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Posted: 02 September 2011 10:59 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Does ethics come down to the simple sentiment that I like acting this way and you should too?

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Posted: 02 September 2011 11:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Does ethics come down to the simple sentiment that I like acting this way and you should too?

No.

I might like acting out my life as a chainsaw murderer but that doesn’t mean that I’m justified and getting anybody else to act that way.

What ethics comes down to is that we human beings are a social animal which depends on the members of our species co-operating with one another in order to survive. Ethics and morality comes into the picture by establishing ground rules and abiding by them which make it possible for us to trust one another.

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Posted: 03 September 2011 02:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yes it does.  Any given reason for universal morality or ethics can be reduced to what you are comfortable with.

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Posted: 03 September 2011 04:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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joad - 02 September 2011 10:59 PM

Does ethics come down to the simple sentiment that I like acting this way and you should too?

Defining what ethics is boils down to defining should. Using should to define ethics gets you nowhere.  I think your simple sentiment is actually two sentiments: I like acting this way, and, I would like it if you acted that way.  The two aren’t necessarily tied together. (Saying they should be tied together would be problematic given the goal here.)

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Posted: 03 September 2011 05:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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joad - 02 September 2011 10:59 PM

Does ethics come down to the simple sentiment that I like acting this way and you should too?

It can but it doesn’t need to. For example, the basis behind utilitarian ethics is that harming others is bad, and that therefore one should do things that cause the least harm. I think that sort of justification is a good deal more objectively based than just “I like acting this way”, or “acting this way makes me happy.” Indeed, in certain circumstances acting that way wouldn’t make one happy, though it would raise the overall happiness of the world. (E.g., it might say one should give up one’s gas guzzling car and substitute it with a bicycle. I can see a utilitarian gritting his or her teeth and following the rule).

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Posted: 04 September 2011 10:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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joad - 02 September 2011 10:59 PM

Does ethics come down to the simple sentiment that I like acting this way and you should too?

It is not quite so simple. It can also be characterized as selfish and not altruistic at all.

This is essentially the is-ought problem

However, Hume found that there seems to be a significant difference between descriptive statements (about what is) and prescriptive or normative statements (about what ought to be), and it is not obvious how we can get from making descriptive statements to prescriptive.

It is related to the naturalistic fallacy

It was described and named by British philosopher G. E. Moore in his 1903 book Principia Ethica. Moore stated that a naturalistic fallacy is committed whenever a philosopher attempts to prove a claim about ethics by appealing to a definition of the term “good” in terms of one or more natural properties (such as “pleasant”, “more evolved”, “desired”, etc.)

Thus, just because you like acting this way does neither imply nor justify that others should too.

OTOH, consider The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity is a maxim, ethical code, or morality that essentially states either of the following:

  1. One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself (positive form)
  2. One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated (negative/prohibitive form, also called the Silver Rule)

The Golden Rule is arguably the most essential basis for the modern concept of human rights, in which each individual has a right to just treatment, and a reciprocal responsibility to ensure justice for others. A key element of the Golden Rule is that a person attempting to live by this rule treats all people with consideration, not just members of his or her in-group. The Golden Rule has its roots in a wide range of world cultures, and is a standard different cultures use to resolve conflicts.

And, from the wiki on ethics

Consequentialism:

Thus, from a consequentialist standpoint, a morally right action is one that produces a good outcome, or consequence. This view is often expressed as the aphorism “The ends justify the means”.

Deontology:

According to deontology, we have a duty to act in a way that does those things that are inherently good as acts (“truth-telling” for example), or follow an objectively obligatory rule (as in rule utilitarianism). For deontologists, the ends or consequences of our actions are not important in and of themselves, and our intentions are not important in and of themselves.

Postmodern ethics:

Post-structuralism and postmodernism also argue that the world is relational; therefore, ethics must study the complex situation of actions. A simple alignment of ideas of right and particular acts is not possible. There will always be a remainder that is a part of the ethical issue and that cannot be taken into account in a relational world.

Ethical resistance:

Hoy’s post-critique model uses the term ethical resistance. Examples of this would be an individual’s resistance to consumerism in a retreat to a simpler but perhaps harder lifestyle, or an individual’s resistance to a terminal illness. Hoy describes these examples in his book Critical Resistance as an individual’s engagement in social or political resistance.

Ironically, who exercises ethics?

Ethics are exercised by those who possess no power and those who support them, through personal resistance.

[ Edited: 04 September 2011 10:09 PM by kkwan ]
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Posted: 05 September 2011 05:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I had this argument once with a very wealthy person.
I submitted that for a person to become rich, often it involves a form of unethical behavior. And that unethical behavior was (for some) the main reason for their accummulated wealth. Whereas a poor person usually was and remained poor because they tried to live ethically.
The response was that poor people lie all the time. My retort was that a poor person may call in sick from work (just wasn’t up to it that day), but that such a lie was nothing compared to the Big Lies perpetrated by the very wealthy (i.e. Enron, Tobacco, hedge fund managers), which cost society billions of dollars and most often affect the poor, while creating enormous wealth for the perpetrator.

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Posted: 06 September 2011 05:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Write4U - 05 September 2011 05:01 PM

I had this argument once with a very wealthy person.
I submitted that for a person to become rich, often it involves a form of unethical behavior. And that unethical behavior was (for some) the main reason for their accummulated wealth. Whereas a poor person usually was and remained poor because they tried to live ethically.
The response was that poor people lie all the time. My retort was that a poor person may call in sick from work (just wasn’t up to it that day), but that such a lie was nothing compared to the Big Lies perpetrated by the very wealthy (i.e. Enron, Tobacco, hedge fund managers), which cost society billions of dollars and most often affect the poor, while creating enormous wealth for the perpetrator.

It may seem simplistic and trite, however, I do believe that circumstances alter cases. In the example above, (an Enron executive), that person would not have woken up one day and declared “I’ll behave unethically today” more they would have developed a way of coping with the dissonance they would have perhaps felt over a period of time. To ease the discomfort one feels when our beliefs and behaviours are not congruent, one has to change either their behaviour or their beliefs.

From this point, wilful blindness comes in to play, and in the environment the above people found themselves in they re-created their own set of ethics, by adhering to the original statement. I like this - You should too.

Which begs the question, did the people in Write4u’s comment behave unethically in other ways too? Where the values they lived by changed too?

The very short answer to the original statement is NO. The circumstances are key.

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Posted: 06 September 2011 08:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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amygdala101 - 06 September 2011 05:46 AM
Write4U - 05 September 2011 05:01 PM

I had this argument once with a very wealthy person.
I submitted that for a person to become rich, often it involves a form of unethical behavior. And that unethical behavior was (for some) the main reason for their accummulated wealth. Whereas a poor person usually was and remained poor because they tried to live ethically.
The response was that poor people lie all the time. My retort was that a poor person may call in sick from work (just wasn’t up to it that day), but that such a lie was nothing compared to the Big Lies perpetrated by the very wealthy (i.e. Enron, Tobacco, hedge fund managers), which cost society billions of dollars and most often affect the poor, while creating enormous wealth for the perpetrator.

It may seem simplistic and trite, however, I do believe that circumstances alter cases. In the example above, (an Enron executive), that person would not have woken up one day and declared “I’ll behave unethically today” more they would have developed a way of coping with the dissonance they would have perhaps felt over a period of time. To ease the discomfort one feels when our beliefs and behaviours are not congruent, one has to change either their behaviour or their beliefs.

From this point, wilful blindness comes in to play, and in the environment the above people found themselves in they re-created their own set of ethics, by adhering to the original statement. I like this - You should too.

Which begs the question, did the people in Write4u’s comment behave unethically in other ways too? Where the values they lived by changed too?

The very short answer to the original statement is NO. The circumstances are key.

For some their entire existence becomes a lie from the moment they wake up. I have heard taped conversations in boardrooms, where terms like “the suckers”, “pigs at the through”, “so we pay a few fines, that’s nothing”. More than once have the “whistleblowers” been fired or their reputation destroyed, just to shut them up. On rare occasions. good and ethical people have disappeared altogether. Comes to mind the outing of Valery Plame by the highest government officials, as was promised to her husband Wilson if he didn’t shut up.  It seems to me that the “too big to fail” bank bailouts were the hight of unethical manipulation. Instead of reimbursing hard working people for their losses, the government “gave” the banks billions in the “hope” that they would do the right thing. Instead the CEOs wrote themselves fat bonuses and resold the papers once again so they would be rid of the liability and the bail-outs became pure profit. As an ex bookkeeper I predicted this would happen, the moment I heard of it.
Once it becomes clear that one can operate with impunity, cheating and lying becomes a way of life, i.e. “that’s the way it works my friends”.
Quid pro quo has become the standard in plolitics today and honorable behavior is becoming extinct. This is not new, it has been going on since the land grabbers, the goldrush, oil claims, the railroads. Tens of thousands of lives have been lost by innocent people by the greedy and powerful. It is much like a disease, when left untreated it affects all that come in contact.
I do not believe you can seperate a person’s ethics in business with the ethics in his personal life. It all becomes a lie.

[ Edited: 06 September 2011 11:29 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 06 September 2011 08:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I agree with your sentiments entirely, I guess there is a certain amount of wilfull blindness on my part, in so much as I hope that people may change their values/behaviours depending on the situation.

Perhaps wishful thinking on my part.
I’m going to give your comment some thought.
Andrew

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Posted: 06 September 2011 10:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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amygdala101 - 06 September 2011 08:56 AM

I agree with your sentiments entirely, I guess there is a certain amount of wilfull blindness on my part, in so much as I hope that people may change their values/behaviours depending on the situation.

Perhaps wishful thinking on my part.
I’m going to give your comment some thought.
Andrew

I do hope you are correct that under certain circumstances unethical behavior is forced on a person. Living in a war zone the “need” for survival may well affect a person’s ethical behavior, but to me war itself is disease which affects everyone’s behavior. While war itself is seldom justified, to make a profit on war is inexcusable in my mind, similar to making a profit on basic universal healthcare.
Nobel made his wealth from manufacturing instruments of war. I guess, later in life, he instituted the Nobel endowments to atone for and seek redemption from his guilt.

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Posted: 06 September 2011 07:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I’m not convinced that any type of behavior is “best” for all situations; I think in most people’s lives, there are times when being unethical is the only way, and other times being ethical is the only way.  It’s not possible to go through life and not hurt anyone, or not cause any damage.

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Posted: 06 September 2011 07:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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mid atlantic - 06 September 2011 07:07 PM

I’m not convinced that any type of behavior is “best” for all situations; I think in most people’s lives, there are times when being unethical is the only way, and other times being ethical is the only way.  It’s not possible to go through life and not hurt anyone, or not cause any damage.

Well yeah, but even if circumstances insist you behave in a way that ordinarily would be unethical, there are always choices of better and worse.

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Posted: 06 September 2011 11:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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IMO, the two most fundamental human moral messages are contained in the Golden Rule,  “do unto others as you would have done unto you”,  and the Silver Rule, “do not do unto others as you would not have done unto you”. The first is actively permissive, the second is actively restrictive.

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Posted: 03 October 2011 08:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Write4U - 06 September 2011 11:13 PM

IMO, the two most fundamental human moral messages are contained in the Golden Rule,  “do unto others as you would have done unto you”,  and the Silver Rule, “do not do unto others as you would not have done unto you”. The first is actively permissive, the second is actively restrictive.

Yes, it’s a very good rule of thumb, because human beings are very similar in many ways, but since human beings are also different in some ways, it sometimes goes wrong. If you love getting hugged every time you meet someone, you might decide to do the same to everyone else.

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Posted: 03 October 2011 11:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Write4U - 06 September 2011 11:13 PM

IMO, the two most fundamental human moral messages are contained in the Golden Rule,  “do unto others as you would have done unto you”,  and the Silver Rule, “do not do unto others as you would not have done unto you”. The first is actively permissive, the second is actively restrictive.

I guess my question has to do with why adopt these rules.  A christian can point to the golden rule and say do this because god (or his son) said so.  But a humanist must appeal to reason.  What REASON is there to adopt these rules?  Is it just I like them and I think others should to.

Another example is that I like Bertrand Russell’s definition of the good life as one live inspired by love and guided by knowledge.  But if someone else doesn’t, what REASON is there by which to convince them? 

As there is no appeal to higher authority for a humanist (other that to reason), is it just personal preference?

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