The point of studying ethics
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11-07-2017, 12:43 PM (This post was last modified: 13-07-2017 08:12 AM by Bucky Ball.)
RE: The point of studying ethics
(11-07-2017 01:50 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  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) Modeling 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 judgment.

(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 organizations 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 minimize harm, and recognizing harm often goes hand-in-hand with labeling 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 realized? Does it cause changes, or simply reflect them?

Me too. I really liked the class I (was forced) to take. Tongue
I learned a ton.
I can't even remember the issue now, but there was a Fundamentalist in the class, and we had to post both our own responses to various readings, and criticize 2 others in the class' posts.
All I remember was, she said she was pissed off by my post, (I didn't attack her *exactly*, but her ideas obliquely) and I assumed she was going to report me.
I never heard a word from the professor, and he wrote me a private note at the end when he gave me the "A", and he encouraged me to take his other classes, and said he really liked having me in his class.
It has a very important practical impact to people in health care, where I hear these discussions all the time, about real people, and what they are going to do.

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12-07-2017, 05:48 PM
RE: The point of studying ethics
I think that with a name like Robvalue, you pretty much have to study ethics at some point, or the Universe will go t i l t.

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13-07-2017, 12:57 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
I'm taking an intro-to-ethics class right now. I've been interested in this stuff for a while and know most of what we're covering, but I still need the piece of paper.

We call it the "dead kiddies" class because the readings for every class include at least one that involves dead or dying kids somehow.

After class yesterday, I posed the professor a question: Why should we care about morals or ethics? And I immediately clarified that it wasn't a rhetorical push for the idea that we shouldn't. Instead, I thought that clarifying our goals, purposes, and interests in the subject could provide us a very useful guide in navigating sticky questions.

He... didn't have an answer as to why we should care. I'm not sure if that's disturbing or to be expected.

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13-07-2017, 02:07 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(13-07-2017 12:57 AM)Reltzik Wrote:  I'm taking an intro-to-ethics class right now. I've been interested in this stuff for a while and know most of what we're covering, but I still need the piece of paper.

We call it the "dead kiddies" class because the readings for every class include at least one that involves dead or dying kids somehow.

After class yesterday, I posed the professor a question: Why should we care about morals or ethics? And I immediately clarified that it wasn't a rhetorical push for the idea that we shouldn't. Instead, I thought that clarifying our goals, purposes, and interests in the subject could provide us a very useful guide in navigating sticky questions.

He... didn't have an answer as to why we should care. I'm not sure if that's disturbing or to be expected.

Yup... that's Hume's Guillotine in a nutshell. There isn't any non-circular way of saying why we should care. Ultimately, we care because we do. If we'd evolved as solitary species rather than cooperative, then there'd most likely be no "morality" to discuss.

To put it another way, how can you convince a psychopath why he/should care about ethics, further than pure pragmatism? You can't, as far as I can see. You have to try to get them used to following some sort of basic principles so it becomes second nature, somewhat akin to indoctrination. How exactly you do that I don't know, but I expect doing it while they are a kid is very important (I've heard that there's help now for when you suspect your kid is a psychopath).

I am still with Hume, and I reject Harris' circular and flawed attempts to assert morality into being what he wants it to be. However, I am a compassionate empathetic person and I am quick to agree that I want morality to be about well-being, and even though that's an extremely vague concept, I try my best to figure out how to help "maximize" it with my actions. So Harris is really just modeling our attempts with pre-packaged philosophy. He completely misses out huge areas of morality such as intent, also. Meh, I could go on forever about how wrong he is, in my opinion Tongue




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13-07-2017, 03:01 AM (This post was last modified: 13-07-2017 03:04 AM by Robvalue.)
RE: The point of studying ethics
I find psychopaths (people without empathy) very interesting also, and they often highlight the problem with anyone trying to wave "objective morality" into existence (religious or secular).

I've actually had dealings with one on a forum before. Obviously I can't be completely sure that's the case, but I had every indication including a confession. Watching this person operate was scary. They manipulated people with a total disregard for anyone else's feelings or well-being. They appeared to be at an age where their condition had either been missed or unaddressed, and there is no going back now. I shudder to think what this person will do in later life. They had become a reasonably good mimic, fooling many people.

I also find them interesting because people often make the mistake of trying to change them by moral outrage. Then have no morals as such, they are amoral. They can be conditioned to behave in desirable ways, but that's about it. Calling them "sick/twisted/evil" and so on is an understandable emotional reaction, but it's really using the wrong metric.

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13-07-2017, 08:16 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(13-07-2017 02:07 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  
(13-07-2017 12:57 AM)Reltzik Wrote:  I'm taking an intro-to-ethics class right now. I've been interested in this stuff for a while and know most of what we're covering, but I still need the piece of paper.

We call it the "dead kiddies" class because the readings for every class include at least one that involves dead or dying kids somehow.

After class yesterday, I posed the professor a question: Why should we care about morals or ethics? And I immediately clarified that it wasn't a rhetorical push for the idea that we shouldn't. Instead, I thought that clarifying our goals, purposes, and interests in the subject could provide us a very useful guide in navigating sticky questions.

He... didn't have an answer as to why we should care. I'm not sure if that's disturbing or to be expected.

Yup... that's Hume's Guillotine in a nutshell. There isn't any non-circular way of saying why we should care. Ultimately, we care because we do. If we'd evolved as solitary species rather than cooperative, then there'd most likely be no "morality" to discuss.

To put it another way, how can you convince a psychopath why he/should care about ethics, further than pure pragmatism? You can't, as far as I can see. You have to try to get them used to following some sort of basic principles so it becomes second nature, somewhat akin to indoctrination. How exactly you do that I don't know, but I expect doing it while they are a kid is very important (I've heard that there's help now for when you suspect your kid is a psychopath).

I am still with Hume, and I reject Harris' circular and flawed attempts to assert morality into being what he wants it to be. However, I am a compassionate empathetic person and I am quick to agree that I want morality to be about well-being, and even though that's an extremely vague concept, I try my best to figure out how to help "maximize" it with my actions. So Harris is really just modeling our attempts with pre-packaged philosophy. He completely misses out huge areas of morality such as intent, also. Meh, I could go on forever about how wrong he is, in my opinion Tongue




I found it interesting that the (famous) *men* who are usually quoted in the field basically missed the "duty to care", and it was the feminists and women who advanced the field in the last few decades, not the old poo-bahs.

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13-07-2017, 11:55 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(13-07-2017 12:57 AM)Reltzik Wrote:  I'm taking an intro-to-ethics class right now. I've been interested in this stuff for a while and know most of what we're covering, but I still need the piece of paper.

We call it the "dead kiddies" class because the readings for every class include at least one that involves dead or dying kids somehow.

After class yesterday, I posed the professor a question: Why should we care about morals or ethics? And I immediately clarified that it wasn't a rhetorical push for the idea that we shouldn't. Instead, I thought that clarifying our goals, purposes, and interests in the subject could provide us a very useful guide in navigating sticky questions.

He... didn't have an answer as to why we should care. I'm not sure if that's disturbing or to be expected.

Studying ethics, if properly taught, will make one understand that bad ideas about ethics have consequences. Everybody wants an easy answer, but sometimes there are no easy answers to real life problems. The idea is to learn to avoid as many problems as possible by understanding the many ways we can fail when considering real world ethical problems. Probably the most important lesson is that there really is no single system that can guarantee success, no royal road to ethics.

As an object lesson, we see today the GOP attacks on ACA which if enacted will cause many people to lose access to health care. Ideology trumps ethics. This is what can happen if we are careless with our thinking.

Then there is the problem of ethical rationalization. The ancient Greeks noted that the Sophists often used trick reasoning to rationalize men's actions. This is something that can be hard to fight, and can be a subtle way of making bad judgments. Why should we not do this sort of thing?

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

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13-07-2017, 12:36 PM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(13-07-2017 11:55 AM)Cheerful Charlie Wrote:  Probably the most important lesson is that there really is no single system that can guarantee success, no royal road to ethics.

Honesty will get you pretty far.
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13-07-2017, 11:00 PM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(13-07-2017 12:36 PM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  
(13-07-2017 11:55 AM)Cheerful Charlie Wrote:  Probably the most important lesson is that there really is no single system that can guarantee success, no royal road to ethics.

Honesty will get you pretty far.

I totally agree with this. I find my own morality to be extremely complex, and it's always a mixture of loads of different systems. It's too complex to ever codify, I feel. I try to take the best ideas from everything, but to use them as guidance rather than authority.

Attempts to reduce morality to any one system, or even several systems inflexibly sewn together, will always produce weak spots. Systems can be worked. I look at each situation individually, and as a subject for discussion.

Morality feels somehow layered... we can decide what needs to be achieved in order to "be moral", but then how we go about achieving it is just as important.

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16-07-2017, 04:07 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
There is no point. Ethics and morality are an illusion. Even if they weren't NO ONE behaves morally or ethically.

For example, is it ethical to travel the world and/or eat at fancy restaurants when that money could be used to save lives of children who will die if they don't receive very basic healthcare?

Is it ethical to buy a fancy car, or even a car at all while there are people who don't even have clean water to drink?

We all cherry pick our ethics. We help our friends, who might help us in return, and we might help a few impoverished, but we don't behave in a manner that we all would describe as ethical.

Eating at a fancy restaurant is no different than walking away from a drowning child in a shallow pond, yet we all do it.
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