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Theory of Knowledge: ETHICS

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Richu Yue

on 29 March 2014

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Transcript of Theory of Knowledge: ETHICS

Theory of Knowledge: ETHICS
What are Ethics?
Usually, Ethics and morals are thought to be the same, but actually, they are not the same. Ethics, coming from the greek word '
' which means character, it is the study of morals. Morality, Coming from the greek word '
' which means concern with whats right and wrong. However today, these terms are used interchangeably.
Everyone thinks they know what's ethical, if abortion should be legalized or if gay rights should be given, but who knows what's wrong and what's really right? How do we know?
The knowledge framework:
1. Scope and applications
What is the social function of ethics?
How many different forms does it encompass?
What are their separate aims?
To what extent is ethics influenced by the society and culture in which it is pursued?
How important is ethics?

2. Concepts and language
How do we use language to express the knowledge found within ethics?
To what extent does this differ according to different forms of ethics?
Are there any central concepts for which we need specific language before approaching ethics?

3. Methodology
Which ways of knowing do we use in order to connect with, and understand, ethics?
Which ways of knowing do the ethical experts themselves use in order to study ethics and communicate their understanding of it?

4. Historical development
How has our understanding and perception of ethics changed over time?
How has the role of ethics within society developed?
To what extent has the nature of ethics changed?
What relationship does today’s ethics have with those of the past?
5. Links to personal knowledge
To what extent are you involved with ethics?
How is your perception of the world, and your position it in, affected by ethics?
Real life ethical situation:
A 35 year old female who was found on her bed by her father and mother. There was a note in the room written by her saying that she had carefully considered her life and what was happening to her and that she wanted to die. There was evidence in the bathroom that she had taken three bottles of different pills including barbiturates. The patient was taken to the hospital emergency room, where they tried to treat her. Becoming some what conscious, she cried out she did not want any treatment and wanted to die.
What's the ethical thing to do?
There are a few ways to determine what is ethical and what's not.

Is there a final judgement?
In ethics, a final judgement cannot be made as it maybe not good enough as it may not satisfy all opinions. What would a Kantian say? An utilitarianist? Each ethical judgement made by anyone would have different justifications and different views.
In this situation, most justifications would make 'letting her die' unethical as it disagrees with Kant's, utilitarianism and any moral value.
What is your opinion?
The Simple Model
There is the simplest method, being an agreed moral principal to show a specific action under it, for this situation, it would be unethical as:
Letting people die is wrong
The doctor let the woman die
Therefore it was wrong to do this.
as a simple model.
Moral relativism
Sometimes some ethical situations are left to the society to decide what's ethical and what's considered ethical in that society. This is called moral relativism. Obviously, it would seem every society has it's own view on each value, making every society different.
It has been argued that there are some values that are universal, taught by every society, such as murder is one of the most unethical things to do. In this situation, the decision made by the doctor to let his patient commit suicide, in many people's eyes, is murder. Using the simple model once again, we have said that murder is one of the most unethical things to do and that the doctor let his patient die, which is counted as murder. So according to this, what was done was unethical.
Listening to religion?
In many situations, people have argued to use religion to derive our morals from, but this was not satisfying for atheists, as argued by Plato.
Kant's approach to ethics
Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher, said 'Ethics is a matter of doing your duty, no matter what. Though it is absolutist and cannot solve a dilemma, it is still used. For this situation with the woman, the doctor must do his duty and save her as he has taken the Hippocratic Oath, an oath that states that the doctor will do anything in his power to stay moral.
In utilitarianism, happiness is the ethical way to go and we should 'seek happiness in the greatest numbers.' In this case, if the woman was left to die, her parents and the doctor would be upset, however if she was left to live, she would be unhappy.It's three to one, leaving us with the conclusion that leaving her to die is unethical. However, there are a few arguments that sometimes the happiness is bad, such as robbing a bank, and disagrees with many core values taught to us.
Emotion and Reason
Emotion and reason play an important role in ethics as they are used to deduce what is ethical and what is not. Most of the time, reason is used as it would fit better with the moral core values many were taught, and some situations, emotions would be played as it would be a matter of feeling.
In this situation, reason would have to be given as it would result in many consequences if she would have been left to die.
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