For this portion of the final exam, please choose 3 of the following five question to answer. For a complete answer, you will need to respond to all of the questions, and provide explanations for your answers. This will mean explaining the elements of the normative theories that relate to the question, in your own words. Essays are due on 14 December at 8:00 am
1. Analyze the following case according to the three normative theories we discussed this term: utilitarianism (act), deontology and virtue theory. In other words, provide an argument, from each of the position identified above, that explain why the actions of Smith in the below scenario are either considered right or wrong.
Smith is a social worker in a hospital when he get a new case: a woman has come in very ill—and the cause of her illness is unknown. Smith has been told that the patient is getting worse, and then she is in need of a liver transplant. The patient's husband has offered to be the donor, and given that he and his wife match all of the medical requirements she will not go into organ rejection if she receives part of his liver. Smith is tasked with interviewing both the patient and the donor to assess their psychological health and prepare them for the organ transplant procedure. In the course of interviewing the patient, Smith discovers that the wife was planning to file for divorce and has been cheating on the husband. Smith doesn't have a professional obligation to tell the donor what he has found out about the patient, but he might have a moral one to let the donor know he will be donating his organ to a partner that has been dishonest with him. But, if Smith does tell the donor, it is likely the donor will decided not to give some of his liver to his wife, and she will die in the very near future because it is unlikely she will receive part of the organ from another donor. In the end, Smith decides to keep the information to himself, and allow the husband to donate his organ, even though the patient—his wife—has been cheating and planning to leave him.
2. There are two different varieties of deontological theory that we discussed this semester. Identify these two varieties, and then provide a detailed analysis of the differences of the theories. Do these two theories agree about what the right action is in every set of circumstances, or do they disagree? Why?
3. In many instances, the actions prescribed by utilitarianism are at odds with certain moral concepts or intuitions. Explain this criticism of utilitarian theory using an example. What types os actions that are prescribed by the theory are difficult for us to swallow? Why are these difficult actions, and what does this mean for utilitarian theory?
4. How does virtue theory differ from the other two normative theories we studied? One of the reasons that virtue theory is often said to be more attractive than deontology is because of how it has a spiritual element, and can motivate the agent to be good. Explain how these are two features that are lacking in deontological theory. Do you find the criticisms against deontological systems forceful? Does an agent need personal motivation to do the right thing, or is it just a necessary evil we should accept?
5. One of the main criticisms of Kantian theory relates to the absolutism of moral principles or laws. The criticism is tied to a thought experiment set in 1940s Europe. It tells us to think about cases in which certain of Kant's laws should be overridden by other moral considerations, but this is not a possibility with perfect duties. Explain this criticism, and how the example works to show us the untenable nature of absolute law. What types of laws are a suitable alternative, and fit with our intuitions about the example.
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