AUTONOMY – THE BIGGIE
1. AUTONOMY – Autonomy, fulfilled or unfulfilled, is a critical ingredient of moral structures – your right to self-govern yourself free from outside restraints. In simple terms it is the right to do what you want as long as it does not hurt or interfere with anyone else’s autonomy. Fully clarify (a) Why this concept is important in ethics, using examples from your own life or other sources. (b) When it may be morally justified to cross the boundary of another individual’s autonomy, (c) How it is tied to the value of respect, (d) How it is the same general value, although its boundaries are defined differently between different cultures and/or groups, (e) On a social level, if the following principle of autonomy America was largely founded on has or has not been adhered too in our modern times: “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to other’s.” (John Stuart Mill) Or does state paternalism rule the day by telling its citizens what they can and can’t do, and (f) How issues of autonomy on a personal/social level parallel the autonomy (sovereignty) of nations, especially in regard to when it is justified (supposedly) to violate that sovereignty (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya) with military force and regime change. Further elucidate what problems this presents, morally, when overall harm and collateral damage is measured against the gains that are labeled freedom, liberty, and democracy,
Example (microcosm of individuals) – An elderly parent is living independently and continues to drive. You have noticed declining mental faculties and the parent has had a couple of minor accidents that did not result in any harm. You have suggested that it is time to give up driving before they or others are killed or injured. The parent stubbornly refuses to give up their driving rights. There is a moral dictate for respecting your parents (note: Ten Commandments) and a norm that cuts across cultural or group setting that falls into the category of a self-evident truth. In this case, however, there is strong evidence to override that respect for autonomy because not doing so would likely cause harm to others.
Example (social level) Building codes were enacted to protect the health and safety of the people. That is the intent of these provisions. However, there is a case to be made that this original intent has overstepped its bounds when intervening on the autonomy of a person’s property. A multitude of examples present themselves. In the Yuma Foothills you can’t build a storage shed closer than 24 inches to the property line, it is limited in square footage, and cannot have plumbing and electrical besides one outlet and a light. If it is less than 24 inches the building inspectors can (and have) make you either move it or tear it down. This is a small example of the rights I’m referring too above in relation to (possible) over-extended government control.
Example (Global level): George W. Bush deemed it necessary to commit a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. A few days before the bombing of Baghdad he addressed the nation and announced to the people of Iraq that their “Day of liberation is at hand.” This is a violation of the Sovereignty (autonomy) of a country. In this case it was originally justified by the likelihood of weapons of mass destruction that would cause harm, but when that was found not to be true, the justification switched tracks to “liberating” the people
2. From video, explain what Mill labeled the “Tyranny of the majority,” and how that limits our freedom as well as total conformity limiting social change and progress. Example: If society had continued the accepted attitude towards women’s rights manifested in the1950’s women would still be working as “Housewife’s.” On my Birth Certificate from 1948, my mother’s occupation was listed as “Housewife.” Put down some other examples you can think of. Note: Change (by conformity) does not always equal progress, so you don’t have to necessarily refer to changes for the good. Don’t strain much over this if you can’t come up with examples, but I am sowing the seeds for future reference to the social influence of our ethical framework.
3. There is an important two-part issue about rights and violation of those rights – (1) When is it deemed necessary to intervene on one’s rights? and (2) How far can the intervening agency (individuals or governments) go when enforcing intervention once it is determined necessary? This two-fold problem is no more evident than in the Covid epidemic we are all living through.
Your are to read the partial report (below) about the results of the Covid spread resulting from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota recently that is estimated to generate 12.2 billion dollars in health care costs, and address the following questions. (a) Should the participants have the right to congregate, since the majority believed it was a hoax from the beginning? (b) A majority of the participants came from out of state. How does this affect the status of their gathering ? (c) Later in the report it states that the authorities would be powerless to stop the event, and even if they cancelled it the bikers would still gather in Sturgis. Should the authorities, local and possibly federal, gone to greater lengths in preventing the gathering? Is this a case of the majority rules, in the sense that the majority pushed the event forward by sheer numbers? and (d) Define what attitude this displays by a large group towards the overall welfare of the society that they are a member off?
“Now we’re all here together tonight. And we’re being human once again. F*ck that Covid sh*t.”
Smash Mouth Lead Vocalist Steve Harwell, 2020 Sturgis Concert
Restrictions on large gatherings were a near universal policy adopted by U.S. states
following the initial U.S. coronavirus outbreak (McKinley and Gold 2020). As of August 29,
2020, when all states that had forced businesses closed had at least partially reopened (Lee et al.
2020), 29 states continued to ban gatherings of groups of over 50 individuals (North Star
Meeting Group 2020), a reflection, in part, of the resurgence of COVID-19 in the U.S. beginning
in June 2020.
Restrictions on large gatherings during a pandemic is a form of government regulation of
quantity within a market to curb a negative externality. In that way, gathering restrictions are
similar to public smoking bans, chemical emission standards, or vaccination mandates.1
case, the negative externality is due to infection risk, so the blanket nature of a gathering
restriction is a key part of the containment strategy as a single mass gathering has the potential to
generate a large number of cases, a phenomenon referred to as a “superspreading event.”
Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deems “large in-person
gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees
travel from outside the local area” among the highest risk activities for the spread of COVID-19
(CDC 2020). The risk of contagion of COVID-19 is exacerbated at such events if (i) there are
high frequency, prolonged interactions between individuals, and (ii) pre-event COVID-19 case
growth in the county hosting the event is elevated (CDC 2020)
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