Thursday, August 30, 2007

Grave Robbing

I was thinking about the example Professor Tantillo gave in class about the underlying ethic behind what different cultures do with their dead (that one culture who buries their dead might view another culture's eating of their dead as unethical, but really both are just upholding the underlying ethic of honoring the dead).

I thought of another scenario that applies to this situation. What about grave robbers of the late 18th century and early 19th century who unlawfully took bodies and used them as cadavers in the name of studying human anatomy. For religious reasons and because of society's lack of acceptance for this type of behavior, these people were often severely punished by the law.

But is what they are doing unethical? Does it violate the widely accepted ethic of honoring the dead? Or are they still honoring the dead? OR, are they living by a different set of ethics? Does the government have the right to make laws based on a widely accepted ethic that is not held by everyone? In a practical sense, do the benefits that were gained for science outweigh the importance of honoring the dead? Eventually as pressure was put on different governments, laws like Britain's Anatomy Act of 1832 were passed to make cadavers more available and widespread. If there are two different ethics here, are laws like this a reflection of a change in ethical priorities, or simply a compromise because both ethics are important?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ethics in the News

From today's BBC News:

Is stealing wireless wrong?

By Finlo Rohrer
BBC News Magazine

A man has been arrested after being spotted allegedly sitting in a street with a laptop using someone else's unsecured wireless connection. Is it immoral to do this?

So here's the thing.

You're walking down the street in Hypotheticalville and in front of you is a gentleman who, when he walks, spills seemingly endless torrents of golden coins on to the pavement behind him.

He seems unconcerned by this and you notice that if not picked up, these magic coins quickly evaporate. Is it moral for you to pick a few up?

It's the kind of tree-falls-in-the-forest whimsy that an undergraduate philosopher might mull over for a moment, but back in the real world a not entirely dissimilar debate is being played out.

The man arrested in a street in west London is at least the third person to be accused of breaching the law by taking internet service without permission.

The Communications Act 2003 says a "person who (a) dishonestly obtains an electronic communications service, and (b) does so with intent to avoid payment of a charge applicable to the provision of that service, is guilty of an offence".

It is a bit like reading your book from the light coming out from someone's window
Julian Baggini

There are also suggestions using somebody else's wireless could come under the Computer Misuse Act, usually used to combat hacking and electronic fraud.

But if it can be interpreted as illegal, can it be truly said to be immoral?

Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Hi everyone,
welcome to the blog for NTRES 332, "Introduction to Ethics and Environment." Have fun with it!