Moral Reasoning/Moral Issues

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Use this list of moral issues to test the consistency, robustness, and usefulness of your moral reasoning. Consider using Socratic methods to explore the questions posed here.

  1. Capital Punishment—also known as the death penalty—is a government-sanctioned practice whereby a person is killed by the state as a punishment for a crime.
    • Is capital punishment effective in protecting public safety?
    • Is capital punishment an effective deterrent?
    • Is capital punishment satisfying to crime victims?
    • Is capital punishment cost effective?
    • Is capital punishment morally justified?
  2. Euthanasia is the practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering. Consider:
    • Voluntary euthanasia which is currently legal in some countries.
    • Non-voluntary euthanasia (patient's consent unavailable) is currently illegal in all countries.
    • Involuntary euthanasia (without asking consent or against the patient's will) is also currently illegal in all countries and is usually considered murder.
    • Consider human euthanasia, and non-human animal euthanasia.
    • Under what circumstances, if any, is euthanasia morally justified?
    • Who gets to make the decision, and under what circumstances?
    • Does it matter who bears the costs of sustaining the life or performing the euthanasia?
    • Is the distinction between active and passive euthanasia morally significant?
    • Does the moral status of euthanasia depend on the legal status of euthanasia?
  3. Eugenics is a set of beliefs and practices that aim to improve the genetic quality of a human population by excluding certain genetic groups judged to be inferior, and promoting other genetic groups judged to be superior.
    • How would it be decided who is permitted to reproduce and who is restricted or prohibited from reproducing?
    • Under what circumstances, if any, is eugenics morally justified?
    • Within what scope, if any, is eugenics morally justified?
  4. Pornography is the portrayal of sexual subject matter for the exclusive purpose of sexual arousal.
    • Under what circumstances, if any, is creating, distributing, or consuming pornography morally justified?
    • Who gets to make the decision, and under what circumstances?
    • Is it morally justified for pornography to be restricted by government regulation?
  5. Sexual activity is the way humans experience and express their sexuality.
    • What, if any, sexual practices are not morally justified?
    • Under what circumstances, if any, are sexual practices morally justified?
    • Who gets to make the decision, and under what circumstances?
    • Is it morally justified for sexual activity to be restricted by government regulation?
  6. Prostitution is the business or practice of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for payment.
    • Under what circumstances, if any, is prostitution morally justified?
    • Who gets to make the decision, and under what circumstances?
    • Is it morally justified for prostitution to be restricted by government regulation?
  7. Contraception is a method or device used to prevent pregnancy.
    • Under what circumstances, if any, is contraception morally justified?
    • Under what circumstances, if any, is it morally justified to restrict access to contraception?
    • Are distinctions among various approaches to contraception morally relevant?
    • Who gets to make the decision, and under what circumstances?
    • Is it morally justified for contraception to be restricted by government regulation?
  8. Abortion is the ending of a pregnancy by removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus before it can survive outside the uterus. An abortion that occurs without intervention is known as a miscarriage or spontaneous abortion. When deliberate steps are taken to end a pregnancy, it is called an induced abortion.
    • Under what circumstances, if any, is abortion morally justified?
    • Who gets to make the decision, and under what circumstances?
    • Does the moral status of abortion depend on the legal status of abortion?
    • Is it morally justified for abortion to be restricted by government regulation?
  9. Infidelity is a violation of a couple's assumed or stated contract regarding emotional and/or sexual exclusivity.
    • Under what circumstances, if any, is infidelity morally justified?
    • Who gets to make the decision, and under what circumstances?
  10. Conceiving a child results in important life changes for the mother, the father, and the new-born child when taken to term. The child does not consent to being born, and in cases of scarce resources or unfit parenting, the child may have a difficult, if not tragic life.
    • Under what circumstances, if any, is conceiving a child morally justified?
    • Who gets to make the decision, and under what circumstances?
    • Is it morally justified for conception to be restricted by government regulation?
  11. Buying or selling human organs is the trade of human organs, tissues, or other body products, usually for transplantation. There is a worldwide shortage of organs available for transplantation, yet commercial trade in human organs is currently illegal in all countries except Iran.
    • Under what circumstances, if any, is organ trade morally justified?
    • Who gets to make the decision, and under what circumstances?
    • Does the moral status of organ trade depend on the legal status of organ trade?
    • Is it morally justified for organ trade to be restricted by government regulation?
  12. Genetic Engineering is the direct manipulation of an organism's genes using biotechnology.
    • Under what circumstances, if any, is genetic engineering morally justified?
    • Who gets to make the decision, and under what circumstances?
    • Does the moral status of genetic engineering depend on the legal status of genetic engineering?
    • Is it morally justified for genetic engineering to be restricted by government regulation?
  13. Synthetic biology applies several disciplines to build artificial biological systems for research, engineering and medical applications. Synthetic biology involves designing and constructing biological modules, biological systems, and biological machines or, re-design of existing biological systems for useful purposes.
    • Under what circumstances, if any, is synthetic biology morally justified?
    • Who gets to make the decision, and under what circumstances?
    • Does the moral status of synthetic biology depend on the legal status of synthetic biology?
    • Is it morally justified for synthetic biology to be restricted by government regulation?
  14. Eating meat is consuming animal flesh as food. Although humans have hunted and killed animals for meat since prehistoric times, the question of whether it is right to eat animal flesh is among the most prominent topics in food ethics. People choose not to eat meat for various reasons such as concern for animal welfare, the environmental impact of meat production, and health considerations. Some argue that slaughtering animals solely because people enjoy the taste of meat is morally wrong or unjustifiable.
    • Under what circumstances, if any, is eating meat morally justified?
    • Who gets to make the decision, and under what circumstances?
    • Does the moral status of eating meat depend on the legal status of eating meat?
    • Is it morally justified for eating meat to be restricted by government regulation?
  15. Burning coal destroys a non-renewable resource and creates pollution.
    • Under what circumstances, if any, is burning coal morally justified?
    • Who gets to make the decision, and under what circumstances?
    • Does the moral status of burning coal depend on the legal status of burning coal?
    • Is it morally justified for burning coal to be restricted by government regulation?
  16. Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves, or information about themselves, and thereby express themselves selectively. The boundaries and content of what is considered private differ among cultures and individuals.
    • On what moral basis, if any, can it be decided what information is private and what information is public?
    • Under what circumstances, if any, can a person or organization be compelled to reveal information they regard as private?
    • Who gets to make the decision, and under what circumstances?
    • When, if ever, are governments morally justified in protecting private information or in disclosing private information?
  17. Smoking Marijuana
    • Under what circumstances, if any, is smoking marijuana morally justified?
    • Who gets to make the decision, and under what circumstances?
    • Does the moral status of smoking marijuana depend on the legal status of smoking marijuana?
    • Is it morally justified for smoking marijuana to be restricted by government regulation?
  18. Lying is making an assertion that is believed to be false, typically used with the purpose of deceiving someone.
    • Under what circumstances, if any, is lying morally justified?
    • Who gets to make the decision, and under what circumstances?
    • Is it morally justified for lying to be restricted by government regulation?
  19. War is a state of armed conflict between states, governments, societies and informal paramilitary groups, such as mercenaries, insurgents and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violence, aggression, destruction, and mortality, using regular or irregular military forces.
    • Under what circumstances, if any, is waging war morally justified?
    • Who gets to make the decision, and under what circumstances?
    • Does the moral status of waging war depend on the legal status of waging war?
    • Is it morally justified for waging war to be restricted by national or international government regulation?
  20. Trespass is encroachment upon the person or property of another. Trespass to the person includes assault, battery, or false imprisonment. Trespass to goods includes intentional interference with the owner’s possession of personal property. Within common law trespass to land involves the wrongful interference with one's possessory rights in real property.
    • Think broadly about encroachment upon the person or property of another. What actions can be morally regarded as trespass? These actions may or may not be regarded as trespass according to various laws.
    • Under what circumstances, if any, is trespass morally justified.
    • Does the moral status of trespass depend on the legal status of trespass?
  21. Environmental protection is the practice of protecting the natural environment. Its objectives are to conserve natural resources and the existing natural environment and, where possible, to repair damage and reverse trends. Environmental exploitation—failures to protect the environment—are various forms of trespass. For example, pollution is the dispersal of waste products onto properties that are typically unowned by the polluter. When species are caused to go extinct, future generations are denied experiencing those species.
    • Describe various forms of environmental exploitation as forms of trespass.
    • Do we have a moral obligation to protect the environment?
  22. Human Rights are moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behavior and are regularly protected as natural and legal rights in municipal and international law. They are commonly understood as inalienable, fundamental rights "to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being" and which are "inherent in all human beings", regardless of their nation, location, language, religion, ethnic origin, or any other status. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is one of the most widely recognized suites of human rights.
  23. Universal Basic Income is a periodic cash payment delivered to all on an individual basis without means test or work requirement.
    • Is there moral obligation to create a universal basic income?
  24. True Beliefs are beliefs that correspond to reality.