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On what ethics has to do with rules, and why it must transcend rules

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by LuisDantas, Oct 30, 2019.

  1. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    There is a school of thought that thinks of ethics as obedience to rules. It is more formally called deontology, and somewhat popular among the Abrahamic Faiths.

    Deontological ethics - Wikipedia

    Competing views attribute significance to the consequences of the actions as opposed to just the actions themselves and their suitability to some set of rules.

    One of those competing views is pragmatic ethics, which acknowledges that moral rules should be questioned and improved when the opportunity arises.

    Another is virtue ethics, which perceives and describes ethics as a practice, as the expression of wisdom and virtue as opposed simple obedience to the authority of certain rules. By that perspective, ethics are skills that can be learned and trained.

    And the last major school of thought on ethics is consequentialism, which states that the moral validity of an action (or inaction) can only be gauged from its consequences.

    By my understanding, there is a progression of accuracy in this sequence of perspectives on ethics. Of accuracy, and also of boldness and scope. Deontology is easily the less useful and more limited of the four perspectives, and Consequentialism is the best, most useful, most ambitious one.

    It is also the most difficult to delimit, to describe, or to predict. And I see that as a good thing.

    Why?

    Because ethics are a practical need that arises from the conjunction of the abilities to act in ways that affect the well being of sensitive entities and to discern the likely consequences of our own actions and inactions.

    Ethical impact is an unavoidable consequence of the coexistence of those two capabilities, while ethical skill is a permanent and fluid challenge.

    It is to some degree everyone's duty to continually create, question and improve ethical models to guide our own behavior and goals. It is an individual duty, because we differ on our abilities and therefore on our ethical parameters; it is a dynamic duty, because the possibilities and consequences of our actions and inactions are limited by circunstances beyond our control; and it is a rational, logical duty that must be guided by awareness and reason, because ethics is applied reason.
     
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  2. Thief

    Thief Rogue Theologian

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    so if I conjure a scenario …..and the result ends with killing someone....
    purely for the greater good

    that guy HAD to die....

    then the rules need to be broken …...and the trigger pulled

    do you recall?
    I did ask of you in another thread.....
    do you own a gun?
     
  3. dianaiad

    dianaiad Well-Known Member

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    Let me get this straight:

    According to you, ethics is a: adherence to a set of rules, or
    b. adherence to a set of moral values or
    c. adherence to the set of actions with the most desirable consequences.

    From what I can tell from this, 'ethics' is adherence to a set of rules, or adherence to a different, "higher" set of rules, or hang the rules, the ends justify the means.

    Do I have that about right?
     
  4. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Ethical rules are more or less a feature of the deontological perspective alone, not of the others.

    Leaving that aside, hypothetically, yes, that could be the case. But it is difficult to attempt to answer such an abstract, vague question.

    Also, you are declaring the conclusion without demonstrating it. We do not know a priori that such a situation is even possible.

    Trying to find a concrete example, I am reminded of a hypothetical situation where one is isolated from effective medical treatment to some illness that may be contagious or lead to violent behavior, or simply cause enormous suffering with no real perspective of improvement. Say, rabies.

    Then, sure, it can be entirely ethical to kill the inflicted, even for his or her own confort.

    But it is not a decision to be taken lightly. Even when you can find a concrete example that conforms to your description, it is still ethically necessary to try and find better models and push the envelope to find less harmful approaches.

    In this example, it could involve seeking better access to medical treatment; prevention of the misfortune that caused the whole situation; discussion in advance of the risks and ways of dealing with them; or consideration of how certain one is that the symptoms do in fact indicate rabies as opposed to some other situation.

    And I answered that I do not, didn't why? Because I do not.

    Not that I am following, mind you.
     
  5. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    I described four schools of thought, but I do not support all four.

    There are people who propose each of the four. I support consequentialism.
     
  6. dybmh

    dybmh Terminal Optimist
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    Respectful question: Don't most people do this to some extent already?
     
  7. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Yes, and that is very much a good thing.
     
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  8. Thief

    Thief Rogue Theologian

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    okay.....the scenario....
    I have some interest in personal rights
    and personal protection
    so....not having the physical strength
    I buy a gun
    a holster
    and I get a permit

    as I strap it on I don't have a clue......what am I really doing?

    later in the day.....just by chance
    an incident unfolds right in front of me
    some nut case has lost his mind and is shooting people at random

    draw and fire?

    or run away?

    let more people die?
     
  9. Darkforbid

    Darkforbid Well-Known Member

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    Don't be silly Thief. That would require an actual decision!
     
  10. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    The best response, if any, will depend on as many factors as you may perceive and analyze.

    You will have to estimate the risks of each course of action (and inaction), check for any that you might have overlooked, and consider such things as the impact of the time you spend considering the options; your aim under such a situation; the social environment and how it might respond to the situation with and without your intervention; how likely the afflicted is to stop on his own with and without encouragement of some kind; and the long term effects of using lethal force in that environment.

    It does not come down to simply choosing between running away or becoming a killer yourself, either. There are quite a few potentially better options, including attempts at dialogue; shooting at his weapon; getting body armor and attracting his attention to you; and, in the long run, engaging in some form of political movement for disarmament.
     
  11. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Yes, it does. That is what ethics is.
     
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  12. Thief

    Thief Rogue Theologian

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    probably a good thing you don't own a gun
     
  13. Stevicus

    Stevicus Well-Known Member
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    As for Consequentialism, I can see that it might be problematic in the sense that, very often, the consequences for an action can not be easily foreseen or gauged for a long time.

    Sometimes, one might encounter situations where someone says "At the time, I thought it was a good idea," when the consequences demonstrated that it was a truly horrible idea.

    But if someone honestly believed they were doing good and had no intention of doing harm, would that mean they're unethical - even if they did, in fact, cause harm by their actions?

    This might also relate to the idea of "What did he know and when did he know it?" If someone honestly didn't know the consequences would be bad, it might still be considered unethical if it is felt they should have known. Or maybe they did know, but just didn't tell anybody.

    So, someone might be able to appear ethical on the outside (or at least have enough plausible deniability in that regard), but only they know deep down whether they're truly ethical or not.
     
  14. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Indeed. What a coincidence.
     
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  15. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    It is not a flaw, it is a feature.

    The problematic situation exists. Consequentialism does not want to brush them under the carpet by offering quick, easy answers that do not attempt to have true validity.

    Aye!

    What do you think?

    Indeed. Ethical responsibility is always to some extent conditioned by the capabilities of the individual, mostly those of perception and prediction of the specific situation and its consequences.

    Quite correct.
     
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  16. Terry Sampson

    Terry Sampson ζει

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    Hear, hear!
     
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  17. dybmh

    dybmh Terminal Optimist
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    The focus of your concern is this?

    Then balancing that with this...

    I think most religious people in the Abrahamic family will agree that they are duty bound to improve ethically. The dispute would be whether or not the Abrahamic doctrine regarding obedience to a higher power contributes or diminishes towards this goal?
     
  18. Shadow Wolf

    Shadow Wolf Crazy Diamond

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    Hitler? Bahgdadi? The world is better off without them.
     
  19. Nakosis

    Nakosis crystal soldier
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    In this case we don't know the right or wrong until we take account of the results?

    Kind of how I look at it. I try to make the choices that will, I think, cause the results I desire. To me each situation I face is likely more unique than not so ethical guidelines may not be useful.

    While I do use my past experience to try to make to make the best choice, it's all geared to the outcome I personally desire. Someone else maybe working for a completely different outcome. This makes it hard to have any kind of universal ethics.
     
    #19 Nakosis, Oct 30, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2019
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  20. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    I mentioned this thread in a post in another thread mostly to expose my perception of the subject matter.

    That does not mean that this thread has much of a specific concern. Instead, it is an open invitation to discuss it.

    I used to assume as much. I am less certain now. It is an interesting matter to gauge, IMO.

    Another, related matter is whether that perception happens at the individual level or in the formal doctrine; to which extent; and how explicitly.

    It may well be that certain adherents and even whole movement in the Abrahamics favor consequentialism over deontology. But it is not very clear that such is the case, nor how uniformly among the many Abrahamic groups, nor how likely those movements are to transition from any of those perspectives towards others, nor how stable those shifts may be when they happen.

    It would be interesting to learn that information, but I don't think that we are nowhere near achieving that goal.

    That can certainly be raised for discussion. I for one think that it generally speaking it hinders the achievement of moral growth, but I hope and expect that there will be, at least, localized exceptions where the appreciation of other perspectives beyond deontology is attained.
     
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