Practical Ethics - materials for students



Brief lectures on 3 common ethical approaches

Ethics ?

Fun! To use pictures like these. But there is something deeply wrong with this picture.

The first wrong is that I simply grabbed it from the internet. Isn't it a form of theft? But the picture is publicly accessible anyway, and if I use it, no one will miss it. So it is not immediately clear whether that using this picture is a wrong or right thing to do. Of course even moral philosophers can be bad girls or guys.

The second thing is that this picture is fully misleading on this page. Ethics and ethical reflection - especially in professional ethics courses - is hardly about choosing between what is clearly right (what the angel says) and what is wrong (what the devil pushes you to choose). The central issue of almost any ethics course or ethical dilemma, is that it is often far from clear about what is the right thing to do. And that it is important to think, discuss, and argue about that, in order to come to conclusions that can be justified to one another. And that requires some deliberation, argumentation and philosophical skills. Ethics is not so much about learning how you should act, much more about how to think about how to act.

What is fun is that such reflection often involves asking questions about things that we normally take for granted. To give just one example: if we wonder about whether or not it is wrong to just grab a picture from the web and use it on your personal website, it might be helpful to think about what makes stealing wrong. And is that reason at issue, when one is re-using this picture? Go ahead and think!