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AS and A Level: Practical Questions
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- Peer Reviewed essays 1
Similarly, if you consider a foetus to be ?alive? then it would be immoral to terminate it no matter the affect it would have on the mother?s physical or mental health. Nearly everyone would find fault in the former, notably fewer for the latter, yet I would hope that the majority would still disagree. David Gauthier suggested that as morality is an agreed concept, designed so that people cannot run amok doing as they please with no consideration for others, an absolutist theory cannot function as rules are subject to interpretation.
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Personhood is the main issue here. Humans are beings with human tissue, but persons must have moral status. For example, a baby without a brain could be regarded as a human but not a person. The question of whether or not abortion is murder depends on your definition of personhood. With today?s scientific advancements most Christians no longer accept the views of Aquinas and Aristotle on abortion. Dr. Landrum Shettles, sometimes called the father of In Vitro Fertilization, wrote, ?Conception confers life and makes that life one of a kind.? As with all issues, Christian turn to the Bible to defend their position.
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The English philosopher, Jeremy Bentham first formalised the ?theory of utility?. Bentham argued that good equals the greatest amount of pleasure for the least amount of pain. Bentham?s form of utilitarianism is referred to as Act Utilitarianism. Each individual action is judged good (or bad) purely on the maximisation (or minimisation) of pleasure over pain. This is a quantitive theory as Bentham?s primary concern was with the amount of pleasure produced, not with rules or laws as they were of secondary importance. He used the ?hedonic calculus? to calculate the most pleasurable action.
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Surrogacy of any kind raises many religious and ethical issues. In examining these issues, a good place to start is the religious objections. Many Christians consider surrogacy to violate the view that life cannot be owned by anyone. The principles of the sanctity of life suggest that life is a gift from God and that humans do not own it but rather act as its stewards and nurture it. In the story of Sarah and Abraham, Hagar is used to give Sarah a child.
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Surrogacy of any kind raises many religious and ethical issues. In examining reasons why people may be in favour of surrogacy, a good place to start is the Christian view. Surrogacy tends to be supported by liberal denominations such as the United Methodist Church in America. Surrogacy could be a way in which an infertile couple could fulfil the Biblical injunction to, ?be fruitful and multiply.? Children can compete a marriage and are a gift from God. Surrogacy could be an act of immense compassion and selfless service, in line with the teaching of Jesus: ?When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them,? Matthew 9:36.
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With reference to relevant ethical theories, explain the arguments used to support developments in reproductive technology.
Such an argument might be based on the utilitarian principle of `maximising happiness'. This theory claims that where there is a moral choice to make the right thing to do is the action which is likely to produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. This theory starts with the happiness involved in a situation, takes into account the wider happiness of anyone else involved and takes the action that will produce this result of happiness. This theory looks at the consequences and takes the action that will bring about the desired results.
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In any situation, a person must ask themselves what does love require them to do. A person must always do the most loving thing. Agape is a term used for the principle that applies love to every situation ? morality based on love. In this context, according to Thompson, love means, ?Love in the sense that it is used here, involves the rational as well as the emotional. It is recognition of the value of the love object in and for itself.? Situation Ethics has often been linked to existentialism, a philosophy that emphasises individual existence, freedom and choice.
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Assisted dying is legalised and regulated in the US States of Oregon and Washington. Voluntary euthanasia, on the other hand, allows a doctor to administer life ending medication directly to the patient. Voluntary euthanasia is permitted in the Netherlands and Belgium. Many ethical theories and in favour of this kind and believe it can be an ethical choice. In examining the reasons behind this, a good place to start is the Utilitarian view. The basic principles of this theory seeks through, moral decisions, to bring the greatest amount of happiness to the greatest number of people.
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you die before your time?? Further evidence can be found in the New Testament, where Jesus declares that we are, ?worth much more than sparrows.? To a Christian, life is a precious gift and cannot be thrown away, especially by suicide. Church fathers have generally been against suicide and they believe that it is a violation of religious teaching. Augustine was one of the first to speak out against it in his book City of God.
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When considering arguments in support of suicide, a good place to start is the sovereignty of the individual. John Stuart Mill commented, ?over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.? Suicide is an issue of personal autonomy. Personal autonomy is the capacity to decide for oneself and pursue a course of action in one's life, often regardless of any particular moral content. Suicide is the ultimate expression of autonomy, as argued by Seneca: ?the one act where the individual can decisively exercise his autonomy.? It should be up to the individual to decide when they wish to die, and it should not be dictated by anyone else.
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The Church of England's position that abortion is evil but may be the 'lesser of two evils' is consistent with a situationist approach. Difficult circumstances include when a woman has been raped. There are traumatic and involuntary circumstances surrounding the conception and the continuance of this unwanted pregnancy may well continue the trauma for the mother and her existing family. The foetus should have no claim on the woman unless the woman has consented fully to being pregnant. Another circumstance where a proponent of situation ethics would support abortion is if the mother?s life is at risk ? surely it is better to save one life than lose two.
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With reference to other aspects of human experience, explore the view that all couples should have the right to a child. Justify your answer.
This is especially so in cultures where a woman?s worth is based on her ability to produce children. If she does not receive reproductive technology she could face isolation from her community. Looking at the UK, it could be argued that the purpose of the NHS is to solve our health problems, and infertile could be regarded as a health issue. 1 in 6 couples are infertile and there have been 70,000 IVF babies born in the UK. Infertility can have severe emotional impact on a couple and can strain the relationship. It is paradoxical that the NHS will fund abortions but not IVF (in some areas). They are denying desperate couples of their right to a child.
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With reference to other aspects of human experience, explore the view that the principle of the sanctity of human life cannot be questioned. Justify your answer.
The principle of the sanctity of life can afford protection to those who are vulnerable in society, e.g. the young, the elderly, the infirm. When people are led by greed they may be reluctant to take good care of the vulnerable because of cost or other inconveniences, but the principle of the sanctity of life demands that all people be respected. For example, in Japan there is a big social problem surrounding neglect of an aging population; the Christian church in Japan seeks to apply the principle of the sanctity of life and take cate of society?s marginalised.
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With reference to other aspects of human experience, comment on the claim that relativism in ethics poses serious problems for Christians. Justify your answer.
For most Christians ethics are dependent on rules recorded in the Bible. Paul instructs, ?Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.? In the Old Testament especially there are many empathic statements such as, ?Do not kill,? which do not leave much room for ethical relativism. They reject the idea that the ends could justify the means, because sin is sin no matter what the intentions behind it were. Slick wrote on this topic, ?I consider moral absolutes to be real because they come from God and not because they are determined by the whims of mankind.? One of the main criticisms of ethical relativism from within Christian circles is how it leads to a subjective view on morality.
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This will only lead to confusion. For example, some cultures today still regard the beating of wives and children to be moral even though our western society would disagree. Without a religious standard, who is to say we hold the correct opinion? It is worth noting that majority of people that are revered for their good works and ethics are religious, such as Mother Theresa and the Dali Lama.
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With reference to other aspects of human experience, explore the claim that Natural Law theory is irrelevant. Justify your answer.
It has even been referred to as, ?the ethics of the planet.? It is far less restrictive and many argue it is a superior philosophy to natural law. According to Peter Mullen, Working with Morality, it may be necessary, for example, to torture an innocent person to save the lives of thousands. Peter Singer once wrote a piece condemning natural law in a magazine called Project Syndicate. He prefers practical ethics to theoretical ethics. He cites the case of a South American woman called Beatriz who was pregnant and suffers from lupus, this made the pregnancy difficult.
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Explain some of the religious and moral issues relevant to the development of new reproductive technologies.
Additionally, some feminists view reproductive technology with suspicion. Feminists refer to a `pro-natalist' ideology prevalent in Western society, whereby women are encouraged to believe that their fulfilment and happiness depends upon their being able to bear children. They fear women may be coerced into IVF. The main issue that Christians would have with IVF is that many embryos are created and then destroyed. More embryos are produced in order to increase the chances of successful implantation, but in the UK you cannot use more than two embryos per IVF cycle.
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Assisted dying is legalised and regulated in the US States of Oregon and Washington. Voluntary euthanasia, on the other hand, allows a doctor to administer life ending medication directly to the patient. Voluntary euthanasia is permitted in the Netherlands and Belgium. Christians are generally opposed to all forms of prematurely ending someone?s life, and in examining their reasons a good place to start is the Biblical argument. Christians believe that the Bible supports the sanctity of life. Euthanasia is intentional killing of the innocent and so contravenes the Sixth Commandment: ?You shall not murder? (Exodus 20:13).
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This idea is backed up in the New Testament, where the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:16, ?Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?? Christians reject the idea of total bodily autonomy, meaning that they do not believe we have the right to do whatever we want with our bodies. The Bible suggests that our bodies are not our own, but God?s, and therefore we do not have the right to destroy them.
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This indicates that humans are just like animals as they respond similarly to pain and pleasure. In previous times, to determine the morality of an action people had accepted the views of priests and other authoritative figures. However, Bentham questioned whether they always suggested the moral path to follow. Bentham therefore decided to give people a way to work out the morality of their actions themselves.
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The three types of pleasure are, pleasure seekers, seekers of honour and those who love contemplation. We slowly develop into good people by practicing such virtues, however absolute rules are not required. Instead, a good person will behave in the right way simply because it is right. Aristotle believed that the pleasures seekers find the lowest forms of happiness; he wrote ?the utter servility of the masses comes out in their preference for a bovine [animalistic existence.]? This is a similar view to John Stuart Mill, who defined higher forms of pleasure and lower forms in utilitarianism.
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With reference to other aspects of human experience, comment on the view that abortion violates the rights and dignity of the mother and child. Justify your answer.
You cannot abolish any evil by justifying or allowing it to continue in some cases.? Abortion can also be anti-female, especially in Asian countries such as India and China where boys are preferable to girls. This is especially evident in China, where abortion is used as part of the Communist Party?s totalitarian power over every area of their citizens? lives. The one-child policy was introduced in the 70s to control overpopulation, and it resulted in forced abortions and invasive monitoring of women?s menstrual cycles.
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Ultimately suicide is a tragic but conscientious moral choice. For some patients euthanasia will be seen as the ultimate expression of autonomy in that they determine the time and mode of their dying. It may be the only thing left they are able to control. If we have the right to life it follows that we should also have the right to die in our own terms. To force someone to continue living against their will could be considered torture.
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For Christians these rules might link back to the Ten Commandments. One of which is ?thou shalt not murder?, this clearly and undeniably is an unbreakable law in the eyes of an absolutist. Another argument for their being moral absolute is that of a criticism to relativist acts. By Relativist thinking it is quite easy to come to the conclusion that slavery was a perfectly moral thing to do. To an absolutist, slavery did not become immoral when it was abolished, it was simply always immoral and being imposed by immoral governments.
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