Ethical Principles for Social Policy

Ethical Principles for Social Policy

Ethical Principles for Social Policy

Ethical Principles for Social Policy


Abortion, euthanasia, racism, sexism, paternalism, the rights of children, the population explosion, and the dynamics of economic growth are examined in the light of ethical principles by leading philosophers in order to suggest reasonable judgments.

Originally prepared for the distinguished Wayne Leys Memorial Lecture Series at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, the essayists have addressed themselves to the most pressing ethical questions being asked today. William K. Frankena, Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan, in "The Ethics of Respect for Life" argues for a qualified view of moral respect for human personality. From his viewpoint it is always prima facie wrong to shorten or prevent human life, but not always actually wrong as other moral conditions may counter the presumed wrong. The late William T. Blackstone in "Zero Population Growth and Zero Economic Growth" contends that justice will require the production of the maximal level of goods to fulfill basic human needs compatible with the avoidance of ecological catastrophe.

Richard Wasserstrom, Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Santa Cruz, proposes an assimilationist ideal in "Racism, Sexism, and Preferential Treatment." Gerald Dworkin, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle, dares to ask "Is More Choice Better than Less?" Joel Feinberg, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona, in "The Child's Right to an Open Future," offers a defense of "rights-in-trust" of children. Tom L. Beauchamp, Professor of Philosophy and Senior Research Scholar at the Kennedy Institute-Center for Bioethics of Georgetown University, considers the paternalism used to justify social policies in the practice of medicine and insists that it invariably involves a conflict between the ethical principles of beneficence and autonomy.


Even leaving aside his earlier accomplishments and service, the contributions of Wayne Leys as a scholar, professor, and valued colleague at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, would require special acknowledgment and praise. Lewis E. Hahn, a colleague, has appropriately described him as a cooperative and creative person who, from a generous store of knowledge and a fertile mind, had something to contribute on a wide range of problems. a person of courage and conviction, he would not sidestep controversy when principles were threatened. He added a significance to the common efforts of the philosophy staff, and his example of quiet reasonableness, especially in times of stress and difficulty, continues to provide both encouragement and direction.

Having joined our staff in January, 1964, Leys worked selflessly for the department and his many students, graduate and undergraduate, until his death March 7, 1973, at the age of 67. in a joint effort with S. S. Rama Rao Pappu, a student from India, Leys prepared the centennial volume Gandhi and America's Educational Future (Southern Illinois Univ. Pr., 1969). This inquiry is a reflection of Leys's open, experimental, and truth-seeking spirit.

It was, of course, only one of the nine books he wrote. Three earlier books, Ethics and Social Policy (1941), Ethics for Policy Decisions(1952), and Philosophy and the Public Interest (with Charner Perry, 1959, all reflect Leys's major concern to relate ethics to public policy. Leys conceived of such policy as including all significant decisions made by politicians, administrators, judges, lawyers, and ordinary citizens. His purpose was to bring the deliberative ethical questions to bear on the exciting and complicated issues of social policy for the sake of a balanced, reasonable judgment.

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