Stephen Toulmin (1922-2009) was a British philosopher whose work focused on moral reasoning and argument. Toulmin was born in England, but taught most of his life in the United States at the University of Chicago. Toulmin also taught in Columbia, Dartmouth, and Stanford.
Stephen Toulmin worked on ethics for most of his lifetime and really put his focus on how ethics worked and evolved. Toulmin also applied logic to his arguments and analysis. A statement that Stephen Toulmin made a statement that really stood out to me was “For every human problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong”.
In this essay, you will learn more about his principles as you read on. In the passage I read, Toulmin goes more in depth about Oversimplification. Oversimplification means to simplify to such an extent about distortion, misunderstanding, and error. Nowadays, ethical debates go One way or another. Either with Dogmatism, which means laying down principles and facts that we know are true without consideration of evidence, or opinion of others. There is also Shallow Relativism which has no valid moral principles. Normative ethical relativism or ‘Shallow Relativism” states that “the moral rightness and wrongness of actions vary from society to society”. To me that means there are no moral standards supporting the actions or statements that are being discussed when you use the shallow relativism method. Both of these approaches suffer from the same amount of sweeping statements and general principles. In the early Twentieth century, the rise of Anthropology, which is the study of human societies and cultures and their development. This encouraged a healthy amount of social and cultural differences, but this was taken with lack of consideration whether it was right or wrong as it strongly suggest an end to all objectivity or fairness in practical ethics. The following statement of ethical being has led to an insistence of principles that are not balanced by a feeling for the hard problems of discrimination that come up when those principles are added to real life situations. So in conclusion, the Relativist have over thought the need for discrimination or hate in ethics, avoiding offence, and revealing private information, and the fair and impartial law as a license for personal subjectivity also known as influenced by personal subjectivity also known as influenced by personal feelings, taste, or opinions. The absolutist are people who hold absolute principles in political, philosophical, or theological or religious matters. They responded by rejecting all real scope for personal judement in ethics, suggesting instead on strict construction in law on unfeeling consistency in law on unfeeling consistency in public administration and all the lack of error or infallibility of moral principles.
Stephen Toulmin’s main purpose was to ask “What is it about our present situation that inclines us to move in that direction?” regardless of the economic and political systems, ethics, law, and public administrations have undergone historical transformations, so that all three fields are exposed to the same kinds of pressures, face common struggles, and have the same results in public distrust. Toulmin’s examples have the same general topic : the nature, scope, and force of “rules” and principles in ethics and in law. Three personal experiences helped Toulmin focus on these problems.
In the mid-1070’s, Stephen Toulmin worked as a staff member with the nation commission for the protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral research, which was established by U.S. Congress. Eleven commissioners, five of them scientists and six lawyers were instructed to make recommendations about publicly financed human experimentations to determine under what conditions people belonging to certain weaker groups like younger children and prison inmates could participate in this research without moral abjection. Before the Commission began work many onlookers thought its discussions would tear and degenerate into Babel of rival opinions.
In practice, the commissioners were never split along the line between scientist and non-scientist. In almost every case both sides would come close to an agreement even about more complex subjects about commissioner’s recommendations. They continues their debates one by one at a time and comparing each other with clearer and easier classes of cases. Even when the recommendations were not anonymous, the discussions never resembled Babel. When the Eleven commissioners asked what “principles” justified and stood up for their sticking to their mindset. Each replied in their own way. Catholics appealed to catholic principles, Humanists appealed to humanists principles, and so on. They would agree on what they were agreeing about, but they could not agree on why they agreed about it. That brings to wonder what this final “appeal to principles” really achieved. They were quite confident about their judgments and how they were based. Example, the principles of Catholic ethics tells and explains more on Catholicism than their personal ethics. These principles act less as foundations, than they do as linking the moral perceptions of all reflective human beings.
This brings us to our last and in my opinion, most debatable topic between the parties which is abortion. Abortion is a really difficult topic to talk about between Two opposing people. The public debate about abortion struck a more sensitive approach between the Commission itself. On One side, there were those who could discuss abortion temporarily and with discrimination acknowledging that yes, they do see it as taking another life, but that it is painful on both sides and still wrong morally. Balance has to come between different rights, interest, and responsibilities. There was and is a more moderate way of laying out traditional common law about abortion before the restrictions were added in 1825.Thomas Aquinas spoke about and acknowledged that the balance behind moral standpoints tilt and shift in different directions based on the stages in the woman’s pregnancy.
“Right to Life” or “Right to Choose”. Who are we to say which opinion is right and which opinions wrong. The issue has always been a touchy debatable topic for Thousands of years and that the only practical outcome of compromise is “deadlock” which means no progress can be made between the parties and their personal views and thoughts on Abortion so no progress will be made.
From reading this article, I learned that both parties are very controversial about many topics that involve their principles and beliefs. In the end I believe that both will have to agree to disagree based on the topics that are given to them. Both of the parties values are important when it comes to open mindedness, because they each show their standpoints and their moral beliefs.