The information that you will need for the first part of the discussion can be found in Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues. For one of these cases below, identify the parties involved and the moral issue(s) at stake, keeping an eye out for similarities that it shares with the other cases. Concentrate on identifying which universal moral duties are at stake; also assess how the principle of respect for persons applies to the cases.
-Ch.4, p.49, Case 13d–The Airline Pilot. (in 10th edition p.50, Case 11d)*
Case 11d. An airline pilot goes for his regular medical checkup. The doctor discovers that he has developed a heart murmur. The pilot has only a month to go before he is eligible for retirement. The doctor knows this and wonders whether, under these unusual circumstances, she is justified in withholding the information about the pilot’s condition.
-Ch.9, p.121, Case 20–Sally’s Promise. (Same in 10th edition)
Case 20. When Sally’s father was gravely ill, he called her to his bedside and said, “I’d always hoped I’d see you graduate from college and go on to become a physicist, but I know death is near. Promise me one thing—that you’ll keep on studying hard and become a physicist.” Sally was deeply moved. “I will,” she responded; “I swear to you I will.” Her father died shortly thereafter. Now it is two years later, and Sally is ready to graduate from college. But she will not become a physicist. She has decided to go to law school.
-Ch.7, p.96, Case 15–A Mother’s New Information. (in 10th edition p.96, Case 13)*
Case 13. A woman learns that her son-in-law fathered an illegitimate child several years before he met her daughter. (He and his wife have been happily married for ten years. They are childless.) She is sure her daughter is not aware of this and has reason to doubt that she would ever find out about it by herself. The woman feels obliged to tell her, however, and does so.
In this week’s module, we saw that Kant took the notion of a will that is not subjected to a chain of predetermining causes as the lynchpin of his moral system. Kant recognized that it is because we happen to be to some extent free to choose our courses of action that it makes any sense at all to speak of praising or blaming us for those actions. However, we also saw that Kant admitted there to be a faculty of choice by which our desires and beliefs—the things that we experience ourselves as having and that are caused by prior events—shape and cause the decisions we make. What this means therefore is that, according to Kant, human choice is problematic because it is capable of being viewed from two separate and seemingly incompatible perspectives, simultaneously:
1. As part of a chain of causes and so, being determined by it. (a thesis in metaphysics known as Determinism)
2. As standing outside a chain of causes (a metaphysical thesis known as the Free Will thesis)
Provide a description of human choice that can be seen to exemplify both of the above perspectives. (Note you may either choose to describe a different human choice or action for each of the two perspectives, or describe the same choice from the standpoint of both perspectives at once). Do you think it is possible, as Kant did, to view human choice and action as being both free and caused, or was Kant mistaken, and are these positions mutually exclusive?