Category Archives: Morality and Ethics

A Typological Sketch of Various Arguments Against Physician-Assisted Suicide

Physician-Assisted Suicide/Physician-Assisted Death/Voluntary Euthanasia
(*henceforth PAS/PAD/VE)

In what follows, I will present a brief typology of some of the various arguments that are commonly raised against PAS/PAD/VE. This typological sketch will proceed in broad strokes. The general categories that I used to group these various arguments are: methodological arguments, consequentialist arguments, legal arguments, epistemological arguments, and moral arguments.

To the Five Burroughs (Methodological, Consequentialist, Legal, Epistemological, and Moral)

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Criticisms of the Use of the Evolving Standard of Decency (ESD) Doctrine in Kennedy v. Louisiana (2008)

The most commonly raised criticism against the national consensus test of the ESD doctrine is that it constitutes an ongoing saga of judicial activism. Judicial activism occurs when a judge/justice upholds his or her own political, legal, religious, economic, or other beliefs contra society, thereby substituting the objectivity of existing laws for the subjectivity of personal preferences. Some may not feel that judicial activism is all that subversive. But judicial activism not only forces the judge/justice’s will on the people, but also it can greatly limit the legislative branch’s ability to function. The blurring of judicial and legislative lines can result in political stalemate, voter apathy, and a general distrust of government. Kimberly Bliss comments that under a democratic system “legislatures, not courts, are constituted to respond to the will and consequently the moral values of the people” since the former has more contact with the people and has, in theory, been elected by the voters (1334).

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Conscientious Objection: Some Thoughts

What I think I find most problematic about Conscientious Objection, or at least what lays the groundwork of my distaste for it, is its unique context. To put it more straightforwardly, Conscientious Objection can, but does not always, involve genuine cases of life and death.

Rather than considering one-off examples, let’s try a cluster approach.

i. A woman is in dire medical need of an abortion; if she does not receive an abortion, she will inevitably die during childbirth. If she lives, the fetus will die and vice versa.

ii. A woman is in significant medical need of an abortion; if she does not receive an abortion, she will inevitably suffer permanent physiological damage. If the fetus lives, she will live but in immense pain for the rest of her life. If she lives (i.e. has an abortion), the fetus will die.

iii. A woman is not in any medical need of an abortion; she elects to abort the fetus within the federally and state regulated timelines allowed to do so.

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An Overview of Albert Camus and the ‘Absurd’

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The Absurd (at least on Camus’s view) emphasizes “a fundamental disharmony” or “tragic incompatibility” in our finite existence. Camus ultimately argues that the Absurd is the product of a head-on collision between our seemingly universal human desire for objective order, meaning, and purpose in life and the bleak, indifferent, perhaps even soul-crushing “silence of the universe.” “The absurd is not in man nor in the world,” Camus writes, “but in their presence together…it is the only bond uniting them.”

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Excerpt: (4) Types of Guilt

*Originally published on: https://philosophynow.org/issues/147/What_Is_Guilt

In his work, The Question of German Guilt (1947), the German existentialist philosopher Karl Jaspers attempted to resolve the impossible – understanding the conscious and systematic mass murder of Jews, Romani, homosexuals, political opponents, and other groups defined or perceived by the Nazi regime as ‘undesirable’ as well as being a direct threat to its totalitarian ideology of a ‘pure’ Aryan state.

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(6) Types of Social Darwinists

The Social Darwinist is someone who believes that the Darwinian theory of evolution — i.e. “survival of the fittest” — should be actively applied to people, societies, or nations. To the Social Darwinist, ALL of life is a struggle for survival in which the strongest naturally prosper at the expense of the weak — and it is right and natural that they should do so because that’s just the way things are, and/or natural law is Above Good and Evil.

Such people rarely concede that their chances for survival may have started higher than others due to reasons such as inherited wealth, social prestige, or even dumb luck. They typically state that we, collectively, have become complacent and stupid; they want to remove any trace of “weakness” and “stupidity” from society. It may seem to some that because humans aren’t currently enduring wars or other catastrophic extinction events, evolution in humans has ceased altogether (or at least paused — either one of which is highly problematic). If Social Darwinists do talk about evolution, they are very likely to talk about evolutionary levels and teleological evolution rather than Darwin’s actual theory (which was more of a pass-fail concept). Regardless, it is worth taking a look at the typology of Social Darwinists.

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May the 4th Be with You

In honor of today’s holiday and the greatest movie saga of all time, I’m uploading a copy of a paper that I wrote for one of my graduate courses, Women in World Religions, with Dr. Lori Swick. 

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You can download the essay in its entirety here

Concept-Checking: Killing vs. Murder/Homicide vs. Manslaughter

*To kill someone means to terminate their life permanently. To kill someone means that they cease to exist in any meaningful biological or physiological sense of the term. To kill someone means to end their ability to do just about everything.

**To murder someone means to terminate their life permanently. To murder someone means that they cease to exist in any meaningful biological or physiological sense of the term. To murder someone means to end their ability to do just about everything.

***To commit homicide against someone means to terminate their life permanently. To commit homicide against someone means that they cease to exist in any meaningful biological or physiological sense of the term. To commit homicide against someone means to end their ability to do just about everything.

****To commit manslaughter against someone means to terminate their life permanently. To commit manslaughter against someone means that they cease to exist in any meaningful biological or physiological sense of the term. To commit manslaughter against someone means to end their ability to do just about everything.

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Brief philosophical insights

What if we combined Schroedinger’s cat with Santa Claus? Would Santa Claus only exist if we believed in him in that moment? Would he only exist for those who believed in him? If so, would non-believers ever receive any coal in their stockings? Then, let’s go one step further with this line of reasoning. If Santa Claus only existed if we believed in him, what would it mean for those who did not believe in God/Allah? How could we either blame or praise anyone if they simply did not share our same beliefs?

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Comparing Versions of the Hippocratic Oath in Western Medicine

Hippocratic Oath: Classical Version

I swear by Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant:

To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art—if they desire to learn it—without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but no one else.

I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.

I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.

I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.

Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.

What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself, holding such things shameful to be spoken about.

If I fulfill this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.

Hippocratic Oath: Modern Version

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.