A short introduction into ethical considerations and its consequences

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Arjen
 
Reply Sun 21 Sep, 2008 04:10 am
A short introduction into ethical considerations and its consequences

What is ethical behavior?
I think that every person, at one time or another, is interested in ethical questions. The question "What am I to Do?" lies on the lips of every person. When one gets down to it every action is an ethical action in the wide sense because every action has an influence on other things and beings, so in that sense in every action the question in what way one wishes to behave is already present. Within the wide ethical field there are several different ethical views in the narrow sense. These views are certain 'rulebases' by which people try to decide what to do. Even though there are many different views concerning what is 'the good' the general concensus is that what is 'the good' does not change. That which is 'the good' is 'the good' always and everywhere. Similar sets of circumstances would induce similar solutions.

Ethics in ancient Greece
The first ethical works we know of (apart from religious ethical works such as of the Jewish religion) came from ancient Greece. The best known are Plato's Politeia and both Aristotle's Ethicae (Unfortunately the Eudemian Ethics is unfortunately not presented by the Gutenberg).

The major difference between the work concerns what the intent of a state should be and the proper execution of the ruleset presented by the state. On an ontological there is also a difference in understanding of the existance of 'reality'.

Intents of Stateforms
Plato, in his reasonings concerning stateforms, looks towards the strength of Sparta. Athens had just been defeated by Sparta and there were very good reasons for that both historically as well as according to Plato. Plato merits Sparta for their equality. There was an elite ruling Sparta, but Plato does not look towards that, he mentions that there are also some less admirable points of the Spartan Polis, but that his comments concern the equality of the populace. The Spartan citizen was equal in all ways and every person was utilised for the benefit of all; thus laying focus on the intent of the state and the individual.

Aristotle, in his reasonings concerning stateforms, looks towards the cast systems of earlier Athens (he himself was from an aristocratic family). In both his (major) ethical works he tries to rationalise the different rights of people in the Athenian society, such as Elite, free citizens, women and slaves. The essence of his work concerns a feeling, which he names eudaemonia, and which can be achieved by acting in no extreme way: exactly in the middle (mesotes) of the extreme actions witnessed in the polis. The function of the state is to make sure that some people (the elite) can actually achieve this 'happy feeling' by the oppression of the lower classes; thus focussing on a 'goal' (telos).

Execution of Rulesets
Plato reasons that the state should utilise all inhabitants of the Polis to serve the polis according to their abilities. That is why every man had a 24 year military duty and the best people were carefully selected for certain functions so everybody could benefit from that. A product of that would be that every craftsman would be able to dedicate himself to the profession, thus being able to come to an unparalelled excellence, much like it is today.

Aristotle on the other hand makes remarks such as "One should not beat his slaves in public because that might reflect badly upon ones character" and "One should try to make ones wife happy because an unhappy wife might reflect badly upon ones character" can be found numerous times. With this the execution of his envisioned stateform is clear: oppression, much like it is subvertedly today.

Existence
Plato has a certain vision on reality in which his logoi take a central place. He reasons that the simularities between certain objects suggest that there are certain 'universals' of which all particulars are quantifications. These 'perfect' universals are part of the quantified particulars in the sense of existing on a different ontological level.

Aristotle's vision on reality (in his metaphysics) contain a pivital role for his 'idea'. Aristotle uses his idea as the quantified form of a certain potentiality, which is a certain abundance and inundates into the actuality of forms, thus seperating the two ontological levels. In his physics Aristotle uses potentiality as an essence, however, placing this potentiality (of possibilities) inside the thing-in-itself.

Religion during the dark agesSlavery
Slavery has been an integral part of many civilisations during the co**** of history. In ancient Greece slaves could be made by the conquering of a rival in the sense that the ultimate debt was owed by these slaves to the conqueror: a debt of life. Another way of making someone a slave was be a purely financial debt which could not be paid by the slave. Both debts made people fall into the lowest class in the society of ancient Greece: the slave class. The laws, in many poleis, were only applicable to free citizens; not to the slaves.

As Aristotle explains it does not reflect well upon an individual when slaves are mistreated (publicly) in any way. Life debt of free citizens were quickly frowned upon, because these free men were of a different social class than the slaves. That is why financial slavery became more and more common practice. During the dark ages slaves were only bought off strong African tribes, thus becoming property, as the debts already implied. The slaves of Africa owed a life debt to their captives, mind, which was easily transferred into a financial debt by selling them.

Ultimately it does not matter if one is a slave in the literal sense or only in the factual sense. The elite in Europe had tons of financial 'slaves' in the poor citizenry. These citizens did their bidding out of financial necessity. This led to the realisation that classes in societies are merely values placed on them and financial classes were as usable as actual slaves in the ancient sense of the word. People can think they are free, but as long as the only option they have is work to benefit others they are still 'owned' by those others.

Financial slavery in the wide sense is still common practice today. After conquering a country the financial aids quickly follow, thus endebting the conquered to the conqueror. The corporations belonging to the conqueror will never be far behind, thus making sure the conquered will be put to work to benefit the conqueror. This can only work if the 'slaves' do not have another option, but to work for the 'master'. It works even better of the slaves are unaware of the situation. Currency plays an integral part in this, because it is the measurement in which the severity of the debt is expressed and if the 'master' will be lenient or not. The fact that one are using currency makes one a slave though, being in the plus or in the minus, because of the fact that it shows the person in question is caught in the maze presented by the master. That is why it is common practice to depict the face of the slaveowner on the currency.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Sun 21 Sep, 2008 07:27 am
@Arjen,
"When one gets down to it every action is an ethical action in the wide sense because every action has an influence on other things and beings, so in that sense in every action the question in what way one wishes to behave is already present."

I am not sure that even in a "wide" sense, every action is ethical in nature purely from the fact that every action is a link in a causal chain. There are many philosophical positions that would argue that for an action to be considered "ethical," the actor must both 1) understand his action to be an ethical one in which he must choose between courses of actions with consequences and 2) must have been able to do otherwise.
Many philosophers would emphasize the role of intent in any discussion of ethical acts.Thus, my making a pot of coffee is not in itself an ethical action, nor is it if a visitor chokes on a cup of coffee and dies, since my intention was to make a pot of coffee and not to harm others.

Nor have all philosophers held the position that right actions must conform to an absolute standard or that such a standard could be known; a strong line of relativist morality has continued from the Pre-Socratics down to Nietzsche and Sartre.
 
Fido
 
Reply Sun 21 Sep, 2008 07:47 am
@jgweed,
It may seem paradoxical; but ethics is not what we learn, but what we know, and is what we know because it is what we are. When we are ethical.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Sun 21 Sep, 2008 08:52 am
@Fido,
Fido wrote:
It may seem paradoxical; but ethics is not what we learn, but what we know, and is what we know because it is what we are. When we are ethical.


Ethics really boils down to the process in which people use their perception and perspectives to make acceptable choices. What determines what is acceptable forms the debate. Does the ethics focus on the agent, obligation, or consequence?

So in those regards, ethics could be our character, our obligation to the universe, or the consequences of our actions.
 
Fido
 
Reply Sun 21 Sep, 2008 11:18 am
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus wrote:
Ethics really boils down to the process in which people use their perception and perspectives to make acceptable choices. What determines what is acceptable forms the debate. Does the ethics focus on the agent, obligation, or consequence?

So in those regards, ethics could be our character, our obligation to the universe, or the consequences of our actions.

Ethics is character, the thing we can know without being taught. Does it imply certain obligations? Not as such. It is a defense of meaning, and not specifically of people. If it were possible for some one to erase all your memory in a moment, so you did not know who you were, where you were from, or what you stood for; would you not resist them? We do not live only for the day, having a future and no past. We never learn anything new unless it is related to what we know already. If some one takes our past they take our life. Ethics is our history as we get our character from our cultures, and our kind, and that is why it is some times translated as custom. Ethics is a defense of character which is never one single character alone, but is the character of ones kind. If there is moral behavior, it is learned at our mothers knee when she says: this is right, and this is how we treat others. This is how we behave. Morality is impossible for the individual. Those who can concieve of themselves apart have no moral reference. And that is why no program can be instituted by society to teach the individual to be moral. If you want morality, unteach individualism. The individual cannot be moral. The representative of a community can be moral, because morality is our connection to community. If we accept the common ethic, and we defend the common people then we are already a member of our community.
 
Arjen
 
Reply Sun 21 Sep, 2008 11:42 am
@jgweed,
jgweed wrote:

Nor have all philosophers held the position that right actions must conform to an absolute standard or that such a standard could be known; a strong line of relativist morality has continued from the Pre-Socratics down to Nietzsche and Sartre.

That is ethics in the narrow sense.
 
Grimlock
 
Reply Sun 21 Sep, 2008 12:33 pm
@Arjen,
Arjen wrote:
That is ethics in the narrow sense.


And what is the broader sense? Seems we're toeing the line of metaphysics here, which is a whole different enchilada.
 
Arjen
 
Reply Sun 21 Sep, 2008 12:40 pm
@Grimlock,
Grimlock wrote:
And what is the broader sense? Seems we're toeing the line of metaphysics here, which is a whole different enchilada.

Grimlock, you just don't know jack from **** on any topic, do you?
Ethics is metaphysics.

Ethics in the wide sense contains any mode of conduct.
Ethics in the narrow sense contains only one mode of conduct which is defined as 'the good'.

From now on I am going to ignore your posts if unfounded and not comprehensive of what I have said. If there are things you want to know, just ask questions.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Sun 21 Sep, 2008 03:56 pm
@Arjen,
Nice overview Arjen,

I've always had a special interest in ethics. Of the five branches I think it to hold perhaps the most potential-benefit for the betterment of human kind. It seems to hit on a practical level; I believe that the more folks dive into the *why* in their own judgments of right and wrong concepts, the more they're able to make better decisions (overall).

It's almost as if so many of us have these entire systems, inside our own heads on what's right and wrong. Yet if we never critically look at those systems (via the study of ethics and answering them hard questions), we act more blindly; more on autopilot, etc.

In any case, it's gotta be my favorite branch.
 
Fido
 
Reply Sun 21 Sep, 2008 07:58 pm
@Arjen,
Arjen wrote:
Grimlock, you just don't know jack from **** on any topic, do you?

"Ethics is metaphysics."

Ethics in the wide sense contains any mode of conduct.
Ethics in the narrow sense contains only one mode of conduct which is defined as 'the good'.

In what sense is ethics metaphysics? As a pattern of behavior it precedes any thought of metaphysics, and it is from the behavior that the philosophical examination begins. At no point does anything beyond the metaphysical enter actual ethical behavior unless one is trying justify ethical behavior in the modern sort of Western Nation State, and so again, if that has existed for only a thousand years and conscious ethical behavior has existed almost from the dawn of time so far as we can tell, then how do youjudge it metaphysical?. All men created equal is such a metaphysical justification and it was only given voice severl hundred years ago. So, your statement I think is unproven, and unprovable. A more likely fact is that ethical behavior is natural, in the sense of native, Natal...Navel. We learn ethical behavior in relation to those we are attached to by birth.
 
Arjen
 
Reply Sun 21 Sep, 2008 08:00 pm
@Khethil,
Say Khethil, I would like to point out that these five branches of philosophy might be a little subjective. Immanuel Kant said: "1. Was kann ich wissen? 2. Was soll ich tun? 3. Was darf ich hoffen?"
He predicates three branches of philosophy there: Epistemology, Ethics and Aesthetics. Politics is a quantification of Ethics (of rule-utalitarianism to be exact) and metaphysics is the entire area of philosophy. Kant predicates this as such because philosophy is about the thing-in-itself while Epistemology, Ethics and Aesthetics are certain aspects of the thing-in-itself and politics is about what is judged of ethics.

Anyway, I agree with you that ethics is a very interesting subject; just as interesting as the starry sky above me perhaps.

"Two things fill the mind with ever increasing wonder and awe. The more often and the more intensely the mind of thought is drawn to them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. Morality is not properly the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness."
Immanuel Kant
 
Fido
 
Reply Sun 21 Sep, 2008 08:03 pm
@Khethil,
Khethil wrote:
Nice overview Arjen,

I've always had a special interest in ethics. Of the five branchesI think it to hold perhaps the most potential-benefit for the betterment of human kind. It seems to hit on a practical level; I believe that the more folks dive into the *why* in their own judgments of right and wrong concepts, the more they're able to make better decisions (overall).

It's almost as if so many of us have these entire systems, inside our own heads on what's right and wrong. Yet if we never critically look at those systems (via the study of ethics and answering them hard questions), we act more blindly; more on autopilot, etc.

In any case, it's gotta be my favorite branch.

The simple fact of the matter is that why we do is who we are. All we do in life is a matter of self expression, and when danger fronts the brave do not sidle, not because of what they think, but because of who they are. That is the value of introspection. That is the value of the examined life. When you can weigh at a moment the value of your life against the values in your life you know at a glance when it is time to stand, and when it is time to run away.
 
Fido
 
Reply Sun 21 Sep, 2008 09:01 pm
@Arjen,
Arjen wrote:
Say Khethil, I would like to point out that these five branches of philosophy might be a little subjective. Immanuel Kant said: "1. Was kann ich wissen? 2. Was soll ich tun? 3. Was darf ich hoffen?"
He predicates three branches of philosophy there: Epistemology, Ethics and Aesthetics. Politics is a quantification of Ethics (of rule-utalitarianism to be exact) and metaphysics is the entire area of philosophy. Kant predicates this as such because philosophy is about the thing-in-itself while Epistemology, Ethics and Aesthetics are certain aspects of the thing-in-itself and politics is about what is judged of ethics.

Anyway, I agree with you that ethics is a very interesting subject; just as interesting as the starry sky above me perhaps.

"Two things fill the mind with ever increasing wonder and awe. The more often and the more intensely the mind of thought is drawn to them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. Morality is not properly the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness."
Immanuel Kant

The idea that politics is the quantification of ethics seems to be another unprovable statement, and I wonder if it is yours or borrowed. To me, politics is the personality of every organization, but I would insert form for organization with equality. Even Marriages have their politics, and they also have their reason, but in the words of Shakespeare, when two people ride a horse someone has to sit in front. What does it matter if the goal is the same; and yet it does matter, to some. Reason is an attempt to overcome the force of will, and yet it can be a measure of the force of will, and so, just another face on the personality of the form. You must certainly see that even the most unethical and immoral people have their politics. I would not doubt that every prison is full of politics. Including the guards and administration.
 
Arjen
 
Reply Sun 21 Sep, 2008 09:13 pm
@Fido,
The statement that politics is the quantification of ethics is perfectly provable. Ethics concerns the question how one should behave and politics concerns the dictates on how to behave within a certain frame of values. Because the question how one should behave concerns the acts-in-themselves it is categorical and creates a framework. Within this framework predicates of all sorts are possible; projecting judgements on the things-in-themselves and thus being a 'quantification' of ethical consideration into an investigateable 'science' of behavior: politics.

Perhaps you should check out the ideas Kant has on the things-in-themselves and our judgements. I have written a short 'explanation' of it, which can be found here.
 
Grimlock
 
Reply Sun 21 Sep, 2008 11:00 pm
@Arjen,
Arjen wrote:
Ethics is metaphysics.

Ethics in the wide sense contains any mode of conduct.
Ethics in the narrow sense contains only one mode of conduct which is defined as 'the good'.


Well, ok, I agree with you that ethics not grounded in some universal values (metaphysics) lacks political weight, but there are already strong arguments against the existence of extra-personal values, which jgweed referred to.

If the question is diverting you from your point feel free to ignore it, but shouldn't a discussion of ethics (or values...or truth?) commence with an argument for their very metaphysical existence before we get to the task of describing how they look?

At any rate, I'm not trying to win a prize by winding you up.
 
Fido
 
Reply Mon 22 Sep, 2008 05:40 am
@Arjen,
Arjen wrote:
The statement that politics is the quantification of ethics is perfectly provable. Ethics concerns the question how one should behave and politics concerns the dictates on how to behave within a certain frame of values. Because the question how one should behave concerns the acts-in-themselves it is categorical and creates a framework. Within this framework predicates of all sorts are possible; projecting judgements on the things-in-themselves and thus being a 'quantification' of ethical consideration into an investigateable 'science' of behavior: politics.

Perhaps you should check out the ideas Kant has on the things-in-themselves and our judgements. I have written a short 'explanation' of it, which can be found here.

Ethics is one thing, and examinations into it or conjectures about how an ethical society as an ideal can be recreated are another. That definition is useless, because like most behavior ethics is not considered, but played out. I think, what you are looking for is a word like ethicology.

The fact remains, and I think it is observable if not scientifically provable that people behave ethically, not because of what they think, because most ethical people never give it a thought, but rather because they are certain of who they are, who their people are, and that they are good members of the human family. Children can act ethically and unethically before they can define ethics in any fashion, or quantify anything, because they have no sense of conservation. All they need to know is that this is how we behave, and this is what we do not do. The fact that a child's morals change as he matures only supports what I say, that ethics is a function of self perception, our identities brought to a conclusion, and who we are. Reasoning is certainly quantification, and for that, reason is called ratio. There is no reason for people in a modern nation state to live ethically. There is every reason to act ethically with those you are related to. I think, that the reason people think about ethics is the same reason they think about politics. They are willing to ACT ethical for an unethical purpose just as the sophists taught that the worse could be proved the better. History shows us many examples of rational people acting unethically. Why? How could they miss the obvious benefit of ethics if they could quantify all else? First, there is no benefit from ethics. We are the product of ethics, so we have already recieved the benefit, so when we say ethics, we are refering to an obligation without benifits following, but quite often, pain. Is it ethical to pay ones debts? Do you pay your debts even when not required to do so?

We cannot concieve of an animal outside of its environment with accuracy. We have to consider what is the environment for ethical behavior. Ethics comes from honor societies with honor economies, and it is only as good and reliable today as honor is good and reliable today. Ethics first became a subject for dispute when an honor society and economy was giving way before a money economy and society. In Greece, the evidence was around them that ethics were degraded in the process, and so they were thinking of a rational justification for ethical behavior that could then be taught. It is nonsense. There is no in vitro ethics. Ethics is all in vivo.

Something else. I like Kant, and have read some Kant, but he was wrong about ethics. Rationality denies ethics more often than supporting ethics.
 
Fido
 
Reply Mon 22 Sep, 2008 05:58 am
@Grimlock,
Grimlock wrote:
Well, ok, I agree with you that ethics not grounded in some universal values (metaphysics) lacks political weight, but there are already strong arguments against the existence of extra-personal values, which jgweed referred to.

If the question is diverting you from your point feel free to ignore it, but shouldn't a discussion of ethics (or values...or truth?) commence with an argument for their very metaphysical existence before we get to the task of describing how they look?

At any rate, I'm not trying to win a prize by winding you up.

Moral reality is not metaphysical only because it is not physical. Moral reality is just that, not physical reality, and not metaphysical reality, and not reality at all in any sense other than the most essential: that we give it meaning, and its meaning IS its being. We cannot deny the meaning in physical being. You cannot force anyone to see the meaning in a moral reality. Justice, Freedom, and Ethics mean something to you, so you treat them as real. The next person says you're Quocked, and that there is nothing there. Out of moral meanings we build physical forms, like law and government, that still hold meaning for some, but they are primarily forms of relationship. As such, we make them real, and they help us, when they are working, to realize ourselves.

You need look no further than government to see a moral reality. It is for this reason that honor and oaths are so often referenced. It is for this reason that great impossing structures and monuments are constructed by government. There is only a moral reality behind it, something that can change over time or with the temperment of the people. So government can be forgiven for asserting its own reality in massive forms which deny that it is only a moral reality depending upon our faith for its meaning. They want to be eternal. Without us they exist not at all.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Mon 22 Sep, 2008 06:47 am
@Fido,
That part of philosophy which concerned itself with human action was, in early thinkers, termed "practical" and included both ethics and politics; this was opposed to the theoretical branches of logic, of "first philosophy" and of epistemology.
Since the practical branches are united by, and center their discussion on, human actions in situation, the intermingling of the two seem justified and natural, especially if the aims of political life are determined ethically and the former is seen as the means to the latter's ends.
 
Fido
 
Reply Mon 22 Sep, 2008 10:47 am
@jgweed,
jgweed wrote:
That part of philosophy which concerned itself with human action was, in early thinkers, termed "practical" and included both ethics and politics; this was opposed to the theoretical branches of logic, of "first philosophy" and of epistemology.
Since the practical branches are united by, and center their discussion on, human actions in situation, the intermingling of the two seem justified and natural, especially if the aims of political life are determined ethically and the former is seen as the means to the latter's ends.

I don't like to slice and dice the philosophy just because our perception extends from the physical to the moral. We live much more in the moral world than the physical, perhaps because the physical world is more easily studied and mastered. The rational approach given to physical reality offers little help in discovering the laws of moral reality. It demands a sort of view of reality that looks for a logic rather than trying to train the reality to a logical hoop. We are just not very good grasping the reason behind much natural behavior, but we should be for we know about past societies because they were to some degree successful in bringing themselves out of the pitch black of prehistory intact. And that is the fact; that morals play an essential role in the survival of peoples, Primitive peoples without much logic or technology, and it is this fact that causes some to ascribe morals to God, but it is the law of what works, so no creation of ethics in a test tube will ever succeed.
 
Arjen
 
Reply Mon 22 Sep, 2008 12:46 pm
@Grimlock,
Grimlock wrote:
Well, ok, I agree with you that ethics not grounded in some universal values (metaphysics) lacks political weight, but there are already strong arguments against the existence of extra-personal values, which jgweed referred to.

If the question is diverting you from your point feel free to ignore it, but shouldn't a discussion of ethics (or values...or truth?) commence with an argument for their very metaphysical existence before we get to the task of describing how they look?

I think that a plea for the lack of free will due to a causal chain is just really easily falsified. It is a nice topic though. Tell you what, I hope to get around to it this week. If I don't pm me and ask me to back this bold statement up.

Quote:

At any rate, I'm not trying to win a prize by winding you up.

I'm glad you said that because you seemed to be after just that...

What makes you post such short unfounded statements exactly?

p.s.
I only wrote this in about 45 minutes to respond to Fido's ideas in a different topic. I think I did pretty good for something I just shook out of my sleeve.
 
 

 
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