering? Explain your views.
2. Some scholars cast the question of the moral permissibility of abortion as a debate about
whether the moral autonomy of the mother is more or less important than the moral status
of the fetus. Are these the only two relevant considerations? Explain which moral
considerations you see as central to the debate.
3. Apply the theory of deontology to a case in which a pregnant woman wants to obtain an
abortion while the father of the fetus does not want her to obtain an abortion. Explain
whether the theory can be applied or not in the case of the two potential parents
disagreeing, and, if it can, what the analysis would be.
4. Plato, who advocated virtue ethics, believed that eugenics, or selective breeding, was a
good idea to control society. If we apply Virtue Ethics to the question of eugenics, do we
necessarily get the result that eugenics is morally permissible? Explain your view.
5. Cloning could potentially result in the creation of multiple people with identical DNA.
Consider the theory of Natural Rights. If an individual has the natural right to control his
or her DNA, would and application of Natural Rights yield the analysis that it is
acceptable for an individual to clone him or herself and then control the resulting
creation? Explain your view.
Adams State University â?? Extended Studies©
Page 16 of 44
September 2016
Unit Three: Euthanasia and the Death Penalty
Reading: Chapters 4-5 from Analyzing Moral Issues.
Both chapters in this unit concern the end of a human life, either through euthanasia or through
the use of capital punishment. We might be tempted to assume that people would tend to have
the same views about these two topics, since both involve kinds of killing. However, a range of
moral views are possible. Someone might believe that some instances of euthanasia are morally
permissible while no instances of the death penalty are morally permissible. Another person
might think that the death penalty is a morally permissible option in some cases, while
euthanasia is never morally permissible. We will need to carefully consider several distinctions,
and the different kinds of analysis different moral theories provide.
Letâ??s start with euthanasia. As our textbook indicates, we can consider two sliding scales that
address two different aspects of euthanasia: active versus passive, and voluntary versus
involuntary. In contemporary society, arguments offered in favor of euthanasia often focus on
voluntary active euthanasia, or cases in which an individual is suffering from a medical condition
such that he or she is competent to make the decision that he or she would like to end his or her
life, and needs medical assistance to actively end his or her life at a specific time. However, all
four categories are significant. Individuals who are competent to choose euthanasia might prefer
passive euthanasia, and so make arrangements for food or fluids to be withheld, or for life-saving
medical treatment to end. And individuals who are not competent to make a decision might be
suffering from tremendous pain, or their loved ones might be certain that they would wish to be
spared the indignity of invasive medical treatments. In all these cases, there might be morally
significant reasons for thinking that euthanasia is morally permissible.
It is important to keep in mind that there will generally be multiple moral agents involved in
cases of euthanasia. Even if a moral theory declares that it is morally permissible for an
individual to choose to end his or her life, the moral theory might at the same time declare that
anyone who assists the individual is acting wrongly. If the individual is incompetent to make the
decision for him or herself, there might be multiple individuals who feel that they have the moral
right or responsibility to make the determination on the incompetent agentâ??s behalf.
In contemporary society, the death penalty is always supposed to be carried out as a kind of
punishment. Although there have been human societies which engaged in ritualistic killings,
legally sanctioned contemporary executions by nation-states are supposed to be instances of
justice. Some moral theories justify executions on utilitarian grounds, arguing that the death
penalty can deter future crimes. Others justify execution on the grounds of retributive justice.
One important distinction to make here is between consequences and duties. If a moral theory
argues that the consequences of execution justify that execution, then it would not matter
whether the person being executed was actually guilty of a crime, so long as the consequences of
the execution reduced future crimes. On the other hand, if the justification for executing someone
is justice, or enacting retribution for the commission of a crime, then we would be morally
required to ensure that the person being killed was, in fact, guilty of the crime for which he or
she is being executed.
Adams State University â?? Extended Studies©
Page 17 of 44
September 2016
Assignment Three: Euthanasia and the Death Penalty
In this assignment, you will need to provide answers to the following five short answer
questions. A good answer will be a complete paragraph of around 200-250 words.
The assignment will be graded based on the completeness of the answers and the academic
quality of the writing.
All written work is subject to plagiarism detection software review. Identified instances of
cheating or plagiarism will follow the Academic Integrity statement in the Syllabus.
1. Consider a situation in which a patient clearly expresses her desire to avoid extraordinary
medical intervention in order to extend her life. If she slips into a coma and begins
receiving such medical intervention despite her wishes, would it be morally permissible,
according to Deontology, to allow the patient to receive passive euthanasia? Explain.
2. Consider a situation in which an infant is born with severe birth defects such that the
parents are informed that the infant would need to undergo painful surgeries in order to
survive, and that brain damage means that the child will never have a normal human life.
According to Virtue Ethics, would it be morally permissible for the parents to refuse to
have their child undergo surgery? Explain.
3. Different cultures have different attitudes toward the death penalty. Nation-states will not
be permitted membership in the European Union if they make use of the death penalty,
for example, while nations such as the United States, Iran, and Pakistan make use of the
death penalty multiple times each year. Does this disagreement between cultures lend any
support to Cultural Relativism? Explain.
4. Several moral theories make use of the concept of the sanctity of human life. Consider
the Divine Command theory. If the Divine Command theory upholds the principle of the
sanctity of human life, does that entail that the theory must consider all instances of the
death penalty and euthanasia morally wrong? Explain.
5. Our textbook explains the principle of double effect as it applies to medical treatment in
the case of euthanasia. Use the principle of double effect in an analysis of the death
penalty. Are there any situations in which an execution could be seen as a secondary
effect of the application of some other moral principle? Explain why or why not.
Adams State University â?? Extended Studies©
Page 19 of 44
September 2016
Unit Four: Sexuality, Marriage, and Motherhood
Reading: Chapters 7 and 8 from Analyzing Moral Issues.
In this unit, we examine issues related to sexual relationships, sexual acts, marriage, and the
unique moral situation encountered by women in terms of biological motherhood. Chapter 7
examines issues related to sexuality. Among the topics we generally think of as morally
significant when it comes to sexuality are homosexuality, adultery, and polygamy. Chapter 8
examines gender equality and motherhood.
The textbook points out that many of our social customs related to sexuality are based on
religious traditions, which suggests that many people apply Divine Command theory to these
topics. One thing we might consider is whether our judgments about moral issues need to have a
consistent basis. In other words, would it be okay if we based our judgments about topics such as
euthanasia and the death penalty on Utilitarian grounds, but turned to Divine Command theory to
support our judgments about marriage and sex?
We need to keep in mind that any textbook is necessarily dated, so when Boss makes claims
about what â??mostâ? Americans believe in terms of issues like homosexuality, her assertions will
not be based on the most recent polling results. In addition, we might want to be suspicious of
considerations of what â??mostâ? people think. In critical thinking, the fallacy of bandwagon or
appeal to the people occurs when someone believes a claim based on the idea that â??most peopleâ?
believe it. Just because most people believe an act is morally permissible or morally wrong does
not mean that there are substantial moral reasons to support the view. Sometimes it might just
mean that people continue to believe things that their neighbors or parents believed without ever
having examined the topic from the perspective of moral theory.
In addition, it is important for us to be aware of historical contexts. In chapter 8, Boss points out
that many long-standing demands by feminists, such as equal pay for equal work, have still not
been met in America. In other countries, the inequality is far worse. For example, she notes that
in many countries, women are frequently stoned to death for adultery while the men with whom
they engaged in adultery are not given a death penalty. She also notes changing habits among
segments of …
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