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How can you or your society decide ethically which knowledge should or should not be pursued?

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Introduction

THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE ESSAY: Name: Matthew Jackson School: Wesley College Glen Waverly Campus Candidate number: D0612-011 Topic: How can you or your society decide ethically which knowledge should or should not be pursued? Word count: 1599 HOW CAN YOU OR YOUR SOCIETY DECIDE ETHICALLY WHICH KNOWLEDGE SHOULD OR SHOULD NOT BE PURSUED? In modern society there is a constant pursuit of knowledge. With the relentless momentum that our quest for knowledge has in modern times it is necessary to distinguish exactly what knowledge can be ethically sought. Given the many conflicting schools of philosophy that dictate to us what is and is not ethical, it is difficult to determine what is the best way for us to decide, but while all methods are flawed, there is doubtless one technique that is the least so, this we shall determine. This problem has been pertinent to science of late, given recent advances into the field of stem-cell research, though its is relevant to many areas of knowledge: sensitive research in history or the ethicality of a psychology experiment. However deciding whether the pursuit of knowledge is ethical does not have to be nearly so broad-reaching, it relates to the emotive ways of knowing as much as the perceptive: I was talking with Tom1, a friend of mine. ...read more.

Middle

It was a German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who created an entirely new school of ethics in "Kantian" ethics. Under Kantian ethics, rational moral individuals have a certain intrinsic value, and so cannot be weighed on a scale as Utilitarian ethics suggest. Kantianism holds that individuals should not be sacrificed for the common good. Finally, it argues that motive is of the utmost importance, i.e. an action is unethical regardless of its outcome, if its initial intent was malicious. Closely linked to Kantian ethics is the 'natural rights theory' that is, that rational beings have intrinsic rights, the right to live, the right to freedom, property. Few ethicists can agree on exactly what these 'rights' are. Under these the ethicality of stem cell research depends on both whether you regard a foetus as a moral being, thereby privy to rights and liberties and whether you regard the research as violating those rights. My relationship problem is less controversial, in undertaking a relationship with Sal she has trusted me with her feelings, and has the right to have that trust honoured, and it would violate her right to hurt her. Ethical theories that imply a set of natural rights are indeed well merited, but as with utilitarianism it is a flawed ideology. ...read more.

Conclusion

Obviously this system has its faults: first some of the criteria are not pertinent to every decision. Also it is sometimes difficult for all parties concerned to participate: for example if one were to decide on the ethicality of aborting a foetus, then the decision concerns the potential person in question, but they are unable to submit their opinion. Likewise if we were to consider my initial example of my girlfriend, then the decision concerns both her and Warwick certainly, but if I were to ask them to offer their opinion on the ethicality of the matter, then the decision would be made already. These faults are simply something inherent to the method, and must be tolerated, they are not ideal, but neither are they so gross as to invalidate the system totally. The system has many merits and despite its faults is likely the best proposal here, basing the system around principals rather than theories makes the system simpler for the layman, less controversial for the philosophers, and flexible in its application. I feel that the best way to make an decision on the pursuit of knowledge, or for that matter any ethical dilemma is to weigh it against the principals which are set out above, but all techniques are flawed in some way and it is the prerogative of any rational being to make her own choice. ...read more.

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