Required Resources
Read/review the following resources for this activity:

  • Textbook: Chapters 3, 4
  • Lesson
  • Minimum of 1 scholarly source (in addition to the textbook)

Initial Post Instructions
St. Augustine in the 5th Century held that we are free to make choices in life. This is the idea of free will. It may seem at first glance odd for a religious thinker to say that we have free will. After all, if God exists, then God created all things. God knows already what we will do. God can cause anything to occur. If we cause things to occur, that seems to be a limitation on the power of God and not make God all-powerful.

There are also religion traditions that say that we have no free will. There are some theologians in Islam who seem to suggest that is true. In order for this line of reasoning to hold true, one would need to believe free will is an illusion and that we have no control over how we live our lives, but rather that we are puppets moving and acting due to God’s will and the powers of destiny and fate. And if this then in the case, how can we possibly be responsible for our actions?

The considerations above show us to what degree our religious beliefs can shape us. For instance, someone who believes in free will may experience way more guilt than someone who believes we don’t have free will and thus aren’t responsible for the choices (and consequences) of the actions we take.

Personal struggles with religion and ethics occur in many places, including in the healthcare arena. Consider the following: You are a nurse in a hospital. A 12 year-old was brought to the hospital by an ambulance. The parents have just arrived at the hospital. This 12 year-old has lost a large amount of blood and requires a transfusion. The parents happen to be members of a religion that believes that blood transfusions are immoral. They want to remove the child from the hospital and prevent the transfusion even if it means the death of the child. You have to decide whether or not you will participate in an action that violates the will of the parents and aid in providing blood for the child. If you choose to participate, and even if you are able to legally justify it, you have to think about the distress you are creating for the parents. If you refuse to aid here, you may be subject to retaliation from the hospital. What is the moral thing for the nurse to do here?

Initial Post Instructions
For the initial post, address the following questions:

  1. What would a divine command ethicist say is the moral thing to do here? Why would they say that? Do you agree with the divine command ethics? Why or why not?
  2. Evaluate what a natural law ethicist would say is right to do. Do you agree with them? Why or why not?
  3. Given what you said are the right things to do, what would an emotivist say about your positions and judgments? What role does subjectivity play here in determining what is ethical?

Follow-Up Post Instructions
Respond to at least one peer. Further the dialogue by providing more information and clarification.

Writing Requirements

  • Minimum of 2 posts (1 initial & 1 follow-up)
  • Minimum of 2 sources cited (assigned readings/online lessons and an outside scholarly source)
  • APA format for in-text citations and list of references

answer1: 

Hello professor and class,

According to the Divine Command Theory, “God decree what is right and wrong. Action that God commands us to do is morally required; actions that God forbids us to do are morally wrong, and all other actions are morally neutral”(Rachel and Rachel, 2019). For this scenario, the divine command ethicist would say if God has forbidden her from getting blood, so it’s the right thing for her to avoid blood transfusion. I would say that I do not necessarily agree with the divine command ethicist since the definition of morality is not clear. However, in this situation, it is best to respect the patient’s wish. If the doctor decided to give her a blood transfusion; it might lead to a difficult situation for her since the doctor doesn’t respect her wish and her religious belief. In addition, she might feel guilty and shame against the rule and expectations of her religion.

Regarding the Natural Law Theory, explain everything around is us is based nature of things (Rachel and Rachel, 2019). The theory of natural law indicates reasoning will determine what is right and wrong in society disregarding religious belief. Based on this scenario, the natural law ethicist would say that if blood transfusion can save the life of humans, so this child will be able to receive a blood transfusion. I totally agree with the natural law ethicist. 

Emotivism points out “that judgments are neither true nor false will express our emotion and try to influence others to agree with us” (Messerly et al, 2019). An emotivist would say if I believe that getting transfusion is a moral thing to do, other peoples might not agree with me, but it is right as long I don’t regret saying it. In addition, I just revealing my feeling and, simultaneously, motivate everyone that getting a blood transfusion is saving a life. Ethical subjectivist believes that “moral statement is made true or false by the attitudes or conventions of the observers, and any ethical sentence just implies an attitude, opinion, personal preference or feeling held by someone” (Philosophy basic). For this case, it will be hard for the nurses to determine what to do and motivate the family to give her blood.

answer 2:

Professor Robinson & Class,

            I remember taking NR222 Health & Wellness and learning about how various religions and cultural practices affect medical treatment. Prior to taking NR222, I believed that medical professionals were required to do whatever is necessary to save a patient’s life. However, I quickly learned that having considerations for a patient’s religion is a major component of providing optimal patient-centered care. Patients have the right to deny any form of treatment due to cultural, religious or just simply for personal reasons. As nurses, we are responsible for educating the patient about the potential risks if they deny a recommended treatment such as the risk of death like in this scenario. Honestly, in my heart I would want to perform the blood transfusion to save the child’s life. However, I know that is my personal feelings and I would have to put that aside to respect the patient and family’s decision. Based on the knowledge I have now, I would not go ahead with the blood transfusion without consent. I would inform the provider that the patient’s family is denying treatment and would probably reach out to the ethics board at the institution to inform them of the matter and follow the recommended protocol.

            In this situation, a divine command ethicist would say the moral thing to do is not to get the transfusion if that is what is expected of their religion. I do not agree with this notion because I do believe people have the right to choose what they desire. I have spiritual beliefs as well but I don’t believe that if the family desired a blood transfusion to save their child that they should refuse it based on their religious practice. The choice should be made by what they want for themselves. If their religion, influences their decision I would have no choice but to respect it and advocate their needs to their provider, I believe a natural law ethicist would say the decision is up to the family. It seems to me like they believe that the individual determines what is right for themselves based on their own instinct and that there are no moral principles that one must abide by. Natural law ethicist ultimately believe that God has given us the right to reason (Rachels & Rachels, 2019, p. 56). Therefore, they believe the family has the right to deny the transfusion as well. I agree with this as well because I am pro-choice. Based on my decision, I believe an emotivist would say that I am deciding based on my personal feelings and emotions. As I mentioned earlier, in my heart, I would want to perform the transfusion to save the child’s life. Emotivists believe that morality is centered on what someone feels is right or wrong. The moral commands are co-created by social reality and accepted concept, which ultimately influences one’s decisions (Mróz, 2018, p. 19). Therefore, subjectivity is the core component of emotivism because the individual essentially makes their own decisions based on their emotions regarding the situation at hand.

Lesson: 

Faith and Feeling

Divine Command Ethics 

The Medieval philosopher Maimonides said that the Jewish Bible (what Christians call the “Old Testament”) is really a philosophy book. For Maimonides, the first five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) were all Moses’s prophecy. In those books, we meet Abraham. For Maimonides, Abraham was a theorist of monotheism. He tried to convince others that one and only one God existed and that that God was ultimate in nature (all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing, etc.) Abraham tried to use reason to show God existed per Maimonides. We need not reference the Christian or Jewish Bible as the ideas we are exploring deal with logic and reason and raise issues all religions have to face at some point.

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Why should we think God exists? Divine command theory requires that God exists. One argument given is the cosmological proofs. It tries to show God must exist. All things in this world are caused. For instance, parents are the cause of a child. But, the chain of causes and effects cannot stretch infinitely backwards since if it did, then this present moment which exists would not exist (as it would have taken an infinite time to get to this point and infinity never lapses). Therefore, there must be a first cause. But, this first cause cannot be caused by anything before it as that would reproduce the problem of stretching back. There must then be a first cause. That first cause must therefore be self-caused. Only something eternal can be self-caused since to be by oneself requires to always be there to be one’s own cause. Only God satisfies this definition of first cause. Therefore, God exists.

This proof shows us that God is eternal, and is self-caused. But, does it show us that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-Good? Medieval Christian Philosopher St. Anselm of Canterbury offers an ontological proof. Anselm is not arguing God only exists in the mind, but that the very idea of God in the mind shows God cannot only exist as an idea. Rather than referring to sources, philosophers say one must use logic here. Anselm’s proof deals with being conscious of a specific idea of God. Anselm begins by saying the idea of God is that of which nothing greater can be. Nothing greater means all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good. Due to this idea being as it is, God must not just exist as this idea, but also in reality outside of the mind since if God did not exist in reality outside of the mind God would not be that which nothing greater can be (something that exists only as an idea in the mind is less than what exists outside the mind). To review Anselm in general: He argued that God means that which nothing can be greater than can be conceived of. But, if God is greater than anything that can be conceived, then God must not just be an idea in the mind but something beyond the mind.

We think that we now have good reason for saying God is. We think we know God is an omni-God (all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, etc.). If God did not know all, God would not be ultimate. If something was more powerful than God, it would be ultimate. There can only be one such omni-God since nothing is greater than God per Anselm’s ideas above.

But then comes the inevitable question: how can a God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good permit so much pain and suffering (evil) in the world? The argument from evil answers it by saying that such a definition of God is incompatible with how the world is (thus, showing no such God exists). In other words, this view says that the evil and suffering in the world is so excessive that no omni-God would allow it. Those who would agree with Anselm would argue that even evil and suffering is part of a divine plan.

In a story found in the Jewish Bible as well as that of Christianity (a very similar version is also found in the Koran), the prophet Abraham hears a voice in his head calling him to journey to a mountain. Abraham interprets this voice to mean that he should take his son, Isaac, to Mount Moriah (where Jerusalem is today) to sacrifice his son (kill him on an altar) to God. Apparently, Mount Moriah at the time of Abraham was known as the key mountain and a place of religious rituals. Therefore, Abraham interprets it as God’s divine command to end his son’s life to please God.

Is Abraham’s decision to kill his son moral? Is it the right thing to do? A very ancient ethical concept that reaches all the way back to Socrates is that moral and ethical living consists simply of obeying divine commands. Variations of this theory occur in the world’s historic religions. The idea is that whatever is commanded by the gods or God is right by virtue of the source of the command. What God commands is right; what God forbids is wrong.

Conceiving God as a lawgiver means that he has given laws to obey; yet with human free will we can accept or reject them and face the resulting benefits or penalties attached to freely made choices. This theory is accompanied with a secondary concept of being held accountable for the free choices at a future time. There will be objections to every ethical theory we meet, and there is a lot to be learned by thinking through the objections.

Cloning

Images of humans in test tubes

By cloning, we mean the recreation of a human being using that human being’s genetic means producing a twin of yourself. Many people’s first reaction to cloning is that it is wrong because it is “playing God”. But, what do we mean by “playing God”? Do we mean that God forbids it? Or, do we mean that we are all-powerful when we are not supposed to be? The first idea returns us to divine command ethics. If God forbids cloning, we need to be able to show that there is really such a prohibition against it. The ten commandments prohibit lying, but do they say anything about copying oneself? As for not playing God, that ethical objection makes it seem like we are usurping a power that is not rightfully ours. We clearly have been given the ability to reproduce ourselves (via mating). We have been given the power to use science (via our knowledge). When we have sexual relations, we also can make twins; we do not call that “playing God”. Thus, the idea of playing God seems to return us to divine command ethics. When we object to cloning as “playing God,” we seem again to be saying that God forbids it (and if God forbids it, then it is wrong). If we just meant that we are overestimating our powers, then we would need to show why it is immoral to do that.

Watch this video to learn more:

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Emotivism and IVF

Adult hand holding baby’s hand with a bar code over it

IVF stands for In-Vitro-Fertilization. In this procedure, an egg is taken from an ovulating woman and joined with human sperm in a laboratory. Some people might object to this procedure as unnatural. They would say that the natural way of producing a child is via sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.This appeal to what is natural is often called the appeal to nature fallacy. By fallacy, we mean improper or poor reasoning. Saying something is right only if it is done as it is done in nature isn’t sound reasoning as to the ‘rightness’ of something. Afterall, we find poisons and other harmful things in nature. This is a problem often confronted by those who reject things produced by machines. They do not want foods that involve chemicals. However, many “natural” foods can be bad for our health (i.e. tobacco is natural and yet not good for our health).

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Emotivism is a moral theory that says moral judgments are just expressions of subjective states. In other words, when we say that something (x) is unethical, we are really just saying that the idea of x makes me feel bad. I do not like the idea of x. We can relate this to IVF. Someone might say that IFV is unethical. They are saying in this regard that the idea of IVF disturbs me when I contemplate it. I am only expressing an attitude and reaction to the idea. Emotivism says the same about judgements that something is ethical. When we say that something is ethical, we are only stating that the idea of that thing is pleasant to us when we contemplate it being done.

If we unpack this more, we are basically saying that moral judgments are just expressions of feeling and/or preference, which then is like saying we do or do not like a specific food. We do not think it is proper to impel someone to eat ice cream just because we happen to like its taste. If emotivism is right, then we lose a basis for saying that morality has an obligatory force. It no longer appears binding. It no longer compels us to agree. We need reasons and logic to be able to convince another that something is ethical or not.

Natural Law Ethics and Sexuality 

Two women holding hands. One of the woman appears pregnant.

Modern America appears to accept that there are different forms of sexual desire. It also accepts those differing forms of desire as normal. We can see this in our legal system. Couples of the same sex are now able to legally marry. That legally couples have that ability does not mean everyone in America agrees that what is in this case legal is also moral. For example, some religious individuals say that marriage is only meant to be between a man and woman since the purpose of marriage is having children. Since two same sex people on their own cannot have children, they should not marry according to religious dogma. However, even if using this religious objector to argue against same sex relationships, one would have to also then show that violating the purpose of a thing is immoral.

It is natural law ethics that says that violating the purpose of something is immoral. It does this largely due to the idea that things have a divinely created purpose. Natural law ethics rests on a set of three related ideas about what the world is like:

  1. The world has a rational and systematic order in which values and purposes are built into all things and the nature of the world. From Aristotle, everything in nature has a purpose. Nothing lacks purpose.
  2. Laws of nature not only describe how the things of the world are, but also how they ought to be. All things go right when they serve their natural purposes and wrong when they depart from their purposes.
  3. Natural law ethics says that reason is the power to understand a natural order (to observe purposes), for which God is the author and which human beings are able to understand as God has made us rational beings.

We see here that natural law ethics takes us back to divine command ethics. We are ultimately saying that it is wrong to violate the purpose of things because God commanded them to be that way. By doing something against its purpose, we are then violating what God said is the right reason for doing something. Even though we are talking about things like the goal of marriage, we are thus leading back to God and what God says must be done. We see here how issues such as marriage, sexuality, religion, and ethics are interlinked.

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