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AS and A Level: Practical Questions

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  • Peer Reviewed essays 1
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  1. Kantian ethics provides a helpful method to making moral decisions

    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.

    • Word count: 753
  2. Explain the religious and ethical views on key issues surrounding the abortion debate.

    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.

    • Word count: 1432
  3. Give an account of the main characteristics of Utilitarian theory.

    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.

    • Word count: 913
  4. Describe the religious and ethical issues raised by human surrogacy.

    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.

    • Word count: 1072
  5. With reference to both religious and ethical views, explain the arguments for human surrogacy.

    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.

    • Word count: 867
  6. 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.

    • Word count: 873
  7. Explain the approach of Situation Ethics to moral decision making.

    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.

    • Word count: 1215
  8. Explain the case for voluntary euthanasia.

    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.

    • Word count: 989
  9. Explore the view that suicide is a violation of religious teaching. Justify your answer.

    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.

    • Word count: 574
  10. Give an account of the ethical arguments in support of suicide.

    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.

    • Word count: 850
  11. Explore some of the arguments in favour of abortion

    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.

    • Word count: 1050
  12. 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.

    • Word count: 656
  13. 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.

    • Word count: 779
  14. 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.

    • Word count: 636
  15. Explore the view that morality without religious belief is impossible

    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.

    • Word count: 435
  16. 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.

    • Word count: 633
  17. 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.

    • Word count: 1176
  18. Explain the Christian view on euthanasia

    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).

    • Word count: 896
  19. Explain Christian views on suicide.

    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.

    • Word count: 981
  20. Capital Punishment and Utilitarianism

    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.

    • Word count: 550
  21. Examine the key features of Virtue Ethics

    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.

    • Word count: 1379
  22. 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.

    • Word count: 667
  23. Explore the view that assisted suicide is an act of compassion. Justify your answer. [15]

    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.

    • Word count: 617
  24. There are no moral absolutes, discuss.

    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.

    • Word count: 1164

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • Discuss the view that only a religious ethic can provide an acceptable basis for medical ethics.

    "In conclusion I think that a religious ethic is by no means the only acceptable basis for medical ethics. Although some Christian ethics will provide a stable answer for every situation, an answer that will never change and therefore will have clear-cut boundaries, not every person in the world will ever be of the same religion, and therefore it cannot be universal. Therefore a non-religious ethic which everyone could agree on seems more acceptable, such as one that allows situations to be considered, because therefore a religious ethic could be used in certain circumstances if the people involved would like to do so, as that happens to be their own "situation"; similarly if someone does not want to apply a religious ethical theory then they are not obliged to do so, because again this option would apply to their situation. Therefore situationist ethics that are not based on religion can be made universal, allowing religious ethics to be applied or not according to the wishes of the people involved and this seems to me to be the only acceptable basis for medical ethics, an ethic that will allow for everyone's personal beliefs."

  • Discuss critically the belief that conscience is the voice of God.

    "To conclude, I do not firmly believe that conscience is the voice of God. Mainly because of the difficulties which arise with conflicting consciences. There are a number of religions with competing claims about truth, making people sincerely believe different things on a wide variety of ethical and religious issues. Also, atheists say that conscience is very important to them and if they do not believe in God then how can conscience be the voice of God? Surely if conscience was the voice of God then atheists would find it hard to have conscience in their lives."

  • Analyse and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of natural moral law as a definitive ethical theory

    "In trying to decide then, if natural moral law can be held as a definitive ethical theory one has to realise that although the theory isn't as rigid as it first appears it is still faced with problems, which may well, be insurmountable. The conclusions of the Roman Catholic Church regarding the prohibition of activities such as artificial contraception and homosexual acts, as already shown, can be subject to convincing challenge. It is also important to note that in the absence of clear guidelines it is impossible to know definitively what is and what is not natural and so therefore rendering the issue wholly subjective. Once an issue becomes subjective, and it is difficult to produce an instance when subjectivity would be absent, natural moral law has to fail as a definitive ethical theory."

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