Applying Ethics The best way to judge an ethical theory is through a practical situation – when presented with an ethical situation you have to break it down into the different factors which have to be considered. We are going to present you with an ethical situation later today and ask you to make a judgment based on ethical theories and possibilities. The situation is going to be a real one – how should the US respond to an unprovoked missile attack by Iran on an American Airlines plane carrying military personnel and members of the general public to a medical conference in Afghanistan? West Wing Episode – A proportional response
The ethics of war Wars do have ethical stances – the most famous being the religious idea of a “Just War” – this was developed by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century and more recently by the American Congress of Bishops. He laid down certain rules which included: War must be fought for a just cause and declared by a recognized leader War must be the last resort and must be fought to promote peace A war must involve proportionality – you cannot bomb a whole village because you think one of the enemy is hiding inside You must minimize damage and seek a peaceful resolution as well as protect innocents There must be a realistic chance that you might win
Practicality The danger is not in using the wrong ethical theory – it is really in not using any ethical theory or reason – making uninformed decisions. As Socrates said “An unexamined life is a life half lived” – you SHOULD use ethics and reason to make decisions, the more you study ethics the more you train your brain to think through the options rather than acting on impulse.
West Wing Debrief In this episode of the West Wing we witness a newly appointed president struggling to come to terms with the death of one of his close aides in an unprovoked attack Throughout the course of the episode President Bartlett struggles to act rationally and instead reacts with emotion In the area of ethics emotion is not a good way to react although it is an understandable way to react – notice also how his Chief of Staff Leo points out his use of language “don’t keep referring to “him” being blown up” “It’s what our fathers taught us to do” – there is also an element here of propositional knowledge – knowing that there is a right thing to do in dreadful circumstances
Did Bartlett do the right thing? The clear answer is we don’t know….. A major problem with all ethical theories is that we don’t know the future- how do we know that his course of action is not going to have an adverse effect? Are proportional responses working in the world today? In line with TOK we have to offer a personal opinion…. I want to live in a civilised world where people behave as I would want them to/ expect them to – Bartlett eventually did the right thing, we can’t have superpowers going round bullying other countries – not in a world where we only have one superpower left. BUT you may disagree……….
Why and how does ethical knowledge matter in conflicts? An action should be a considered action – can you think of examples in history where leaders have not acted with “consideration” but instead have acted from other motives: Political motivation Economic motivation Personal gain Publicity Instead of a fictional situation let us consider the US and its allies invasion of Iraq on the basis that they have weapons of mass destruction – did George Bush and Tony Blair act with consideration?
Is George Bush an ethical man? George Bush is said to “loathe the intellectual avatars of complexity and doubt” ,he has a strong belief in intuition and a sense of right and wrong “America is in a conflict between good and evil and America will call evil by its name” . In a Newsweek article a former aide states that “Bush has satisfied himself that Iraq would be a Just War. But he didn’t do it through combing through texts or presiding over disputation, He decided that Saddam was evil and everything followed from that” . Bush is also quoted as saying that “moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time and in every place”
The Role of Religion The White House is said to “hum to the sound of prayer” – both Bush and Blair according to Newsweek “are religious men – but the simple American faith with heaven and hell, good and evil, right and wrong – is better suited to these present conditions” This is opposed to the religious version of Aquinas who believed in faith combined with reason – should faith alone be a moral guide?
Two ways of looking at the issueSaddam Hussein used force, corruption and Saddam Hussein was the leader of hisfear to maintain his position as leader of country and was supported by a majority ofIraq its peopleSaddam Hussein had already demonstrated Saddam had put down fractions of hisa willingness to use weapons of mass country which were causing trouble anddestruction against innocent people threateneing the stabiltiy of the countrySaddam Hussein tortured his own people Saddam Hussein invaded a country whichand refused to have free and open was orginally part of Iraq until foreignelections powers re drew the boundariesSaddam Hussein had invaded another Saddam Hussein was seen as a herocountry before without provocation amongst Middle Eastern countries forSaddam Hussein would not allow UN standing up to the USweapons inspectors into this country inspite Saddam Hussein could not see why hisof a UN resolution country could not develop weapons of mass destruction like other countries had e.g. Israel and India
Presentations Fifty percent of your TOK grade will go on your presentation. You can work alone or in a group with each person having to provide a 10 minute presentation on an issue of their choice. You must include reference to the WOKs and AOKs as well as demonstrate a variety of view points and a personal stance at the end of the presentation using examples from real life and experiences. Today we are going to do practice presentations of 5 minutes only in larger groups of 3 or 4.
A template On Lionel – in the TOK area – you will find a blank template for your presentation which includes the following…. What is the ethical situation you have identified What would a deontologist do? What would a teleologist do? What issues do these ethical theories raise? If you were omnipotent how would you solve the situation? Do ethical theories help us solve the ethical issue?
What is the ethical situation?Should the US and its allies use pre emptive force to prevent other countries developing weapons of mass destruction?
What would a deontologist do? A Deontologist who believes it is the duty of world leaders to protect and promote peace would state that it is right to invade another country to prevent a greater evil as long as the evidence indicates that the country is creating weapons of mass destruction and that this principle is upheld consistantly.
What would a teleologist do? A teleologist would look at all the possible outcomes: Are there wmd? Have warnings been given? Has diplomacy been tried? Is there an exit strategy? Will the outcome bring more securtiy than there is now?
What issues do these ethical theories raise? Deontology doesn’t work as people are not predictable – how can we ever know things for certain? Teleology doesn’t work as there are too many possible outcomes and the voice of the minority is never heard
If you were omnipotent how would you solve the situation? I would want to take us back to a time when there was no possibility of making wmd! If that’s not possible I would want to ensure that all means of making wmd is controlled by the UN which is run by all nations and not just the security council.
Do ethical theories help solve this ethical issue There is no solution…. But there is the possibility that we “think” through our solutions and not just act on instinct or faith in that what we want is right. A considered response is needed so that we can justify it when it goes wrong!
Group Task We have looked at one ethical situation – in groups of 4 or 5 you are to pick a real life situation and present the following to the class: What is the situation What are the different ethical viewpoints of looking at the situation i.e. is there a deontological principle behind the issue, should we be judging on the consequences, is there a religious dimension, is there an intuitive sense of what is right and wrong, are there any other factors If you were omnipotent (could do anything) for the day what would you do? Do ethical theories work?
Possible areas to look at Several staff have agreed to offer back ground workshops for 30 minutes on the following areas of ethics in order to help you with your presentation: Medical Ethics – Mr Pritchard in P8 Ethics of leadership – Mr Nainie in P7 Ethics of cheating and plagiarism – Mr Turver in P6 Ethics of social network sites – Mr Jabal in P10 Ethics and animal rights – Dr Chau in P9 Or you can pick an area of your own choice – ideas such as “reality TV”. Torture of suspected terrorists, charity begins at home, free speech, same sex marriage etc etc. The following computer rooms are available from 11.30 – 1.30pm for you to use for your presentation: BS1/ K1/ Library. K4 is available period 3 and K3 is available period 4
What you have to do A minimum 5 minute presentation to your house TOK groups on your ethical issue followed by a 5 minute Q and A from the group Your presentation will be assessed by your peers Blank presentation and mark schemes available on TOK area of Lionel
Plenary – follow up task? TOK Journal - to be completed for homework Is there a point in studying ethics? Is it possible to lead an ethical life? What role does ethics play in the world today? Should ethics play a larger role in the world today?