Who should decide what is ethically right

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Who should decide what is ethically right

Postby JAB_CH » Tue Jan 14, 2003 11:07 pm

I would like to know other peoples point of view on:
If we or our society should decide what is ethically right?
This question has been going through my head for the past few weeks and would like to see how others see this question
Thank you
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Postby Johan » Tue Jan 14, 2003 11:51 pm

Hi JAB_CH,

If you read the thread Is morality just something trivial...? You will get a few different directions. In my opinion it's nor the individual or the society that is the ground for morality or ethical laws. Morality can not be made up by individuals, and collective agreement do not justify total relativism.

And very welcome!

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Postby Pangloss » Tue Jan 14, 2003 11:55 pm

By a process of 'falsification', where attitudes and values which have been proved to cause harm are removed from the projection of the media, and objective, knowledge-rich, multi-perspective media allow the people, as individuals, to decide their own code of ethics, so that when society debates difficult moral problems, the conclusion is one which causes the least harm, or somehow maximises dignity and recogntion. Suitable forums should be in place for these debates to take place in. An open public sphere, free from ideas which imply or provoke harm unto majorities and minorities. Falsification.
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Postby Skeptic » Wed Jan 15, 2003 12:01 am

As far as I'm concerned, I should decide what is ethically right! :evilfun: (I have a feeling that others might disagree with me on that.) That said jokingly, I really do believe that when it comes down to an important ethical decision, it is best that we make the decision. It is, however, very important that we make informed ethical decisions. So in order to make an informed decision, you might need to do a little research and analysis. This would include talking with people wiser than yourself, reading what others have done in the past, and ultimately getting an in-depth understanding of the ethical subject matter at hand. If you feel that the decision is too complex to make the correct assessment on your own, you might be better off going along with the beliefs of someone that you feel is trustworthy, wise, and proven him/herself in ethical decision making.

When it comes to whether you should allow society, government, laws to make your decisions for you, I would not be one to encourage those sources as trustworthy in all cases. Of course whether you agree with the government or not, breaking a law still has consequences. That is an ethical question in itself. Should we break the law if it does not follow our particular ethical values?

I think that depends on the subject matter but in most cases from a consequentialist perspective, I see breaking the law as a bad idea. Of course that really depends on the scenario. If my government is oppressive and is denying my essential human rights, I might find reason to rebel.

Informed decision making is the best approach to ethics. Be cool, stay in school! :wink:
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Postby Uccisore » Wed Jan 15, 2003 5:11 am

The problem with letting each individual reason out ethical choices for themselves is that those choices can impact other people. We can't deny that any society of more than, like, 3 people will *have* to violently enforce certain ethical ideals from time to time.
Also, I think the idea that informed descision making is the best route to ethics has a couple of potential flaws.
1.) It assumes all or even most people are capable of doing such a thing. I don't see evidence of that.
2.) It assumes that a beneficial system of ethics can be discovered in this way. A person would have to completely abandon post-modern thought to came to this conclusion. While I have no problem with abandoning post-modernism, I wonder if it's so easy for everyone.

I would say, in conclusion, that the best way of ethics for the individual is "Do what you're told" for most individuals, with a select few doing the informed decision making.
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Postby Pangloss » Wed Jan 15, 2003 6:20 pm

Skeptic, I agree entirely with you. Sorry for being a bit obscure in my answer. I was in a rush. But what you say goes perfectly hand-in-hand with what I said, I think?!? Uccosor, I see what you're getting at, but I don't favour your conclusion. There are people in media government PR and intelligence services who actually maintain a system whereby the few make the decisions and the rest are informed. I don't buy that. If all people have the same access to information and are encouraged to think, work out their own code of ethics, then given access to forums in the public sphere which allows the exchange of different perspectives and different moralities, then society would far more peaceful interesting and coherent than it is today.
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Postby Skeptic » Wed Jan 15, 2003 10:01 pm

hmmm . . . that's strange, I did not even notice your earlier reply Pangloss, nor Johan's. It seems that we were all replying in the same 10 minute time frame. I have to admit, to some degree, I am in agreeance with all of your responses, including Uccisore surprisingly.

When it comes to value theory, I tend to lean towards a virtue ethics perspective. Although, I believe that deontological ethics (i.e. Kant's categorical imperitave) and consequentialism (i.e. Mill's utilitarianism) can also play a very important role in ethics.

Johan wrote:In my opinion it's nor the individual or the society that is the ground for morality or ethical laws. Morality can not be made up by individuals, and collective agreement do not justify total relativism.


Johan, you didn't go into detail on your ethical theory, but from previous discussions I know you to be an extreme moral objectivist and you take a deontological approach. At some point, I can definitely see the reasoning of moral objectivism as it is relative to the laws of the universe and our natural environment. I, however, don't find it as a practical approach to solving ethical problems. It is very difficult to extract objective moral values from laws of the universe. Again, I do believe in objective moral values but I just don't see them as easily obtained. So in our best efforts, we must try and come as close as possible to those values but no one will ever have it completely right. Do you agree?

Pangloss wrote:By a process of 'falsification', where attitudes and values which have been proved to cause harm are removed . . . the conclusion is one which causes the least harm . . .


At heart, you also seem to be a moral objectivist Pangloss. I'm not sure exactly what I make of your "falsification" theory as you didn't go into very much detail. I am left with a few questions. How does this theory come to a definite reaction or consequence to an unethical act? It seems fairly open and not very specific. Actually, I have too many questions to ask them all. Why don't you expand on your theory a bit? I think that I tend to agree with you in the sense that falsification is just a another word for education. Am I right in that assumption?

Uccisore wrote: would say, in conclusion, that the best way of ethics for the individual is "Do what you're told" for most individuals, with a select few doing the informed decision making.


Although once again, you come off sounding a bit like Hitler :wink:, I do agree with most of your thoughts.

Uccisore wrote:2.) It assumes that a beneficial system of ethics can be discovered in this way. A person would have to completely abandon post-modern thought to came to this conclusion. While I have no problem with abandoning post-modernism, I wonder if it's so easy for everyone.


Although this is true, post-modern thought offers no solutions. So I'm with you, let's abandon post-modernism.

Uccisore wrote:Also, I think the idea that informed decision making is the best route to ethics has a couple of potential flaws.
1.) It assumes all or even most people are capable of doing such a thing. I don't see evidence of that.


I don't, even in the least, disagree with you here. This is a very good point and although I didn't touch upon this too much in my last post, I did mention it. I suggested that those whom feel they are unable to make a proper, informed ethical decision on their own should most definitely consult a wiser, respected mentor. I have to admit though that this statement in and of its self has many, many flaws as well. Why would we expect anyone to admit that they are incapable of making a proper ethical decision on their own? It would be ridiculous to expect any such behaviour. So, yes, I do strongly believe in ethical standards such as laws and consequences for breaking laws. I just feel that there should 1) be a proper way to challenge those laws, and 2) in the case that the goverment and its laws are inappropriate and unchallengable, it is appropriate to rebel against that government. It is ethically valid to break the law in the case that the government is acting inappropriately. How do you know when the government is acting appropriately? Tough question but I think that true democracy and balance of power solves most of these problems.

As far as who should be in charge of making these laws, this is where I am a strong believer in democracy and the right to vote. Although, I could go on all day about the problems I see with our current democratic systems, I would prefer them any day to a non-democratic system. Pangloss, as for your concept of a public forum for debating issues of law and ethics. What makes your concept any different than the current concept of Congress / Parliament? I think people all too often tend to think of our law-makers as a seperate entity (not to suggest that you are one of those people, Pangloss as I haven't heard your case yet.). They are no different than you and I and they discuss issues just the same as you and I. They logically come to their conclusions just as you and I. In fact, you and I can even partake in the debates if we choose to run for public office. The main flaw I see in the democratic system is getting the best people in office. Unintelligent voting is unacceptable! This is another topic though, so I will lay off unless anyone is interested.

Now on to my actual theory of ethics.
1) Positive consequences are the goal of every ethical decision.
2) A good ethical decision brings about positive consequences for both yourself and others.
3) From a self-interest perspective, ethical decisions are always the best decisions.
4) An ethical decision that does not bring about positive consequences for all parties involved needs to be further analyzed.
5) Upon further analysis:
--A. All beings that have the ability to feel pleasure / pain should be calculated in the final decision.
--B. The best solution will always be in the best interest of all parties.
--C. When negative consequences are inevitable:
----i Minimize those consequences
----ii Allow no one individual or party to feel greater effects of those consequences, if possible.
----iii In the case that an individual or party must be singled out, they should be consulted and informed of the consequences.
----iv At this point, there is the personal decision of making a utilitarian decision or personal sacrifice.

I am actually reading a book, that Polemarchus recommended, called Reasons and Persons by Derek Parfit. It deals alot with this subject matter. I haven't read very far into it yet but I definitely would refer it to anyone who is interested in the subject of axiology and ethics.

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Postby Johan » Wed Jan 15, 2003 11:11 pm

Johan, you didn't go into detail on your ethical theory, but from previous discussions I know you to be an extreme moral objectivist and you take a deontological approach. At some point, I can definitely see the reasoning of moral objectivism as it is relative to the laws of the universe and our natural environment. I, however, don't find it as a practical approach to solving ethical problems. It is very difficult to extract objective moral values from laws of the universe. Again, I do believe in objective moral values but I just don't see them as easily obtained. So in our best efforts, we must try and come as close as possible to those values but no one will ever have it completely right. Do you agree?


Yes I'm a moral objectivist, but you are right that moral perfection is a problem. From an objective standpoint we break the objective laws however. From a subjective standpoint we are limited in our knowledge about all harmonies that surround us. This is my standpoint.

I'm against total relativism that say that there are no laws in nature that we must follow, or say that; because we are limited in our perfection we can ignore them. By discovering more about the nature and the universe we get closer to perfection. Denying this undermines a rightful development.

If the ethical rules are not based on what we discover in the nature and the universe there is no substance to them no matter how many that stand behind them. You must always ask yourself why a moral law exist. One controversial statement I use to make is: "it's not wrong to kill, it's the reason why you kill that judge the act". This is from an objective standpoint. From a subjective standpoint that does not include a full understanding of the processes that concerns the matter it's easier to say that "killing is wrong" and write this down.

So my way to look at this is in no way practical: I'm not saying how we should handle the current situation, I'm more trying to show the direction ethical laws must take to be rightful. There is a difference between limitation of truth and removal of truth.

The building of worlds inside worlds where the inner world is not harmonizing with the outer world is not righteous. To say that only humans harmonize with each other is in no way correct. The reality is: We have a complex holistic structure where all lifeprocesses are connected. The only reality that exist are the forms that are a part of this complex structure. This is what gives life meaning and functionality. Every step outside this harmony is a violation.

In our limitation human collectives forms complex structures that may not resonate with larger harmonies. Those two complex are then in conflict. A smaller cycle is always outjudged by a larger cycle, and when it comes to society VS nature it's the nature that is the larger cycle. The only thing that would change this is if nature and the universe got it wrong from the beginning, and it was the humans that got it right. This was a common statement back in history when nature was evil, and something that should be tamed. Nowadays we understand that there are ecological systems that outjudge any act that does not harmonize with it.

Through history we have filled the denial of nature with many substitutes. All those abstract structures have no real value; they are not functional in relation to larger harmonies. Those substitutes only have a function in separated systems that have their own rules. We have created many moral laws to control even our substitutes. For moral laws in those substitutes there will be no objective laws, but the objective laws will outjudge the substitutes.

Now on to my actual theory of ethics.
1) Positive consequences are the goal of every ethical decision.
2) A good ethical decision brings about positive consequences for both yourself and others.
3) From a self-interest perspective, ethical decisions are always the best decisions.
4) An ethical decision that does not bring about positive consequences for all parties involved needs to be further analyzed.
5) Upon further analysis:
--A. All beings that have the ability to feel pleasure / pain should be calculated in the final decision.
--B. The best solution will always be in the best interest of all parties.
--C. When negative consequences are inevitable:
----i Minimize those consequences
----ii Allow no one individual or party to feel greater effects of those consequences, if possible.
----iii In the case that an individual or party must be singled out, they should be consulted and informed of the consequences.
----iv At this point, there is the personal decision of making a utilitarian decision or personal sacrifice.


I agree with all those points, but the problem is not included here. The problem is to know what the term "positive" represent. A human react positive if he thinks that the outcome is positive, it does not say anything about if it's right or not. I'm not arguing about moral methods but the moral grounds. "Positive" sounds great but at the same time it does not say anything.

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Postby Uccisore » Fri Jan 17, 2003 2:44 am

I don't mind being told I sound like Hitler, a long as that's not all a person has to say. I do confess to being a fascist, so it's to be expected from time to time.

If all people have the same access to information and are encouraged to think, work out their own code of ethics, then given access to forums in the public sphere which allows the exchange of different perspectives and different moralities, then society would far more peaceful interesting and coherent than it is today.


I think the evidence is against what you're saying here. For several years now, we *have* had equal access -for the most part- to forums where people can exchange ideas, compare different systems and etc. I think the result overall has been a large group of people who say "With so many views, there's no way to decide what's right and wrong, so it's pointless to argue", and most other people have just been further polarized to resist that attitude. I know I fall into the latter group. The more people accept that truth is subjective, the less chance we have as developing coherent systems as a society, because people will become less concerned about contradictions and logical error.
I cite this example alot, but look at the neo-pagan movement. This is a group of people who make up their religious beliefs as they go along for the most part, and will openly deny the existence of any truth that their beliefs can be rated against. This is the complete opposite of coherence. This is the result of the 'open exchange of ideas', when it's performed by the ignorant and unqualified.
I definately think people should be allowed to openly exchange ideas, and bounce different ethical theories off each other (if for no reason other than to keep the people happy and under an illusion of some sort of 'freedom'), but I think we should stop short of letting people actually *act* off their conclusions. The actual rules people abide by ought to be decided by experts and a narrow range of authorities, not by the masses.


Skeptic Says:

Although this is true, post-modern thought offers no solutions. So I'm with you, let's abandon post-modernism


Absolutely. That's a big step to take though. Arguments in favor of post-modernism are mainly ethical arguments, so people who step out of it run the risk of being 'intolerant' or some such.



Why would we expect anyone to admit that they are incapable of making a proper ethical decision on their own? It would be ridiculous to expect any such behaviour.


Actually, I think that may be just a societal thing that can be fixed. Remember that right now, my generation has been taught from childhood that we should think for ourselves, make up our own minds about everything, reject authority, and etc. So of course people are going to cling to that. But, on the other hand, [most] people have no problem admitting "I don't know an alternator from a fan-belt, I better go to an expert to fix my car instead of doing it myself", so I see no reason people can't be shown that it's ok to admit they don't know jack about ethics.


1) be a proper way to challenge those laws, and 2) in the case that the goverment and its laws are inappropriate and unchallengable, it is appropriate to rebel against that government.



I agree with this in essence. I just think that it's a dangerous message to broadcast to people as a whole. We have way too much of a 'challenge authority' message in society right now, and not enough of a 'do what your told' message. Keep in mind that most of your despicable dictators came into power when the people decided to overthrow their existing government.


Unintelligent voting is unacceptable!


The main problem I see with this is that there would need to be some sort of test given so a person could prove they were on top of things enough to vote. It would be very hard to make such a test that wasn't biased against some groups of folks, and I don't mean racially. I mean that some questions are easier to answer for the average blue-collar worker than the average white-collar, some are only answerable by people that own a TV, etc.
I think a better idea would be to reduce the effect that elected officials can have on society. That's what a Constitution is for.
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Postby Skeptic » Sat Jan 18, 2003 4:52 am

Johan wrote:The problem is to know what the term "positive" represent.


Again this is a perfectly valid point from an objective perspective but as I have said before, this is where I find objectivism a less practical approach. Unless I am completely omniscient, I will never have an entirely objective perspective of what is objectively "right" / "wrong" or "positive" / "negative". So until I become omniscient, I find that the best approach will have to be relative to my limited human perception. So with no other option I must base my concept of "positive" on what is relative to my perception. In that perception, I must try and think as objectively as possible, incorporating every possible factor that I can. Even in this, I will usually fall short of the best possible ethical decision because I am so limited in my perception. Does this make sense?

So, "positive" is relative to the consequences of an action which brings about the greatest amount of pleasure for all living beings that feel pain and pleasure (i.e. - humans, animals, etc). However, positive is not contingent on any inanimate object (i.e. - rocks). Although in the sense that a living being's pleasure was dependent upon an inanimate object, that object would have a relative value. So in a nutshell, positive and negative are only relative to those beings that can feel pleasure and pain.

Uccisore wrote:We have way too much of a 'challenge authority' message in society right now, and not enough of a 'do what your told' message.


I think we tend to agree except that I take a different perspective on the above. I whole-heartedly believe in a "do what you know is right" message. People should challenge authority when necessary and obey when necessary. The key is in the education of the masses.

Uccisore wrote:The main problem I see with this is that there would need to be some sort of test given so a person could prove they were on top of things enough to vote.


Yeah, I haven't really thought enough on this subject to offer a better solution. Maybe, a test requiring a knowledge of the candidates, the party's involved, and an overall political understanding. I am just sick of the advertisements and campaigns that encourage everyone to vote. "Your vote counts!" Then completely ignorant people vote for the candidate whose name sounds the most interesting or who had the best TV advertisement. This is how our president comes to power!?! Because he had the greatest TV advertisement!?! Why don't they begin a new campaign, "Don't vote, if you don't know who or why you are voting for someone!!!". Anyways, you get the picture. I just don't see it as the best system.

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Postby Johan » Sat Jan 18, 2003 6:03 am

Skeptic wrote: So, "positive" is relative to the consequences of an action which brings about the greatest amount of pleasure for all living beings that feel pain and pleasure ... So in a nutshell, positive and negative are only relative to those beings that can feel pleasure and pain.


Actually in my opinion people are generally positive about negative things and negative about positive. "Pleasure" is always a relative term that is dependent on meaningful structures. If humans can make up their own meaning then your model is correct. If meaning is dependent on truth then your model is misleading.

So with no other option I must base my concept of "positive" on what is relative to my perception. In that perception, I must try and think as objectively as possible, incorporating every possible factor that I can. Even in this, I will usually fall short of the best possible ethical decision because I am so limited in my perception. Does this make sense?


This make sense, and practically this is what I do as well. Now let's discover as much of the reality as possible. This should be the premiere task. Without the objective ground we can not make any true statements. Basically if you switch reality positive become negative and negative become positive. Therefore it's so important that we first agree about objectivism even if we are limited in our perception. This is my point because some argue that objectivism is not an reality. All actions refer to different objective models. Models can be fictive or true, and you can follow any action or statement and see in what model it fits.

Are there any relativists here that think that it's up to humans to make up their own meaning, and that objective truth can be ignored now and in the future? I know Polemarchus more or less is a relativist, at least in his discussions about moral. But I think his logic is more practical then philosophical.

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Postby Skeptic » Sat Jan 18, 2003 7:40 am

Well, here's the way I see it. Even an objectivist, such as yourself, must assign values to any given subject relatively. Take "positive" for instance. It means nothing unless you relate it to something else. Right? Well eventually you must begin with some original truth and all other truths will stem off of that original objective truth, right? As a true objectivist you must tell me what that original truth is. So, what is that truth that you base all other objective truths on? If you cannot tell me, then you cannot truly claim to be an objectivist.

Johan wrote:"Pleasure" is always a relative term that is dependent on meaningful structures. If humans can make up their own meaning then your model is correct. If meaning is dependent on truth then your model is misleading.


The original value that pleasure and all other values are assigned from is based on the intrinsic value of "life" itself. If you wish to suggest otherwise, then you are saying that there is some greater purpose to the universe. Until you can tell me what that purpose is, I have no reason to believe your theory.

Are there any relativists here that think that it's up to humans to make up their own meaning, and that objective truth can be ignored now and in the future?


First of all, if there were no "life" in the universe, there would be no reason to believe that there were any value. As a default, the value of the universe is null. Any and every value is contingent upon a being that can value it by definition. I don't believe that this meaning you speak of is based on humans, but any living being.
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Postby Johan » Sat Jan 18, 2003 6:13 pm

Even an objectivist, such as yourself, must assign values to any given subject relatively.


Yes; as I said: "practically this is what I do as well".

Take "positive" for instance. It means nothing unless you relate it to something else. Right?


Yes; as I said: "The problem is to know what the term "positive" represent. A human react positive if he thinks that the outcome is positive, it does not say anything about if it's right or not."

Well eventually you must begin with some original truth and all other truths will stem off of that original objective truth, right?


Yes; this is my goal.

As a true objectivist you must tell me what that original truth is.


No; I don't have to do this to be an objectivist. I identify the world as a substance with relations, I don't have to know everything to be an objectivist. By relating to the world as if there is a truth I can come closer to better understand it and harmonize with it. If I were a relativist I would give up because I would identify the substance as non-logic patterns, and such a thing as knowledge would not exist. What do you base your knowledge on?

The original value that pleasure and all other values are assigned from is based on the intrinsic value of "life" itself.


No; pleasure is a secondary function. If pleasure still is a premier function I can recommend heroin: Much pleasure and no structure. As I said: "A human react positive if he thinks that the outcome is positive, it does not say anything about if it's right or not." Development in harmony is the premiere function (that also is rewarded secondary with pleasure). Skeptic; Think about your "shoestory": You felt pleasure about buying a pair of shoes but the reality told you something else, and based on this you upgraded your decision.

First of all, if there were no "life" in the universe, there would be no reason to believe that there were any value.


Correct.

As a default, the value of the universe is null.


If it have substance and this substance interact it have value. Value = function. Chaos does not exist longer then a singularity, after that the substance forms logic patterns. But if you want we can stay away from the universe and relate to good old "living" nature in our discussion; and let nature serve as ground for my (our) objectivity; it's perhaps less abstract; and the discussion does not get so controversial.

I don't believe that this meaning you speak of is based on humans, but any living being.


Can we say nature?

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