Check the Syllabus!

Please click the syllabus tab, and check the course schedule. You will find that to be one of the most useful parts of this course web site.

Law and ethics worksheet

Worksheet an Law and Ethics

Please use the web and other resources to answer the questions (indicated by question marks) below. You can write in the spaces provided as well as on the back or on separate paper.


Part 1. A Shocking Crime: See

What happened?

Consider the murder law at issue here. What is it?

How does it impact her?

What is the deontological view of the law? (Skip if we haven’t discussed deontology)

What is the utilitarian view of the law? (Skip if we haven’t discussed utilitarianism)

If you were on the jury, how would you vote?

If you were a good defense lawyer: Would you want deontologists or consequentialists on the jury? (Skip if we haven’t covered the concepts yet)

If you were a good prosecuting attorney: would you want deontologists or consequentialists on the jury? (Skip if we haven’t covered the concepts yet)

Have you ever been on a jury?


Part 2. Some Examples of Laws: 

Laws about cars

Laws about homicide

Laws about copyright

Rules about plagiarism

Rules vs. laws:

Law but not rule: 30 mph speed limit

Rule but not law: 40 mph “real” speed limit if 30 mph stated limit and 10 mph assumed leeway

Rule but not law: don’t slouch

Is there a difference between a rule and a law? What do you think it is? 

More about laws (from SEP):

“Law is not the only normative domain in our culture;
morality, religion, social conventions, etiquette, and so on,
also guide human conduct in many ways which are similar to law.”

Two major theories about what is a law

Ref: A. Marmor, “The Nature of Law”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP),

Laws can be legitimate or not. Why is a law legitimate (or not) in your estimation?

Two theories:

1. “Legal Positivism” theory: Legitimate laws reflect socially defined constraints on behavior

2. “Natural Law” theory: Laws must meet ethical standards

Which do you think is preferable?

St. Augustine wrote: lex iniusta non est lex” (“law unjust not is law” or using English grammar “unjust law is not law”)

Was he a proponent of legal positivism or natural law?

How do these two concepts, legal positivism and natural law, interact or how might the conflict start to be resolved?
Henry David Thoreau wrote: “Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them?” ― Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays
Is Thoreau arguing for the legal positivism theory of law, or the natural law theory of law?
What do you think is the better theory? Can you think of an interesting argument for the other view?
Find an ethical case related to the topic of ethics and law for your group discussions that will occur.

Welcome Fall 2014 Students!

This is the IFSC 2200 Ethics in the Profession web site. To find out where we are in the course and what is planned next, see the syllabus: click the tab above labeled “syllabus.”

See you in class.

Digital privacy and the future



Part 1:

Divide into discussion groups

I’ll present a few comments on digital privacy

Group discussion

Groups will report on their conclusions


Part 2:

“The Lab” interactive video


Let’s divide into discussion groups


Privacy in a digital world

Crimes increasingly solved using:

. . . . .security cam records

. . . . . . . often multiple cams

. . . . . . . story of a student in my ethics class

. . . . . . . . . . ended up catching his own friend

. . . . . any anecdotes from this group?


Lexis-Nexis is a database

. . . . It tells all the

. . . . . . . .places you have lived

. . . . . . . .people who ever lived at an address

. . . . Think about what that can reveal abou

. . . . . . . .a person

. . . . . . . .their network


Nanny cams

. . . . spy on your nanny

. . . . . .  …kids, pets, etc.


NSA surveillance

. . . . Edward Snowden

. . . . . . .what did he reveal about the NSA?


China hacks, downloads Gb if not Tb

. . . . . US gov’t recently indicted

. . . . . . . . . specific mid-level individuals in the Chinese military

. . . . . Everyone is tracking everyone else


Body cameras

. . . . . Google Glass

. . . . . Police shooting in Little Rock

. . . . . . . .key evidence is the police body cam


Ever read Orwell’s book 1984?


Discussion questions

. . .Is this generally good or bad? (ethical dimension)

. . .Where will it lead?



Have a good summer everyone!



Have a good summer everyone!



Ethics in Ancient China

Remember how ancient Chinese philosophy was one of the most popular courses at Harvard?

So let’s discuss ethics in ancient China


Lots and lots to be said

We can only get a start


To start:

Let’s list some Chinese philosophers








Here are a few:

Confucius (today’s focus)

Mencius (learned from Confucius)

Zhuang Zi (butterfly dream)

(Let’s review it for background)

Lao Tsu (founder of Taoism)


Let’s focus on Confucius

What was his name?

“Confucius” is the Latinized version

Family name was Kong (Con)

Given name was Qiu (“chi-u”)

Title was Zi (“Dze”)

Mr., sir, the honorable,…

usually translated as master

So in his time he was Kong Zi

(Master Kong)

Let’s add more respect:

Instead of Zi, use Fu Zi

(like Zi, but a bit more!)

We get his modern name in Chinese:

Kong Fu Zi

Hence, “Confucius”!

From “The honorable master Kong”

He has had more names, but that’s good for now




Who was Confucius?

Born probably 551 BCE

(Socrates born 470/469 BCE)

Father died when he was 3

Married at 19

Had first child at 20

Mother died when he was 23

His philosophy was forged in a politically turbulent environment

He died aged 71 or 72 (maybe)

Many descendants are still officially listed

2 million of them

How many descendants could someone have after N generations?

What, if anything, have you heard about Confucius?





What do you know of Socrates?






I surveyed a sample of one (1) Chinese person about Confucius:

He taught regular people

Not just royalty

Birthday is a holiday for teachers in Taiwan

People are born with virtue

Unlike Zuang Zi who believed people were born without virtue and needed learn it

What do you think?

What does Western tradition say?

Stated the broader Golden Rule

Avoid doing to others what you would not want them to do to you

Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself”

- as translated in wikipedia

What is the narrower Golden Rule?

What is the difference?

Robert Kane, in “Through the Moral Maze,” lists many statements of both versions

Check it out



“Virtue ethics 

is person rather than action based:

It looks at the moral character

of the person carrying out an action…”


Confucius’s ethical teachings were a form of virtue ethics

What do you think of virtue ethics?





How does virtue ethics compare to

deontological ethics?


utilitarian ethics?




Thomas Hume’s teachings?



if you had to state principles of virtue ethics…

What would some be?

Let’s list on board…



What did Confucius teach?

Personal character is key

Specific rules of behavior are less key

What is the meaning of his statement:

When the stables were burnt down,

           on returning from court Confucius said,

           “Was anyone hurt?”

           He did not ask about the horses.

- as translated in wikipedia







Confucius’s principles of personal character

Several principles

The most important:


仁 “benevolence,” “humanity,” human connectedness, comprehensive virtue.

Did Hume know about this? Not unlikely…


Confucius stating it in common terms:

ren is to love others


Which is more important, yi or li?


 義, Righteousness


The desire to do good

Refers to actions that are the right thing to do


“ritual” is a poor translation

Refers to the actions that society considers correct

Which is more important, yi or li?






HW6, due F, Apr. 23 25, 2014

1. For your term project: prepare a 5-minute presentation to the class. Let me know if you are not sure how to proceed. If you haven’t already, send me an email (, picking a day between now and the end of the semester for your presentation. The presentation will be 5 minutes long. I can schedule up to about 8 people per class day for presentations, so get your request for a day in soon, so you get the day you requested.

2. Email me (, or bring to class on paper, smart phone, etc., and show me by class time (so you can get full credit) your discussion preparation notes for the case you are discussing with your group for the Societal and International Issues unit. This should include

  • a link or other indication of the case you are using. If it is from personal experience, point that out.
  • list of facts in your own words, so that your group will understand what the case is about, and
  • questions to ask them in order to get an interesting and enlightening discussion going. See the “Questions to ask during discussion” tab on the course web page for some suggestions in developing your discussion questions.

3. Present the case you have prepared in the previous question to your group on the day assigned to you. Lead the group discussing the case. Maybe you will get some new ideas from the discussion.

  • When another member of your discussion group is leading, help them out by participating in the discussion

4. Write up your case on your blog with the following headings:

    • “The facts of the case.” Here is where you will  describe the case in your own words. 
    • “My conclusions.” Your conclusions and opinions about the case. Be sure to explain and justify what you write. Also, do you remember the interactive video in which you could pretend to be one of the players? Well, in this section of your wiki page, pick one of the people in your case and explain how, if you were that person, you would have done things differently, and why.
    • “Future environment.” Describe your vision of a future in which technology is more advanced than today, or society has changed in some significant way, such that the ethical issues of the case would be even more important than it is in today’s world.
    • “Future scenario.” Describe how this ethical case (or a similar one) would play out in the environment of the future, and give your opinions about it.

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