newsletter from the
Values-Based Education Program Fall 2009
In this issue The Value of Philosophy..................2 Religious Values and Roman History................................3 Past, Present and Future Meet: Reflections of a New Faculty Member on the Value of Teaching at Emmanuel College...........................4 Reflections on a Visit to Buchenwald: The Value of Caring.........................5 The Primordial Value of Conscience.......................................6 Biology and Ethics: Year Two..........8 Current Topics in Biological Research..........................8 Notes and Updates...........................9
Contact: Raymond J. Devettere Department of Philosophy Emmanuel College 400 The Fenway Boston, MA 02115 firstname.lastname@example.org
Note from the Editor Raymond j. Devettere professor of philosophy and director of values-based education
The third annual edition of the Values-Based Education Newsletter includes articles by Assistant Professor of Nursing Helen Ahearn, Assistant Professor of Sociology Katrin Križ, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Reverend Thomas Leclerc, M.S., Professor of Philosophy Thomas Wall, and a student, Susan Mullany ’10. I am grateful to all of them for their interesting contributions. One seldom noticed aspect of the current difficulties afflicting the global economy is the ethical failure that lies at the root of the crisis. Greed, the personal desire and institutional drive to make a lot of money without regard to the negative impact the money-making activities will have on others and on the common good, is not a virtue but a vice. Greed, however, does not often appear on the list of moral flaws that we usually associate with college life. Yet greed has been very much a temptation for college students in recent years along with the usual suspects — drinking, drugs, casual sex and cheating. College students, sometimes taking the hint from their parents and from a social milieu that equates personal success with wealth, often view their education primarily as a financial investment that can turn a profit in their lives. The long tradition of American colleges, especially liberal arts colleges, that makes knowledge, character, integrity and the common good the chief reasons for a college education fades away when financial enrichment becomes the chief goal in life and the major reason for seeking a college education. This sets the stage for sliding into greed. Long ago, Plato and Aristotle acknowledged that material things and money have an important place in achieving human well-being but insisted that wealth is not the “greatest good” we seek; it is subordinate to becoming a decent human being and organizing an appropriate political milieu. The Gospel asks what good is there in gaining the whole world, and then losing our souls? When these insights are ignored the stage is set for greed. The slide towards greed — seeking profit without regard to social and political damage — is a major ethical lapse underlying the recent economic decline. A major goal of values-based education is to restate the moral values and virtues of knowledge, understanding, character integrity, social justice and the common good.
Raymond J. Devettere
The Value of Philosophy Thomas Wall, Professor of Philosophy
At Emmanuel we pride ourselves on offering a “values-based” education, as the title of this publication indicates. As Chair of the Philosophy Department, I want to say a word or two about the value of philosophy in the context of such an education. But first, what do we mean by “values”? Simply put, values are things that we want, things that we desire, things that we believe are good for us. Philosophers have always taught that we ought to want the things that are truly good for us, the things that fulfill our deepest desires, the things that are essential for us to lead a full, rich, flourishing life. They have also taught that it is important to distinguish between things that we want for the sake of something else and things that we value in themselves. The former are called extrinsically valuable, while the latter are referred to as intrinsically valuable. So, what is the value of philosophy? Is it something that is to be valued in itself, or does its value lie solely in its ability to produce other goods, such as a good job? Let’s take these questions one at a time. Traditionally, the study of philosophy has been valued especially for its own sake, not for something it leads to. As Aristotle says in his Metaphysics, “…we do not seek [philosophical wisdom] for the sake of any other advantage; but as the man is free, we say, who exists for his own sake and not for another’s, so we pursue [philosophy] as the only free science, for it is the only one that exists for its own sake.” For someone who loves philosophy, understanding for its own sake is the whole point. Anything beneficial that may result in addition to this is secondary. The intellectual rewards of studying philosophy need no justification beyond themselves; they are intrinsically valuable. The intellectual excitement associated with thinking about the big questions — questions about God, reality, good and evil, the meaning of life and so on — is one of the things that makes life worth living. This is as true today for those of us who love
philosophy as it was for Socrates 2,500 years ago. We may be less inclined than he was to end our lives rather than give up philosophical activity, but if for some reason or other we had to do so, it would be felt as a loss of what is essential to life itself. If a good way to tell what you value the most is to see what you would be the least willing to give up, then the activity of philosophy surely would be among the highest values for those of us who have been bitten by its bug. While it may be enjoyable to spend our days doing philosophy, nevertheless we do have to live in a world with others and to earn a living as well. Of what value is philosophy beyond the life of the mind which it fosters; what can it contribute to the wider needs of life? For one, studying philosophy has always been associated with preparation for life. Not only does its study lead to personal growth, but it also prepares people to participate fully in free and open societies, where different ideas and policies compete for attention. Successful students of philosophy know how to think critically, to question assumptions, to base their beliefs on evidence, to sort out the wheat from the chaff. Further, they are trained to see connections among various ideas, to be interdisciplinary in its broadest sense, and to use this type of insight to solve problems in creative ways. In addition, they can write clearly, organizing ideas into coherent patterns that express support for or against their claims. Usually, they can also think on their feet and express their ideas orally with persuasion. These are some of the benefits of philosophy, some of its extrinsic value, the creation of skills beneficial to personal and social life. “This is all very nice,” you may say, “but people do have to make a living. The last time I checked the employment section of the newspaper there were not that many listings for philosophers.” True enough. While some philosophy majors go on to graduate school and become professors in
philosophy departments of colleges and universities, most do not. Some have taken their philosophical training in practical directions, especially in areas of applied ethics. Philosophers trained as ethicists work in hospitals and medical centers, for government agencies and for various large corporations among others. As is the case with available positions in academia, however, these jobs are relatively scarce and not easy to get. It would appear that in uncertain economic times the wisest course of action would be to forego the pleasures of philosophy for some more “practical” field of study, something that will result in a job. At best, one could double major in a vocational area and in philosophy — the best of both worlds! But what is someone to do who loves philosophy yet finds double majoring not an acceptable choice? They should be practical and give up their interest in philosophy, right? Not necessarily. This is because philosophy is itself excellent preparation for many of the most interesting careers to be found in today’s world. Take legal studies, for example. Successful philosophy students have always had among the highest scores on standardized tests — tests that measure verbal and reasoning skills, as does the LSAT. In addition, during an era where people change jobs and even careers more and more frequently; where the ability to learn quickly, think critically, analyze ideas and write well are prized, students are beginning to understand that, in addition to its intrinsic value, philosophy is an excellent pathway to many careers. Far from an ivory tower luxury, philosophy has come to be acknowledged by many as one of the best ways to prepare for the rapidly changing world that awaits today’s college graduates. Evidence that many students are beginning to understand the extrinsic value of philosophy is the growing number of philosophy majors in colleges and universities across the country. An article from The
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New York Times (4/6/08) outlines some of this growth. At Rutgers, for example, the number of undergraduate philosophy majors has doubled in the past few years. The same is true of CUNY, Notre Dame, UMass Amherst, Texas A&M, the University of Pittsburg and many others. In fact, nationwide the number of programs in philosophy has increased during the past 10 years from 765 to 817. Typically, students say that philosophy teaches them a way of studying that can be applied to any subject as well as enriches their lives in many ways. They have taken their skills into such professions as medicine, the law, investment banking, writing, academic administration, secondary school teaching and many areas of self-created employment, such as consulting. The American Philosophical Association lists 19 catego-
ries of non-academic careers, which now employ those trained in philosophy. In the general category of “business,” for example, philosophers work as advertising executives, consultants, bank managers, commodities traders and even as a manager of a winery. Philosophers are also employed as systems analysts, owners of computer firms, college presidents, provosts, county commissioners, TV producers, magazine editors and sales managers, among many other professions. Aristotle tells an interesting story in his Politics about the so-called “first” philosopher, a man named Thales. His critics claimed his philosophical studies were useless because he never made any money with them. From his efforts to understand the nature of the heavenly bodies, however, Thales was able to predict a huge crop
in the next olive growing season. On the basis of this prediction he bought up most of the olive presses, cornered the market, and made a fortune when the presses were needed. This shows, says Aristotle, how easy it is for philosophers to make money if they choose, although this is not what they really care about. Thales’ first love remained philosophy for its own sake, although the money must have helped. The ancient story of Thales and the sample of career choices open to philosophers today remind us that philosophy does have extrinsic value, even though most of us who have been lucky enough to spend time with philosophy are inclined to side primarily with Aristotle and love it for its own sake. S
Religious Values and Roman History Father Thomas Leclerc, M.S., Associate Professor of Religious Studies
The ruins of imperial Rome speak across the centuries, telling of power, might and majesty. The historic Roman forum, the awe-inspiring Pantheon, the storied Circus Maximus and other sites testify to “the grandeur that was Rome.” Sixteen Emmanuel students, accompanied by Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies Dr. Michael Hartwig and Associate Professor of Religious Studies Fr. Thomas Leclerc, M.S., spent their spring break encountering firsthand the “Religious Traditions of Rome,” a course taught by Dr. Hartwig. Housed in the Hotel Columbus, a 15th century cardinal’s palazzo just a block and a half from St. Peter’s Basilica, students visited the monumental church where they celebrated Sunday Mass and prayed the noonday Angelus with the Pope and tens of thousands of visitors from around the world. They toured the necropolis – “city of the dead” – under the foundations of St. Peter’s and saw his burial place. They were Fall 2009
guided through the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel, and toured scores of other historic and religious sites every day under a sunny sky. The primary learning goal, however, was to study the various religious traditions that converged in Rome and to probe their beliefs, values, practices and institutions. In pre-travel classes and on site, students examined ancient Roman religion, the origins of Judaism and Christianity in Rome, and also Mithraism, the mysterious religion of Persian origin that was popular among Roman soldiers. Awed by the spectacular artwork and imposing monuments, students were invited to reflect on why it was that the religion of emperors died out while the religion of refugees from Judea survived and thrives. The preaching of an itinerant peasant from Nazareth was carried to the seat of the empire by a Galilean fisherman and a Jewish rabbi. The ministry of Peter
and Paul galvanized a persecuted Christian minority and fortified them in the face of cruel death. Who could have imagined that the brute power of imperial Rome would collapse and be utterly supplanted by Christianity? Historian Edward Gibbon pinned the decline and fall of Rome on the loss of civic virtue and decadence. But perhaps Judeo-Christian values and lifestyle were in the end more compelling: peace instead of ceaseless war, compassion instead of brutality, humility instead of pride, service instead of dominance. S
Past, Present and Future Meet: Reflections of a New Faculty Member on the Value of Teaching at Emmanuel College Katrin Križ, Assistant Professor of Sociology
When I joined the Sociology Department at Emmanuel College as a new faculty member last fall, I was curious about what it would be like to teach at a Catholic college. I did not know what to expect, because I had never spent an extensive amount of time teaching at a Catholic college before. What has surprised me in a positive way since then is the extent to which my personal “foundational story,” the values that form the corner stones of my identity, aligns with the foundational story of Emmanuel College. I feel grateful for the discovery of this alignment because it makes Emmanuel more than just a workplace. It is a place where I can practice my own values. Every person, every family, every workplace and every country has a foundational story. At the personal level, this story is about the values that build our sense of self, of what we are and believe. At the level of a workplace, this story encapsulates the core values, goals or mission of an institution. I was raised Catholic in a left-wing family in Austria, a country that is predominantly Catholic. Therefore, Catholic social values and the Catholic Church loomed large in my upbringing and education. In terms of Catholic values, my foundational story is a constant ideological stand-off between Dollfuss and Saint Martin of Tours. Let me explain how these two characters feature in my foundational story. Growing up in the kind of family, the country and the continent I did, it is difficult to escape the fact that, historically, the Catholic Church often aligned itself with the interests of the most powerful. In Austrian history, this was especially true during the so-called Austro-Fascist regime between 1933 and 1938. This was a time period in Austrian history when a Catholic Chancellor called Engelbert Dollfuss turned Austria into a dictatorship, annihilating democratic practices,
starting a civil war and building a deep schism between people on the political left and the political right. Similar political developments occurred in Spain during the time of the Franco dictatorship. My father, who was a profoundly religious young man, rejected his Catholic upbringing after traveling through Spain with his cousin on a motorcycle in the mid 1960s. His motorcycle diaries, which include stories of priests driving gleaming Mercedes while farmers dragged their possessions around on ragged carts pulled by donkeys, are also part and parcel of my foundational story. That said, Dollfuss could never quite stand up to Saint Martin, my favorite patron saint, who, as I learned during the 10 years I took courses in what we call “religious instruction” in school, cut his cloak in half to provide comfort to a beggar. Saint Martin was my childhood hero, because he was a relatively wealthy person willing to give to those in need. In my foundational story, the values epitomized by Saint Martin, are also endorsed by the fact that the success of my mother’s family is tied to the Catholic Church. My grandfather, who was the illegitimate son of a poor maidservant who worked at a farm, was able to become an engineer because a religious women’s order discovered his abilities and provided him with a scholarship to complete high school. I might not be teaching at Emmanuel College today if it were not for the kindness and generosity of these sisters. Foundational stories can be stories of the past, but they can also be stories of the present, and, more importantly, stories of the future. This past year, new faculty members received an intellectually enriching tour of the Catholic tradition in academic institutions in the United States and internationally in six symposia on the Catholic tradition in higher education. Our tour guides, Professors Raymond
Devettere, Sister Mary Johnson, SND and Patricia Herlihy, took us through the historical and contemporary landscape of Catholic colleges and universities. They especially highlighted the history and mission embraced by Emmanuel College. What resonated most with me was Sister Mary Johnson’s account of the foundational story of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The foundational story of the Sisters of Notre Dame is a past story of hard labor towards social justice by taking wealth and resources from the wealthy and shifting them towards the poor. It is a past story of St. Julie Billiart, a deeply religious woman who stood up against and yet worked with and within the Catholic Church to make her vision possible. It is also a contemporary foundational story of practicing social justice at the international level, of the equal redistribution of wealth and resources, and of service to the poor. These are values that are important for today’s world, and for the world of the future. And these are the values that allow me, with my foundational story, to feel so comfortable at Emmanuel. S
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Reflections on a Visit to Buchenwald: The Value of Caring Helen E. Ahearn, Assistant Professor of Nursing
“Jedem das Seine.” The arched entrance to the concentration camp, on a hill overlooking Weimer, Thuringia in the former East Germany where the Nazis killed over 56,000 people between 1939 and 1945, has these words etched on it. An eerie feeling came over me as we walked along the gravel path beside the railroad tracks that carried people under the arch and into the concentration camp. Loosely translated it says “To each his own.” I asked myself: “What is the meaning of this phrase in the context of a concentration camp?” I understand that it referred to the fact that it was a designated work or labor camp, but to me that was a misnomer if ever there was one. It has been several years since I went to Buchenwald while visiting my son on a Fulbright scholarship to Freidrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany. It is time to finally write something about that experience. I have often thought about that visit, especially while driving along country roads in central Massachusetts. The landscape is similar, rolling hills, orchards and small towns. We left the city of Jena, from a spot on a bridge over the beautiful Saale River where there is a plaque that commemorates the hundreds of prisoners who were marched through Jena on to Buchenwald (10 miles); marched to their death through this lovely medieval city, home to the legendary poet Wolfgang Amadeus Goethe and the philosopher Freidrich Schiller, champion of the ideals of freedom; marched through beautiful countryside and quaint villages, past hundreds of ordinary households and businesses; marched past old men, women and children seeing reflections of perhaps themselves in circumstances that no one perhaps could fully understand. What would the poet and the philosopher make of all this? Did anyone cry out for answers, for justice? Or was there only passivity, revenge, hatred and bigotry? As we drove though the winding country roads on an early spring day, I couldn’t help but think of the contrast lurking in Fall 2009
the nature of human beings. Freud was right. He suggested that we have two basic instincts driving our behavior, Eros and Thanatos: the urge to live and promote life and the urge to die and embrace a culture of death. Being civilized under the rule of law and internalizing moral principles are the only things that keep us from carrying either of these basic instincts to extremes. And that is a lifelong personal and community endeavor. As I walked along the gravel paths of Buchenwald, past remnants of foundations of barracks, I became more and more overwhelmed with a sense of isolation, loneliness and grief. The sacred ground where thousands of people walked, breathed the air, looked at the surrounding landscape, stood under the sun, hoped, prayed, suffered and died. What terror did they know? What hopelessness? What suffering endured? Among the first things one encounters are the entrance to the reception clinic and the adjacent gas chamber and crematoria. Here it was decided who went to their death immediately or who was sentenced to hard labor. It seemed that the crematoria still had ashes inside, which was a chilling experience. We proceeded to the former SS Headquarters which houses a museum filled with a variety of artifacts from the death camp. The first display we came across was a pile of hundreds of brown leather shoes just inside the front door. The tiny baby shoes stunned me into silence. Realization of the depravity of man’s inhumanity to man overwhelmed me. Over in a corner of the room on a shelf was a pile of gold teeth. Another room to the left displayed the thin worn green-striped uniforms the inmates of the camp had to wear. Upstairs there were many displays of artifacts including whips used by the SS officers to beat the inmates. What surprised me were the artifacts from 38 U.S. servicemen, prisoners of war, who died at the adjacent prisoner of war camp. Although they were artfully displayed behind glass cabinets, I
could not help but wonder if their families had any idea that these mementos were here in Germany. They included wallets; family pictures, religious medals, prayer cards and other personal items. It felt very sad to view these. Saddest of all was the visit to the foundational remnants of the so-called infirmary. There was a large sign above the foundation, written in German, that told the story behind the infirmary and what went on there. My son and his friend, another Fulbrighter, translated it for me. She was a pre-med major in college and destined to attend medical school upon her return to the States. Basically the story is that this was the building where Nazi doctors conducted vicious medical experiments on vulnerable inmates. We sat down and wept thinking of all the suffering that went on here. As a registered nurse I wondered how any of the doctors and nurses present in this infirmary could participate in these experiments with an informed conscience. Questions arose about how a civilization so advanced in the sciences and humanities could sink so low as to harm other human beings in such dreadful ways. These may ultimately be unanswerable questions but there are some important lessons here. Freud may have been right: we all carry within us that drive to cause death, destruction, suffering and annihilation. My thoughts drifted to the old PBS documentary on the history of nursing entitled “Sentimental Women Need Not Apply.” At the end of the film one of the older African-American nurses commenting on the essence of nursing, which is caring, says, “We need to guard caring, as we do freedom, so we do not lose it.” For once we lose the ability to care, to be compassionate towards one another, we lose the drive towards life. The visit reminded me how important it is, as we teach good nursing practice, to teach also the foundational value of authentic caring for the people we serve. Nursing education is very much a values-based education. S 5
The Primordial Value of Conscience Raymond J. Devettere , Professor of Philosophy
Conscience, and conscientious objection, is back in the news. Conscientious objection last received major media coverage in the ’60s and ’70s in connection with two important issues of that time. First, some draftees declined to serve in the Vietnam War either because they were pacifists or because they believed that the war in Vietnam failed to meet the moral criteria for a just war. Second, some health care providers declined to participate in abortions after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The pacifists were eventually allowed conscientious objector status and those opposed to abortion were allowed by law to decline participation in abortion without reprisals thanks to Doe v. Bolton, the companion case to Roe, and to the Church amendments enacted by Congress during the 1970s. A recent episode triggering a new round of media coverage of conscientious objection occurred in March 2005 when a pharmacist in Wisconsin refused to fill a prescription for emergency contraception, the “morning-after pill.” The pharmacist said that the pills might prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, which he considered abortion, and, since he was opposed to abortion, he argued that he could not in good conscience provide the customer with an abortifacient. Not only did he refuse to fill the woman’s prescription but he also refused to give it back to her so she could go somewhere else. The woman seeking the emergency contraception in Wisconsin was a married woman with four children. Although today, adults no longer need prescriptions for emergency contraception, the issue remains because the pills are sold “behind the counter;” that is, one has to ask the pharmacist for them. The story exploded into the national media and soon other similar stories emerged where pharmacists were denying women prescribed medications. In November 2007 the issue of conscientious objection became more acute when the ethics committee of ACOG (American
College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) published an Ethics Opinion entitled, The Limits of Conscientious Refusal in Reproductive Medicine. It stated: “Physicians and other health care providers have a duty to refer patients in a timely manner to other providers if they do not feel that they can in conscience provide the standard reproductive services that patients request.” The issue here is not abortion, but referral for any procedure (for example, physician-assisted suicide or sterilization or IVF) that a provider believes would violate his conscience by making him an accomplice or an accessory in an action he considers seriously wrong. The ACOG ethical opinion thus sets up an acute problem of conscience: What are physicians to do if they cannot in good conscience refer a patient to an abortion provider because they believe making the referrals will compromise their moral integrity? These physicians argue, not without some reason, that referring a patient for a procedure they consider terribly wrong means they are cooperating in evil. They also argue, again not without reason, that ACOG’s ethics committee is in effect telling them that they have a duty to violate their consciences and compromise their moral integrity. Of course, defenders of the ACOG ethical opinion argue, not without reason, that physicians have a responsibility to refer patients if they decline to treat them and that physicians need to be careful about imposing their moral or religious views on those holding different moral views. They also argue, not without reason, that physicians have a responsibility to inform their patients of all legal options relevant to their condition. Finally, they argue, again not without reason, that the wishes of patients seeking in good conscience legal interventions that meet standards of care need to be respected.
Recent incidents involving conscientious refusals in health care help focus our attention on conscience and its role in moral maturity. We have inherited a long and robust tradition that makes conscience the last word in moral integrity. In the dialogue entitled Gorgias, Plato has Socrates say that Callicles, who always goes along to get along no matter what he really thinks, will never be an integrated self. For his part, Socrates says that he would rather his lyre be out of tune, or the chorus he directs lack harmony, or the whole world be in disagreement with what he does than that he himself would be at odds with himself and contradict himself. For Socrates, living in accord with his conscience, behaving as he thinks and not according to what others think, is what provides his wholeness or integrity as a person. This tradition of conscience that goes back to the ancient Greeks received reinforcement in Christian moral theology. It insists that moral integrity means that a person lives a good life only when her words and actions are consistent with her moral and religious convictions, and that it is incoherent to say a person is acting with moral integrity when she is acting contrary to her conscience. Any contradiction between conscience and performance undermines the integrity of moral character. Of course, some claims to “conscience” are spurious. They can hide a political agenda or be a personal tactic to avoid what one does not want to do for other reasons. Conscience can also be lax if the person’s position is based on ignorance or inadequate deliberation. And conscience can be erroneous no matter how carefully formed; it is not infallible. Still, as Cardinal Newman, who lost his faculty appointment at Oxford after he converted to Roman Catholicism, explained: when it is time to drink a toast he will, of course, toast the Pope but first he will toast conscience because at death he will judged not on whether he followed the Pope but on whether he followed his conscience.
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Clearly some people, including physicians and other health care providers, oppose a number of interventions in good conscience; among them, abortion, contraception, in vitro fertilization and physician-assisted suicide (now legal in Washington as well as Oregon). While there are ongoing debates about the morality of these interventions there is another issue underlying all of them that needs attention: referrals. Some are so opposed to these interventions that they believe referring people looking for these interventions to others who are willing to perform them would violate their consciences. And, since this is the case, is it morally right for others — perhaps ACOG — to insist that these providers have a duty to make the referrals even though they cannot do so in good conscience? The Oregon physician-assisted suicide law makes an interesting point on this issue of conscientious objection to referrals. It states that physicians cannot be forced to assist their patients in suicide nor can they be forced to refer their patients to physicians who will provide suicide assistance. This makes some sense. After all, if I am a physician and I am morally opposed to suicide assistance it is difficult to see how I act with moral integrity if I say something like this to my patient: “I do not help my dying patients commit suicide (because I think these actions are immoral), but I will refer you to someone who will help you (do what I think is immoral).” However, it is good to consider conscientious objection in morally controversial issues, such as physician-assisted suicide and abortion, a last resort, and it is also good to know that pro-life ethicists opposed to interventions such as abortion or suicide assistance disagree about making referrals. Edmund Pellegrino, for example, a well known physician-bioethicist, the current chair of the President’s Commission on Bioethics, and a former president of Catholic University, has written: “But physicians cannot knowingly Fall 2009
assist in abortion by making a referral.” (“Commentary on ‘Of More than One Mind’ ” in the Journal of Clinical Ethics 19 (2008) 22-24, at 23.) Others suggest that a physician opposed to abortion would still be acting in good conscience in some cases if he refers patients to other physicians, provided he takes the time to explain his moral objections to the procedures. This is the view of Patrick Tully in the journal published by the National Catholic Bioethics Center: “A physician who is seeking to maintain integrity and avoid complicity in morally objectionable treatment options…should follow the route of informing patients of all available treatment options while also carefully discussing any serious moral concerns that either of them has about any of those options.” (“Morally Objectionable Options: Informed Consent and Physician Integrity” in the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 8 (2008) 491-504, at 504.) Where does this leave the physician opposed to abortion when his or her patient requests one? Alone with his or her conscience, and with the some anxiety, because, while it is clear that he or she must follow his or her conscience to preserve moral integrity it is not clear which choice — whether to refuse referral or to make a referral but explain his or her reasons for refusing to perform the abortion — is actually the better moral choice in the circumstances. Ethics does not give us certainty in controversial issues. Its deliberations are prudential, not deductive. All we can do is deliberate carefully in unclear situations and then decide as best we can. Opportunities for comment and discussion about the value of conscience for moral integrity abound in many of the courses we teach at Emmanuel — in the liberal arts, in the sciences and in the practice disciplines such as nursing, education and management. No matter what might be the moral views of the instructor, there is always room and encouragement for helping students develop
a well-informed conscience about their possible current and future participation in controversial activities, such as biological research, physician-assisted suicide (which may soon become legal in more states), IVF, sterilization, contraception, preimplantation genetic diagnosis, prenatal testing, military service in morally controversial military operations, marketing where the line between advertising and deception is often ignored or blurred, making health care decisions for themselves and for others, forming sexual relationships and so forth. A values-based education will inevitably raise questions about the supreme moral value of conscience and the possibility of conscientious objection to activities that people find inconsistent with their core values. Inevitably many students may, as might we all, experience in their lives crises of conscience wherein, if they are honest with themselves, they will conclude that they simply cannot go along with something without compromising their moral integrity. What then? Capitulate to the chorus, the way of Callicles, or adhere to a thoughtful and well-formed conscience, the way of Socrates and Newman? Whether we draw our moral direction from ethical reasoning or from religious faith, or both, the question of integrity, being whole and at one with ourselves, is the fundamental personal value at the center of values-based education. At the same time, we need the moral maturity to recognize that rigidity in moral discernment involving controversial issues can blind us to the fact that whatever stand we take in good conscience may not actually be the morally better or best option. S
Biology and Ethics: Year Two Raymond J. Devettere , Professor of Philosophy
Again this spring the course Current Topics in Biological Research was taught by two professors from different fields, Josef Kurtz, Associate Professor of Biology, and myself. The course is a natural candidate for team teaching — its catalogue description states that students are “encouraged to view the challenges of modern biology from scientific, social and ethical viewpoints.” The course covered such topics as evolution, intelligent design, the human genome, embryonic stem cell research, cloning, facial transplants, issues in HIV and AIDS research, HPV vaccinations, the rise of Type II diabetes, developments in neuroscience and more. Plans are underway to integrate the course in the new Honors Program at the College. A brief reflection by a student, Susan Mullaney ’10, appears at right.
Current Topics in Biological Research Susan Mullany, Class of 2010
After taking this very valuable course, Current Topics in Biological Research (BIOL 2119), I believe that Gandhi was correct when he said, “we must be the change we want to see in the world.” This course provided me with the knowledge to change and take more informed positions regarding some exciting new topics in biology. Many of us do not realize how much background knowledge and deliberation we need to make good choices and therefore we do not utilize our capacity to choose our positions wisely. The majority of college courses
taught by two professors. Having two different viewpoints — science and ethics — enriched my thinking as I have gained a tremendous awareness of many ethical issues as well as the science involved in some of the most controversial topics present in today’s world. The course encouraged me to be less unilateral in my thinking. I used to have extremely rigid thinking patterns but after taking this class, I have realized that there are complex moral issues behind every current topic in biology. Dr. Devettere and Dr. Kurtz taught us about the value
Having two different viewpoints — science and ethics — enriched my thinking as I have gained a tremendous awareness of many ethical issues as well as the science involved in some of the most controversial topics present in today’s world. require you to memorize as many facts as possible in one semester, only to take the final exam and then forget most of what you learned. However, this course has been different because it required us to think, and what I learned will always be readily available in my memory. The course provided two viewpoints: the scientific and the ethical. Dr. Kurtz taught us the latest science behind such current issues as human evolution, HIV and AIDS, HPV vaccinations, the rise of Type II diabetes, the Human Genome Project, cloning and embryonic stem cell research. Dr. Devettere then explained the ethical and moral issues relating to these topics. This has been one of my favorite courses at Emmanuel because it was
of science and its moral dimension, and about how we can make very informed decisions so we can have a better chance to live a good life and flourish as human beings. Overall, having two professors teaching one class has been a very rewarding experience, and I have been able to take away pieces from each of their viewpoints, and connect them in my own way. S
8 Emmanuel College – Newsletter from the Values-Based Education Program
Notes and Updates NEH and the “Enduring Questions” In July 2009, the National Endowment for the Humanities began offering a new grant program “to encourage faculty and students at the undergraduate level to grapple with the most fundamental concerns of the humanities.” The grants support the development of new courses that encourage reflection on human experience by focusing on one or more of the “enduring questions.” Students read entire books, not simply excerpts, and consider more than one plausible or interesting answer to the “enduring questions” being studied in the course. The courses can be taught by faculty from any discipline or department provided the humanities readings are central to the course. And what are some examples of the “enduring questions” identified by NEH? The list includes: • • • • • • • • • • • •
What is the good life? What is justice? Mercy? What is freedom? What is happiness? What is friendship? What is dignity? Is there a human nature, and if so, what is it? What are the limits of scientific understanding? What is the relationship between humans and the natural world? Is there such a thing as right and wrong? Good and evil? What is good government? What is a liberal education?
The topics and enduring questions of the grant program underscore what we are already trying to do in a values-based education at Emmanuel. Second, the use of faculty from different disciplines is good — it complements the effort to have these issues raised across the curriculum.
Honesty, Integrity and Incoming Students In the last edition of the newsletter (2008), we reported that a large 2006 survey of high school students revealed a troubling level of unethical behavior: a considerable number of students admitted they had cheated in school or stolen property. Now the 2008 survey figures are out (the survey is done every two years) and it shows an even higher level of unethical behavior. Thirty percent of the students now admit stealing from stores within the past year (it was 28% in 2006), 23% admit stealing from parents (same as 2006), and 42% now admit lying in money matters (it was 39% in 2006).
The recent survey uncovered another piece of information — most of the students think very well of themselves. Ninety-three percent said that they were satisfied with their moral character and ethical decision-making, and 77% said that when it comes to doing what is right, they are better than most people whom they know. The disconnect between the students’ perception of their character integrity and their actual behavior brings us back to the aphorism preserved in stone on the ancient temple of Apollo at Delphi: “know yourself.” The aphorism inspired Socrates and other Greek philosophers to insist that
A major goal of a values-based education at Emmanuel is to help our students achieve a higher degree of self-knowledge in moral matters.
Cheating, the report says, “continues to be rampant and it’s getting worse.” Sixty-four percent now admit to cheating on a test within the past year (it was 60% in 2006) and 38% admit cheating two or more times (it was 35% in 2006). And 36% now admit that they use the Internet to plagiarize assignments (up from 33% in 2006). The surveys of about 30,000 high school students have been conducted every two years since 1992 by the Josephson Institute, a non-sectarian and non-profit organization dedicated to improving the ethical quality of society (josephsoninstitute.org). The most recent survey suggests a bad situation is getting worse. And it might actually be worse than the latest survey shows because 26% of those who took the 2008 survey now admit that they lied on the survey! Of course, we can’t be sure about that statistic; after all, some of these students may be lying about their lying!
ethics begins with realistic self-knowledge. It is the most important knowledge, and in many ways the most difficult, to pursue in life but we can only begin to achieve ethical maturity when we are honest with ourselves about ourselves, about what we think, what we desire, what we do, and why we do it. A major goal of a values-based education at Emmanuel is to help our students achieve a higher degree of self-knowledge in moral matters. By the way, the aphorism “know yourself” reappears, this time in Latin, above the Oracle’s door in the thought provoking Matrix film series. S
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Emmanuel College, founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1919, is a coed, residential, Catholic liberal arts and sciences college located in the heart of the city of Boston.
Published on Oct 30, 2009
The third annual edition of the Emmanuel College Values-Based Education Newsletter includes articles by Assistant Professor of Nursing Helen...