Tag Archives | Ethics

Intoxicated Consent to Sexual Relations: A Map of Moral Claims

This was originally published on Philosophical Disquisitions.

Consent is moral magic. It transforms an impermissible act into a permissible one. But deciding when and whether to respect a particular token or signal of consent is an ethically fraught business. Can children consent to medical treatment? Can adults with early stage dementia consent to give away all their earthly possessions? Is a smile or a nod sufficient for consent? Is it possible to consent to something by doing or saying nothing? Can you consent to have something done to you while you are asleep, if you provided the consent in writing in advance? Questions of this nature abound.

One of the most contentious of all these questions has to do with the correct attitude toward consent to sexual relations that occurs when one or more of the parties to a particular sexual encounter are voluntarily intoxicated. To take a typical and all-too frequent case, suppose that Ann and Bob meet at a party.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

The Arc of the Moral Universe… Is Twisted

President George W. Bush looks over a brief with Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in the Outer Oval Office of the White House on September 12, 2001. (Photo: U.S. National Archives)

President George W. Bush looks over a brief with Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in the Outer Oval Office of the White House on September 12, 2001. (Photo: U.S. National Archives)

David Michael Green writes at Common Dreams:

Barack Obama is in the habit of borrowing from Martin Luther King to remind us that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Funny, I was just wondering about that last week myself.

Not because Obama has restated the premise, of course.  From Arctic drilling, to persecuting – and prosecuting – whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, to viciously slandering rightful critics of his trade deal abominations, Obama has shown that he may be well acquainted with many things, but moral justice is not much one of them.

No, what got me thinking about this was the resurfacing these last weeks of the national discussion about the justification for America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

A Framework for Understanding our Ethical Relationships with Intelligent Technology

Hiroshi Ishiguro with the Telenoid R1

Hiroshi Ishiguro with the Telenoid R1

This was originally published on Philosophical Disquisitions.

How do we relate to technology? How does it relate to us? These are important questions, particularly in light of the increasingly ubiquitous and often hidden roles that modern computing technology plays in our lives. We have always relied on different forms of technology, from stone axes to trains and automobiles. But modern computing technology has some important properties. When it incorporates artificially intelligent programmes, and utilises robotic action-implementation systems, it has the ability to interfere with, and possibly supersede, human agency.

Some of this interference might be desirable. If a robotic surgeon can increase the success rate of a risky type of surgery, we should probably welcome it. But some of the interference might be less desirable. I have argued in the past that we should have some concerns about automated systems that render our public decision-making processes more opaque.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

Before You Call a Man a Creep—or Worse—Read This

See-ming Lee (CC BY 2.0)

See-ming Lee (CC BY 2.0)

Peter Ross writes at the Good Men Project:

We’ve all seen the stories online about men being falsely accused of being creeps and paedophiles. Stop me if any of these sound familiar:

I was sitting on a bench watching my granddaughter on the swings when the police show up to question me because someone reported that I was leering at the children.

I was asked to move seats on a plane because a child was seated next to me.

I was tapped on the shoulder by police while I was taking photos of the beach. Someone thought I was taking pictures of their children.

For most men, any of the above situations would not only be mortifying but would also make us extremely angry to be accused of such a heinous intention just because we have a Y chromosome. This is an awful phenomenon and one that has been written about a number of times, and recently on The Good Men Project, in an attempt to educate people that, surprise, most men aren’t predators.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

The Ethics of Having Children: Deontological Arguments

parents and children

This was originally published on Philosophical Disquisitions.

The having and begetting of children is central to human life. For many, it is a natural and unqualified good. The belief that your life is somehow incomplete or inferior if you do not have children persists in many cultures. Most people never question whether it is ethical to have children. But when you think about it this is pretty odd. A child is a sentient being who is highly dependent on the care of other human beings (typically its biological parents). So if you do have children, you are voluntarily taking on a significant moral responsibility and entrusting into your care a being capable of suffering great moral harms. This is not something to be taken lightly.

Consequently, it seems legitimate to ask the question: is it (morally) right to have children? In other words, is the having and begetting of children morally permissible, impermissible, obligatory or supererogatory?… Read the rest

Continue Reading

Considering ‘The Philosophy Of The Web’

916142_ddc2fd0140_o

Steve Jurvetson (CC BY 2.0)

 

Tania Lombrozo via Public Radio East:

We associate technology with the shiny and new. But humans have been using technology to change the environment and themselves since at least the lower Paleolithic period, when our ancestors were making stone tools.

Is the technology of today fundamentally different? In particular, does it change the way we think of ourselves or our relationships to each other and the environment? Does it change the way we think about what exists (metaphysics), about what and how we can know about it (epistemology), or about how we ought to live (ethics)?

These are traditionally philosophical questions, but they’re questions that some have been revisiting in light of one of today’s most pervasive developments: the rise of the Web.

A few weeks ago, two of us at 13.7 (Alva Noë and myself) participated in a workshop at the Googleplex on the “Philosophy of the Web.” The workshop was organized by Harry Halpin, a research scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab who has been at the forefront of this emerging area of philosophy.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Is downloading really stealing? The ethics of digital piracy

Piracy might be theft, but it’s not the same as robbing someone of their material possessions. Josu/Flickr, CC BY

Piracy might be theft, but it’s not the same as robbing someone of their material possessions. Josu/Flickr, CC BY

Christian Barry, Australian National University

Many millions of people throughout the world will illegally download the fifth season of Game of Thrones, released today by HBO. Legally speaking, what they will be doing is a violation of intellectual property rights, or “piracy”. But will they be doing anything morally wrong?

It might seem obvious that what they will do is wrong. After all, it is illegal. But there are many things that have been illegal that people don’t think are morally wrong. Same-sex relationships, divorce and many other practices that are now widely accepted as morally acceptable were once outlawed and criminally sanctioned.

Few people think they were wrong just before they were legalised. Rather, they tend to think the laws governing these behaviours were unjust. So appeal only to the illegality of downloading doesn’t settle whether it is okay, morally speaking.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

Execution by Medical Neglect?

"Mumia03" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mumia03.jpg#/media/File:Mumia03.jpg

“Mumia03″ by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

Dave Lindorff writes at CounterPunch:

Mumia Abu-Jamal, the radical Philadelphia journalist convicted of killing a white Philadelphia police officer in a trial fraught with prosecutorial misconduct, witness coaching and judicial prejudice back in 1981, spent nearly three decades in solitary confinement in the deliberately designed hell of Pennsylvania’s supermax SCI Green prison before a panel of federal Appeals Court judges eventually ruled that he’d been unconstitutionally sentenced to death.

He, of course, received no apology for the state’s making him illegally and improperly spend all those years in solitary waiting to be wrongfully executed. Instead, with that ruling (after a few years of legal stalling by the Philadelphia district attorney’s office), he was simply switched over to a sentence of life without possibility of parole and moved to the SCI-Mahoney prison in central Pennsylvania.

Now, it appears the state, which lost its chance to execute him, may be trying to kill him another way, as word comes that this world-renowned political prisoner had to be rushed to the hospital this week, unconscious from an undiagnosed case of severe diabetes.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Florida’s Bathroom Law

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mike LaBossiere via Talking Philosophy:

Being from Maine, I got accustomed to being asked about the cold, lobsters, moose and Stephen King. Living in Florida, I have become accustomed to being asked about why my adopted state is so insane. Most recently, I was asked about the bathroom bill making its way through the House.

The bathroom bill, officially known as HB 583, proposes that it should be a second-degree misdemeanor to “knowingly and willfully” enter a public facility restricted to members “of the other biological sex.” The bill proposes a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Some opponents of the bill contend that it is aimed at discriminating against transgender people. Some part of Florida have laws permitting people to use public facilities based on the gender they identify with rather than their biological sex.

Obviously enough, proponents of the bill are not claiming that they are motivated by a dislike of transgender people.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Journalists Who Hate Whistleblowers

Ahmad Hammoud (CC BY 2.0)

Ahmad Hammoud (CC BY 2.0)

Via John Hanrahan at Consortium News:

A disturbing trend in mainstream U.S. media is how many “star” journalists side with the government in its persecution of whistleblowers – and even disdain fellow reporters who expose secret wrongdoing, an attitude that is destroying what’s left of American democracy, as John Hanrahan explains.

By John Hanrahan

Following the late January guilty verdicts in the espionage trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, more proof emerged — if any more were needed — that many elite mainstream journalists abhor whistleblowers and think they should go to prison when they divulge classified information.

One would think that a business that has relied on confidential informants for some of the major investigative stories of this and the previous century would applaud whistleblowers who risk everything on behalf of the people’s right to know what their government is doing in the shadows.

Read the rest
Continue Reading