Towards a more integrated formal account of actual ethical reasoning, with applications in medical ethics.

Period 01-01-2016 to 31-12-2019
Type Research Project
Promotor(s) Prof. Dr. Joke Meheus, Dr. Frederik Van De Putte and Prof. Dr. Christian Strasser
Funding agency Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Researcher(s) Stef Frijters

Consider a HIV-positive woman in a resource poor setting who just gave birth. By breastfeeding her infant, she risks infecting it. By formula feeding it (with contaminated water) there is a high risk that he child will die. Problems like these are usually called dilemmas by the women and by their caretakers (whatever they do, there will be some wrongdoing). The last decades, moral dilemmas received considerable attention within deontic logic. However, no attention at all was paid to reallife examples like the one above. Worse, if one would want to "formalize" them within the existing systems, one would have to reduce them to some basic logical form (e.g., "this woman should and should not breastfeed"). One of the basic motives behind the current project is that moral problems like these deserve the attention of logicians, but that they are not logical problems: they have a contingent basis. Moreover, in order to do justice to them, we need richer languages and richer formal systems. The project has two main aims. The first is to lay the conceptual groundwork for a formal account that allows for the explication and evaluation of actual reasoning processes involving ethical issues. The second aim is to design some non-classical modal logics within this account and to apply them to some well-chosen cases from the domain of medical ethics.