Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Blog Assignment #9


In this section, we're going to return for a moment to Chapter 7, to the section that discusses errors that are common in the analysis of moral issues (p. 89). Briefly explain each of the following errors in your own words, as if you were explaining the concept to a friend who had never taken this class (consider who, what, when, where, why, how, when); and then give an example of each one, preferably from your own past experience.

Unwarranted Assumptions: Unwarranted assumptions are when we presume to know something that is not actually stated in the details of a situation. We are making an unwarranted assumption when we believe something to be true that has not actually been proven. Suppose a doctor was going to pull the plug on a comatose, but otherwise living patient who was hooked up to life support. We wouldn't be able to judge the action without understanding more intimate details about the situation, such as the requests of the family or a do not resuscitate provision on the patient's chart. If the family agreed that the patient had no quality of life, or the person who was comatose asked to be taken off life support in a living will, then the action of the doctor couldn't be unethical. However, if the quality of life of the patient was questionable, or the family members with power of attorney carried ulterior motives, then the actions of the doctor would be unethical. Assuming either outcome without knowing the facts would be unwarranted.

Oversimplification: Oversimplification makes us blind to details of an issue because it makes generalizations that can often ignore important details. An example of oversimplification can be found in the issues surrounding abortion. Many people who oppose abortion ignore that our population would explode without it and many people who support it ignore the barbarism of late term abortions. Oversimplification is the equivalent of putting blinders on and having "tunnel vision." A few details become important and other details which can many times be just as important are ignored.

Hasty Conclusions: Hasty conclusions occur when we make judgments about a situation based on our own biases without clearly and objectively examining an issue. For instance, some claim that Barack Obama had knowledge of Rod Blagojevich trying to sell his senate seat to the highest bidder. Some people made hasty conclusions that Barack Obama had to have knowledge of this because he was such a big part of Illinois politics. Many of these people had an open conservative bias and this probably shrouded their view of what was going on. More details would be needed to accurately draw that conclusion.


Briefly answer the following "chapter opening" questions, in your own words, based on what you learned by studying chapter eight:

1. What do we do in situations where there is more than a single obligation? In situations where there is more than a single obligation we must try to find a middle ground and give preference to both in a compromise. When this can't be done and we can only choose to honor one obligation and break the others, we must give preference to the obligation that carries more importance. For instance, when a trucking company is screening drivers and finds that some have DUIs on their record but it occurred a long time ago, they must choose between the liability of losing their load and truck on a bad driver and the welfare of the driver. In this case, the potential losses associated with someone with a recorded history of negligent driving would have to outweigh the welfare of the driver because the loss of the truck and load affect many more people than the driver alone. Therefore, the driver is not hired because of the company's obligation to promote safety on the highways and get loads safely to their customers.

2. How can we reconcile conflicting obligations? In order to reconcile conflicting obligations we must consider the relative importance of each and give preference to the more important one. For instance, a psychiatrist has an obligation to preserve a patient's privacy. However, if a patient tells the psychiatrist that they are planning to harm other people then the psychiatrist is ethically obliged to inform the authorities so as to prevent something bad from happening. In this case, preference was given to the more important obligation of the psychiatrist to prevent unlawful things from being committed by the patient.


1. In a nutshell, what is the most important thing, for you, that you learned from this assignment? The most important thing I learned from this assignment was the importance of carefully weighing each detail of a situation before making a judgment. There are so many fallacies associated with making an ethical analysis such as oversimplification, hasty conclusions, and unwarranted assumptions. I learned to try and compromise and honor multiple obligations when it is possible. When it is not possible, I learned to honor the obligation that carries the most importance.

2. How will you apply what you learned through this assignment to your everyday life? In my everyday life I will try to avoid jumping to hasty conclusions as I often do. It is all too easy to jump to conclusions based on my biases and I will make a conscious effort to stop doing that in the future. Also, I will try to avoid the other problems the book talked about such as oversimplification and unwarranted assumptions.

3. What grade do you believe your efforts regarding this assignment deserve? Justify your answer. I believe I deserve full credit for this assignment because I answered all the questions fully in paragraph form and gave an example in each answer. I used specific rationale directly from the book which proves I read the chapter.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent examples! It was clear to me, as the reader, that these were examples of moral judgment errors. Frequently, students offer great examples--but it's not clear that they are illustrating moral judgment; rather, some examples seem to be highlighting preference judgment. So great job here--very thorough, and highly relevant to the chapter and topic at hand.

    My challenging question for you this time is this: How does the notion, "sense of proportion" fit into your response to the question, "What do we do in situations where there is more than a single obligation?"