Doing Good and Avoiding Evil
Part II. Selected Cases
by Lisa Newton


Note: As Aristotle insisted, Ethics and Politics are really the same subject matter. Both matters of morals and matters of policy affect the rights, interests, and personal development opportunities of human beings: it is important to treat each other justly and considerately when we legislate for each other as well as when we deal with each other as friends, neighbors, business or professional colleagues, clients, or customers. Accordingly, many of the cases below are policy cases, that confront us as citizens and public servants.

For the sake of pedagogical convenience, I have divided up the cases according to the kind of conflict they most obviously represent. With only slight recasting, many of them could easily be placed under one of the other heads of conflict; feel free to amend them to illustrate different dimensions of the ethical dilemma.

    The kinds of conflicts:
  1. Principle (Autonomy, Beneficence, Justice)
  2. Role (Individual, Social)
  3. Type of reasoning (Deontological, Ontological, Teleological)

I. The major principles explained in the text cover almost all cases of "appeal to principle" in ethical judgment and justifications. Beyond these, certain special principles are occasionally appealed to in cases that do not seem to be covered otherwise. Some bear on the agent: the principle of integrity, for instance, forbids a moral agent to do anything that contradicts his or her personal commitments and loyalties. Others bear on the act: the principle of "sacredness of human life" forbids the taking of human life under any circumstances. Clearly special principles, like the major ones, are not absolute; they must be considered in all relevant cases, with no presumption that they will prevail.

Materials prepared by Lisa H. Newton, Ph.D. 1998

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