Background and Resources

Subtopic 1: Ethics and Values

Activity 1.1

Activity 1.2

Activity 1.3

Subtopic 2: Bioethical Problems Identification

Activity 2.1

Activity 2.2

Activity 2.3

Subtopic 3: Methods and Strategies for Decision-Making

Activity 3.1

Activity 3.2

Activity 3.3

Module Summary

Developer Bio

User Evaluation Form

Values in General

The purpose of this activity is for students to identify as many different kinds of values as they are capable of and to then consider the bases of measurement employed in their determination. This includes questions concerning objectivity and subjectivity, and other epistemological issues.

Activity 1.1

Today, value is a term that is much used and much abused, particularly as we find it at play in areas of ethical decision-making. Philosophy identifies four primary forms:  intrinsic, instrumental, inherent, and relational value. All indicate the worth of something. In turn, values are determinations of worth held by an individual, community, or entire culture that follow from the body of that person's or group's beliefs. The origin of these beliefs vary, but for most can be grouped into those acquired on the basis of authority (either social, political, or religious), or experience. In any case, such beliefs may, or may not be tempered by critical reflection and analysis.  Beliefs acquired on the basis of authority, though tested in practice, may be left unchanged despite presenting evidence that is contradictory to the values they claim to embody. Beliefs that claim an origin in experience may likewise be suspect for the simple reason that much of what we call experience lies in our account, or representation of the things we take to be significant, even before we survey the details. In other words, both views suggest an unavaoidable bias for thinking about questions of value, even when one attempts to be open-minded. We find ourselves caught in a loop of circular thinking.

Efforts to move beyond this bias, outside this loop, can be found, but for the most part amount to little more than adoption of a definist position, which in itself is nothing more than the claim that values are what they are by definition.  Bluntly stated, truth and right are reduced to whatever we say it is. Stemming as they do from beliefs, values invariably point to some form of inclusion in judgments that lead either to action or movement in thought. Regardless of where they come from, values are undeniably of great practical importance for the individual, and socially significant for the quality of life found in communities and societies as a whole. The study of value is called axiology.

Students will individually compose a list of values, first of those they identify as their own, and then of those they identify with the community, or culture of which they are members. Then, either in a traditional classroom situation, or by online messaging, they will divide into small groups to sort these lists according to form (intrinsic, instrumental, inherent, and relational) and origin (authority, experience, or critically determined), citing reasons for this categorization. Once sorted, each student will crtically review what has been compiled by the group and write his or her own analysis of the process, to include questions that point to additional research and discussion. These questions are to be used for follow-up activities and forums.