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Modern Culture and Ethics: Problems, Dilemmas, and Issues

Important questions regarding ethics, morality and social behavior as they relate to issues raised in modern culture - for example reality television, prostitution, copyrights, and more.

Godless Morality & Ethics: Being Good Without Gods or Religion is Possible and P
Can there be a godless morality? Can we assert a superiority for a godless morality over traditional, theistic, and religious morality? Yes, I think that this is possible. Unfortunately, few people even acknowledge the existence of godless moral values, much less their significance. When people talk about moral values, they almost always presume...

Human Handicaps: Society Adjusts for the Dominant Preferences
Disability is, by definition, a relationship between a person and their ability to perform some action; disabilities are thus not intrinsic. Instead, they are relative to a person's physical context - if they have a means for doing the action, they aren't disabled anymore. If you look around, you'll find that we all have technological aids to help us do things we couldn't do on our own.

Repression vs. Expression: What Should We Do With Negative Emotions?
Most people seem to think that it's better to express your negative emotions in order to work through them rather than bottle them up and ignore them. At least, that's seems to be the common belief in the modern West; most cultures through history have, at most, sanctioned a brief period for venting and then encouraged setting them aside. This may be the best option, medically speaking.

Reason vs. Emotions: When Are Emotions Unreasonable?
Our emotions are visceral reactions which occur outside reasoned deliberation. Is it therefore not possible or reasonable to evaluate emotional reactions against standards of reason? No - emotions can be evaluated because they are conditioned by our assumptions, beliefs, and culture. Emotional reactions may not be planned in advance, but they aren't inevitable or unavoidable.

Animal Suffering & Religious Obligations: Questions of Morality and Ethics
Devout religious believers are generally given a fair amount of leeway in society when it comes to their ability to follow the dictates of their conscience and their religious obligations. They are not allowed to willfully ignore general laws, at least not usually; but in turn those laws are often framed in such a way as to provide space for religions to operate. Should this hold true when it comes to ritual animal slaughter, or should traditional religious methods of killing animals be banned?

Professors on the Take: Selling Out Students to Publishers
Everyone who has taken any college classes is probably familiar with the ordeal of purchasing textbooks. Some books can cost in excess of a hundred dollars while the full textbook requirements for some classes can cost a student two or three hundred dollars total. Presumably these books are chosen by the professor because he feels that they are the best and most appropriate for that class in that subject - but what if that isn't the only factor in such choices?

What are we, who produce 'art'? Art, Technology, and Humanity
The creation of human art has always been deeply intertwined with questions about technology, in part because technological development has helped drive the sorts of art possible, and in part because it causes us to reconsider just what we think art is supposed to be. But at every stage there has continued to be a human element to the production of 'art' - technology's role, as medium or mediator, has remained only partial. What happens when the human element is removed?

Why Be Civil? A Look at the Ethics of Civility
Civility is the deliberate practice of courteous and polite behavior in our relations with other people. There are values in such courtesy because politeness Is type of lubricant in the social gears. But does that mean that civility is simply a facade to keep people from strangling one another, or are there more substantive ethical issues at stake as well?

Ethics of Reality TV: Should We Watch?
Media both in America and around the world seem to have "discovered" that so-called "reality" shows are very profitable, resulting in a growing string of such shows in recent years. Although not all are successful, many do achieve significant popularity and cultural prominence. That does not mean, however, that they are good for society or that they should be aired.

Public Research, Private Profits
It's considered unfair when a person is expected to pay twice for the same product, but that situation has become enshrined in American law. The public funds research efforts at universities through massive scientific grants, but the fruits of that research can be patented by those universities, allowing them to charge hundreds of millions of dollars in fees then passed on to the public.

Mercy vs. Justice: A Clash of Virtues
True virtues are not supposed to clash - at least that is the ideal. Our personal interests or baser instincts may at times conflict with the virtues we are trying to cultivate, but higher virtues themselves are always supposed to be in harmony with one another. How, then, do we explain the apparent conflict between the virtues of mercy and justice?

Keep Armageddon Secret: Do you want to know when the end is near?
We can be quite certain that, at some point in time, an asteroid or comet will collide with our planet and wipe out much of its life - including us. We can also be certain that governments with large enough telescopes will find out earlier than the rest of the population, but too late to do anything about it. Should the world's people be informed of their imminent armageddon?

Homosexuality and Libel: Is it an insult to be called gay?
It is possible to falsely accuse people of things like pedophilia or theft and be found guilty of slander or libel. According to the law, you aren't permitted "defame" someone by claiming without basis that they do or have done something generally considered repugnant or illegal - especially when those accusations can damage a person's reputation.

Copyrights & Copywrongs: Ethical Considerations
Copyrights exist so that a person who creates a new work (song, picture, story, etc.) can derive some profit from it. After a period of time, the rights to the work are supposed to go to the public (public domain) so that everyone can benefit from it and to encourage people to produce new works. At least, that was the situation until large corporations entered the picture.

Baths for Baptisms: Bribing Soldiers in the Desert
As reported in the Miami Herald, an Army chaplain in Iraq has used a supply of clean water to bribe soldiers into being baptized. Josh Llano of Houston, a self-described ''Southern Baptist evangelist,'' will allow soldiers to use some of his 500-gallons of pristine water - but at a price.

Affirmative Action & Ethics: Evaluation of Aguments Against
Affirmative Action is a moral and political question which divides Americans more than it unites them. On the one side are those who regard it as a type of program designed to rectify racism and reverse the effects of both past and present discrimination; on the other side are those who simply see it as another form of discrimination, giving one group extra advantages based upon their skin color.

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