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[P]
Ethics in Practice

By jmzero in Culture
Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 12:36:42 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

In debate, participants often present ethics as an overriding consideration.  Sometimes, ethics is referenced by several  participants in support of contradictory positions.  When this happens debate tends to stall, as participants lack a framework for resolving their varying ethical valuations.  In the interest of keeping K5 flamewars running smoothly, below is an attempt to outline what such a framework might look like.


What is ethical?

ethics: the principles of right and wrong that are accepted by an individual or a social group (from WordNet)

This is a good definition, and perhaps it suggests a useful test for determining whether something is ethical.  Based on this definition, we could evaluate whether something is ethical by asking all members of a group whether it is right.  This is all well and good in the case of consensus, but it is unclear what to make of a situation where group members disagree - and these are precisely the situations we are interested in.  Probably the simplest answer to resolve this dispute is to suggest that there is no group ethics - a position at the base of moral relativism.

Moral relativists hold that an unsharable, personal, and aesthetic moral core lies at the foundation of personal choices. They deny the possibility of sharing morality at all, except by convention.

At first glance, this seems to leave our debaters in a quandary.  How can we compare ethical valuations, when they are based on what is essentially aesthetics?  In practice, relativism tends to merely change the name of what is being debated.  While a group may not be able to truly share morality, this does not preclude them from creating and reasoning about workable ethical conventions.  This set of conventions is, in turn, about the same as what non-relativists might simply call ethics.

Either way, we're left with determining a procedure whereby we can evaluate an option against our ethical standard.  We have two basic mechanisms at our disposal - deontology and utilitarianism.

Deontology

A deontological ethical system starts by defining a set of actions that are wrong and/or a set that are right.  For example, we might use the rule "killing is wrong" as a part of our system.  Alternatively, the rules can be more abstract like "do unto others as you would have them do unto you".  Whether or not our system contains such abstract rules, we need not define rules for all possible situations.  Instead, we can allow for casuistry, the process of evaluating a specific case based on its similarities to another case for which a rule is agreed upon.

Most countries' legal systems can be thought of as deontological rule systems.  Laws typically demonstrate a primary benefit of deontological systems: as a system matures it typically becomes very easy to evaluate common actions.  For example, one generally need not consider all of the consequences, motivations, and factors involved in a killing in order to say that it is unethical.  When killing is considered ethical (perhaps in self-defense), other rules can be set up as branches of the general rule.  We are left with a tidy, easy-to-use decision tree.

Problems still sometimes come, though, in setting up this decision tree - typically due to lack of consensus.  Our primary tool for resolving disputes here is casuistry, but it is not always enough.  For example, much of the current debate on abortion is based on varying casuistry:

-Abortion is like killing.

-Abortion is not like killing.

-Abortion resembles other health decisions that a woman is free to make.

How do we resolve this problem, which seems to have stalled the debate?  

The first general approach is to order rules in a hierarchy.  For example, a system might say that it is alright to steal a loaf of bread for a starving child.  In such a system, there is likely a rule that vilifies stealing - but another, higher rule, that calls for the preservation of life.  

In setting up such a hierarchy, however, we're left with the question of how to rank our rules.  However we decide to do this, we have - in some ways - created a system that is not deontological.   If we decide that killing is worse than stealing for some reason, then that reason is our real ethical system.  Our deontology, in that case, is more like an index of some deeper ethical calculus.

Another approach to rescuing deontology is to propose an extensible "master rule" which covers all situations.  The most famous rule in this vein is Kant's Categorical Imperative, which basically tests whether behavior is in accordance with a universalizable maxim.  The linked article gives a better explanation than I'm likely to muster here - do read it if you're interested.  You may also want to read up on virtue ethics, which is another thing altogether but beyond the scope of a short article.

Utilitarianism

Perhaps the most natural way of evaluating actions is utilitarianism - the practice of judging options based on their expected consequences.  In attempting to employ this method, we very quickly come upon a question: how are we to judge these consequences?  Is a consequence good if it makes people happy?  Satisfied?  Free?  What is the goal of our ethical system?  If this were a formula, what number are we trying to maximize?  For the sake of moving forward, I suggest that the clearest way to express what we're trying to maximize is "the degree to which individuals' preferences are met".  

Our next problem is resolving situations where preferences collide; we have to decide how to "distribute" satisfaction.  One could imagine a kind of market-based solution to this problem wherein everyone gets a certain number of points to spend as they see fit in influencing decisions.  Under such a system, everyone's preferences are being weighed and decisions are made that best meet those collective preferences.  To what extent this represent a complete ethical system?

Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts.  Surely Mr. Top's preference for not being beaten, however strong, cannot trump the collective preference of millions.  Why, then, would so few people consider this beating ethical - and how do we formalize our desire to avoid this kind of abuse?  We need to recognize not only average or total satisfaction but to place a lower limit on satisfaction; we want to make the worst case livable.  

Taking this into account, and presuming we've discovered the perfect system for distributing satisfaction, do we end up with a reasonable ethical system?  I think we end up with an interesting system - but also one very different than the ethical systems we see in practice.  Why is this?  In large part, this is because practical systems are constrained by a reality: we can't know all the consequences of decisions.

This causes problems.  If an ethical evaluation is rendered too difficult, then we cannot really evaluate or sanction unethical behavior.  To continue functioning, a set of ethics need not be a true Nash equilibrium - people aren't gaming robots - but an ethical system needs to be somewhat evolutionarily stable.  To the extent that behaving unethically can realize rewards, the ethical convention tends to break down.  To combat this, stable ethical systems tend to have a sense of "justice" - a sense that it is OK to devalue someone's preferences if they've behaved unethically.

A system of ethics must also allow people to make decisions despite their inability to consider all  consequences.  In moving towards this goal, ethical systems tend to treat "actions" much differently than "omissions".  There's lots of things you're not doing while there's only a few things you are.  Primarily evaluating only  actions serves to cut down the number of consequences that must be routinely considered.  With omissions, people are typically considered to have a limited number of things they're ethically responsible for.  

Ethics Today

The modern Western ethical landscape is difficult to summarize - but here is an attempt:

For everyday decisions, people rely on deontological "rules of thumb" - most of which are based on law and traditional culture norms.  To a greater and greater extent, however, these norms are being challenged by, and evaluated against, appeals to utility.  While the ethics of Christianity are still a powerful force in shaping ethics on a personal level, the wider group ethic is being defined by a few medium-term trends:


  1. A greater focus on mundane costs and benefits in evaluating the actions of nations, including war.

  2. Through environmentalism, an increased conciousness of long term consequences of collective behavior.

  3. The exclusion of personal sexual behavior from ethical consideration.  In general, there is a focus on "minding one's own business".

  4. The melding of religious deontologies into a vague, general Oprah-ism of universal love and altruism - with much less focus on any religion's particular rule set.


The common thread here is the gradual replacement of deontological ethics with systems based on utility.  Old taboos - from reproductive technology to profanity - are collapsing to the extent that they interfere with preferences. This trend is not universal, but is clearly observable over the last century.

Ethics in Practice

In most matters, humans are prone to the errors of stubbornness and over-generalization.  We take bad risks and we repeat mistakes.  If we are to avoid these errors in our ethical determinations, we need to approach these determinations in an organized fashion.  Hopefully this article, while only a starting point, has given some ideas on how this might be done.

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Related Links
o moral relativism
o aesthetics
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o utilitaria nism
o casuistry
o Categorica l Imperative
o virtue ethics
o Nash equilibrium
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o Also by jmzero


Display: Sort:
Ethics in Practice | 171 comments (122 topical, 49 editorial, 2 hidden)
Ethics are for the weak. (2.37 / 8) (#3)
by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Tue Oct 05, 2004 at 08:09:11 PM EST

The facts of biology of the individual in society become the laws of ethics. I take strong exception to your insinuating our cognitive ability to invent metaphorical descriptions of the process, your deontology and other poetries, has little if anything to do with the scientific fact that goodness is a measure one's enthusiasm and tone of voice. Very strong exception indeed!

--
Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.

Hmm (2.25 / 4) (#4)
by jmzero on Tue Oct 05, 2004 at 08:31:39 PM EST

I originally tried to include the quote:

"Conan, what is good?"  "To kill your enemies, to drive them before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women."

But I couldn't find a good place for it.
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

What is best in life? (2.33 / 3) (#28)
by zenofchai on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 11:45:56 AM EST

Mongol General : We have won again. That is good! But what is best in life?
Mongol Captain : The open steppe, fleet horse, falcon on your wrist, wind in your hair!
Mongol General : Wrong! Conan, what is best in life?
Conan : To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women!
Mongol General : That is good.
--
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]
I takes what I can (1.85 / 7) (#11)
by up on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 12:04:32 AM EST

And I burns the rest.

Good and evil.. (2.14 / 7) (#19)
by Magnetic North on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 08:56:02 AM EST

..does not exist. Morality must come from within. Ethics is a straitjacket. All is one.

--
<33333
Questions of right and wrong (3.00 / 2) (#68)
by losthalo on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 11:51:57 PM EST

are a sickness of the mind.

[ Parent ]
Ethics is a cop-out (1.25 / 8) (#21)
by The Honorable Elijah Muhammad on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 10:10:13 AM EST

nt


___
localroger is a tool.
In memory of the You Sad Bastard thread. A part of our heritage.
personal vs. group ethics (2.75 / 4) (#31)
by urdine on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 12:13:36 PM EST

I'm thinking of my "Why I Don't Vote" article that got flushed when you stated that voting is an ethical imperative.  Under the frameworks you've outlined, I don't see any way to analyze "personal ethics," meaning things you should do that don't necessarily cause harm to anyone if you don't.  Such as voting, giving to charity, etc.

Something else - I think that the "Golden Rule" is the best starting place for laying down standard ethics (aka. group ethics - how your actions will be received by others) but it certainly doesn't catch all situations.  I think a lot of ethical problems can be boiled down to a personal vs. group ethics issue.  For example:

Is it alright to kill one innocent to save 10 innocents?

This seems simple from a logically ethical standpoint, but if you had a gun and were presented with killing a random person to save 10 others, you might have trouble pulling the trigger.  Why?  I think there is a sense of personal responsibility that can supercede ethics.  In other words, you will still have the blood of that one person on your hands unless you can reason it away, which is hard to do, and, frankly, could indicate an unethical coldness if you can do it.

Group ethics only exists in the framework of a group.  When removed from an arbitrary group situation, such as:  YOU have to kill this person, it becomes a personal decision, which I think operates differently from standard ethics, which dictates how you interact with others.  Consider that most of us would sacrifice our life to save the Earth from certain destruction, but fewer would sacrifice their life to save one other person, and fewer still would knowingly sacrifice their life for someone else's profit.  The point is, a lot of ethical dilemmas are founded at the point where personal ethics crosses group ethics, and it's an issue of how much we value the group vs. how much we value ourselves.  Abortion could be seen in this light; most pro-choicers probably value themselves above the group, while pro-lifers value others above themselves.

Voting (2.00 / 3) (#50)
by jmzero on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 03:26:28 PM EST

Under the frameworks you've outlined, I don't see any way to analyze "personal ethics," meaning things you should do that don't necessarily cause harm to anyone if you don't.  

Think of this in a utilitarian sense.  In your article, you ascertained that a vote has very little value to you - basically its value is equivalent to:

"how much I care who gets in" * "the likelihood that my vote is going to make that difference"

Which comes out to a small number.

When we go to evaluate this ethically, we don't just care about the value of your vote to you.  Rather, we evaluate the value your vote has for everyone.  Each other person gets the same value from your act of voting that you do, and this adds up.  

The other question is whether to excuse people for failing to do things that would have good consequences.  You're right in saying that in practice we tend to limit ethical accountability outside certain spheres of responsibility.  For example, even if my donation to UNICEF may have saved a child, my failure to donate is not typically seen as tantamount to murder (or child abandonment).  Few people would label those children as "my responsibility".  In the article, I chalked this discrepancy down as a compromise - but I concede it's complicated.  

I don't think you're a monster if you choose not to vote.  All I would say is that there's a very conceivable ethical reason to do so.
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

Abortion (3.00 / 2) (#97)
by sydb on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 07:00:50 PM EST

<i>most pro-choicers probably value themselves above the group, while pro-lifers value others above themselves.</i>

"Pro-choicers" are not necessarily interested in their own choice. They may be interested in other people's choice. Whereas "pro-lifers" are more interested in removing other people's choice by imposing their own will in a situation which is more about other people than themselves.

I hate the term "pro-life". My personal stance is that abortion is a legitimate action to take where the parent's life (or parents' lives) will be seriously negatively affected by an unwanted pregnancy, or due to serious health complications of a pregnancy gone awry.

This doesn't make me anti-life. It makes me pro-life, in a way that values the quality of life above the quantity; it seems to me that the "pro-lifers" value quantity more.

--

Making Linux GPL'd was definitely the best thing I ever did - Linus Torvalds
[ Parent ]

not necessarily (none / 1) (#107)
by Delirium on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 03:50:20 AM EST

I personally am not anti-abortion, but someone who is doesn't have to necessarily value quantity above quality. The more common reason is that they hold as axiomatic that a fetus is a human life, and likewise as axiomatic that ending a human life is wrong in almost all circumstances. Thus abortion would be immoral except in severe extenuating circumstances, such as, perhaps, the mother's life being in danger.

That argument isn't directly susceptible to the "quality of life" argument, because an anti-abortionist is unlikely to be impressed by a claim that you want to murder someone to make your life better. To win that argument, you'd have to convince them it's not murder, which requires attacking one or both of their axioms.

[ Parent ]

If it's about circumstances (none / 0) (#113)
by sydb on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 04:44:05 PM EST

then isn't it about the quality of life?
--

Making Linux GPL'd was definitely the best thing I ever did - Linus Torvalds
[ Parent ]

only at the extreme (none / 0) (#115)
by Delirium on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 04:52:42 PM EST

"Quality of life" issues such as "I would no longer be alive if I don't have an abortion" or "I would be severely crippled for life unless I have an abortion" would still be relevant. But I had the impression you meant something more broad by "quality of life".

[ Parent ]
Venn-diagramattical! (none / 0) (#118)
by Zerotime on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 10:43:44 PM EST

I would definitely be interested in seeing the statistics on people who are anti-abortion, but also pro-war. That's got to be some sort of interesting dichotomy.

---
"You don't even have to drink it. You just rub it on your hips and it eats its way through to your liver."
[ Parent ]
Agreed (none / 1) (#128)
by kaens on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 11:44:00 PM EST

The way I see it, while the fetus is still inside the woman, it should be her choice wether to allow it to live or not. The reason being that it is still inside her body, directly affecting her, and absolutely dependent on her for survival.

Since she is the one providing life for it at the moment, she should have the choice of wether to allow it to continue developing and maturing, or to stop it in it's tracks - and there can be many valid reasons for choosing the latter, especially considering the fact that if you have a child, you are expected to raise them. Sure, adoption's an option, but many people would rather not live knowing they've got a kid somewhere that doesn't know they're their child.

I say while it is still in the body and incapable of living outside the body, it should be the womans choice wether to keep it or not, simply because she's the one it's costing.

I agree with you....I suppose I'm just adding my few paragraph's worth.


--I surface, and I stagnate.
[ Parent ]

Not bad... (3.00 / 6) (#35)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 01:00:56 PM EST

...not perfect by any means, but not bad considering how difficult it is to write up a brief introduction to ethics for a general audience.

The article's weakest section--and by weak I mean incomplete--is that one which covers ethical relativism. You would seem to present a non-cognitivist metaethics as representing the whole of relativism, but its a little more complicated than that in practice.

One can be a cognitivist or a noncognitivist with respect to ethics. Cognitivists view ethics as a rational enterprise, whereas noncognitivists view ethics as a fundamentally irrational. Cognitivism and noncognitivism are generally, although not always, a metaethical position insofar as they apply to ethical systems in general and not just one system in particular.

A metaethical noncognitivist is necessarily a ethical relativist, as denying the possibility of an underlying rationale for ethics rooted in formal or practical reasoning obliterates the possibility of establishing a species of truth against which ethical propositions can be judged.

More often than not, ethical relativism is a term applied to that position which maintains that while ethical reasoning may indeed be a rational process, ethical propositions can only be said to be true within the context of a particular system. Thus something can be a unethical under one system and quite ethical under another.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


Fair enough. (none / 0) (#40)
by jmzero on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 01:34:31 PM EST

Your points are well put.

I originally had somewhat more material on relativism, but cut it as I realized my article was growing longish without any real interesting payload.  In cutting, I introduced a lot of arbitrary jumps - and as it stands the article doesn't even gloss over a lot of topics.

I had hoped to introduce some basic philosophical ideas and problems in a brief, interesting way - but I think I should have approached from a different direction.  I'll let the article flop around in voting for a while, and hopefully someone enjoys it.

Thanks for the comments.
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

As I said... (none / 1) (#42)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 01:48:05 PM EST

...this subject is really tough to present in manner that is both accessible and accurate. I made a go at writing up an article on virtue ethics a couple of months back, but gave up after I couldn't find a way to remain accurate enough for my tastes while still producing an article that had any chance of surviving the queue.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Virtue Ethics! (none / 0) (#61)
by gzt on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 10:19:29 PM EST

Hot damn, did you at least keep it as a diary or something?

[ Parent ]
Alas... (none / 0) (#77)
by cr8dle2grave on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 11:34:43 AM EST

...the only such tangible evidence would be the diary where I broached the subject. I floundered not too far into the organizational process. Not being in school, where there are any number of structural enticements to keep at it, I've found that the slightest difficulty seems ample reason to abandon a writing project. I wish I were a better and more motivated writer, but extemporaneous pontificating is the most I can seem to muster these days.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Tell me you have a copy. (none / 1) (#64)
by ubernostrum on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 11:26:35 PM EST

I made a go at writing up an article on virtue ethics a couple of months back, but gave up

And tell me you'll let me read it. And should you need them, I and my dupe accounts would gladly vote such work up.

/me goes back to his efforts to write a multi-part "Intro to Western Philosophy" for k5...




--
You cooin' with my bird?
[ Parent ]
Just notes... (none / 0) (#78)
by cr8dle2grave on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 11:42:09 AM EST

...and a couple of outlines. I stalled out at the point of organizational difficulties. I ran into problems getting enough groundwork laid down so that I could go on to making my point. There's nothing like trying to capture a philosophical concept in a short, accessible description to bring home just how many gaping holes there are in your own comprehension of the subject.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Heh. (none / 0) (#95)
by ubernostrum on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 06:07:14 PM EST

There's nothing like trying to capture a philosophical concept in a short, accessible description to bring home just how many gaping holes there are in your own comprehension of the subject.

I discovered that, too... my "history of philosophy" article got through most of the pre-Socratics and then stalled. One day, though, it shall rise triumphant.




--
You cooin' with my bird?
[ Parent ]
A way past that (none / 0) (#174)
by hackwrench on Sun Oct 24, 2004 at 12:48:45 PM EST

Write the points first, then go back and lay the groundwork. I can help you, if you'd like.

[ Parent ]
wow, virtue ethics? (none / 0) (#75)
by Battle Troll on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 07:27:12 AM EST

That's where it's at. How sensible o you.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
My own take on eudaemonist ethics... (none / 1) (#76)
by cr8dle2grave on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 11:22:00 AM EST

...has a decidedly Nietzschean/Foucauldian flavor, so I'm still decidedly within heathen territory ;-P  

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
you know, I have a confession to make (none / 1) (#87)
by Battle Troll on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 03:03:18 PM EST

Never read Foucault. He always sounded to me like a better philosopher in the abstract than the concrete, which is not one of my turn-ons.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
IMHO (none / 1) (#88)
by cr8dle2grave on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 03:27:37 PM EST

Foucault is much stronger where he's hovering very close to the ground rather than building systems (or ant-systems as the case may appear to be) in the sky. But that's just me. Most people seem to go in for Foucault's "Big Ideas®".

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
+1 FP. (3.00 / 2) (#60)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 09:23:07 PM EST

Uses the phrase "neo-cognitive metaethics" in a sentence.

I'm a long way from my intro to philosophy course - but it seems to me that all rational systems must have irrational roots. That is, any system based on logic must be based on postulates that, by definition cannot be derived logically.

I guess what I'm saying is I don't see a difference between the idea that ethics are rational and the idea that ethics are irrational. Any human endeavour has both components.


I'll tell you why I don't listen. I can only read so much of your stupid a-- b--- s--- before I lose all faith in the future of humanity and start sort
[ Parent ]

Agreed (none / 1) (#79)
by cr8dle2grave on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 11:57:30 AM EST

Personally, I tend to view the rational/irrational distinction as a bit of a false dilemma. The synthetic/analytic distinction seems to me more useful, but it can made to break down under analysis as well (see Quine).

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
it's a false dilemma because (3.00 / 3) (#100)
by Battle Troll on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 08:33:20 PM EST

Of the indefensible pretensions of 'rationality' to objectivity and the knowledge of universals, as I make it.

I remember trying to suss out what an 'objective' visual viewpoint would mean as a freshman, and realizing that it would amount to seeing every object from every angle, possible impossible and inconceivable alike, from within, using x-rays, etc. And that's just the sense of sight.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

Reminds me... (none / 0) (#93)
by xria on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 04:58:29 PM EST

In a way (and not understanding at this time either subject in any great depth) that thought reminds me of this stuff that I happened to run into due to another article:

http://www.miskatonic.org/godel.html

Of course I have been known to hallucinate when deprived of sleep for long periods :)

[ Parent ]

please (1.35 / 14) (#43)
by originalbigj on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 02:10:18 PM EST

I graduated college so that I wouldn't have to read anymore of this crap. I'm glad that you're excited enough by other people's useless ideas to write this article, but understand that all the mental meandering in the world won't make anyone more ethical, or simplify anyone's decisions. Let's be honest, have you ever tried to actually use a ready-made ethical system? Is your goal in writing about ethics really to help anyone, or is it that you want to show how smart you are, and have people applaud your philosophical depth? The moment one stops trying to impress oneself with one's ability to write at length, and actually begins making ethical decisions, one sees how useless this branch of philosophy is.

Que? (none / 1) (#52)
by Shanoyu on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 04:49:06 PM EST

You graduated college so you wouldn't have to listen to useless ideas on the internet?

[ Parent ]
Heh heh (1.50 / 2) (#92)
by C Montgomery Burns on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 04:54:13 PM EST

I graduated college so that I wouldn't have to read anymore of this crap.

Then what forced you to read this article?
--
ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD
Intelligent design
[ Parent ]

hmm... (none / 0) (#103)
by gdanjo on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 10:10:45 PM EST

[...] The moment one stops trying to impress oneself with one's ability to write at length, and actually begins making ethical decisions, one sees how useless this branch of philosophy is.
Mental note: never use originalbigj's doctor.

Dan ...
"Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
-ToT
[ Parent ]

Can all of you dopes (1.16 / 12) (#49)
by dteeuwen on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 03:24:36 PM EST

stop submitting your papers for class to be voted up?

_________

Down the slopes of death he rides
The eight hooves pound like drums
Darkness reigns the crumbling sky
Invasion has begun


aesthetics? (2.40 / 5) (#53)
by khallow on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 05:00:21 PM EST

How can we compare ethical valuations, when they are based on what is essentially aesthetics?

Are traffic rules aesthetic in nature? After all, they're effectively ethical rules (backed with the force of law) for driving vehicles on roads. I think you were on the right track when you finally got around to utilitarianism. The idea should be that ethics is infrastructure (or perhaps a protocol for using existing infrastructure) like a road or an Internet connection. It should add value to anyone that observes the rules in question.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

Actually, he made an excellent point. (2.16 / 6) (#59)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 09:17:59 PM EST

A lot of modern western morality can be described as based on aesthetics - because when people abandoned the idea of absolute morality they went straight to the standard of "if it's unpleasant, it must be wrong."

Thus, going to war is wrong - even if it means saving thousands from death (Sudan, Rwanda, etc..) because it would be unpleasant to personally die while trying to save some one else.

Thus, gun ownership is wrong because you owning a gun scares me - even if I have no rational reason to believe you will misuse that gun.

Thus, fetal stem cell research is right even though it reduces (potential) human beings to patentable biotech - because dying is certainly unpleasant and we all want to live forever, right?

As for traffic lights - I don't know about where you live, but people ignore speed limits and other traffic signs all the time around here - and they make up all sorts of excuses about why it's okay for them to do it, even though the real reason is because they can't be bothered to wait 90 seconds for the light to change.

I think the word "aesthetic" exactly sums this situation up.

I'll tell you why I don't listen. I can only read so much of your stupid a-- b--- s--- before I lose all faith in the future of humanity and start sort
[ Parent ]

Ethics are not tangible. (none / 1) (#54)
by Esspets on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 06:05:21 PM EST




Desperation.
Soup is lukewarm (none / 1) (#132)
by Wulfius on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 12:07:01 AM EST

 

---
"We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!
[ Parent ]
ATTENTION RANDROIDS: (1.51 / 27) (#62)
by the ghost of rmg on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 11:13:40 PM EST

everyone who mentions ayn rand or her crackpot pulp fiction will get a zero from me for every comment in which they do so. i invite everyone here who cares about maintaining some degree of seriousness in the endeavor before us, i.e. discussing ethics in an intelligent manner, to do the same.

similarly, anyone who invokes any so-called "austrian economist," for example by talking about the "coercion axiom" or whatever other crazy shit you read on mises.org will receive zeros from me. again, i invite all other reasonable people to do the same.

finally, anyone who uses the term "moral relativism" or some derivative thereof in a pejorative sense will receive the same treatment.

and by way of explanation, -1, ethics.


rmg: comments better than yours.

if Rand was a more doable woman (2.00 / 4) (#67)
by balsamic vinigga on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 11:41:02 PM EST

would this effect your opinion of her and her philosophy?  I know it would mine.

---
Please help fund a Filipino Horror Movie. It's been in limbo since 2007 due to lack of funding. Please donate today!
[ Parent ]
the short answer (3.00 / 5) (#74)
by the ghost of rmg on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 07:21:06 AM EST

is yes.


rmg: comments better than yours.
[ Parent ]
To be fair, (3.00 / 3) (#83)
by Miniwheat on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 01:53:22 PM EST

I don't see where you gave yourself a zero for this comment.


[ Parent ]
I'm shaking in my boots (1.55 / 9) (#86)
by Matimus on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 02:33:58 PM EST

Oh, please please, don't give me a ZERO!!!

Your statments only appeal to ethos, and since I don't know you or anything about you, I find them difficult to heed. I know nothing of your credentials that would obligate me to give your suggestion any weight. Not that I will apply objectivism to any of my arguments, but if I did, you modding me down would be the least of my fears.

Its funny, I thought that kuro5hin was a place to discuss varying oppinions. You may not agree with everyones viewpoint, but a philosophy that denies individuals the right to hold them is infinitely more flawed.
sigs r dum
[ Parent ]

can the fancy talk, college boy (2.00 / 6) (#96)
by Battle Troll on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 06:31:35 PM EST

no text
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
A college boy (none / 0) (#140)
by glor on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 11:10:48 AM EST

... would have correctly spelled "opinions."

--
Disclaimer: I am not the most intelligent kuron.
[ Parent ]

not in America (3.00 / 3) (#142)
by Battle Troll on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 09:49:57 PM EST

/nt
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
But I AM in America! (none / 0) (#143)
by glor on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 10:14:03 PM EST


--
Disclaimer: I am not the most intelligent kuron.
[ Parent ]

And I went to college, (none / 1) (#154)
by Matimus on Thu Oct 14, 2004 at 07:58:28 PM EST

but I didn't major in spelling(English). I majored in Engineering. I don't appreciate the allegation that America has poor colleges. America provides some of the best higher education in the world, despite poor performance in our public school system.


sigs r dum
[ Parent ]

That's a weak excuse. (none / 1) (#157)
by glor on Sat Oct 16, 2004 at 12:57:41 AM EST

Someone who doesn't worry about writing because he wasn't an English major is just as lazy as someone who won't do basic arithmetic because he wasn't a math major.  ("What's ten percent of this bill?")  These are basic skills, not college skills.  I think that one of the weaknesses of American higher education (though it may be cultural rather than institutional) is that it encourages this kind of compartmentalization.  

It's nice that you don't appreciate the allegation that America has poor colleges, but I wish you wouldn't back it up.

--
Disclaimer: I am not the most intelligent kuron.
[ Parent ]

Why the insults? (none / 0) (#162)
by Matimus on Mon Oct 18, 2004 at 01:58:43 PM EST

I guess I'll be straightforward about it. I had one spelling mistake, which could have easily been a typo, and you insult my intelligence. I wasn't so much concerned about your initial comment because it was jovial, but when you came back and said:

It's nice that you don't appreciate the allegation that America has poor colleges, but I wish you wouldn't back it up.

It is neither jovial nor constructive.

I understand the importance of writing. I spend 90% of my time writing documentation. If you want to argue that America has poor colleges you shouldn't use spelling in an online forum as a parameter, and you probably should have a sample size greater than one. I am an intelligent person. I know I am an intelligent person. I don't need to look for less intelligent people to reinforce my opinion of myself. My point wasn't that spelling is unimportant. My point was that often, too much emphasis is put on spelling. You could clearly understand what I was trying to say, and that was my goal. Even novelists and journalists have editors.
sigs r dum
[ Parent ]

Justification, and an apology. (none / 0) (#163)
by glor on Mon Oct 18, 2004 at 05:35:04 PM EST

What I complained about the "weak excuse" comment wasn't your spelling error (which obviously was a typo and which I pointed out in fun) but your reponse to it --- which was (to paraphrase), "only English majors care about spelling."  As I said, it's the compartmentalization that bothers me, and encouraging tendencies to compartmentalize is a flaw in American schools.  All adults should be able to write clearly, do arithmetic, etc., whether they must for work or not.

The line you quote wasn't meant to refer to your basic skills, but your attitude about them.

That said, you have explained this attitude more fully, and it seems I misjudged you.  Sorry.

--
Disclaimer: I am not the most intelligent kuron.
[ Parent ]

Thanks (none / 0) (#164)
by Matimus on Mon Oct 18, 2004 at 06:10:05 PM EST

I appreciate your response. Just when I start to lose my faith in Kuro5hin as a forum for intelligent exchange, somebody acts reasonably and restores my perspective.
sigs r dum
[ Parent ]
"To deal with men by force (1.00 / 5) (#89)
by jaeson on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 03:46:33 PM EST

is as impractical as to deal with nature by persuasion."

-- Ayn Rand, "The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made," Philosophy: Who Needs It

[ Parent ]
question: (none / 1) (#94)
by Esspets on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 05:05:11 PM EST

what if I mention black people and/or fried chicken and malt liquor? Will I get a zero for that too?


Desperation.
[ Parent ]
not unless (1.50 / 6) (#102)
by the ghost of rmg on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 09:53:12 PM EST

you also mention ayn rand or one of the other things mentioned above.


rmg: comments better than yours.
[ Parent ]
A solid basis for ethics (3.00 / 3) (#66)
by balsamic vinigga on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 11:39:24 PM EST

Is to recoginize that we are beings of life and must therefore embrace our own life unflinchingly.  This means embracing hedonism in the past, present, and future.  The future of which should not be over-emphasized because it would interefere with the present hedonism too much.

Live, eat, sleep, fuck, enjoy yourself, and encourage others to do the same.

---
Please help fund a Filipino Horror Movie. It's been in limbo since 2007 due to lack of funding. Please donate today!

*shrug* (3.00 / 3) (#69)
by khallow on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 01:28:33 AM EST

Hedonism just doesn't work. People end up trying too hard at having fun to actually have fun.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

That's SO right. (n/t) (none / 1) (#110)
by CorwIn of Amber on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 10:04:19 AM EST


-Do you realize the suicide rate we'd have if people killed themselves just because they're stupid?
-Yes, an acceptable one.


[ Parent ]
The Golden Rule (2.16 / 12) (#70)
by pb on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 01:49:57 AM EST

Badly stated, easily abused.

"do unto others as you would have them do unto you"

Ok. Posit:

  1. I would like others to have sex with me.
  2. Therefore I will have sex with others.
  3. What do you mean you don't want to--I'd want to!
Or:
  1. I love my form of government.
  2. Therefore I will replace other governments with it.
  3. What do you mean you don't want my form of government; I think it's great!
etc.; I guess it just goes back to a lack of shared values (or a difference of opinion).
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
Would you still want sex ... (2.37 / 8) (#72)
by Gerhard on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 03:27:30 AM EST

Would you still want sex if the other person were your cellmate Bubba who would love to have your ass? When all outcomes is considered the rule works great.
By not have sex with Jenna I can avoid Bubba wanting to have sex with me.


[ Parent ]
puhlease pb (3.00 / 2) (#80)
by balsamic vinigga on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 12:36:42 PM EST

I'd expect more from you.  Nobody would WANT sex they didn't want forced upon them (and we can all picture this)  And nobody would want a form of govt. They don't want forced upon them (and we can all picture this)...

The golden rule still stands.  Unless you can come up with a better loophole than this shit.

---
Please help fund a Filipino Horror Movie. It's been in limbo since 2007 due to lack of funding. Please donate today!
[ Parent ]

Nigga, (none / 1) (#116)
by pb on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 05:35:31 PM EST

You're missing the deeper question here. Which is, how would you know what another person wants? You don't. You know what you want. And The Golden Rule, as phrased, is entirely from your perspective.

And actually, it's funny that you should bring up the gov't example--my government's current argument in Iraq is that the Iraqis really do want 'freedom', so from that perspective, it must be the right thing to do!
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

The Golden Rule (none / 0) (#130)
by kaens on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 12:03:43 AM EST

I think the Golden Rule would be better stated as "Don't do unto others what you wouldn't want done to yourself."

I mean of course you don't know what other people want, but you do know what you don't want, right? And you know that other people might not want the same things you don't want, right? So when you go to take a course of action that affects someone other then yourself, take a look at how they are going to see it as well.

In all reality, I think that the Golden Rule, in meaning, is something more along the lines of "Don't force other people to do things they don't want to. Mind your own business, and find consenting individuals for whatever multi-person activites you enjoy"

"how would you know what another person wants?" - well, you could always ask


--I surface, and I stagnate.
[ Parent ]

The form of your last example is flawed. (3.00 / 2) (#82)
by thoth39 on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 01:48:18 PM EST

I think your last example is flawed. The axiom is: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." So, actually: 1. I would others do X unto me. 2. Therefore I will do X unto others. 3. Profit. Your last example should be: 1. I would others replace my form of government from X to Y. 2. Therefore I will replace other's form of government from X to Y. 3. What do you mean you don't want your form of government changed from X to Y? So, think about it: whatever form of government is in place in your country: would you have others come in and change it? I'm not implying any answer here; but the form of your example was flawed.

[ Parent ]
Flawed (none / 1) (#85)
by Matimus on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 02:21:02 PM EST

Your first example works logically, but it only examines one element of the situation. I may want others to have sex with me, but I don't want to be forced to have sex with somebody not of my choosing. Basically, the golden rule can be re-applied to all of the various aspects of a situation, overriding the origional conclusion.

Your second example is just wrong. How is "loving your form of government" something that others do unto you?
sigs r dum
[ Parent ]

Confucius said it better... (2.77 / 9) (#91)
by smithmc on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 04:18:37 PM EST


Badly stated, easily abused..."do unto others as you would have them do unto you"

Confucius (and others) have put it the other way round: "do not do unto others as you would not have done unto you". I consider this a much more reality-compatible approach.

[ Parent ]

And here's why... (none / 0) (#166)
by WobL on Wed Oct 20, 2004 at 10:15:23 AM EST

And the reason Jesus said something different is because any humanistic philosopher can come up with what Confucius said. However when God is concerned, he goes far further in terms of love and grace. Doing to others involves actively helping out, whereas not doing just is license to ignore people's problems.

[ Parent ]
Doing Unto Others vs. Helping (none / 0) (#167)
by smithmc on Wed Oct 20, 2004 at 05:08:21 PM EST


Doing to others involves actively helping out

It also tends to involve cramming your values down other people's throats. Many people (like, say, George W. Bush) interpret the (Christian version of the) Golden Rule as "what's good for me must be good for everyone, whether they like it or not". Which ain't true, thank you very much. Which is why I prefer the Confucian version.

[ Parent ]

That doesn't appear to be an argument.. (none / 0) (#168)
by WobL on Fri Oct 22, 2004 at 11:45:51 AM EST

Er ok, so you're saying Jesus' version doesn't work out well when it's misinterpreted. Not to rain on your uh logic or anything but that's not actually an argument against what Jesus said in the slightest, that's an argument against whoever misinterprets it. The Confucian version is obviously simpler and therefore easier to understand as it restates standard humanistic values which you can see everywhere.

[ Parent ]
Humanistic values everywhere? (none / 0) (#169)
by smithmc on Fri Oct 22, 2004 at 09:59:10 PM EST


The Confucian version is obviously simpler and therefore easier to understand as it restates standard humanistic values which you can see everywhere.

Uh, really? I'd say the world is a little short on humanistic values.

[ Parent ]

You bet (none / 0) (#170)
by WobL on Sat Oct 23, 2004 at 07:36:50 AM EST

I don't mean they're outworked in people's lives. I mean that they are stated everywhere. The entire cultural momentum at the moment is caught up in the idea that humans can improve themselves, and on the importance of looking after oneself.

Clearly this is fantasy, somehow left over from Victorian Darwinism where (as is happening today) natural selection theory is overapplied and used to present the case that we are gradually improving socially, morally etc. This myth should really have been wiped out with the event of the two world wars, but it has somehow stuck around as there is nothing with which to replace it.

So yes humanistic values are everywhere. As soon as we dumped the idea of an absolute morality derived from a deity, we relinquished all moral sanity. While we still passionately believe in justice and fairness and certain things being right and certain things being wrong, we have no way of arguing what is right or wrong, as (humanistically) one person's idea is as good as another's.

So yes. I believe that humanistic values are everywhere, and spouted as being right and noble. However because we are only human, we are incredibly bad at actually practicing what we preach. These values have been around forever, and are pretty instinctive to us: every religion in the world bar one is about self and striving to keep rules and being good. It takes something pretty spectacular for us to realise that there is anything OTHER than humanism around.



[ Parent ]
A Platinum Rule (none / 0) (#104)
by adimovk5 on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 12:35:47 AM EST

Instead of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" it would be better to "treat others as they would like to be treated". In the first, you treat others according to your own desires. In the second, you treat others according to their own desires.



[ Parent ]

you can't know their desires (none / 0) (#106)
by Wah on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 03:10:05 AM EST

you would command them.

only your own are true.
--
The Golden Rule is not a commandment. It's a property of sentient matter.
[ Parent ]

Apply it fully (none / 0) (#109)
by zakalwe on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 07:09:27 AM EST

I would like others to have sex with me.
But do you want them to have sex with you against your will?. Would you want others to blindly express their own desires to you, or would you rather they respect your feelings? If so, don't do onto those others what you don't want them to do unto you.

You can't just treat the rule as a liscence to take a desire divorced from all context and blindly apply it (after all - you wouldn't want others to do that to you). Nothing in it absolves you from thinking through your actions (again, unless you'd rather others don't when they affect you).

I love my form of government.
Obviously in this case, most people think that their preferred form of government is the best form for everyone. The distinction isn't a difference in morality - its a difference in opinion as to what government is best. I can acknowledge that a man who wants me to convert to his religion may be acting morally in his actions, even when I think he is wrong.

[ Parent ]
Not about reciprocation. (none / 0) (#148)
by mindstrm on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 10:51:00 PM EST

I always thought this was more of a spiritual or internal rule than about cause and effect.

If you do something to others that you would not like done to yourself, you will suffer for it. Some part of you will regret your actions.

[ Parent ]

I always thought that it was a societal thing (none / 0) (#150)
by Nursie on Thu Oct 14, 2004 at 07:25:56 AM EST

if you start doing stuff you wouldn't like done to you, and consider it acceptable behaviour for yourself, then maybe other people think that way too (or will start to) and eventually you will receive the same treatment you give out.


Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
Universal ethics in practice (3.00 / 2) (#73)
by Morosoph on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 05:16:46 AM EST

What is better: for people to disagree on what is universal, or for them to acknowledge each other's perspectives?

The latter is certainly relativism, but it appears that it is the first that leads to war.

There's a difference (none / 1) (#84)
by jubal3 on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 02:17:45 PM EST

between universalist ethics and exclusivist religions.

The first doesn't require moral action on my part to deal with people who disagree with me. The second udually does.


***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
[ Parent ]

Insufficient argument (none / 1) (#141)
by WilliamTanksley on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 08:02:42 PM EST

There's many questionable parts of your argument.

First, granting people the right to their beliefs (the basis of relativism) doesn't automatically grant them the right to all possible actions. Thus, relitavistic groups may act against other groups without being inconsistent -- and this is, in fact, observed behavior.

Second, acknowledging each other's perspectives is only done when both societies are relativistic. If only one is, then the societies differ enough to conflict -- and again, such conflicts do happen, and are not always started by the universalists.

Third, the fundamental premise of your argument is universalist -- that it is always "better" to choose one side from your two choices. Some universalists would claim (and in fact have claimed) that there's not enough information in your post to allow an ethical decision; that even all people agreeing might not be sufficient for correctness.

In my absolute opinion (hah! get it?), the question isn't whether you have or don't have universals. The question is, what universals do you have. Claiming that there are no universals, or that everyone must act as though there were none, is itself a universal.

-Billy


[ Parent ]

Universal (none / 0) (#151)
by Morosoph on Thu Oct 14, 2004 at 09:03:28 AM EST

In my absolute opinion (hah! get it?), the question isn't whether you have or don't have universals. The question is, what universals do you have. Claiming that there are no universals, or that everyone must act as though there were none, is itself a universal.
Good point.

My universal is that we're all made of essentially the same stuff and exist in a shared universe.

[ Parent ]

For more information ... (1.42 / 7) (#90)
by duncan bayne on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 04:03:12 PM EST

... on ethics & philosophy, check out The Importance of Philosophy, in particular their section on Ethics.

Links to typical Objectivist (2.33 / 3) (#108)
by tetsuwan on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 06:52:28 AM EST

denial of, for example, quantum physics. Rand + Rand +Rand + Kelly.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Please explain ... [n/t] (1.50 / 2) (#127)
by duncan bayne on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 04:23:11 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Well, (none / 1) (#134)
by tetsuwan on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 03:53:40 AM EST

you posted it like it was a link to a general site on philosophy when it was a standard partisan Rand-objectivist site.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Philosophy of Rand is easily summed up (3.00 / 2) (#136)
by GenerationY on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 08:51:24 AM EST

"How can I get this young psychology student Nathaniel Branden to shag me?"

Having seen photographs of Ms. Rosenbaum and having once being a young psychology student myself, this fills me with The Fear.

Funny how when he stopped putting out, he stopped being a valid objectivist ("To whom it may concern", Rand, 1968).

Its like L. Ron Hubbard or something...


[ Parent ]

As I have said before, that site sucks, badly (3.00 / 2) (#145)
by Nursie on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 04:48:44 AM EST

Please get a better source, your "importance of philosophy" site is biased and subjective, and in many cases simply incorrect.

Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
You are strange. (none / 0) (#161)
by Torka on Mon Oct 18, 2004 at 06:45:44 AM EST

If you believe so strongly in the correctness of your libertarian views, why attempt to convince people of them via deception?

If the ideas are as self-evident as you want them to be, you shouldn't need to resort to dishonesty to propagate them, as you did in the above comment.

[ Parent ]

Grrr... SOLVE the problem! (2.33 / 6) (#99)
by clambake on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 08:09:04 PM EST

-Abortion is like killing.

-Abortion is not like killing.

-Abortion resembles other health decisions that a woman is free to make.

How do we resolve this problem, which seems to have stalled the debate?

Just fund Freezebortion!  Cryogenically freeze embryos such that they can be thawed in the future and replanted into new mothers of childless couples.  Seriously.  The technology doesn't exist today to thaw them, but we can certianly freeze them, and one can assume the march of progress, especially if properly funded, will one day be able to thaw then out (and fix any genetic damage done by the crude 21st century freezing process) and implant them.

All problems have solutions as long as you don't give up in searching for them.  

We live in a world of defeatists, I swear!

ror! (none / 0) (#125)
by fleece on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 08:20:20 AM EST





I feel like some drunken crazed lunatic trying to outguess a cat ~ Louis Winthorpe III
[ Parent ]
Documented problem. (none / 0) (#131)
by Wulfius on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 12:04:16 AM EST

It has been documented that 'freezing' is actually a desturctive process. Fine if you want to eat the frozen stuff. Not fine if you want the cell structure to remain intact.

Cell walls are fractured by the crystalline structures forming when the liquids solidify.

A technology capable of a massive cell wall re-construction procedure might as well re-assemble the organism cell by living cell.

-


---
"We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!
[ Parent ]

Not anymore. (none / 0) (#147)
by JavaLord on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 01:01:00 PM EST

It has been documented that 'freezing' is actually a desturctive process. Fine if you want to eat the frozen stuff. Not fine if you want the cell structure to remain intact.

With a new process called vitrification, the cell damage no longer occurs. See this link. Scroll down for pictures showing the difference.

There is of course, still the problem of being dead.

[ Parent ]
-1 (2.66 / 3) (#117)
by trhurler on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 08:44:04 PM EST

Incomplete. It is worse to claim that deontology, utilitarianism, and relativism are the total of morality than to have made no attempt at all.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

*2nds this* (none / 0) (#135)
by Douglas77 on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 04:02:58 AM EST

I agree. The problem is that the given definition of "Ethics" is flawed.
Ethics is a part of the science of Philosophy; that part which seeks an answer to the question "What should I do?".
And of course, there are many more answers than the given 3...

[ Parent ]
I never say that's all there is... (none / 0) (#137)
by jmzero on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 07:21:06 PM EST

..and I hint at a lot of other topics.  I thought the point of the article was clear:

Hopefully this article, while only a starting point, has given some ideas...

I know a fair bit about the philosophy of ethics, and I recognize that I've never smelled 99% of what's been written.  I wasn't trying to be comprehensive, nor would that be possible in such a short article.

.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

In my (none / 0) (#149)
by jubal3 on Thu Oct 14, 2004 at 01:02:10 AM EST

ethics textbook several hundred pages, not a few hundred words, almost all the emphasis is on Deontology and Utilitarianism, because those are the most dominant schools of thought.

Not mentioing virtue ethics or moral contractarianism in a primer article hardly counts as missing the boat.


***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
[ Parent ]

A very different viewpoint about abortion (none / 0) (#126)
by The Amazing Idiot on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 05:06:31 PM EST

Abortion and the rights of the mother always come up in a "ethics related" article.

The two major related camps that arise are the Pro-lifters and Pro-Choicers.

Pro-Lifers: Want to ban abortion, or killing and disposing the fetus inside a mother, and ban all "fertilized egg implantation on uterine wall" drugs, like RU-486 and others. Usually this is religion-induced, or seen as murder.

Pro-Choicers: Wants to allow abortion, and legalization of all drugs and methods to rid themselves of a fetus. This is women's rights and feminist induced. Seen as control over own body.

Now, an observation Ive seen in the "wild". A wolf has a litter, in which one is sick. What does the female wolfd do? Can she "abort" the cub? Nope. The wolf abandons the  born cub, and leaves the sick one to die. Ive seen this with woves, deer, dogs, cats, and many other animals. Getting rid of sicklies are very common to promote the genetic line.

The last thing about this is animals have no sense of morality, ethics, or anything resembling it, yet they still knowingly kill their young.

This is just a talking point about "abortion" which may not be used as of yet...

And now to my bias: Im a strong pro-lifer, due to religion and a few other things. Ive also some strong conflicting ideas about the same topic. I see abortion as the eradication of a fertilized egg that was implanted on the uterine wall. Abortion is perfectly legal when done, but considered life endangerment if in the scope of drugs, or murder if drugs cause miscarriage. It's also considered double-murder if mother and "fetus" dies. Mother considerers fetus, own body, when DNA comparison only has 1/2 of genetic matieral (eg: NOT her own). Woman, unless under conditions of rape, have choice of own body as letting the "tube meat" enter hers. Abortion pre-empts "right to life, ...without due process".

The above isnt an argument.. it's just a jumble of my biases and conflicting biases.

"wolves abandoning sickly cubs" analogy (2.66 / 3) (#138)
by stormie on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 11:18:08 PM EST

Cubes are three-dimensional solids.
Cubes have 6 faces.
Spheres are three-dimensional solids.
Therefore spheres have 6 faces.

This is just a talking point about "geometry" which may not be used as of yet...

[ Parent ]

Oh, I get it. (1.00 / 5) (#139)
by Sesquipundalian on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 10:09:40 AM EST

Gawheee!, we're not just another form of animal life at all. The vengeful sky faerie exists, therefore we are not like other animals and besides; when we die we all go to the happy place with naked flying boys who play harps.

Therefore we all have to love everyone all the time and we can't just live our own lives as we see fit. And you absolutely must never ever hate anyone because they smell bad, or their minds seem abhorrently weak to you.

You definitely should have included the harps part, it's the clincher to your whole argument! I know it makes me want to go out and love the homeless!. Yup, if you'd included the naked boys and the harps, I'd be outside right now loving the homeless, feeding starving retards, and talking crack mommies into keeping their screetching litters.

Ffffffffft, Aaaaaaaahhhhh, I just love the smell of the homeless first thing in the morning. Ohhh the warm vommity smell of the homeless! It just makes me feel so connected to the rest of humanity. Ohh Joy!

I noticed that you're head seems to have 6 perfectly flat sides, it also may not have been used as of yet.


Did you know that gullible is not actually an english word?
[ Parent ]
Why allow abortions for Rape if you are pro-life? (none / 1) (#146)
by JavaLord on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 12:56:59 PM EST

Woman, unless under conditions of rape, have choice of own body as letting the "tube meat" enter hers. Abortion pre-empts "right to life, ...without due process".

Why would you kill the child in the equasion of rape? You have an innocent mother, innocent child, and father guilty of rape. If you are going to kill someone, it should be the father/rapist. If you believe that a fetus = life, then the son should not be punished for the sins of the father.

[ Parent ]
I was being.... (none / 0) (#160)
by The Amazing Idiot on Sat Oct 16, 2004 at 07:18:06 PM EST

Extremly sarcastic.

I do not advocate abortion at any time. A fetus can be excised and grown out of the womb. In the case of rape, adoption is the best way to deal with that.

And lastly, with abortion, I fail to see how the supreme court can allow it, as there is no due process to relieve that life in the "right of life".

[ Parent ]

That's where the REAL disagreement is... (none / 0) (#165)
by Lord Snott on Tue Oct 19, 2004 at 02:40:54 AM EST


You said:
"as there is no due process to relieve that life in the "right to life"


Religion aside, your belief that a foetus is a life is not shared across the board. I believe a foetus is a life force, but not a life.

When a woman gives birth at 6 months, that's premature. When a woman gives birth at 6 weeks, that's a miscarriage. Somewhere in between, the life force becomes a life.

I would never want my girlfriend to have an abortion, under any circumstances, but damned if I'm going to tell anyone else what they should believe.

Now, when a woman wants an abortion, but the father doesn't - that's a disagreement worth arguing over.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This sig in violation of U.S. trademark
registration number 2,347,676.
Bummer :-(

[ Parent ]
Pseudo-mystical "life force" aside.. (none / 1) (#171)
by WobL on Sat Oct 23, 2004 at 07:47:00 AM EST

..this is an interesting point. I'm a Christian and so don't like abortion either, but I liked this:

When a woman gives birth at 6 months, that's premature. When a woman gives birth at 6 weeks, that's a miscarriage. Somewhere in between, the life force becomes a life.

Not sure I entirely agree with it but I like the sentiment and the wording.



[ Parent ]
Thanks (none / 0) (#177)
by Lord Snott on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 03:27:14 AM EST


I'm usually copping crap, because I'm really bad at wording things.

I guess this topic is a little too close for comfort for me.

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registration number 2,347,676.
Bummer :-(

[ Parent ]

heh (none / 1) (#175)
by JavaLord on Mon Oct 25, 2004 at 02:37:49 PM EST

Now, when a woman wants an abortion, but the father doesn't - that's a disagreement worth arguing over.

As someone who was in the above situation, I can tell you unless you are married to the women or live with her you have no say over the matter. Fathers are truly treated as second class parents both before and after birth. Is it really a wonder that so many men don't support their children when they are taught that they are not as important as a mother from the youngest ages?

[ Parent ]
I do empathise (none / 0) (#176)
by Lord Snott on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 03:24:34 AM EST

I was almost in that situation. I didn't want something our love for each other created, dealt with as if it was an inconvenience. She miscarried, so the issue became moot.

Well, she told me she miscarried.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This sig in violation of U.S. trademark
registration number 2,347,676.
Bummer :-(

[ Parent ]

Ethics is old europe nonsence. (2.00 / 3) (#129)
by Wulfius on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 11:59:59 PM EST

Mao said; "Power comes out of the end of the gun."
Lenin said; "You are either with us or against us." (Recycled by Bush).

Write in 250 words of less, why in the age of one superpower setting the example for the rest of the world on how to solve contentious issues the ethics  of the opponent are relevant? Provide rebuttal to the assertion "Stubborness is good, diplomacy is wishy-washy".

Extra marks for analytical models showing when this approach is going to cause catastrophic collapse of the so called civilised world ;)

-


---
"We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!

simple answer: see signature (none / 0) (#133)
by Wah on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 02:04:47 AM EST

complex explanation: click on it.
--
The Golden Rule is not a commandment. It's a property of sentient matter.
ethics (none / 1) (#144)
by circletimessquare on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 11:30:57 PM EST

is simply a description of where selfish individual desires clash with society's desires

ethics is simply a guideline about where the individual should lose and where society should lose

and it's always changing, because no guiding principle can capture all of human behavior, so some injustice is always being exposed because some sort of behavior falls outside the simple guidelines

another reason dusty old books about who begat who in some semitic tribe from thousands of years ago is irrelevant to the modern world


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

I'll take "thou shalt not", thanks ... (none / 1) (#152)
by gregholmes on Thu Oct 14, 2004 at 01:59:08 PM EST

Because "choose your own adventure" ethics means you might choose wrong (and kill me).



My Ethical views... (none / 1) (#153)
by MyrddinE on Thu Oct 14, 2004 at 05:37:26 PM EST

... are primarily utilitarianism based, with a few assumptions:
  • Humans are reasoning creatures.
  • Humans are social creatures.
  • Groups are liable for the tangible costs they place upon society.
  • This which is not disallowed is explictly permissable.
I evaluate my world ethical viewpoint based on effect those ethics have upon the rational and social fabric. Unfortunately, much of my own ethics are based on guesswork, or weak correlations... I do not pretend that my ethics are fundamentally defendable, just that they are mine. However, the fact that I have a framework from which to defend my ethics puts me ahead of most people right there.

Some examples:

  • Murder is bad, because it harms the social fabric. If you cannot live without fear of your neighbor, then society will fail.
  • Suppression of information is bad because it harms the rational fabric. Without knowledge you cannot make informed decisions.
  • Polluting is explicitly forbidden, due to the astronimical liability this places upon the polluting group (pollution cleanup costs more than any company can afford).
  • Freedom (that does not infringe upon the freedoms of others) shall not be abridged. This includes consentual sex of any orientation, freedom of religion, etc.
I do extend my ethics in ways that perhaps not everyone would agree are correct... these are the 'weak correlations' that I mentioned earlier. For example, I believe abortion is wrong because it dehumanizes children, and thus harms the social fabric. I believe creating a line where 'this is a baby' and 'this is a parasite' is wrong. The creation of the line itself is wrong, whever you draw the line, though the farther back the line, the less harm. I can agree with abortions though... in the same circumstances I would agree with sacrificing one human in favor of another. If there are two people in a burning building, and I can save only one, then someone has to die. If there are two humans in a medical emergency, and I can save only one... then abortion is a consideration.

Another one of my less defendable positions is that of drug use. I believe that all drugs should be legalized, taxed reasonably as any other harmful luxury item, and medical issues relating to drug use removed from the list of things you can claim federal aid for (medical, grant, leave, etc). Of course insurance is free to cover, or not cover, drug issues as they see fit. I believe drug use falls under my freedom of personal action clause. And where drug use harms others... well, that falls under my liability clause, and should be treated like drunk driving is now.

Any ethical system must follow from certain axioms... certain statements that are held as true without proof. My axioms (Humans are social, rational, liable, and free) may not be to your liking, or you may disagree with the conclusions I draw from them, but at least I have thought about WHY I believe certain things are right and others are wrong.

Take a long hard look at your ethics. Why do you believe some activities are right, while others are wrong? Can you explain what assumptions underlie your ethics, those things you hold true without proof? Until you understand your own ethical guidelines, I am not sure I would trust you to judge anyone else's actions, to claim moral superiority over them, because you do not even understand your own ethics.

And when you don't understand your ethics, they are merely morals. Morals are very like ethics, but without a reason, without a cause, without an explanation. They are faith based... you have faith that your morals are right, but you do not seek proof for them. Unquestioning faith may be a good way to treat your god, but I don't think it's a good way to treat your fellow human.

Here is one of my takes on the subject (none / 0) (#155)
by Highlander on Fri Oct 15, 2004 at 10:19:59 AM EST

I tried to find something that everyone who acts in his best interests can base ethical judgement on, and I believe it even works with someone who believes in the 'Do what you want.'-philosopy of Aleister Crowley - many systems of ethics are there just to help you decide what is the best thing to want. So, you might still go to church while being a follower of Crowley's beliefs.

The purpose of life is to .. live !

While it may seem to be just drivel to both the very educated and the very science-disliking, at least to the people familiar with the gene/meme thing should agree that survival is basic to life.

Currently, with the X-prize, this has made me realize that if we sent William Gates and his offspring to colonize Mars and the galaxy, that would still be better than just to fade away.

Moderation in moderation is a good thing.

Group ethics (none / 0) (#156)
by Highlander on Fri Oct 15, 2004 at 10:29:37 AM EST

I realize that I didn't directly adress group ethics, which everyone seems to be so interested in;

This is because I think that group ethics should be in your best interest to follow (in general): Because

  1. they allow cooperation and protect you from others
  2. The others actually share a lot of common characteristics with you, like being intelligent, or with humans, having a common ancestor just 30 to 300 generations in the past - so it is in your best interest not to act against someone else, since you would basically act against yourself. Even alligators share your spine setup and some genes, and unlike rocks they are alive, like you.


Moderation in moderation is a good thing.
[ Parent ]
Would it B ethical 2 kill 1 person 2 save others? (none / 0) (#158)
by dksilver on Sat Oct 16, 2004 at 11:19:13 AM EST

Let's just imagine a person, with reasons unknown to us, just walked up to another person and killed him - not in self-defense but a cold-blooded murder. That would be considered unethical by many and I will be one of them.

Now, using the same scenario, let's put a name on the person killed on cold blood and imagine it was Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany. Would it then be ethical to kill one person in cold blood to save others or even avenge the deaths of many? Many would say yes because we all know what kind of a person Adolf Hitler was.

What if we change the person from Hitler to a young innocent eight year old girl and keep the reason as to why the girl has to die is to save other people? Would it then be ethical to murder an innocent child if it means other people will be saved? Now, not all would say yes to this question and most will question the decision.

The question needs to be asked, therefore, is why one type of killing will be justified as ethical whilst at the same time another type will be classified as unethical even though the same reason is used for both instances. Should a person's ethical standards, moral beliefs, and innocence have any bearing in the justification of whether or not it was ethical to kill him in cold blood to save others? No, because a life taken is still just a life no matter what reasoning is used to take it away as one can not put a price on a life.

I believe, therefore, we should never define `murder' to be either ethical or unethical just simply as morally wrong. So, my answer to the question I posted at the start is yes, it would be ethical to kill one person to save many others but no matter it is still morally wrong.

=
====== DKSILVER ====== "I never lose sight of who I am, I make others do"

Generalisation on saving (none / 0) (#159)
by jeremyn on Sat Oct 16, 2004 at 07:02:56 PM EST

If someone wants you to kill a innocent 8 year old girl or they'll kill others, it's unethical and morally wrong. But Hitler? If you had the power to stop him in other ways, it'd be morally wrong but ethical to save the people he planned to murder, just as it's ethical to kill terrorists, spies etc.

[ Parent ]
Rewrite: Tighten and elimiate weasle words (none / 0) (#172)
by hackwrench on Sun Oct 24, 2004 at 12:54:48 AM EST

What is ethical?

  Ethics: the principles of right and wrong that are accepted by an individual or a social group (from WordNet)

This is a good definition, for it suggests a useful test for determining if something is ethical. Based on this definition, we can evaluate if something is ethical by asking a group if it is right. This is fine in consensus, but it is unclear what to make of when group members disagree - and these are precisely the situations we are interested in. A simple answer to resolve this dispute is to suggest that there is no group ethics - a position at the base of moral relativism.

    Moral relativists hold that an unsharable, personal, and aesthetic moral core lies at the foundation of personal choices. They deny the possibility of a shared morality at all, except by convention.

At first glance, this leaves our debaters in a quandary. How can we compare ethical valuations, when they are based on aesthetics?  In practice, relativism merely changes the name of what is being debated. While a group may not have a shared morality, this does not prevent them from creating and reasoning about workable ethical conventions. This set of conventions is essentially the same as what non-relativists call ethics.

Either way, we're left with determining a procedure whereby we can evaluate an option by an ethical standard. Two basic mechanisms at our disposal are deontology and utilitarianism.

Deontology

Deontological ethics systems start by defining a set of actions that are wrong and/or a set that are right. For example, we might use the rule "killing is wrong" as a part of our system. Alternatively, the rules can be more abstract like "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Whether or not our system contains such abstract rules, we need not define rules for all possible situations. Instead, we can allow for generalization.

Most countries' legal systems can be thought of as deontological rule systems. Laws typically demonstrate a primary benefit of deontological systems: as a system matures it typically becomes easier to evaluate common actions. For example, one generally need not consider all of the consequences, motivations, and factors involved in a killing to say it is unethical. When killing is considered ethical (perhaps in self-defense), other rules can be set up as branches of the general rule. We are left with a tidy, easy-to-use decision tree.

There are still problems  in setting up this decision tree - typically due to lack of consensus. Our primary tool for resolving disputes here is generalization, but it is not always enough. For example, much of the current debate on abortion is based on varying generalization:

-Abortion is like killing.

-Abortion is not like killing.

-Abortion resembles other health decisions that a woman is free to make.

How do we resolve this problem, which seems to have stalled the debate?  

The first general approach is to order rules in a hierarchy. For example, a system might say that it is alright to steal a loaf of bread for a starving child. In such a system, there is likely a rule that vilifies stealing - but another, higher rule, that calls for the preservation of life.

In setting up such a hierarchy, however, we're left with the question of how to rank our rules. However we decide to do this, we will create a system that is not purely deontological.  If we decide that killing is worse than stealing for some reason, then that reason is our real ethical system. Our deontology, in that case, is more of an index of some deeper ethical calculus.

Another approach to rescue deontology is to propose an extensible "master rule" which covers all situations. The most famous rule in this vein is Kant's Categorical Imperative, which basically tests if behavior is in accordance with a universalizable maxim. The linked article gives a better explanation than I'm likely to muster here - do read it if you're interested. You may also want to read up on virtue ethics, which is another thing altogether but beyond the scope of a short article.

Utilitarianism

Perhaps the most natural way of evaluating actions is utilitarianism - the practice of judging options based on their expected consequences. In employing this method, we face the problem of how to judge these consequences.  Is a consequence good if it makes people happy?  Satisfied?  Free?  What is the goal of our ethical system?  If this were a formula, what variable are we trying to maximize?  For the sake of moving forward, I suggest that the clearest expression of what we're trying to maximize is "the degree to which individuals' preferences are met".

Our next problem is how to resolve situations where preferences collide; we have to decide how to "distribute" satisfaction. One can imagine a kind of market-based solution to this problem wherein everyone gets an amount of points to spend as they see fit to influence decisions. Under such a system, everyone's preferences are weighed and decisions are made that best fit those collective preferences. To what extent is this a complete ethical system?

Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts. Surely Mr. Top's preference for not being beaten, however strong, cannot trump the collective preference of millions. Why, then, would few people consider this beating ethical, and how do we manifest our desire to avoid this kind of abuse?  We need to not only actualize net satisfaction but to place a lower limit on satisfaction; we want to make the worst case livable.

Taking this into account, and presuming the perfect system for distributing satisfaction, do we end up with a reasonable ethical system?  I think we end up with an interesting system, but one very different than the ethical systems we see in practice. Why is this?  In large part, this is because practical systems are limited by the fact that we can't know all the consequences of decisions.

This causes problems. If an ethical evaluation becomes too difficult, then we cannot really evaluate or sanction unethical behavior. A set of ethics needs not be a true Nash equilibrium (people aren't gaming robots) to function but an ethical system needs to be somewhat evolutionarily stable. To the extent that behaving unethically can realize rewards, the ethical convention breaks down. To combat this, stable ethical systems have a sense of "justice" - a sense that someone's preferences should only be expressed through ethical outlets.

A good system of ethics allows people to make decisions despite their inability to consider all consequences. To achieve this goal, ethical systems treat "actions" much differently than "omissions". There are lots of things you're not doing while there's only a few things you are. Primarily, evaluating only actions serves to reduce the number of consequences that must be routinely considered. With omissions, people are typically considered to have a limited number of things they're ethically responsible for.

Ethics Today

The modern Western ethical landscape is difficult to summarize - but here is an attempt:

For everyday decisions, people rely on deontological "rules of thumb" - most of which are based on law and traditional culture norms. To a greater and greater extent, however, these norms are being challenged by, and evaluated against, appeals to utility. While the ethics of Christianity are still a powerful force in shaping ethics on a personal level, the wider group ethic is being defined by a few medium-term trends:

   1. A greater focus on mundane costs and benefits in evaluating the actions of nations, including war.

   2. Through environmentalism, an increased conciousness of long term consequences of collective behavior.

   3. The exclusion of personal sexual behavior from ethical consideration. In general, there is a focus on
"minding one's own business".

   4. The melding of religious deontologies into a vague, general Oprah-ism of universal love and altruism with much less focus on any religion's particular rule set.

The common thread here is the gradual replacement of deontological ethics with systems based on utility.

Old taboos, from reproductive technology to profanity, fall when they interfere with preferences. This trend is not universal, but is clearly observable over the last century.

Ethics in Practice

In most matters, humans are prone to the errors of stubbornness and over-generalization. We take bad risks
and we repeat mistakes. To avoid these errors in our ethical determinations, we need to approach these determinations in a coordinated manner. Hopefully this article, while only a starting point, has given some ideas on how this might be done.

Ethics in Practice | 171 comments (122 topical, 49 editorial, 2 hidden)
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