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 TUASON Questions for the Third Exam

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PostSubject: TUASON Questions for the Third Exam   Sun Mar 29, 2009 11:35 pm

1. In bio-medical ethics and in both “beginning-of-life and end-of-life issues/dilemmas, the concept of human dignity often figures in. Do a conceptual analysis of the concept of “human dignity”. How is this concept understood in different contexts or with reference to different issues (give examples)? How do you think should this concept be understood?

2. After careful considerations of the various ethical theories/views we discussed, what “personal moral system or code” can you come up with and which you can adopt? Be sure to talk about the values, precepts/ideas, and other elements that should comprise this “personal moral system or code”. Include your conception of freedom and accountability in this given moral system and your view of what it means to be a moral individual.
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PostSubject: no.1   Mon Mar 30, 2009 8:55 pm

Human dignity. A concept that has been critical to the study of bioethics because of its complex nature. It has been asked whether this concept is useful in bioethics wherein it sheds important light on the whole range of bioethical issues. This usefulness may encompass the ethical values from embryo research to biomedical enhancement and to care of the disabled and those who are dying. On the other hand, some argue about its uselessness. They argue that the concept of human dignity is useless because it is vague and they believe that this is just a slogan that hides the unpersuasive arguments and unstated biases. In view of this, it is good to address the question of human dignity and its proper place in bioethics.

According to the Encyclopedia of Bioethics, human dignity is defined as “an attribute of all human beings that establishes their great significance or worth.” This means that human beings should be recognized as worthy of esteem or respect. In addition, a Guest Commentary in Ethics & Medicine concludes that human dignity is: “The exalted moral status which every being of human origin uniquely possesses.” These definitions of human dignity are rooted from two different perspectives. One of which is the idea that human dignity is an intrinsic aspect of human beings, the result of being created in the image of God: “Human beings are constituted by their bearing the divine image (imago Dei), and from that fundamental fact flows their unique and inviolable dignity as persons.” This perspective only presents the fact that human dignity is not an acquired status but an inherited one. Kant supports this view because he believes that “dignity is the intrinsic worth that belongs to all human beings and to no other beings in the natural world. All men possess dignity because of their rational autonomy”. The other view states that human dignity is rooted in capacities, in what humans can do. This means then that human beings can be reduced to performance, and dignity can be gained or lost according to ability.

These different aspects of human dignity have brought problems in understanding the real place of this concept in bioethical issues. Human dignity, most often than not, intercept in many ethical problems such as beginning-of-life and end-of-life. In particular, in the ethical caregiving at the end of life, the concept of human dignity comes in. For example, an elderly is diagnosed with early fatal disease and facing an unstoppable decline into dependency. In this particular situation, the question of human dignity is: is it morally acceptable for this patient to stop taking his medicine in the hope of a faster death, one less painful to himself and his family? There are many possible answers to this ethical dilemma. One of which is that, this is morally permissible because this patient wants to give up medication and allow his disease to carry him off in a ‘more dignified and humane way’. This means that this patient don’t want to be humiliated in such a way that he becomes a burden to his family. The other answer would be: this is morally impermissible because choosing to hasten the end of one's life is contrary to the ‘equal dignity and respect owed to all human life’.

In the beginning-of-life issue, the problem of human dignity arises. For example, a premature baby is critically ill who is likely to survive but will suffer from severe mental defects. In this example, the problem of permissibility to exercise medical interventions to save the life of the child should be addressed. One answer could be: it is wrong to bring a person into the world who will just suffer from lifelong mental incapacity because human dignity is said to be rested on higher mental capacities. Since the baby will suffer from mental defects, he/she will not be able to exercise his/her human dignity. On the other hand, some would say that medical interventions should be taken because according to them, equal human dignity forbids everyone to declare some lives even said to be ‘not worth living’.

With these conflicting beliefs about how human dignity should be understood, many bioethical issues remain unsolved. I believe that the concept of human dignity is superfluous. In the issues of beginning-of life and end-of-life, the question of what constitute a human being should be answered first. However, I still believe that this concept is still possible to be utilized in the manner in which it is used as the essential and inviolable core of our humanity (after establishing the real definition of human being or a human life).
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PostSubject: no.2   Mon Mar 30, 2009 9:35 pm

With the various ethical theories and views discussed, I want to make my own personal moral system (even though it is hard). Since I still believe that there are certain things which are really natural, I want to use this as my personal moral system. However, I find this insufficient or unsuccessful in providing explanations in some ethical debates. So, I want to use the combination of the natural law theory and the utilitarianism. This is my personal moral code and I want to call this, the natural utilitarianism theory. In this particular code, both the presumptions and arguments of the two theories are used. Natural utilitarianism theory relies on the assumption that morality resides on the naturality of things that promotes greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. For example, in the issue that it is natural for men to be polygamous, the natural utilitarianism will say that this could be possible if and only if it promotes happiness to greatest number of people. The morality of different issues still relies on the outcome of the event.

This theory has several principles: naturality of things, consequentialism and accountability of each human being. I believe that morality should be understood in such a way wherein naturality of things is recognized as well as acknowledging its consequences to the society. An action is considered good if it considered natural and it provides good consequences. On the other hand, an action is bad if it is unnatural and it promotes unhappiness to the greatest number of people. Thus, the morality of an action should be examined based on its naturality and its consequences. These consequences are said to be the legislated laws and the naturality is the innate laws.

In my own moral code, natural rights are given emphasized. The theory believes that human beings in the state of nature are free and equal. Freedom, in my natural utilitarianism theory, is categorized into first- and second-class freedom. First-class freedom means the ability of a person to do whatever he chooses as long as he does not break the law and breach on the freedom of others. Second-class freedom means the absence of pain and unhappiness in one’s life. The theory recognizes the first-class freedom as superior than the second-class freedom. In this moral system, freedom is still linked with the idea of responsibility. A free person has the opportunity and burden of making choices and decisions. This also means that he must bear the consequences of his actions. This is in accordance with the principle of consequentialism.

Moral individual, in this theory, means being able to recognize that there are certain things that are beyond his/her control which encompasses the basic innate laws or the laws of nature. However, this should be combined with legislated laws which are given by the utilitarian principle.

Note: After suffering from answering this question, I want to salute those philosophers whose passions are complicating things. Haha.
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