# Which is the right ethical system?

## Which is the right ethical system?

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30.8%

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10. ### Virtue ethics

1 vote(s)
7.7%
1. Nov 26, 2004

### Aquamarine

Which is the right ethical system? Some explanations can be found here at "Major doctrines of ethics":
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethics

2. Nov 26, 2004

### dekoi

Which is the "right" ethical system? I could tell you. But what effect will that have on anyone? In our day and age, people will only ignore it and try to impose their subjective views unto you.

What people don't realize is there is an objective truth as well. Thus, there is an objective ethical system.

3. Nov 26, 2004

### the number 42

Moral Relativism is the one true system. All the rest are rubbish.

4. Nov 26, 2004

### dekoi

I guess you don't believe in an objective truth. :rofl:

Would you care to share why? Would you care to define "truth?" ?

5. Nov 26, 2004

### the number 42

Nah, I was just being facetious. I haven't really thought about it, but I reckon I'm a utilitarian. That's probably 'morality based on logic', or whatever it says on the list (I can't see it just now). Moral relativism is for the birds, but so is any notion of absolute moral codes. Probably best just to try to figure out things as we go along, aiming for 'the greatest good for the greatest number', or however its put.

Is the pope a virgin?

6. Nov 27, 2004

### juju

Enlightened self-interest.

If you want things a certain way for yourself and your friends and family, this should be enough of a guide to how to deal with the rest of existence.

juju

7. Nov 28, 2004

### Staff: Mentor

As you might guess, I voted for the categorical imperative. But I think many of the others have elements that can work within it.

8. Nov 28, 2004

### eddo

Just curious, what does categorical imperative mean?

9. Dec 4, 2004

### honestrosewater

"Act only in accord with a principle which you would at the same time will to be a universal law"
I'll attempt a quick example. Say you intend to make a promise to Bill, but you intend to break the promise afterward. According to the categorical imperative, you must "act only in accord with a principle which you would at the same time will to be a universal law" so you must will that everyone break their promises. If everyone broke their promises, promises would lose their worth, no one would accept promises, and the system of promises would collapse. So you wouldn't be able to make your promise to Bill in the first place.

Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
10. Dec 4, 2004

### honestrosewater

I think the question is problematic because it assumes there is a "right" ethical system. It's especially problematic for a skeptic, I would imagine.
I can't see the choices now, but I have to go with cooperative egoism. Was that a choice? Nope. And why is egoism classed with consequentialism? And what does ethical mean? No, seriously, why consequentialism?

Last edited: Dec 4, 2004
11. Dec 4, 2004

### the number 42

This bit sounds okay, but I always get nervous when people start claiming their actions are based on natural laws or universal truths, because they usually turn out to be a fundamentalist of some description.

And this sounds okay when you use an example like promises that most people will agree on. However, it also sounds like a recipe for egoism, and 'doing unto others as you would have them do unto you' i.e. the other person's view should be based on your own. This only works if everyone is in agreement in the first place. If you take an example of sex, then the way I think sex should be performed is the way I think all people should perform sex. Or what I think is a fair political system is what everyone should think is fair.

And what are the penalties for breaking these universal laws? They must be pretty hefty, as what kind of abomination would break laws that being universal are so obviously natural, and therefore good and true?

12. Dec 4, 2004

### loseyourname

Staff Emeritus
13. Dec 4, 2004

### Staff: Mentor

But that's the beauty of it - it doesn't require a pre-set group of laws. Its simplly derived from experience and logic. Its anti-religious. If a religious person is using it to argue for a god, they're misusing it.
But again, that's the beauty of it: it isn't based on what you believe, its based on what you can prove either logically or through examples.

Applied to politics, if someone says democracy is the best system based on the categorical imperative, they'd need to prove that it works, based on its history, and that it would work for everyone, using logic. Obviously, the fuzzier the evidence gets, and the more complex the issue gets, the more room for argument there is.

14. Dec 5, 2004

### the number 42

Hmmm. Our ideas of beauty diverge. I meant 'fundamentalist' in the broader sense, including political fundamentalism e.g. communism, and I guess philosophical fundamentalism too i.e. any system that says 'I'm right and all the others are wrong'.

I think the fact that we dodn't really get any consensus on these issues speaks for itself. You can take any set of facts and debate what they mean. This happens all the time in science e.g. the safety of genetically modified foods.

15. Dec 5, 2004

### Staff: Mentor

Oh - moral relativism. Well, I think relativism is fundamentally flawed, even self-contradictory, but thats a whole 'nother discussion.

16. Dec 5, 2004

### the number 42

Russ, you just done made me mad, goin' callin' a body a moral relativist, an' all that fancy city talk :grumpy:

I'm not for relativism either, but arguing from different premises and contending that your viewpoint is correct isn't relativism, it is a simple self-serving bias towards suporting our own point of view. After all, we do have a tendency to think that what we think is correct is correct, unless we are depressed or confused (or maybe enlightened). This is a real phenomenon, not the groovy relativism you so cruelly accuse me of

17. Dec 5, 2004

### loseyourname

Staff Emeritus
That's why he stipulated that ethical theories be empirically testable and logically consistent. Logic is not biased. My only problem with the categorical imperative is that it is unintentionally utilitarian, which Kant claimed to be opposed to.

18. Dec 9, 2004

### Aquamarine

Well, many of the ethical systems can be classified as either focusing mainly on prescribing some actions or prescribing some consequences. Does the end justify the means? Now I will gladly admit that the distinction is not always clear. For example, some would combine categorical imperative with utilitarianism. But this distinction has the advantage of making people think about the question stated.

"Ethical" egoism fits into consequentialism since it put no restriction on allowed actions (except the rule of egoism).

Cooperative egoism is unclear, do you attempt to combine both egoism and utilitarism completely into one system? This will work if there is never any conflict between individuals seeking to maximize their pleasure. Actually, there is at least one such philosophical school, objectivism, that states that there is in fact never any conflicts between "objectivistic" individuals. It will fit into the other category of consequentialism.

What is wrong with utilitarianism? I think most objections will disappear if one looks up the more modern version, rule utilitarianism.

One way of viewing rule utilitarianism is that it is a form of social contract between egoistic individuals. In other words, rule utilitarianism is the best way for egoists to organize society if they cannot force other people to do everything they want. And that this is why rule utilitarianism is probably the default official ethics of most people and even the law. The problem with this view is that it seems to be positive to breaking the rules if one should not get caught and to be positive to make rules harder to break if one should be negatively affected by others breaking it. In other words, no inherent evil.

Last edited: Dec 9, 2004
19. Dec 9, 2004

### loseyourname

Staff Emeritus
I made no evaluation of any doctrine of utilitarianism. My point was simply that the categorical imperative is designed to be a method for testing the deontological moral value of an action, but it ends up being consequentialist and so Kant failed to some extent in his construction.

20. Dec 9, 2004

### honestrosewater

No, I was mostly just being an @ I am probably closer to skepticism than anything else.

21. Jan 6, 2005

### PerennialII

Nice poll, out of these the Categorical Imperative is an ethical construct I embrace, the only one not bringing about any insuperable contradictions.

22. Jan 6, 2005

Staff Emeritus
An interesting question is whether people who espouse different ethical systems can behave ethically toward each other in ways they can both agree on. Take a Christian deontologist and a Muslim deontologist for example.

Given the list of ethical systems in the poll, the interactions would form a matrix with a row for each doer and a column for each receiver. In the cell corresponding to my row and your column put a 1 if every ethical act my system permits me toward you is also perceived as ethical in your system. Put a 0 there otherwise. Then if we have a 1 at any (row_number, column_number) does it follow that we have a 1 at the symmetric position (column_number, row_number)? In other words is the matrix symmetric?

If not, is this perhaps the root of social dissension, and even war?

Last edited: Jan 6, 2005
23. Jan 6, 2005

### honestrosewater

Stepping out on a limb, does every ethical system have the same acts and universe? For instance, is remote viewing an act? Can supernatural beings be doers or receivers? How is a solipsist to interpret the matirix?

24. Jan 7, 2005

### PerennialII

Interesting way of looking at it ... I'd make a wager on an asymmetric matrix, say consequentialists and deontologists can think things quite a bit differently if you for example consider altruism and egoism against the categorical imperative.

25. Jan 7, 2005

### Philocrat

I disatisfactorily voted 'Consequentialism - other' because you designed your voting in a way that does not permit multiple choices. The fact is that some of the items on the list can be combined and demonstrated how they are contemporaneously possible. For example, Kant's Categorical Imperatives could be combined with the Rule and Act Utilitrianisms and shown how they are possible in the present configuration of our world. Often, some of the items are treated as if they are explaining the configurations of diferent universes. We can show how some of them are possible in different aspects of the same world or universe, while at the same time demonstrating HOW and WHEN to avoid the negative aspects of some of them.

What is most important of saying here is that we can render some of the more problematic moral principles less problematic or more valuable and worthy of pursuing by ACTIVELY IMPROVING THE STATE OF THE HUMAN REALITY. Having examined all these differing moral principles, I have in recent years retired to the principle of STRUCTURAL AND FUNCTIONAL RE-ENGINEERING OF THE HUMAN REALITY as the only way of out the current moral maze of the world, and there is a very sophisticated sense in which some, if not all, of your listed moral principles systematically contribute to this.

Last edited: Jan 7, 2005