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Introduction to Ethics

Meta-ethics, Ethical Frameworks & 'Breaking Bad' Activity

Jennifer Jenson

on 29 May 2014

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Transcript of Introduction to Ethics

Questions to start us off..

It is time to elect the world leader, and yours is the deciding vote. Here are the facts about the three leading candidates:

Candidate A:
He associates with crooked politicians, and consults with astrologers. He's had two mistresses. He also chain smokes and drinks up to ten Martinis a day.
Candidate B:
He was ejected from office twice, sleeps until noon, used opium in college and drinks a large amounts of whisky every evening.
Candidate C:
He is a decorated war hero. He's a vegetarian, doesn't smoke, drinks an occasional beer and hasn't had any extra-marital affairs.

Which of these candidates would be your choice?

Breaking Bad
High school chemistry teacher
Pregnant wife, son with physical disabilities, financial hardship
Disease - insurance won't cover him
How to support the family?
What are virtue ethics?
“The doctrine that emphasises moral character, rather than the outcomes or intrinsic qualities of particular actions.” (Tait, 2013.)

What are consequentialist / utilitarian ethics?
“The doctrine that actions should be judged right or wrong on the basis of their consequences.” (Tait, 2013.)

Overview of Presentation
1. General Introduction & an analysis of Ethics
2. Theoretical understanding of
Meta-ethics and Normative ethics
3. Three different ethical frameworks
4. Case study: Activity & discussion

question one:
question two:
If you knew a woman who was pregnant, who had eight children already, three who were deaf, two who were blind, one mentally retarded, and she had syphilis, would you recommend / say it would be the right thing that she have an abortion?
Principles of virtue ethics
- An action is only right if it is an action that a virtuous person would carry out in the same circumstances.

- A virtuous person is a person who acts virtuously

- A person acts virtuously if they "possess and live the virtues"

- A virtue is a moral characteristic in which one chooses to live their life by.

The traditional list of cardinal virtues:
-It centres ethics
on the person and what it
means to be human

-It includes the whole
of a person's life

-It doesn't provide clear
guidance on what to do
in moral dilemmas
or specific ethical problems

-There is no concrete
agreement on which
virtues are important
Principles of consequentialist / utilitarian ethics
-Whether an act is right or wrong depends only on the results of that act

-The greater consequences an act produces, the better or more right that act is.

What are ethics?
How do I explain ethics?
Is it just right or wrong?
Is knowledge about ethics a crucial part of being a good individual?
Thinking of Ethics in a Range of Ways
1. Moral Choices
- choices we make that reflect our values of good and bad, right and wrong
choices that meet with approval

choices that meet with condemnation

amoral or morally neutral:
choices that are not moral or immoral.

2. Ethics deals with HOW people define morality and make moral choices
Morality: our sense of right and wrong

Ethics: area of knowledge that examines that sense of morality and the moral codes we develop from it

The most fundamental dispute in the field of Meta-Ethics is between Moral Realism and Moral Anti-Realism
Prudential Reasoning

Moral Reasoning
2. Why be moral?
What we want and benefits us most.
Belief that it's the right thing to do morally.
Example: Stealing from someone
Candidate A is Franklin D Roosevelt,
Candidate B is Winston Churchill,
Candidate C is Adolph Hitler.

And by the way the answer to the abortion question... If you said yes, you just killed Beethoven.

- flexible
-take account of any set of circumstances, however exeptional
-objective, rational

- how do you make calculation objectively?
- who decides what factors result in greater good?
-right of individuals doesnt have a large say
- little regard for the minority
What are Kantian ethics?
(also 'deontological', 'duty ethics')
“The doctrine that actions should be judged right or wrong on the basis of their intrinsic qualities, not on their consequences.” (Tait, 2013.)

Principles of Kantian ethics
-ethics are concerned
with what people do, not with
the consequences of their
-Do the right thing.
-Do it because it's the
right thing to do.
- Don't do wrong things.
- Avoid them because they are wrong.

Catagorical imperative:
-The basis of all other rules (a rule that is true in all circumstances.)

Practical imperative:
-Act so that you treat humanity, both in your own person and in that of another, always as an end and never merely as a means.

The Invention of Lying
Applied Ethics
- ethics for the teacher

-teaching ethics as a subject/ topic to your class
Teaching ethics?
• Today our schools focus a great deal of time focusing on academics, the “head” and not enough on the “heart”

Teaching ethics at school:

- allows students to think critically about their own opinions on a topic rather than memorizing others thoughts

- creates classroom culture that fosters relationships and respectful participation

- challenges views of all students on inappropriate behaviour and standing up for principles

How is ethics taught?
- Early childhood & primary : through Philosophy

- High school:
through Religion and Ethics or Ethics alone

Teaching ethics boosts students ability to do well in school?
studies to look into:

Streight, D. 2012. High School Ethics: Between quarter potential and Half. Retrieved from: http://www.csee.org/products/264

Ruggiero, V. 1997, Thinking Critically about Ethical Issues, Mayfield Publishing Co., Mountain View, California.
High school students:
Primary school students:
Early Childhood:

Law, S. (2003). The Philosophy Gym: 25 Short Adventures in Thinking. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Streight, D. 2012. High School Ethics: Between quarter potential and Half. Retrieved from: http://www.csee.org/products/264
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2011).Ethical Undestanding. Canberra: ACARA. Retrieved from : http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/GeneralCapabilities/Ethical-understanding/Introduction/Ethical-understanding-across-the-curriculum

Ruggiero, V. 1997, Thinking Critically about Ethical Issues, Mayfield Publishing Co., Mountain View, California.

Tait G. 2004. Disability and the Ethical Resppnsibilites of the Teacher: Issues arising from the case of L v Minister for Education. Australia

Tait, G., & Burnett, B. (2013). EB003 Practising Education: Lecture 3 [Lecture Notes]. Retrieved from http://blackboard.qut.edu.au/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_4_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2FcourseMain%3Fcourse_id%3D_103203_1
Discuss with people in your group if you have observed or experienced some unethical behaviour?
In the Beginning
View the first episode of series 1 (with Chinese subtitles) at:


Homework 1
Write down AT LEAST 10 things that happen in the show that involve moral choices!
Homework 2
Pick ONE of the moral choices from your list and write whether you think it is something that can be judged as right or wrong. That is, is the decision here something that there is an objective/absolute sense of right & wrong about, or would you take a moral relativist position on this?
Homework 3
Pick ONE of the moral choices from your list and write whether it is ethical or not from the THREE various ethical perspectives you learned about today
Virtue ethics
Utilitarian (consequentialist) ethics
Duty ethics (Kantian or deontological framework)
What does an Ethical Teacher look like:
Providing a starting point for thinking about ethical teaching behaviour
Ethical Teachers teach effectively through effective pedagogy
- Ethical teachers use a combination of effective, multimodal and multi sensory resources to implement teaching practices that empower student learning.

- Ethical teachers are reflective practitioners. Educators evaluate their teaching pedagogy through midcourse and end-of-course reflective practice and make adjustments where necessary to improve their teaching effectiveness.

Ethical Teachers provide balanced content and free inquiry
-Ethical teachers encourage open discussion of alternative theoretical positions in the classroom.

-Ethical teachers present information and guide students in making informed and objective conclusions based on data.

Ethical Teachers respect all Students
-Teachers establish a classroom atmosphere that is open, respectful, and encouraging of discussions of sensitive topics and that does not disparage or discriminate against individual student perspectives.
Ethical Teachers Foster Academic Integrity
Ethical teachers establish, communicate, and assist students in understanding disciplinary and institutional expectations concerning academic integrity.
Ethical Teachers Use Objective and Fair Assessments
Ethical teachers are aware of factors that may affect fairness in grading. They use best practices to design valid and reliable test questions. Ethical teachers avoid letting unrelated factors or personal biases affect their grading of student assessments (e.g student attendance or classroom behaviour)
Ethical Teachers protect their student's confidentiality
Ethical teachers withhold their responsibility to maintain confidentiality with respect to student performance, classroom behaviour and comments, and personal communications.
Ethical Teachers have Professionally appropriate relationships with their students
Ethical Teachers must be sensitive to maintaining professional and objective relationships with students. Ethical teachers are also sensitive about engaging in behaviours that take advantage of their power in relationships with students.
Looking Closer at QCT Stards in relation to Ethics..

Standard Four:
Design and implement learning experiences that Value diversity.
-Valuing and responding positively to diversity.
-Having positive regard for and empathy and rapport with all students and their families, caregivers and communities.
-Recognising that student engagement and performance is influenced by multiple factors and that students bring particular talents and strengths to learning.
-Ensuring students have equity of access to the curriculum.

Standard Six:
Support personal development and participation in society.
-Fostering the social, emotional and physical development of students.
-Maintaining ethical and professional relations with students and their families, caregivers and communities.
-Creating learning partnerships that foster the active and full social participation of students.

Standard Seven:
Create and maintain safe and supportive learning environments.
-Creating safe, supportive and stimulating learning environments.
-Taking responsibility for establishing and maintaining a positive climate in the classroom and participating in maintaining such a climate in the school as a whole.
-Creating learning environments that model participatory and democratic values.

Standard Eight:
Foster positive and productive relationships with families and the community.
-Promoting the central role of families, caregivers and other community members in students’ education
-Fostering all aspects of students’ wellbeing and working with families and caregivers to provide diverse opportunities for student success.
-Working with families, caregivers and the broader community to improve student learning.

Is stealing wrong? Is it always wrong? How do we know?
We view certain things – people’s actions – as having moral value, as being right or wrong.

Moral Absolutism/Realism
Moral Relativism / Anti-Realism
The view that moral value is objective and absolute
It's 'out there' independent of us.
According to many Philosophers & Hume (1711-76)
There is no such thing as right and wrong outside the values of the particular individual or the values of the societyThe value is not intrinsic to those actions.
It’s rooted in our experience in how we react emotionally to what we observe.
It’s as if we view the world through morality spectacles.

1. Subjectivism:
To claim personally

2. Intersubjectivism
To claim your community

3. Emotivism
Is not to make a claim at all - rather to express.

Spectacles Model of Morality
Ethics operates on both macro and micro levels - from a whole nation level to a personal level
Its relavent because it helps us recognise and organise our own beliefs as individuals
Ethics overlaps with other disciplines especially law

These are some of the questions we ask
Understanding and explaining questions similar to these can be confusing and hard.
People often get confused between morals and ethics - what's the difference?
The focus falls on the natures of moral claims themselves.
1. What can we judge as moral or immoral?
1. What can be determined to be moral?

2. Why be Moral?
In the objective world it is wrong!
Is it something you bring to the analysis from your culture perspective?
Three verions:
We are born with inherent moral codes.
Sometimes what we want or what benefits us most conflicts with what be believe to be right.
End result is about: what type of person do you want to be?
What does an Ethical Teacher look like?
- It protects the rights of the weak, and provides logical support for important moral values

- It does not rely upon predicting outcomes of actions to establish ethical merit. It provides rationaility and certainty

- It is inflexible, and can struggle to account for conflicting duties

- If followed strictly it can produce ethically undesirable outcomes, as it has no room for compasion or sympathy
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