Archive for the ‘Normative Ethics’ Category

Here’s an interesting thought experiment from TPM. It’s essentially a variation on Philipa Foot’s well-known ‘trolley experiment’. Give it a go and see how consistent your morals are… Should you kill the fat man? Advertisements

Prof. Emily Jackson of the London School of Economics offers a perspective on euthanasia legislation in the UK.

While traditional moral arguments about euthanasia tend to focus on cases where the condition of the individual is terminal, the recent case of a 23 year old British man commiting suicide in a Swiss euthanasia clinic, after being left paralysed from the neck down from a sporting injury, raises a number of moral and legal questions. Is there […]

Peter Singer expands on his analogy of the drowning child in this article at New Internationalist (April, 1997).

Judith Jarvis Thomson has argued that pregnancies resulting from a rape or where the life of the mother is in danger should be terminated on moral grounds. In ‘A Defence of Abortion’ she begins by conceding that an unborn baby is indeed a person – the argument offered most often by those opposed to abortion […]

“Suppose, for example, that you and another person are shipwrecked on a desert island and the other person is dying. Before he dies, he gives you a sum of money and makes you promise that, if you are rescued, you will give the money to a certain Austin Jones, his unacknowledged illegitimate son. You promise; […]

You can find a full e-text of Kant’s ‘Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals’ at You will note that the title is given on this site is ‘Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals’. This is simply a different translation of the original German title (‘Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten’). If you wish to […]

At the start of his trial in December 2003, Meiwes said his motive for killing and eating his victim, Bernd Juergen Brandes, was born from a desire for this younger brother he never had – “someone to be part of me”. Armin posted an advertisement on the Internet, looking for a willing victim. The post […]

Lawrence Hinman’s ‘Ethics Updates’ site at contains many useful resources on a wide range of different normative theories and their application in different areas. There are Powerpoint presentations, video discussions and links to other resources.



“Imagine that each of five patients in a hospital will die without an organ transplant. The patient in Room 1 needs a heart, the patient in Room 2 needs a liver, the patient in Room 3 needs a kidney, and so on. The person in Room 6 is in the hospital for routine tests. Luckily […]

Terri Schiavo


One of the most high-profile cases of euthanasia in recent years was that of American woman Terri Schiavo. She collapsed after a heart attack in 1990 and spent the next fifteen years in a coma. Terri was in’persistent vegetative stat’ (PVS) which meant that she not in a coma, but was unable to react to […]

“Jim finds himself in the central square of a small South American town. Tied up against the wall are twenty Indians, most terrified, a few defiant, in front of several armed men in uniform. A heavy man in a sweat-stained khaki shirt turns out to be the captain in charge and, after a good deal […]

• Kant’s is a deontological and absolutist moral theory. • ‘Deon’ is the ancient Greek word for duty. (‘Dei’ = one must.) Deontological moral theories permit or forbid different actions by arguing that each of them is right or wrong with respect to moral duties. Deontological theories state that actions are right or wrong in […]

‘Normative’ is an adjective derived from the noun ‘norm’ and in philosophy is used to refer to a standard, rule or principle that is used to judge or direct human action. ‘Normative’ does not refer to ‘what is normal’, but involves questioning the assumptions of ordinary moral behaviour. Normative ethics is concerned with questions of […]