The point of studying ethics
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11-07-2017, 01:50 AM
The point of studying ethics
I find morality/ethics to be an extremely interesting topic. I've never formally studied it and I've been thinking about what the aims of such studies are. It seems to me that there are three fundamental ways it could be applied:

(1) Modelling the ethics people use and understanding why they use it

This would be a scientific approach, simply trying to reflect how people act. It wouldn't be making any kind of judgement.

(2) Hoping to better ethical practices

This is certainly a noble cause. But can such study really have a significant impact on people in general? Is this hoping for a kind of ripple effect where the students improve, and pass on their wisdom and lead by example? I worry that academic ideals are going to be too far removed from the general population.

I suppose a more realistic aim is to help organisations to consider their working practices.

(3) Considering how and when ethics should affect law


Ethics and law are of course two completely different things. There is no direct penalty for breaking any particular ethical ideal. But it seems there is a vague link between the two, in that practices which start to be considered hugely unethical can become illegal. I suppose this is because it is in the interests of the population to minimise harm, and recognising harm often goes hand-in-hand with labelling something as unethical.

Have I missed any? What do you think? How much of the study is "for the sake of study", and how much is expected to have a real impact? How much of this expectation is realised? Does it cause changes, or simply reflect them?

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11-07-2017, 02:32 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
Hi Rob,

I have an M.Phil by research in moral philosophy and have nothing to add to your post. Smile

D.
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11-07-2017, 04:34 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
Studying ethics is important. But there are other aspects to this. For example experimental sociology. Stanley Milgram's Obedience to authority experiments, or Phillip Zimbardo's Stanford prison Experiments. People often act in ways that seem not ethical or moral, but studying Kant or Aristotle won't help us understand why so many people fail in such situations. Then there is the problems of ideologies. The holocaust, the murders of organizations like ISIL or Boko Haram. When one starts to look at big pictures like this, study of ethics in and of itself will be somewhat inadequate.

Ethics then in part means understanding these wider issues and trying to inoculate one's self from these sorts of human failings.

Studying Cognitive Science must be part of any serious student of ethics. All too often, ethics seems to be a part of philosophy, but gets stuck in a metaphysical rut.

I have long been very interested in ethics, but find that the usual approaches to studying ethics to be rather inadequate. I agree with Sam Harris that we need science to study ethics, but Harris didn't quite manage to articulate the issues clearly.

Black American's make up 13.5% of the population, but 38.5% of violent crimes in America are committed by blacks. Why? Sociology is needed to understand why morality here fails for so many.

As far as I can see, ethics is not easy to study in isolation. As a sort of armchair study of ethical philosophers.

I will toss this out there for comment. And wonder why so few atheist forums and blogs have a section devoted to ethics.

Yog Sothoth! Yog Sothoth! Come back old ones! Yog Sothoth!

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11-07-2017, 05:14 AM (This post was last modified: 11-07-2017 05:17 AM by Robvalue.)
RE: The point of studying ethics
(11-07-2017 04:34 AM)Cheerful Charlie Wrote:  Studying ethics is important. But there are other aspects to this. For example experimental sociology. Stanley Milgram's Obedience to authority experiments, or Phillip Zimbardo's Stanford prison Experiments. People often act in ways that seem not ethical or moral, but studying Kant or Aristotle won't help us understand why so many people fail in such situations. Then there is the problems of ideologies. The holocaust, the murders of organizations like ISIL or Boko Haram. When one starts to look at big pictures like this, study of ethics in and of itself will be somewhat inadequate.

Ethics then in part means understanding these wider issues and trying to inoculate one's self from these sorts of human failings.

Studying Cognitive Science must be part of any serious student of ethics. All too often, ethics seems to be a part of philosophy, but gets stuck in a metaphysical rut.

I have long been very interested in ethics, but find that the usual approaches to studying ethics to be rather inadequate. I agree with Sam Harris that we need science to study ethics, but Harris didn't quite manage to articulate the issues clearly.

Black American's make up 13.5% of the population, but 38.5% of violent crimes in America are committed by blacks. Why? Sociology is needed to understand why morality here fails for so many.

As far as I can see, ethics is not easy to study in isolation. As a sort of armchair study of ethical philosophers.

I will toss this out there for comment. And wonder why so few atheist forums and blogs have a section devoted to ethics.

I agree, absolutely. I think people are often surprised at the ways humans can enter into seemingly strange behaviors with a minimum of prompting. So this would be expanding point (1) to gather far more data and understanding, in order to facilitate point (2), improving ethics in general.

I suppose this will impact at a societal/government level, where people need "protecting" from themselves by reducing the chance of falling into one of these behavioral traps. This could then bring point (3) into the fold.

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11-07-2017, 05:17 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(11-07-2017 02:32 AM)Dworkin Wrote:  Hi Rob,

I have an M.Phil by research in moral philosophy and have nothing to add to your post. Smile

D.

Thanks for your feedback Smile

Wow, can I have one too then? Tongue

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11-07-2017, 05:26 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(4) To stay out of jail. Smile

#sigh
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11-07-2017, 05:33 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
When I was in my early teens, I saw the program "20th Century", narrated by Walter Cronkite. This was a series of TV programs about WW2. It was the first time the footage of the German concentration camps was shown on American TV. I was shocked. How can supposedly civilized people sink to such depraved depths? A few years later I read about Milgram's experiments in Scientific American. I own the book that came out of these experiments. It went some ways to explaining how these things can happen. And it innoculated me from making that same mistake. I have since been a student of the problems of ethics and morality.

I think there should be courses in Junior high schools on these subjects to do just that. Inoculate young adults against such massive failings.

Now we see something of a current controversy on the net. Reactionaries ranting against Social Justice Warriors, and a political party set on destroying ACA that will amount to mass murder. Because many of that party's readers have a morally incompetent ideology. Paul Ryan and others are fans of Ayn Rand for example.

The morality of such a program seems to not be an issue with GOP leadership.

Hume's "One cannot get an ought from an is" seems in this case to be problemtic.
If a political program will cause suffering and death on a large scale, one ought not do that.

Where do we go from here?

Yog Sothoth! Yog Sothoth! Come back old ones! Yog Sothoth!

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11-07-2017, 06:30 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(11-07-2017 05:33 AM)Cheerful Charlie Wrote:  The morality of such a program seems to not be an issue with GOP leadership.

Hume's "One cannot get an ought from an is" seems in this case to be problemtic.
If a political program will cause suffering and death on a large scale, one ought not do that.

Where do we go from here?

We need to understand that not all issues can be boiled down to economic considerations, as they so often are in American politics. That "everything is about money" assumption is itself a barely defensible form of ethical thinking. The political turmoil over the ACA is making this clear, as is climate change denialism. The U.S. went through the same moral dilemma with slavery -- economics or ethics.
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11-07-2017, 07:00 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
5. To find the loopholes.....

.......................................

The difference between prayer and masturbation - is when a guy is through masturbating - he has something to show for his efforts.
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11-07-2017, 12:17 PM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(11-07-2017 06:30 AM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  
(11-07-2017 05:33 AM)Cheerful Charlie Wrote:  The morality of such a program seems to not be an issue with GOP leadership.

Hume's "One cannot get an ought from an is" seems in this case to be problemtic.
If a political program will cause suffering and death on a large scale, one ought not do that.

Where do we go from here?

We need to understand that not all issues can be boiled down to economic considerations, as they so often are in American politics. That "everything is about money" assumption is itself a barely defensible form of ethical thinking. The political turmoil over the ACA is making this clear, as is climate change denialism. The U.S. went through the same moral dilemma with slavery -- economics or ethics.

Part of the problem is ideology. Small Government Libertarian ideology sets an agenda for many, despite the obvious failings of such an ideology. As seen by the problems of the GOP ideas on repealing ACA. Ideologies can be a dangerous thing. For example, the ideology of Communism that lead to the death of 7 million Ukrainians to force collectivism on resisting peasants. An abstract "good" Communist collectivism, achieved by mass murder. All for a greater good in the end, according to Stalin. Ted Cruz. Eliminate ACA. Worry about a replacement later. Despite warnings that many people would die if we do something like that. Ideology over tens of thousands of deaths a year? What is going on here? Really, what is the actual difference between the war on ACA and the Communist war on the Kulaks? How do people become morally blind like this?

Can there be a real morality in face of ideology? This should be a teaching moment in American politics. And ethics. Where are the ethicists on this? The academics that teach ethics and philosophy? There has recently been some controvesy over the claim by some scientists that philosophy is not important. Ethics is something that professional philosophers claim is part of philosophy.

So where are the philosophers, the ethics experts in this ACA debate? Should philosophy as a whole be called out on their silence as an organized body in this critical time?

Yog Sothoth! Yog Sothoth! Come back old ones! Yog Sothoth!

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