Helpful hint for ethics students.

Let's say you have been given a case study and asked to suggest an ethical course of action for the protagonist in the case.

If, in the course of explaining the course of action you are recommending, you find yourself writing, "Even though it would be unethical, the protagonist should ...," you may be doing it wrong.

5 responses so far

  • Physicalist says:


  • Tybo says:

    Maybe there's external, non-ethical constraints on ethical action, and acting in regards to those constraints is itself ethical...

    Hey, it makes sense in a nonsense kind of way.

  • WhizBANG! says:

    That sort of response makes the grading go faster, I bet...

  • Nick says:

    I take it there's a forehead-shaped indentation in your desk right now?

  • Grant D. Vallance says:

    I note the qualification, "... you may be doing it wrong." This is a good qualification to make because I can imagine cases where it would be correct to say that are not nonsensical/contradictory. The crux of the matter is that not all uses of the concept 'should' are what you could call ethical-normative.

    E.g. "Even though it would be unethical, the scientist should use a placebo in the randomised controlled trial in order to correctly detect whether the drug is effective using the proposed sample size. The proposed sample size would be too small if the scientist used the current 'Gold-standard' treatment as the comparator. Such a trial would be unethical because there is no genuine equipoise over use of a placebo. Specifically, the 'Gold-standard' treatment was validated using properly conducted RCT studies. Consequently, it would be wrong to deprive participants (in the proposed placebo arm) of a treatment known to work well."