I use the example of abortion to show that there are some unresolvable moral disagreements. I list four sources of unresolvable moral disagreement: 1) differences in the rankings of the basic evils of death, pain, disability, loss of freedom, and loss of pleasure, 2) differences in the interpretation of moral rules, 3) ideological differences in the view of human nature and human societies, and 4) differences concerning who is impartially protected by the moral rules. It is this last difference that (...) is the source of unresolvable disagreement concerning the moral acceptability of abortion. I examine the views of Don Marquis and Mary Ann Warren who present opposing arguments concerning the moral acceptability of abortion. I show that their failure to take account of this last difference leads to flaws in their arguments that show that neither has been successful in showing that their position is the uniquely correct one. (shrink)
: Carson Strong's reply to my response to his article demonstrates what happens when there is unacknowledged disagreement about the facts of a case or about the meaning of the terms used to describe those facts. I hope that our dialogue will help reduce this disagreement.
This book is the result of over 30 years of collaboration among its authors. It uses the systematic account of our common morality developed by one of its authors to provide a useful foundation for dealing with the moral problems and disputes that occur in the practice of medicine. The analyses of impartiality, rationality, and of morality as a public system not only explain why some bioethical questions, such as the moral acceptability of abortion, cannot be resolved, but also provide (...) a method for determining the correct answer for those occasions when a bioethical question has a unique correct answer. This new edition includes an entire chapter that has been added to address the controversial issue of abortion within the authors' distinct framework. This book presents the latest revisions of the authors' orignial analyses of the concepts of death and disease, analyses that have had a significant impact on the field of bioethics. It also includes an added chapter on mental disorders, where the authors' definition influenced what psychiatry classifies as a mental disorder, and so has had an impact that reveals beyond the field of bioethics. In this edition, the authors also offer a new, more developed perspective on the concept of valid or informed consent by considering what information physicians should be required to know before proposing screening, diagnostic testing, prescribing medications, or performing surgery. The book also integrates some of the important insights of the field of clinical epidemiology into its discussion of valid consent. Its account of paternalism and its justification, perhaps the most ubiquitous moral problem in medical ethics, has had considerable influence. Its discussion of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide challenges the standard views that have been put forward by both proponents and opponents of physician assisted suicide and voluntary active euthanasia. (shrink)
: Carson Strong criticizes the application of my moral theory to bioethics cases. Some of his criticisms are due to my failure to make explicit that both the irrationality or rationality of a decision and the irrationality or rationality of the ranking of evils are part of morally relevant feature 3. Other criticisms are the result of his not using the two-step procedure in a sufficiently rigorous way. His claim that I come up with a wrong answer depends upon his (...) incorrectly regarding a weakly justified violation as one that all impartial rational persons would agree was permitted, rather than as one about which rational persons disagree. (shrink)
Moral problems do not always come in the form of great social controversies. More often, the moral decisions we make are made quietly, constantly, and within the context of everyday activities and quotidian dilemmas. Indeed, these smaller decisions are based on a moral foundation that few of us ever stop to think about but which guides our every action. Here distinguished philosopher Bernard Gert presents a clear and concise introduction to what he calls "common morality" -- the moral system that (...) most thoughtful people implicitly use when making everyday, common sense moral decisions and judgments. Common Morality is useful in that -- while not resolving every disagreement on controversial issues -- it is able to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable answers to moral problems. In the first part of the book Gert lays out the fundamental features of common morality: moral rules, moral ideals, and a two-step procedure for determining when a violation of a moral rule is justified. Written in a non-technical style, the ten general moral rules include rules on which everyone can agree, such as "do not kill," "do not deceive," and "keep your promises." The moral ideals include similarly uncontroversial precepts such as "Relieve pain" and "Aid the needy." In the second part of the book Gert examines the underlying concepts that justify common morality, such as the notions of rationality and impartiality. The distillation of over 40 years of scholarship, this book is the most accessible version of Gert's influential theory of morality as well as an eye-opening look at the moral foundations of our everyday actions. Throughout the discussion is clear enough for a reader with little or no philosophy background. (shrink)
In his article 'Specifying, balancing and interpreting bioethical principles' (Richardson, 2000), Henry Richardson claims that the two dominant theories in bioethics - principlism, put forward by Beauchamp and Childress in Principles of Bioethics , and common morality, put forward by Gert, Culver and Clouser in Bioethics: A Return to Fundamentals - are deficient because they employ balancing rather than specification to resolve disputes between principles or rules. We show that, contrary to Richardson's claim, the major problem with principlism, either the (...) original version, or the specified principlism of Richardson, is that it conceives of morality as being composed of free-standing principles, rather than as common morality conceives it, as being a complete public system, composed of rules, ideals, morally relevant features, and a procedure for determining when a rule can be justifiably violated. (shrink)
This article shows how common morality can be helpful in clarifying the discussion of ethical issues that arise in computing. Since common morality does not always provide unique answers to moral questions, not all such issues can be resolved, however common morality does provide a clear answer to the question whether one can illegally copy software for a friend.
Medical ethics should show how an adequate description of morality is helpful in dealing with the problems that arise in the context of medical care. However none of the standard moral theories provide such a description. Further, all of these theories assume that there must be a unique correct answer to every moral question, though this answer may be that it is indifferent which of the proposed solutions one picks. The failure to recognize that there are unresolvable moral disagreements leads (...) many philosophers to think that their moral theories will enable them to determine which policies ought to be adopted. However, the correct role for moral theories is more limited: to rule out morally unacceptable policies. Moral theories almost never can settle disputes about which of two well supported health care policies ought to be adopted. (shrink)
This book offers the fullest and most sophisticated account of Gert's influential moral theory, a model first articulated in the classic work The Moral Rules: A New Rational Foundation for Morality, published in 1970. In this final revision, Gert makes clear that the moral rules are only one part of an informal system that does not provide unique answers to every moral question but does always provide a range of morally acceptable options. A new chapter on reasons includes an account (...) of what makes one reason better than another and a second new chapter is devoted to the question of justifying violations of the rules. Moral impartiality, the moral ideals, and virtue and vice, are all treated in greater detail. Throughout, Gert attempts to answer all of the challenges that his work has provoked. (shrink)
An updated and expanded successor to Culver and Gert's Philosophy in Medicine, this book integrates moral philosophy with clinical medicine to present a comprehensive summary of the theory, concepts, and lines of reasoning underlying the ...
The DSM-III-R definition of mental disorder is inconsistent with the DSM-III-R definition of paraphilias. The former requires the suffering or increased risk of suffering some harm while the latter allows that deviance, by itself, is sufficient to classify a behavioral syndrome as a paraphilia. This inconsistency is particularly clear when examining the DSM-III-R account of a specific paraphilia, Transvestic Fetishism. The author defends the DSM-III-R definition of mental disorder and argues that the DSM-III-R definition of paraphilias should be changed. He (...) recommends that the diagnostic criteria for specific paraphilias, particularly that for Transvestic Fetishism, be changed to make them consistent with the DSM-III-R definition of mental disorder. Keywords: diagnoses, disease, paraphilia, philosophy, psychiatry CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Recombinant DNA technology will soon allow physicians an opportunity to carry out both somatic cell- and Germ-Line gene therapy. While somatic cell gene therapy raises no new ethical problems, gene therapy of gametes, fertilized eggs or early embryos does raise several novel concerns. The first issue discussed here relates to making a distinction between negative and positive eugenics; the second issue deals with the evolutionary consequences of lost genetic diversity. In distinguishing between positive and negative eugenics, the concept of malady (...) is applied as a definitional criterion for identifying genetic disorders that could qualify for Germ-Line therapy. Because gene replacement techniques are currently unavailable for humans, and because even if they were possible the number of people involved would be quite small, the loss of diversity concern seems moot. Finally, we dissuss the issue of iatrogenic disorders associated with gene therapy and discuss several ‘real world considerations.’ Keywords: Germ-Line therapy, malady, slippery slope CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
The authors use the term "principlism" to refer to the practice of using "principles" to replace both moral theory and particular moral rules and ideals in dealing with the moral problems that arise in medical practice. The authors argue that these "principles" do not function as claimed, and that their use is misleading both practically and theoretically. The "principles" are in fact not guides to action, but rather they are merely names for a collection of sometimes superficially related matters for (...) consideration when dealing with a moral problem. The "principles" lack any systematic relationship to each other, and they often conflict with each other. These conflicts are unresolvable, since there is no unified moral theory from which they are all derived. For comparison the authors sketch the advantages of using a unified moral theory. Keywords: bioethical principles, medical ethics, moral theory, principlism CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
This volume is a revised, enlarged, and broadened version of Gert's classic 1970 book, The Moral Rules. Advocating an approach he terms "morality as impartial rationality," Gert here presents a full discussion of his moral theory, adding a wealth of new illuminating detail to his analysis of the concepts--rationality/irrationality, good/evil, and impartiality--by which he defines morality. He constructs a "moral system" that includes rules prohibiting the kinds of actions that cause evil, procedures for determining when violation of the rules is (...) permitted, and ideals which encourage actions that prevent or relieve suffering. To be valid, Gert argues, any such system must be "a public system that applies to all rational persons." The book concludes with a discussion of medical ethics, demonstrating the link between moral theory and its application to real moral problems. (shrink)
Coercion is commonly said to invalidate consent, and that is always true if the source of the coercion is the physician. However, if it is a family member who coerces the patient to consent, the resultant consent may be quite valid and treatment should proceed.
The distinction between moral rules and moral ideals is presented and explained in various ways. The authors propose that people in business are required to obey the moral rules and have a choice with respect to ideals. Thus, they are not in a different position from that of anyone else in society.Four case studies are presented and discussed. The analytical approaches used by the authors' students are summarized and evaluated. The moral rules/ideals paradigm is described as helping discussants of the (...) cases to establish congruence between business ethics and their personal set of values. Other values of the classroom discussion of ethics cases are considered. (shrink)
Hobbes has served for both philosophers and political scientists as the paradigm case of someone who held an egoistic view of human nature. In this article I shall attempt to show that the almost unanimous view that Hobbes held psychological egoism is mistaken, and further that Hobbes's political theory does not demand an egoistic psychology, but on the contrary is incompatible with psychological egoism. I do not maintain that Hobbes was completely consistent; in fact, I shall show that there was (...) a continuous development in Hobbes's works away from an egoistic psychology. But I do think that the main outlines of Hobbes's political theory, i.e., his account of the laws of nature, the right of nature, the obligations imposed by laws and covenants, and the rights and duties of citizen and sovereign, are essentially the same in The Elements of Law, De Cive, and Leviathan. I thus hold that even in his earliest work, The Elements, the only one where a charge of egoism is justifiable, the political theory does not depend on egoism. But the first and most important point to be established is that Hobbes did not hold an egoistic psychology. (shrink)