Ethics Survey

As we try to get a philosophical grasp on ethics, the confusion of theories, nuanced questions, and so forth tends to overwhelm quite a few students. The result is that the big questions and general ideas get lost.

From an educational perspective, it seems far more effective to first establish a baseline of ideas and beliefs – a general trend of one’s metaphysical outlook – and then explore what that means, how the questions and issues influence these naive initial positions, and to track these changes in a way that is also clear to the students.

The Ethics Survey is a simple tool I have developed for my ethics courses. The idea is that the students – or you, the reader – can go through a relatively short set of general questions, and answer with a “agree/disagree,” and then follow that up with an explanation or an example. For my courses, this survey is taken at the beginning of the course, and then again at the end. Although the questions are the same, the answers commonly are not – because the understanding of the meaning of these questions and their answers is what the course is all about.

Since a number of my courses have now migrated on-line, you can find the main four ethical systems explained on my YouTube channel here, and an analysis of the survey HERE.

If you have comments or questions, feel free to contact me either through this blog, or on my YouTube channel.

  1. Do you agree that there are universal and objective rights?(That means, rights that apply to everyone, everywhere, at all times; rights which do not depend on the preferences, attitudes, and the willingness of people to respect them?)
    • Can you give an example of such a right?
  1. Do you agree that there are universal and objective responsibilities? That means, responsibilities that apply to everyone, everywhere, if the situation comes up; responsibilities which do not depend on the preferences, attitudes, and the willingness of people to carry them out?
    • Can you give an example of such a responsibility?
  1. Do you agree that a person has a right to end their own life – in at least some circumstances?
    • If not, why not?
    • If yes, can you give an example of such circumstances?
  2. Do you agree that no one has the right to terminate a pregnancy, for any reason, at any time?
    • If agree, (no termination), why not?
    • If disagree (yes terminate), are there any limits to the exercise of this choice? If so, give an example.
  3. Do you agree that free speech should be a right? (Free speech is not slander: slander is making public accusations of wrong-doing without evidence and without going through proper channels – e.g. reporting to the police – where those accusations can be harmful to the subject)
    • If so, why?
    • If not, what sorts of restrictions should be placed on free speech?
  4. Do you agree that it is acceptable to act in a way that helps out the majority of people, even though some people will be worse-off because of it?
    • If so, why?
    • If not, why not?
  5. Do you agree that all the rules of right and wrong are up to us? That is, that we (individuals and societies) are the only deciders of what is right and wrong?
    • If so, why?
    • If not, why not?
  6. Do you agree that a society should be run by agreement of its members? That is, that the members should have the power to change the rules of society in any way, at any time?
    • If so, why?
    • If not, why not?
  7. Do you believe that “doing the right thing” is more important than having a good outcome?
    • If so, why?
    • If not, why not?
  8. Do you agree that there is a way in which human beings should never act, and a way in which they always should?
    • If so, give an example of each.
    • If not, why not?
  9. Do you agree that people are always engaged in some sort of conflict for power? That is, people are inherently fighting for the improvement of their own position – in a way that can’t be prevented.
    • If so, why?
    • If not, why not?
  10. Do you agree that people are entitled to whatever they can get by their efforts?
    • If so, why?
    • If not, why not?
  1. Do you agree that sexual assault (physical) is always wrong?
    • If so, why?
    • If not, why not?

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