Scholars of the Centre for Ethics stipends in 2002/2003
Marek Järvik (philosophy) “Norms and Action: How Moral and Legal Duties Affect Our Action”
The question which has attracted me lately is: ‘what is the basis of moral motivation’. I have phrased that problem as follows– ‘what is the core of our moral behavior’. By rephrasing the problem we can get to a new formulation - ‘why we ought to be moral’. It is widely accepted by philosophers that the answer is a matter of normativity. A problem of normativity is a query for a reason of action. We are bounded with normatives in all cases where we make decisions. There are always different imperatives, believes, descriptions etc which influence our judgements. So it is right to say that reasoning is inherently normative, because this is the process of choosing between normatives where everyone has potential prescriptive power.
How are normatives and moral motivation related? For explanation it is useful to find a general formulation of decision-making. As I mentioned above, reasoning is a deliberation process between normatives. Here it is natural to suppose that a preferred normative gives a reason for action. The query why any normative is preferred is of course a matter of fact and depends entirely on particular circumstances. We can give an answer to that question if we have access to personal properties like dispositions and beliefs. Although it seems to be quite easy to get information about decision-making, it is nevertheless complicated in practice and that is so even on first person’s position. I mean that there are cases possible where even the first person couldn’t explain her reason of action. It would be naïve to suppose that practical reasoning has been guided only by rational principles. People don’t stay always rational and sometimes do what they ought not to. It happens not only when they cannot choose between normatives but also when they have a favourable one that they don’t follow. Does it imply that reasoning does not fit under a general formulation? I argued that there could not be a general substantial formulation of reasoning. But I believe that there would be a general formal formulation of reasoning.
My solution is quite trivial. If we remove all substantives in the case of reasoning we get a general formulation ‘if P then Q’. ‘P’ is substitution for all substantive conditions. ‘Q’ refers to results of deliberation processes. By eliminating indexical characteristics we get tautology ‘if there is a process of reasoning then it implies to a reason of action’. I mean that whatever is a matter of deliberation it necessarily implies a reason of action. Moreover, it is clear that an action-guiding reason is somehow preferred by an agent. This matches with the general idea of reasoning.
‘What motivates people to be moral?’ There would be several reasons to be moral. Let’s say, for example, that p is a general reason why any person should be moral. Here we can answer that ‘p does motivate people to be moral’. It is clear, that if p does motivate to be moral, then people have moral motivation because of p. Otherwise, if p does not motivate to be moral and there are not other reasons to be moral, then a person cannot have moral motivation. It has to be clear that if I will ask ‘what is basis of moral motivation’ I am looking for the proper substitution of p. I call it henceforth generally as a principle for morality.
The function of the principle is to define moral obligations. It does not specify anything about moral values. Moral values have different source. But the principle gives an answer to question ‘why we ought to prefer some values to other?’ If the principle were found, we would demarcate moral reasoning. It is a kind of reasoning where from condition ‘if P then Q’, Q would be moral action if an agent took the principle into account.
In my doctoral theses I will try to find a proper substitution for p that has to be justified. Finally I wish to figure out my own position, which will be my attempt to solve the substantial problem of moral reasoning.
Ken Kalling (public administration) “History of eugenics in Estonia.”
The project concentrates on the historical aspects of Estonian eugenics movement. The main aim of the study is to bring out the social outcomes of the so called biologisation of the then Estonian society. The latter tendency undoubtedly includes ethical and moral problematics – i.e. Estonia was one of the few European states to introduce eugenical obligatory sterilisations.
The strong pro-natalist sentiment in pre-war Estonia brought along not only the social segregation typical to eugenics movement but also enforced sexual segregation. These tendencies can be noticed also in present-day Estonia.
Taavi Lai (medicine) “Overview of the implementation of informed consent acquisition and data collection processes in Estonian Genome Project”
My special interest in ethics belongs to areas concerning informed consent. This topic has become increasingly important for me due to my medical background and work in the population (genetics) research. Informed consent is quite a new concept in Estonia compared to Western Europe and the United States. This, added to a vast amount of new genetic research conducted daily, creates vast possibilities for general misunderstandings by the public.
My research at the Centre for Ethics of University of Tartu therefore focuses on two closely related fields. Firstly it is aimed at describing and evaluating Estonian general practitioners’ (GP) opinions and practices on informed consent. Secondly I concentrate on terms of recruiting people to Estonian Genome Foundation Project through their GP’s and try to evaluate these terms against different internationally available informed consent guidelines.
Ivo Volt (classical philology) “Lexical and semantic basis of depicting negative character types in Classical Greek literature, and their relation to Greek ethical theory and popular morality"
The thesis deals with what was considered condemnable in a human being at various levels of social communication. Lexical and semantic basis of the study is followed by the analysis of some ethical questions that are inevitably connected with the topic (e.g. the relation of moral philosophy and popular morality in Ancient Greece). Further, various linguistic and rhetorical devices that were used in describing and characterising negative qualities and dispositions are analysed. The basis of the study is formed mainly by three genres: philosophical prose (Plato, Aristotle), practical rhetoric (Attic oratory), and comedy.
Kadri Simm (philosophy) „Social Justice and Equal Opportunities in Biomedicine“
The thesis will concentrate on philosophical analysis and application of conceptions of social justice and equal opportunities. The main attention is given to the application of these conceptions in (bio)medicine. I will analyse the doubts and problems rising in connection with the new technologies and with the potential application of the new knowledge in society. The main aim ist to explore what are the biomedicine’s possible challenges to the socially accepted principles of justice. How should the society proceed, if through new technologies it has the means to increase the equality of opportunity? How to share the genetic capital (if at all) to diminish suffering and to increase the equal opportunities? Briefly – in which direction should social justice and also the desire and need to guarantee the equal opportunities develop in the environment, where there exists a possibility to smooth the existing inequalities considerably more than historically and currently feasible.