These review questions are designed to test your understanding of the topics discussed in each chapter. They are a useful way of assessing what you have learned about and from the issues raised.
AS Unit A Religion and Ethics 1
- Situation Ethics
- Religious teaching on the nature and value of human life
- Euthanasia and the right to life
AS Unit B Religion and Ethics 2
A2 Unit 3A Religion and Ethics
- Virtue ethics
- Religious views on sexual behaviour and human relationships
- Science and technology
- What is the ‘is-ought’ fallacy?
- Compare and contrast the following: meta-ethics, normative ethics and applied ethics.
- Explain the difference between Deontological Ethics and Teleological Ethics.
- What would be the problems if everyone acted as an Act Utilitarian all the time?
- Are all actions only good because they have good results?
- Suppose a rape is committed that is thought to be racially motivated. Riots are brewing that may result in many deaths and long-term racial antagonism. You are the police chief and have recently taken a man into custody. Why not frame him? He will be imprisoned if found guilty and this will result in peace and safety. Only you, the innocent man and the real rapist (who will keep quiet) will know the truth. What is the morally right thing to do? Look at all the consequences of any action.
- Suppose a surgeon could use the organs of one healthy patient to save the lives of several others. Would the surgeon be justified in killing the healthy patient for the sake of the others?
- You are an army officer who has just captured an enemy soldier who knows where a secret time bomb is planted. If it explodes it will kill thousands. Will it be morally permissible to torture the soldier so that he reveals the bomb’s location? If you knew where the soldier’s children were, would it also be permissible to torture them to get him to reveal the bomb’s whereabouts?
- Suppose that you were God, and, because you are onmibenevolent, you want your creatures to be as happy as possible across time (i.e. you believe in Utilitarianism). If you were choosing a moral code to teach your created people that would make them all happy, what code would you teach them?
- Explain the distinction between Act and Rule Utilitarianism and why Rule Utilitarianism came about.
- The country is threatened with drought, so people are urged to conserve water and hosepipe bans are in force. Joe lives in an isolated part of the country and nobody ever drives past his house. The water company has forgotten Joe exists and so he is never billed for his water. Joe knows about the hosepipe ban, but he really wants a green lawn. His lawn is tiny, so he knows he will not be harming anyone if he waters it and the small amount he uses will not affect the drought. Joe continues to use water. What would an Act Utilitarian say about this? What would a Rule Utilitarian say? Give reasons.
- Explain the main principle of Utilitarianism.
- Explain the Utilitarianism of Bentham.
- Explain the Utilitarianism of Mill.
- Explain the differences between Act and Rule Utilitarianism.
These three examples are taken from William Barclay’s Ethics in a Permissive Society (1971). Barclay wants you to agree with the actions; can you see other ways of acting?
- Suppose in a burning house there is your aged father, an old man, with the days of his usefulness at an end, and a doctor who has discovered a cure for one of the world’s great killer diseases and who still carries the formulae in his head, and you can save only one – whom do you save? Your father who is dear to you, or the doctor in whose hands there are thousands of lives? Which is love?
- On the Wilderness trail, Daniel Boone’s trail, westward through Cumberland Gap to Kentucky, many families in the trail caravans lost their lives to the Indians. A Scottish woman had a baby at the breast. The baby was ill and crying, and the baby’s crying was betraying her other three children and the rest of the party; the party clearly could not remain hidden if the baby continued crying; their position would be given away. Well, the mother clung to the baby; the baby’s cries led the Indians to the position, the party was discovered, and all were massacred. There was another such occasion. On this occasion there was a Negro woman in the party. Her baby too was crying and threatening to betray the party. She strangled the baby with her own two hands to stop its crying – and the whole party escaped. Which action is love?
- What about the commandment that you must not kill? When T.E. Lawrence (1888–1935, a British Army officer who had a very important liaison role in the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule in 1916–18) was leading his Arabs, two of his men had a quarrel and in the quarrel Hamed killed Salem. Lawrence knew that a blood feud would arise in which both families would be involved, and that one whole family would be out to murder the other whole family. What did Lawrence do? He thought it out and then with his own hands he killed Hamed and thus stopped the blood feud. Was this right? Was this action that stopped a blood feud and prevented scores of people from being murdered an act of murder or of love?
- Ethically, has humanity come of age, as Bishop John Robinson suggested in 1966?
- To what extent is love compatible with human nature?
- Why might critics of Situation Ethics argue that it is really Utilitarianism under a different name?
- Explain why some critics have questioned whether Situation ethics is really Christian.
- What did Fletcher mean by agape?
- Why is the difference between legalism, antinomianism and situationalism?
- Research the different Christian views on the role of women in the Church. What other groups could be seen as marginalised by the Church – e.g. disabled people, homosexuals – and what are the results for the Christian community? What gives people human dignity? What does having human dignity mean in practice?
- What would make anyone want to go to war?
- Under what circumstances would you be prepared to go to war?
- Under what circumstances would you not be prepared to go to war?
- Is the ‘war against terrorism’ truly a war?
- Can you think of any circumstance in which someone would be justified in killing another person?
- Why does it always appear that the enemy’s justification for war is weaker than our own?
- Is it morally defensible to have rules for war?
- What problems can you see with the following imaginary press release? ‘During a recent action against terrorism, the ground troops called up air support who carried out a targeted strike using smart missiles. Collateral damage was kept to a minimum, with the loss of a few to friendly fire. There were few casualties.’
- Explain how Christians understand the concept of free will.
- Explain the different Christian approaches to the roles of men and women in the Church and in society.
Make brief bullet point notes on each of the following:
- Jus ad bellum
- Jus in bello
- Make a chart of the strengths and weaknesses of Just War theory in protecting innocent life.
- Make a chart of the strengths and weaknesses of pacifism in protecting innocent life.
What would your reaction be to the following:
- A suicide bomber who kills many people in a crowded marketplace
- A man who shoots an intruder in his house
- A soldier who kills in war
- A compulsive serial killer.
- Do we think some lives are more valuable than others? (For example how do we justify spending money on fertilisation treatment for a couple when the money could be used to improve the quality of life of the sick and elderly? Or justify allowing thousands to die of starvation in Africa? Or think it more tragic if a young person dies than if an old person dies?)
What do you think makes a human life a person? This question is vital, as the answer depends on whether or not it is right to end the life of the foetus, and the answer is crucial for evaluating the following argument:
- The foetus is an innocent person.
- It is wrong to end the life of an innocent person.
- Therefore, it is wrong to end the life of a foetus.
- So is a foetus a person, at which stage does it become a person and what are the necessary criteria for personhood?
- Do we become an individual with rights only at birth?
- Is the foetus a separate individual like the violinist or is it part of the woman’s body?
- Would unplugging the violinist be the same as actively killing him?
- The violinist was forced on the woman against her will; does this mean that this argument supports abortion only in cases of rape?
- Is there a point at which a foetus is not a human being?
- Does a person’s right to life outweigh your right to decide what happens in and to your body?
- Make a list of all the qualities you think a human being has – compare your list to that of Mary Ann Warren.
- Explain the difference between a person and a potential person.
- Does it matter that the foetus is just a potential person?
- Is a new born baby still a potential person? Does that matter?
- Explain the link between abortion and the sanctity of life.
- What is the Doctrine of Double Effect?
- How might it be argued that abortion is not murder?
- How might a consideration of rights affect the arguments in relation to abortion?
- Is the sanctity of life ethic out of date? What could replace it?
- What problems do you see in the doctrine of double effect?
- Is there any point to suffering and can it help a person to become nearer to God?
- What problems do you foresee in stressing the quality of life?
- Is it wrong to help humans to die when they are actually dying? How do we decide when the dying process has begun?
In pairs or groups research one of the following and apply religious and ethical teaching to it:
- Tony Bland and his doctor, Jim Howe
- Diane Pretty
- Annie Lindsell
- Baby Charlotte Wyatt
- Mary Ormerod
- Terri Schiavo
- Dr Anne Turner and Dignitas.
(a) Explain the link between euthanasia and the sanctity of life.
(b) Explain the link between euthanasia and the quality of life.
- What is the difference between killing and letting die? Does it matter?
- What are QUALYS?
- Explain the methods and importance of the modern hospice movement.
- Why does Kant believe that the ‘good will’ is the only thing that is good without qualification? Can you think of anything else that is good without qualification? What are Kant’s supporting reasons? Do you agree with him?
How would Kant suggest that, where there is a clash of duties, we know what takes precedence by following the categorical imperative? Does this work?
Discuss the following:
- It is your turn to make a presentation in class and you are running late. On the way you witness a car crash and are asked to wait to make a statement to the police.
- If only actual persons are ends in themselves, how would a Kantian approach a student who accidentally becomes pregnant and decides to have an abortion so as to continue her studies?
- ‘If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend I hope I should have the guts to betray my country’ (E.M. Forster). Do you agree?
- What did Kant mean by ‘good will’?
- Why is duty important to Kant?
- Make a spider diagram or mind map of the categorical imperative, with examples.
- Make a chart of the strengths and weaknesses of Kantian ethics.
- How does Aquinas use and change Aristotle’s ideas?
- Explain how Natural Law, according to Aquinas, can lead us to the supreme good.
- Explain where Natural Law may be found and how it can show us how we ought to behave.
- The Catholic Church has a number of secondary precepts on issues such as abortion. Would the prohibition of the abortion of a foetus growing in the fallopian tubes represent incorrect reasoning?
- The biological purpose of sex is procreation, but it may have a secondary purpose of giving pleasure and showing love. Does sex always need to be open to the possibility of procreation? How far should the secondary purpose be considered?
- The doctrine of double effect is often used in war. Is it acceptable to bomb a military command base in the centre of a civilian population and next to a hospital if the deaths of the civilians are not intended but simply foreseen?
- ‘All human beings have a common human nature, and homosexuality is against human nature.’ Consider arguments for and against this statement.
- Where did Natural Law come from?
- What did Aquinas see as the purpose of human beings?
- How do we discover the primary and secondary precepts and what are they?
- Make a chart of the strengths and weaknesses of Natural Law.
- Compare and find evidence for the different interpretations of Dominion (there is more information in the chapter on the environment). How do the different interpretations guide religious attitudes and behaviour to the created world?
- Explain the relationship between the created and the uncreated world.
- What is the significance of the teaching about ex nihilo?
- Examine the relationship between the concepts of stewardship and dominion.
- How is an understanding of teachings about the created and uncreated world important in discussions about the problem of evil?
- Research different views on climate change and assess the strengths and weaknesses of each view.
- Make a list of everything you think should have moral standing and justify your answer.
- Give reasons for and against being vegetarian in order to conserve the environment.
- If all life is created by God, show how the teleological argument for the existence of God implies respect for his creative design.
- Explain how the Biblical sources could back up differing approaches to the environment.
- Explain why it is important that the natural world should have intrinsic value.
- ‘Humans should care for their own kind first.’ How far do you think religious ethics would agree with this?
- Read the passage below assigned to your group.
(a) Summarise the main points.
(b) Identify the key ethical arguments in the passage.
(c) Choose one environmental problem (e.g. destruction of the rain forest, saving an endangered species, pollution or global warming) and consider the implications of implementing the environmental ethic from the passage you have read. Look at both positives and negatives.
(d) Give your own views on the environmental ethic put forward in your passage – as a group or as individuals if there is disagreement.
‘The Land Ethic’ from Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac (1949) (pp.201–4)
There is as yet no ethic dealing with man’s relation to land and to the animals and plants that grow upon it. Land, like Odysseus’ slave girls, is still property. The land relation is still strictly economic, entailing privileges, but not obligations. The extension of ethics to this element in human environment is, if I read the evidence correctly, an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity. … The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land. This sounds simple: do we not already sing our love for obligation to the land of the free and the home of the brave? Yes, but just what and whom do we love? Certainly not the soil, which we are sending helter-skelter downriver. Certainly not the waters, which we assume have no function except to turn turbines, float barges, and carry off sewage. Certainly not the plants, of which we exterminate whole communities without batting an eye. Certainly not the animals, of which we have already exterminated many of the largest and most beautiful species. A land ethic of course cannot prevent the alteration, management, and use of these ‘resources’ but it does affirm their right to continued existence, and, at least in spots, their continued existence in a natural state. In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.
‘Utilitarian Environmental Ethics’ from Peter Singer’s Practical Ethics (1979) (pp. 56–7)
The argument for extending the principle of equality beyond our own species is simple, so simple that it amounts to no more than a clear understanding of the principle of equal consideration of interests. We have seen that this principle implies that out concern for others ought not to depend on what they are like, or what abilities they possess (although precisely what this concern requires us to do may vary according to the characteristics of those affected by what we do). It is on this basis we are able to say that the fact that some people are not members of our race does not entitle us to exploit them, and similarly the fact that some people are less intelligent than others does not mean their interests may be disregarded. But the principle also implies that the fact that beings are not members of our species does not entitle us to exploit them, and similarly the fact that other animals are less intelligent than we are does not mean that their interests may be disregarded. … A stone does not have interests because it cannot suffer. Nothing that we can do can possibly make any difference to its welfare. A mouse, on the other hand, does have an interest in not being tormented, because mice will suffer if treated in this way.
‘Instrumental Environmental Ethics’ from David Pearce et al.’s Blueprint for a Green Economy (1995) (pp. 5–7)
One of the central themes of environmental economics, and central to sustainable development thinking also, is the need to place proper values on the services provided by natural environments. The central problem is that many of these services are provided ‘free’. They have a zero price simply because no market place exists in which their true values can be revealed through the acts of buying and selling. Examples might be a fine view, the water purifications and storm protection functions of coastal wetlands, or the biological diversity within a tropical rainforest. The elementary theory of supply and demand tells us that if something is provided at a zero price, more of it will be demanded than if there was a positive price. Very simply, the cheaper it is the more will be demanded. The danger is that this greater level of demand will be unrelated to the capacity of the relevant natural environments to meet the demand. For example, by treating the ozone layer as a resource with zero price there never was any incentive to protect it. Its value to human populations and to the global environment in general did not show up anywhere in a balance sheet of profit or loss, or of costs and benefits. The important principle is that resources and environments serve economic functions and have positive value. To treat them as if they had zero value is seriously to risk overusing the resource.… We have a sound a priori argument for supposing that the environment has been used to excess.
‘Deep Ecology’ from Devall and Sessions’s Deep Ecology (2001) (p. 70)
- The well-being and flourishing of human and non-human life on Earth have value in themselves (synonyms: intrinsic value, inherent value). These values are independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human purposes.
- Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realisation of these values and are also values in themselves.
- Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.
- The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of non-human life requires such a decrease.
- Present human interference with the non-human world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.
- Policies must therefore be changed. These policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.
- The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality (dwelling in situations of inherent value) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.
- Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to try to implement the necessary changes.
- Explain religious approaches to the environment and Singer’s objections.
- Make bullet point notes on the Gaia hypothesis. List reasons for and against it.
- Make a chart comparing deep (dark green) and shallow (light green) ecology.
- What philosophical problems occur when someone suggests ‘Conscience is the voice of God’?
- Is conscience learnt or innate?
- ‘It is not so much that I have a conscience – a special piece of equipment – as that I am a conscience.’ What do you think MacNamara means by this?
- What is the relationship between conscience and external authority in moral decision making?
- Do we, as Einstein said, ‘dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper’?
- From your own life and experiences list examples that show we are all determined. Can you think of other explanations for these events?
- Does hard determinism mean there is no point in the moral education of children?
- Does soft determinism overcome the problems of both hard determinism and libertarianism?
- If the future is determined, is God irrelevant?
Here are some situations in which there is, in principle, freedom of action. Yet how free are we to choose? Consider the problems faced when the influences of the society in which we live are
- the influence of upbringing – you need to lie to save a friend’s reputation. You know it is the kindest thing to do but you also know that your face will give the game away. What do you do?
- the influence of common politeness. You find a lesson really boring and covering material you already know; there are still thirty minutes to go. You are free to walk out but …
- the influence of convention – you are going to your sixth-year ball. Everyone is dressing up in their ball gowns and dinner suits. You are free to turn up dressed in jeans – or are you?
- the influence of social pressures – you visit your boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s parents and they serve you your least favourite meal and then ask if you enjoyed it. What do you do?
Can you add to this list any situations in which in one sense you are free to act as you like, but in another sense your hands are tied?
- Explain the roles of science, society and psychology in determinism.
The following is a list of virtues that lie in the mean between two vices. Write down what you think would be the vice of excess and the vice of deficiency for each one:
- What virtues do you think are most important in the world today and what are their corresponding vices?
- How does Aristotle’s approach to ethics differ from other ethical theories you have learnt?
- Does the Golden Mean imply that Aristotle supports mediocre people who do not take risks?
- Aristotle implies that being virtuous depends a little on upbringing, environment and so on. Do you agree?
- What virtues do you think are important in the twenty-first century? Do you think they will still be important in the future?
- Do you think Virtue Ethics is worth resurrecting? Why?
- If we have little control over our personalities, our upbringing or our environment, can we be praised for our virtues or blamed for not possessing virtues?
- What should someone do when faced with two different possible courses of action, both of which seem to express virtues?
- How do modern versions of Virtue Ethics differ from the Virtue Ethics of Aristotle?
- Where did Virtue Ethics originate?
- What is the difference between Virtue Ethics and other normative ethical theories?
- Explain Aristotle’s idea of the Golden Mean.
- How did Aristotle say we acquired virtues?
- How can Virtue Ethics help us in moral dilemmas?
- Make a chart of the strengths and weaknesses of Virtue Ethics.
- Research the changing attitudes in history to sexual relationships.
- How far do you consider that religious teaching on sexual relationships should take account of changing views in society today?
- How far should we consider the religious views on sexual relationships in a multicultural society so that we do not unwittingly cause offence?
- What does the Old Testament say about sexual ethics?
- What does the New Testament say about sexual ethics?
- Why and how did religious views about sex become linked with procreation?
- List the strengths and weaknesses of a traditional Christian approach to sexual ethics.
- Explain the differences between therapeutic and reproductive cloning.
- How could genetic engineering be used to alleviate world hunger? What are the problems with this?
- Explain the difference between adult and foetal stem cells – why is this important ethically?
- Take a current newspaper article about any form of genetic engineering or foetal research. Stick it on a piece of A3 paper and write brief notes around it on the ethical problems that arise from the issue.
- List some of the ethical problems with genetic engineering, foetal research and xenotransplantation.
Look up some of the following texts to see how Jesus’ ethics is based on, yet seems to reinterpret, the Jewish law:
- Matthew 5–7
- Mark 2:23 to 3:6
- Mark 7:1–23
- Do we need God to give meaning to life?
- Do you agree that ‘without God everything is permitted’?
- Explain the difference between ‘X is good because God wills it’ and ‘God wills X because it is good’.
- Read the Euthyphro Dilemma and work out the key criticisms of the argument.
- Can morality ever be founded on authority?
- How do you decide what is good or bad? Justify your view.
- Do you think Fletcher’s ethics are Christian?
- Analyse Fletcher’s view that ‘the end of love justifies the means’.
- Is Situation Ethics a useful guide for everyday ethical decisions?
- Are moral rules totally useless in moral decision making or can you see a role for them?
- Is the choice for Christian ethics just between legalism and situationism?
- ‘Businesses exist to make a profit.’ Is it society’s task to protect those who are badly affected in the process?
- Do you think standards of integrity in business are declining or not? Give reasons and examples.
- Do you think workers should participate in management?
- In what ways might a business be said to be ethical?
- How might Virtue Ethics be applied to business, particularly in relation to developing countries?
- Explain how decisions might be made about the treatment of braindead patients.
- Explain the arguments for and against medical trials on humans.