Learning About Contemporary Thought in Ethics

Another God

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Hi everyone. Some of you may know (although most wouldn't) that I have some of my own quite strongly held beliefs about ethics, how they actually work, what they actually are, and how people continue deluding themselves into some sort of cosmic significance of the 'sanctity of life' and 'rights' etc..

Anyway, I am potentially thinking about putting some serious thoughts into my beliefs, and maybe writting something solid on them...like an essay, or serious of essays..or something. So anyway, I realised there is a very important first step I need to take before I start writing anything... I need to learn what is already out there.

So, can anyone here recomend and good contemporary ethical philosophers? POint me towards some good online essays available from well known philosophers of ethics perhaps...perhaps simply explain some principles of ethics???

(Don't worry, I know the basics....Utilitarianism, Do unto Others...etc..)

Thanks
 
Is Ayn Rand considered contemporary?
 

vedder

This is a good topic and a very telling question. I've had quite a time finding what i consider good contemporary philosophy. I'm a generation x-er and i have not found anything substantial from my generation. Heck, there aren't even many good contemporary fiction writers. I don't think Ayn Rand can properly be called a contemporary... of mine anyway.

When in doubt i always have plenty of classics close at hand.
how people continue deluding themselves into some sort of cosmic significance of the 'sanctity of life' and 'rights' etc..
If i come across anything i'll let you know because i do understand and relate to this sentiment.
 

Another God

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Well, don't get too caught up in the term contemporary...I'm more importantly just looking for any works which are still influential today..anything which sorta sums up what is beleived.

So far, my only real contact with contemporary thought is Sociobiology. And otherwise, Utilitarianism, although it has much criticism against it, seems to pretty much be the basis for our societies... And well, my own theories do actually incorporate both these theories.. I just want to make sure 1. I don't misrepresent either of these schools of thought, and 2. Don't miss any other relevent schools of ethical thought.

(PS: I actually started reading Atlas Shrugged the other week...)
 
I've heard that it's more efficient to read her shorter, nonfiction works, than the long-ass atlas shrugged.
 
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I'd do the google thing if I were you and then check amazon for what is popular. Might also look into contextualism, situational ethics, and pantheism.
 
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selfAdjoint

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maybe look up Rawls, and "Veil of ignorance". That should get you started on one thread of contemporary ethics.
 

vedder

Maybe do a web search on Peter Singer...

Or... here's an interesting link.http://www.literatus.net/essay/BioEthics.html [Broken]
 
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Les Sleeth

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Ethics

You said in your original post, " . . . perhaps simply explain some principles of ethics?" I don't know if you were asking for opinions from people here or not, but if you were I'll venture an opinion.

I believe ethics, or if one prefers the word morality, arise because we must share planet Earth with other human beings, and so can be boiled down to a single, simple idea: the effects our behavior has on others. I am excluding the effects one's behavior has on oneself. I am also excluding the effects one's behavior has on other life forms (with a caveat – discussed below).

A behavior is ethical if it at least does no harm. A person is “highly ethical” if in all his dealings with others he strives to do no harm in his interactions. The reason that is significant is because to survive we must also act in our own self interest, and as everyone knows, pursuing self interest can be at the expense of others. If several people want the same thing, such as a contract from the city to do all its landscaping, only one winner gets the contract. Some might see that as harming (the non-winners), but competition is actually just how reality works sometimes. What would be unethical is rather than compete fairly, someone wins by cheating and so harms the fair process of bidding that competitor’s rely upon.

War and police interventions is another tricky one. The damage done in war or police work can be ethical if it is to prevent even more harm by those the soldiers or police oppose. Disciplining children is similar in that one causes pain (I don’t mean hitting) in order to help the child overall. Although I suggested harming other life is excluded (mostly for the sake of the meat eaters out there), harming the environment all humans are dependent on is harming others.

Finally, beyond not harming one might say doing good is an ethic. Personally I think it’s a value rather than an ethic, but it would be a great way to ensure not harming and therefore serve one’s ethical commitment.

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I was thinking about it and it seems there are ethical issues involved in behavior that might cause harm, like when mates cheat. If they get away with it, and no one gets hurt (and say the marriage continues unaffected), then have they been unethical because someone
could have been harmed?
 
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Another God

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Sleeth, thanks for your thoughts.

My take on Ethics though, is basically the dead opposite to what you think. Firstly, the ethics which I think of...are more of a descriptive ethics. ie: This is how I think people actually work... And from there, I also believe that how it works, is good enough. Or perhaps its better to say, 'how it works, is how it works, and so we have to accept this and work with it, rather than trying to brainwash everyone into a new ethical system which will never work because people simply don't work that way'.

Now whats so different about my thoughts from yours? Well, firstly, I think Right and Wrong (Good and Bad) is determined soley by the end desire. Whatever course of action works towards x goal, that is the 'right' thing, and whatever hinders the achievement of that goal is the 'wrong' or 'bad' thing. With this concept setting out right and wrong, the desirer is an individual or a community.


Anyway, I didn't plan on trying to get right into all of it right now, if people are interested, then I will post more on this, but how my ethics are so different to yours, is simply that with the stuff said above in mind, I believe that 'doing least harm' is the last thing on someones mind when they attempt to determine what they should do. What they do do, is try to figure out "What do 'I' want out of this situation?" And from that, the 'right' thing to do (the ethical thing) would be whatever is required to achieve that ends.

And yes, I believe this is how every individual works at a fundamental level, and yes, I believe this is how our "ethical, Moral" world comes to exist...through entirely selfish actions. (Of course, it is a lot more complicated than this...but I can't explain all of that in a small posting.)
 

jammieg

Why do some people believe that real life is like that game Survivor where the most manipulative and ruthless win, while others see life through rose tinted glasses and believe generally that bad never happens to good people? I don't understand this one.
I disagree that you need to learn all about what the authorities think about ethics up to this point, some of it maybe, but most of the information of ethics is right outside our door- people are ethics in action. In other words, the outcome of having some new or different knowledge to impart isn't as important as the immediate outcome of satisfying one's own curiosity by observation and figuring it out for ourselves, I can't imagine Darwin cared much about what everyone was going to think about evolution theory while he was working on it for 20 years.
 

Another God

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Sure, my thoughts on it are largely constructed from this 'ethics in action' as you call it...but I am considering the prospects of writting something semi-official on it...and as such, its best if I look like I know what I am talking about. You know, references and all that. Plus its handy to refer to known terms by their actual names, rather than actively describing each phenomenon in each scenario, which can become tedious.

ie: Call it utilitarianism rather than saying "its good if we can make as many people happy as possible"
 

Les Sleeth

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Originally posted by Another God
Sleeth, thanks for your thoughts.
You're welcome.

Originally posted by Another God
My take on Ethics though, is basically the dead opposite to what you think. Firstly, the ethics which I think of...are more of a descriptive ethics. ie: This is how I think people actually work... And from there, I also believe that how it works, is good enough. Or perhaps its better to say, 'how it works, is how it works, and so we have to accept this and work with it, rather than trying to brainwash everyone into a new ethical system which will never work because people simply don't work that way'.
What people? People work in lots of different ways.

Originally posted by Another God
Now whats so different about my thoughts from yours? Well, firstly, I think Right and Wrong (Good and Bad) is determined soley by the end desire. Whatever course of action works towards x goal, that is the 'right' thing, and whatever hinders the achievement of that goal is the 'wrong' or 'bad' thing. With this concept setting out right and wrong, the desirer is an individual or a community
That doesn't sound like ethics to me, it seems merely a principle of management. Those are exactly the sorts of ideas used in planning, management by objectives, etc.

Originally posted by Another God
Anyway, I didn't plan on trying to get right into all of it right now, if people are interested, then I will post more on this, but how my ethics are so different to yours, is simply that with the stuff said above in mind, I believe that 'doing least harm' is the last thing on someones mind when they attempt to determine what they should do. What they do do, is try to figure out "What do 'I' want out of this situation?" And from that, the 'right' thing to do (the ethical thing) would be whatever is required to achieve that ends.
Again, what people? Some people care only about themselves, others have matured and find great rewards in doing good. Whether or not the human race as a whole has evolved to the point of recognizing the real dangers of selfish behavior doesn't have much to do with if ethics have value.

Originally posted by Another God
And yes, I believe this is how every individual works at a fundamental level, and yes, I believe this is how our "ethical, Moral" world comes to exist...through entirely selfish actions. (Of course, it is a lot more complicated than this...but I can't explain all of that in a small posting.)
If I hadn't already experienced you as a thoughtful person :smile: I would be appalled at your take on ethics. To me, you've defined exactly what it is that leads to a person becoming unethical.

I admit I answered you informally . . . I've waded thru too many burdensome treatises by philosophers who couldn't seem to relate their own experiences of living to realistic interpretation. Personally I don't believe ethics is all that difficult, it's simple. It doesn't require a list of religious principles or deep philosophical analysis to know the issue of ethics arises precisely because selfishness controls the small-minded, self-centered, egocentric, unevolved human.

But for the sake of having a philosophical discussion, I will debate this with you if you are interested. If we proceed, my argument against what I see as essentially a social Darwinist view is that causing no harm, and even acting to the benefit of others, actually makes one richer, happier, be less stressed, and have fewer enemies than coldly pursuing selfish interests. Since all of that makes it more likely one will survive, my view isn't some goody-goody thing, it's practical.

To be totally accurate, at this point in my life feeling good is a top priority, and I've found service to humanity to be a lot more enjoyable than those days when the only thing I ever thought about was my selfish desires. Isn't that pursuing self interest too? Yep, but when it is done that way it's called "enlightened self-interest," and in my humble opinion it produces the highest sort of ethics.
 

Another God

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I guess you could say that I am talking about enlightened self interest then, because the first thing you should realise, is that the only way to take proper care of yourself, is to make good friends. You need good friends, and people around you who care about you, so that they can help you, take care of you, and do you favours when you need them the most. These people are the people who make life possible, without them, life sucks.

How do you get these people around you? You take care of them. You love them, you help them, you do them favours when they need it.

Simply: In taking care of yourself as best as you can, you will necessarily need other people around you taking care of you. To get these people, you must take care of them in return... You must do things which are traditionally seen as ethical.

My point is simply that these actions still come from a selfish cause. Selfishness is not an evil.


The second major implication of all that I am talking about, is that there is nothing which is inherently wrong or evil. So there is nothing wrong with murder, or with rape, or with stealing etc... There is nothing 'wrong' oither than doing that which goes against your desires. It just so happens that when you consider what your desires actually are, they will pretty much always point you down a path where rape, murder and stealing is wrong because they will not help you be happy. (and will lead you to being very unhappy)

I still believe that it is essential to take an ethical standpoint from a selfish point of view, because we only know our own minds, and this is the only point of reference we have. If we aren't here to please ourselves, who are we here to please? How to know what it is that pleases these other people?

It isn't until you have yourself sorted out, that you are able to do things which help other people.

The most giving people I know, are all depressed. I think its because they haven't learnt yet, that without taking care of themselves, they have nothing inside left to give...
 
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Your best bet is to get an anthology used in an intoro ethics course. Your local Uni should have something on the shelves.

At a minimum you should become familiar with Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, and Mill on the historical end of things. More recently you should have a look at Sayre-Mccord and Baier. There are of course more, but that should give you a start. In the 20th century things get pretty thick and detailed. If you don't have a historical background it can often be hard to figure out what the discussion is about. Once I get my boxes unpacked I can put up some more references.

Read Ayn Rand if you want, but most philosophers shudder when her name is mentioned in a philosophical context. Whether you agree or disagree with her position, her work has little or no philosophical meat to it. No more than most good novels.
 
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Originally posted by Another God
Sleeth, thanks for your thoughts.
I think Right and Wrong (Good and Bad) is determined soley by the end desire. Whatever course of action works towards x goal, that is the 'right' thing, and whatever hinders the achievement of that goal is the 'wrong' or 'bad' thing. With this concept setting out right and wrong, the desirer is an individual or a community.
Hmm this sounds familiar. I think it's called Hedonism. I've heard this view alot in philosophical ethics courses. I don't think it's anything new. I won't even attempt to argue against it philosophically because I know it can't be done. Kinda like proving the material world exists outside our minds.
 
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Originally posted by Another God
Now whats so different about my thoughts from yours? Well, firstly, I think Right and Wrong (Good and Bad) is determined soley by the end desire.
Desire must be defined, natural desire or "want" desire? If it is a natural desire it can only be good (right). If it is a wanting desire that isn't needed or natural then that is where right and wrong come into play. And in that case all desires are right/good unless (a) it gets in the way of natural desires or (b) you, at a later time, determine it was wrong, notice only YOU can say a desire was wrong. If you chose to do one thing from as a wanting desire and I thought it was wrong, that doesn't make it wrong, the only thing that can make it wrong is your final desition.

Whatever course of action works towards x goal, that is the 'right' thing, and whatever hinders the achievement of that goal is the 'wrong' or 'bad' thing. With this concept setting out right and wrong, the desirer is an individual or a community.
There are innocuous and noxious actions, it is innocuous if no harm or regret at a later time follows and if it does not interfere with natural desires (such as eating, drinking, etc). Noxious actions would be the type that does hinder the achievement of natural desires or you believe are wrong after you achieve the ends.

Anyway, I didn't plan on trying to get right into all of it right now, if people are interested, then I will post more on this, but how my ethics are so different to yours, is simply that with the stuff said above in mind, I believe that 'doing least harm' is the last thing on someones mind when they attempt to determine what they should do. What they do do, is try to figure out "What do 'I' want out of this situation?" And from that, the 'right' thing to do (the ethical thing) would be whatever is required to achieve that ends.
This is interesting to note: it requires a conscious and thoughtful decision to fulfil natural desires, you would think it would be the other way around, but humans are plauged by wanting desires.

Would you also agree that 'the ends justify the means'?

Your style of ethics is very similar to Aristotle, I think you would at least enjoy reading some of his works, if you have not already. Perhaps contemporary ethics holds no more truths than foregoing ethics.

Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle
 

Another God

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Thanks for all the feedback and thoughts. I'll have a bit more of a read and a bit more of a think about it.

Kyle: I would not only say that the ends justifies the means, but the ends determines the means.
 

Les Sleeth

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Originally posted by Another God
My point is simply that these actions still come from a selfish cause. Selfishness is not an evil.
I see what you are saying but I believe you are misapplying the word "selfish." Self intererest would be a better term because selfish has already been assigned a meaning, which is to pursue one's own desires without regard for the consequences to others. Often it stems from narcissistic views or emotional insecurities.

Originally posted by Another God
II still believe that it is essential to take an ethical standpoint from a selfish point of view, because we only know our own minds, and this is the only point of reference we have. If we aren't here to please ourselves, who are we here to please? How to know what it is that pleases these other people? . . .The most giving people I know, are all depressed. I think its because they haven't learnt yet, that without taking care of themselves, they have nothing inside left to give . . . It isn't until you have yourself sorted out, that you are able to do things which help other people.
If we use the term self interest, then I think you have made some good points here. There are people who want to please others because they seek approval, and so they are constantly on an emotional roller coaster where the ride depends on if they get approval or not.

And when people are content inside, then they usually start behaving in a more caring way towards everything, from brushing one's teeth to interacting with others.

Originally posted by Another God
The second major implication of all that I am talking about, is that there is nothing which is inherently wrong or evil. So there is nothing wrong with murder, or with rape, or with stealing etc... There is nothing 'wrong' oither than doing that which goes against your desires. It just so happens that when you consider what your desires actually are, they will pretty much always point you down a path where rape, murder and stealing is wrong because they will not help you be happy. (and will lead you to being very unhappy)
I can't quite agree with all that. I think I understand what you mean, which is that what is truly best for you is what makes you happy and healthy, and that is a practical issue and not really a matter of ethics. I have the same view toward my own behaviors. I resist saying "right " or 'wrong" in the sense of morality because I think in the past a lot guilt trips have been laid on people about how they are "supposed" to be. Human nature seems equipped to teach us what is best for us, so we don't need all that morality.

However, not everyone is in touch with their nature. In fact, outside of chidren (who seem most in touch with it) I think most people have strayed, and some quite a lot. I have seen people make deals that rip off others, or the environment, and who then go off and gleefully spend all the money they made. There are people who I have read about who actually have enjoyed killing and torture.

The thing is, do people have any natural rights? Does being alive entitle us to live? To our possessions? To freedom? If we have any natural rights at all, then it is "wrong" for others to take them from us. That's why I limit the meaning of ethics/morality to issues of harm to others.

Originally posted by Another God
I would not only say that the ends justifies the means, but the ends determines the means.
I wonder if you really mean that. Say there are so many people living on an island it's stressing out the sewer system, food supply, living space, etc. It would be better for the residents if there were fewer people, so they hire Saddam Hussein to come over an kill a few thousand people . . . problem solved!! The island's support systems all return to normal and life is better for all the remaining residents.

Did the positive end justify the means used to achieve it?

See, all means are really little "ends" in themselves, and each must be evaluated on its own merits, not just in light of the overall end they are contributing to.

As far as the end determining the means, that's true . . . but that is just a sound principle of planning, and really rather neutral to ethics. But the idea of the end justifying the means, that's a different concept altogether. Plenty of people have brought tremendous misery on others applying that exact principle.
 
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I can't remember if it was Bertran Russell or Bernard Shaw who said; "There is no such thing as a purely altruistic action.
Could have been either really. Being idealistic at the time I was shocked and dismayed but soon realized that it's probably true. Now I'm sure it is even if all we get out of it is a warm fuzzy feeling inside.
I don't think that the end ever justifies the means ethically speaking. To me if the means need to be justified then they are probably wrong and we need to look for other means; but I am a bit idealistic still. I think that there are intrinsic right and wrong motives and actions beyond self interest.
In a society of scarce resourses fufilling ones own self interest even if it is a matter of survival will always be at the expense of another. How do we decide who is to have those scarce resources and/ or who is to live? That to me is ethics and the debate can go on forever. However, in such a society, while we were debating ethics someone else came along and took the very resources we were debating over. That to me is reality.
 
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Well, I said that I wouldn't try to debate against this view philosophically but I've changed my mind :smile: because I do have some comments after thinking about this a bit more today. I see that LwS has already hit on one thing that I thought. It is true that you cannot get away from the fact that all actions by an individual are done because the individual wanted to do it. So it can be argued that all actions are selfish actions. But I too thought this mis-uses the word "selfish". When this word is used in this way, there is no way one can perform any act at all without it coming from the self. Thats just the way the mind and nature works. The word is useless when used this way because it applies to everything by definition and has a very different meaning from the usual definition used in ethics that LWS described.

In light of this idea that the word "selfish" is somewhat useless when used in this fashion, it results in the ethics becoming a bit shallow. Not in an insulting sense but in that it seems to ask the wrong question. The question that should be asked is a much deeper question. You(AG) are looking at the way things work to arrive at this conclusion instead of how it should work. I cannot dispute the fact that everything I do is because it is my desire to do it, therefore I am "selfish". But the question of ethics is not "should I desire?" but "what should I desire?"

An example would be if you had a baby. (Congratulations AG you're a father!) We can agree that everything this baby will ever do as it grows to be an adult is self serving. But now you have a choice in front of you. You have the opportunity to mold what this persons desires might be. So the question is Not "does the child act out of selfish desires?" but rather "what should the child desire?" You can raise this person to desire being an abusive killer or you can raise him to desire to help other people. Which will you choose and why? This is what ethics tries to answer.
 
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Originally posted by Another God
Kyle: I would not only say that the ends justifies the means, but the ends determines the means.
Interesting, although this wouldn't hold true if the ends were considered bad by you when all was said and done. At least I don't think. Perhaps so:smile:
 

Another God

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Thanks for the great replies again everyone...it seems I have some work ahead of me now...
Originally posted by LW Sleeth
I see what you are saying but I believe you are misapplying the word "selfish." Self intererest would be a better term because selfish has already been assigned a meaning, which is to pursue one's own desires without regard for the consequences to others. Often it stems from narcissistic views or emotional insecurities.
Agreed then. Understanding it this way will help me a lot..I have been using selfish like that for so long now, its no wonder I have encountered problems with it in the past :smile: So, from now on, i iwll use self-interest, because that is more accurately what I mean.

I can't quite agree with all that. I think I understand what you mean, which is that what is truly best for you is what makes you happy and healthy, and that is a practical issue and not really a matter of ethics. I have the same view toward my own behaviors. I resist saying "right " or 'wrong" in the sense of morality because I think in the past a lot guilt trips have been laid on people about how they are "supposed" to be. Human nature seems equipped to teach us what is best for us, so we don't need all that morality.

However, not everyone is in touch with their nature. In fact, outside of chidren (who seem most in touch with it) I think most people have strayed, and some quite a lot. I have seen people make deals that rip off others, or the environment, and who then go off and gleefully spend all the money they made. There are people who I have read about who actually have enjoyed killing and torture.

The thing is, do people have any natural rights? Does being alive entitle us to live? To our possessions? To freedom? If we have any natural rights at all, then it is "wrong" for others to take them from us. That's why I limit the meaning of ethics/morality to issues of harm to others.
Well, that is precisely what all of this is about. The first premise of my ethics, is that there are no objective rights. People do not have a right to life, or a right to anything. People just are, just as atoms just are. And yes, this is a key fact.

It may be scary, and it may result in the potential for results which no one likes, but I am not trying to create a utopia here...I guess I am taking a more Machiavellan position: I am describing things, as they are, not how they 'should be'...not that anyone is any good at doing that anyway.

So, if we have no rights, then there is nothing 'wrong' with torture, killing, harming the environment etc. (At least, not inherently) It all depends on perspective and goals. Let me go through what you ahve said though : "Human nature seems equipped to teach us what is best for us, so we don't need all that morality." Morality, and ethics basically mean the same thing (one is greek, one is latin), and I think socrates (or someone from that era) claimed that ethics is simply attempting to determine how we should live. Well, this is my answer to that... Human nature determines how we live (whether we like it or not). Our desires set out the goals for us, and we act in ways according to our goals. And THAT is our ethics, our morality. There is no 'morality' which isn't needed because we have human nature...NO, human nature IS our morality.

"not everyone is in touch with their nature"[/]
I agree with this, and lol, thats partly why I feel a need to go about writting about my ethics. I am attempting to make people realise that 'Right to life' doesn't exist. 'Sanctity of life' is a myth. 'Evil' is a story made up to scare us into doing things which we otherwise wouldn't do. And I believe that these brainwashing techniques that have been used in civilisations for thousands of years in an attempt to make us be 'good' have caused as much 'bad' as anything. When you have an absolute stance on anything, you act on extremes. When you realise that it is all just about perspective, then you are more amiable, and able to let go, and accept people and things for who/what they are. And so, there are less reasons for wars, less reasons for hatred, less reasons for destruction... And more reasons for just getting on with your own life, happy in doing what you are doing, because what you are doing, is exactly what you want to be doing.

Say there are so many people living on an island it's stressing out the sewer system, food supply, living space, etc. It would be better for the residents if there were fewer people, so they hire Saddam Hussein to come over an kill a few thousand people . . . problem solved!! The island's support systems all return to normal and life is better for all the remaining residents.

Did the positive end justify the means used to achieve it?
Are they really positive ends? Think about it. You already know that that is a crap outcome, so of course it doesn't justify the means. If you are going to think of a counter example, then you will need to think of one which has a perfect outcome, with perceivably terrible means. (I don't think such a thing exists)

Now, what is so bad about the ends here? Firstly: How many loved ones/friends did the remaining people lose? Do you think this will devastate those remaining people? Make thier lives a little less bearable? Perhaps it may even put them in fear of their own lives. Like, what happens if they over populate again? Will they be killed off next time? Perhaps they will stop having kids now, even though they really want kids, but they are scared to...so their lives suffer in that regard. etc.

The scenario you described gave one possible resolution to the issue, but it is a bad one. If you were actually on this island, and you were stuck with those problems, i guarantee you, that there would be a hundred better options which would get the ends you want, and would leave you without the nasty after taste. And anyone of those options would be the 'right'[/] thing to do.


See, all means are really little "ends" in themselves, and each must be evaluated on its own merits, not just in light of the overall end they are contributing to.
That is true. Entirely true. Because everything that happens around us is evaluated in terms of how much we like that. But this isn't a problem. Just another step towards understanding.
 

Another God

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Originally posted by Royce
I don't think that the end ever justifies the means ethically speaking. To me if the means need to be justified then they are probably wrong and we need to look for other means;
Well yes, when you speak of ends justifying means, then yeah, it implies there is something wrong with the means. I am actually saying though, that the ends determines the means, and the means are just as neutral as everything else in the galaxy, so there is nothing to be 'justified' about them.

but I am a bit idealistic still. I think that there are intrinsic right and wrong motives and actions beyond self interest.
From what basis do you know these right and wrongs? How universally applied are they? Are they immovable walls, unstoppable cannon balls, or are the just as prone to change as everything else in the universe?

In a society of scarce resourses fufilling ones own self interest even if it is a matter of survival will always be at the expense of another. How do we decide who is to have those scarce resources and/ or who is to live?
Because I didn't plan on going into the theory in this thread, I haven't sat down and properly set it all out, and so I don't think I have yet really pointed out the fact that ethics (under my theory) comes from certain perspectives. It always relies on perspectives. First and foremost, is the personal perspective. After that, you have social perspectives. The family, the community, the state, the country, the world etc. These social perspectives are ficticious entities, but vitally important. As an individual, it is usually in our best interest to be in a society which takes care of us (we can't do everything ourselves, so we get help.). As such, we need a functioning society which has particular goals directed towards helping every member within it to be happy/healthy etc. The members of the society are the basic units which determine what the society wants, but converting all of those individual desires into a social desire is obviously damn hard.
So how do we decide? Well, individually, we don't...the society does it somehow, and the answer all depends on what the society is trying to achieve, how har the going is, how well set up some are etc... It all depends on context and perspective.

And this is the key element. There is no right and wrong... there is only context and perspective.





And in having said all of that, I think I may have just realised the biggest PROBLEM with my theory... It implies inherent intelligence. Which obviously isn't actually there. People make mistakes, people don't understand positions, people aren't aware of all of the variables etc...so bad decisions are made.
 

Another God

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Great reply Flipton! This is exactly one of the first problems I encountered whenI first started thinking down this line...I'll do my best to explain what I came up with...
Originally posted by Fliption
You(AG) are looking at the way things work to arrive at this conclusion instead of how it should work. I cannot dispute the fact that everything I do is because it is my desire to do it, therefore I am "selfish". But the question of ethics is not "should I desire?" but "what should I desire?"
SO, what should we desire? Well, firstly, what is it that currently determines what we do desire? my answer to that turned out to be evolution. Evolution...our creator, decided what was 'right', from its perspective, for us to desire. The desires we feel now, the things which make us happy, the things which make us feel good are programmed into us by evolution, because those things help us function in a way which suits the ends of evolution. Our ends, are the menas through which evolutions works.

Do we want to be a slave to the ends of evolution? Or do we want to take control of ourselves and decide what it is that we actually want to want? The irony here though, is that the things we will choose to want, will still be the things which evolution has designed us to want....but whatever.

I guess an important question is: Do we think we will ever know better than millions of years of guess and check? Do we? Will we? I don't think we ever will, because even if we manage to change ourselves through something like genetic engineering to be perfect little individuals, then something will enter the system, a little glitch, a parasite, and it will crash everything back down to this less than perfect reality we currently have. (ie: Evolutionary stable systems... If everything is altruistic, then if a non-altruistic organism enters, it gets everything for free, and so does better than the altruists... Over time, the non-altruists grow in numbers, and the altruistic system no longer exists...)

Wow, i'm about to get all biblical here, so watch out: I don't think we will ever be able to improve upon evolution, because evolution is representative of simple mathematic relationships present throughout the very existence of the universe. If we try to push ourselves to one extreme or another, the system will crash and quickly revert to its equilibrium point. (biblical bit) its almost as if the universe is our god, and evolution is gods will, and if we ever reach the point where we believe we can challenge Gods will (try to improve upon the ESS we are in), we will all be destroyed.
Examples: We engineer so that everyone is 'bad' and of course, we all kill each other, everyone dies, the end. Not a good option.
Second option: We engineer everyone so that they are completely 'good', no one harms each other, no one hates, no one hurts etc. Some parasite will enter the system, and boom, it systematically numerates and kills us all. (think of the Simpsons Halloween Episode where Lisa wishes for world piece, the aliens come down and enslave them because they are too peace loving to fight back.)

The point: Perhaps our selfish, less than ideal system is the only system which works, and perhaps the desires we have been given from evolution are the only desires we could ever want.


An example would be if you had a baby. (Congratulations AG you're a father!) We can agree that everything this baby will ever do as it grows to be an adult is self serving. But now you have a choice in front of you. You have the opportunity to mold what this persons desires might be. So the question is Not "does the child act out of selfish desires?" but rather "what should the child desire?" You can raise this person to desire being an abusive killer or you can raise him to desire to help other people. Which will you choose and why? This is what ethics tries to answer.
And with this example, obviously you are talking on a level which is still subservient to our evolutionarily designed desires, and of course, within this area, we can still affect things. SO which would I want? Of course I would want the help other people (to some extent) because this child will be part of my family unit, and the desires of my family society will be ones of happiness, health and safety. If I have a killer in that society, than I couldn't feel safe, and so that threat would need to be removed from the society.

(All depends on perspective)
 

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