Ethics Ideas

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Ethics Ideas #11

Epictetus is right to caution us not to attempt the impossible. But figuring out  what is and is not possible in everyday life is not as easy as it seems. If we attempt the impossible, we are wasting our time. But if we fail to attempt the possible, we are missing an opportunity in life.


Ethics Ideas #10

Two Types of Decision Context: ‘Tornado Politics’ And ‘Abortion Politics’

Pielke  has proposed a thought experiment that distinguishes between two types of decision context: “tornado politics’ and ‘abortion politics’ :

Imagine that you are in an auditorium with about fifty other people… As you entered the auditorium you noticed a thunderstorm approaching, but you paid it little attention. All of a sudden someone bursts into the room and exclaims that a tornado is fast approaching and that we must quickly proceed to the basement… As the milling about continues, someone shouts loudly to all in the room, ‘We must decide what to do!’

In this decision context, the people in the auditorium have a shared common interest and values-preserving their own lives. To reach a consensus to commit to a course of action, they need to know whether a tornado is indeed coming their way. They could establish this by turning on a radio, logging onto the internet, or simply looking out the window. That is, public policy planning of the ‘tornado politics’ sort can resolve a commitment to a specific course of action primarily through the systematic pursuit of knowledge (science).

Contrast this with ‘abortion politics’:
Imagine that you are in the same auditorium with the same group of fifty people, but, in this case instead of deciding whether or not to evacuate, the group is discussing whether or not to allow abortion to be practiced in the community… One person stands up and exclaims, the practice of abortion violates my religious beliefs and therefore must be banned in our community!’ The next speaker states with equal passion, the community has no right to dictate what can or cannot occur inside a woman’s body. The practice of abortion must remain legal!” As the murmur of dozens of conversations grows louder, someone shouts loudly to all in the room, ‘We must decide what to do!’

In this sort of decision context, there is no shared commitment to common values or a specific goal; rather, there are conflicting commitments based on differing values. Neither is it likely that any amount of scientific information about abortion can reconcile these different values. Abortion Politics requires a different sort of process of bargaining, negotiation and compromise.

In a decision context characterised by both general agreement on valued outcomes and relative certainty about the impact of particular actions on the achievement of desired outcomes (‘tornado politics), science can compel action. Where, as is more commonly the case, there is no clear consensus on values and there are objective and subjective uncertainties about outcomes associated with particular decisions and actions (abortion politics), policy makers need to go beyond evidence-based policy. As well as considering relevant evidence, policy makers need to engage in explicit critical reflection on desired outcomes (purpose), conflicting values, trade offs between these, and the management of risk arising from unintended consequences of policy decisions.


Ethics Ideas #9

Epictetus says that it is hopeless to try to bend the entire world to fit with our desires. Instead, peace of mind and happiness come from training our desires so that they are in accord with the way the world is.


Ethics Ideas #8

Perhaps the most straightforward and basic sense of ‘happiness’ is the one in which we’re talking about our immediate experience of what might be called a happy ‘feeling’. Philosophers call this feeling of happiness ‘hedonic’ happiness.

Another idea of happiness that doesn’t depend on the notion of pleasure. For this we can turn to the philosopher Aristotle, who proposed the notion of eudaimonia, or flourishing. The term eudaimonia also comes from the Greek, with eu meaning ‘well’ or ‘good’ and daimon meaning something like ‘guiding spirit’. It’s often translated as ‘flourishing’, to distinguish it from hedonic ideas of happiness.

This implies a eudaimonistic account of happiness is linked to concerns with ethics, with questions about what ought to be the case for human life, and with questions about how we should live our lives. Hedonic happiness (pleasure) and eudaimonistic happiness (flourishing) don’t always go together. Although there may be occasions when they do coincide, there are other occasions when they are very different things.


Ethics Ideas #7

The Snowball Effect

One argument against allowing exception to a rule is that it can lead to a “snowball effect”, where things go from bad to worse . For example, a small lie that seems harmless at first can lead to more lies, and gradually the lies might become bigger and more serious. Where do we draw the line between an acceptable lie and one that is not acceptable? Perhaps it is better never to lie at all, even if this means that sometimes people’s feelings are hurt.


Ethics Ideas #6

The principle of beneficence implies that assisting others in securing their most important (needs) and removing harms is good. It is also nice to help secure their less important interests(wants), but generally speaking, we are not morally required to help others secure mere wants.So we don’t have a moral obligation to wash others dirty clothes this weekend as an act of  beneficence, but if somebody shows up at my house hungry, i’ll gladly feed him!


Ethics Ideas #5

The Euthyphro dilemma:

The Euthyphro dilemma is named after someone who is interrogated by Socrates in Plato’s dialogue of the same name. The problem Socrates confronts Euthyphro with is this: do the god love what is good because it is good, or is it the fact that they love it that makes something good?

The initial implications of the dilemma are quite straightforward. If (a) the gods love what is good because it is good, then whatever is good is good independently of what the gods feel about it. If, on the other hand, (b) something is good because the gods love it, then they could equally well love something else instead

If (a) is the case, then the gods have no role to play in establishing the foundations of moral values. If (b) is the case, they have a role to play, but what is good turns out to be nothing more than what they happen to love. If (a) is the case, morality is independent of religion. If (b) is the case, morality is highly unstable (the ancient Greek gods were notoriously fickle!).

Note: It is a dilemma for those who derive their moral values from religion, not for those who are atheists


Ethics Ideas #4


Fear cowardice courage foolhardiness
Pleasure and Pain insensibility temperance self-indulgence
Acquisition (minor) tight wad liberality spendthrift of prodigality
Acquisition (major) undue humility pride or proper ambition undue vanity
Anger unirascibility patience or good temper hotheadedness
Self-Expression self deprecating truthfulness boastfulness
Conversation boorishness wittiness buffoonery
Social Conduct cantankerous friendliness obsequiousness
Exhibition shamelessness modesty shyness
Indiganation spitefulness righteous indignation envy
Ethics Ideas #3

The essence of moral reasoning consists of proceeding from a given general principle to analysing the morality or right or wrong of an individual human action. This kind of reasoning process, from the general to the particular, is called deductive logic. It is qualitative in nature and, hence, any relativization or quantification causes problems. However, students of ethics, who study the subject as a scientific discipline, cannot dismiss the relative and quantitative aspects in the analysis of their subject. The scientific process is according to an inductive logic that proceeds from individual instances to a general law, or from particulars to a general principle. When we study ethics as a discipline, we use both the inductive and deductive ways of reasoning.

Ethics Ideas #2
Psychologists identify various forms of intelligence. Emotional intelligence incorporates at least two of them:
Cognitive intelligence -the ability to think rationally, act in a purposeful way and manage your environment. It’s your intellectual, analytical, logical and rational skill set.
Social intelligence –the ability to understand and manage situations which involve other people. It is your ability to be aware of yourself, to understand yourself, to manage relationships and understand the emotional content of behaviour.
Ethics Ideas #1
The hedonic paradox or paradox of hedonism:
The hedonic paradox or paradox of hedonism is the idea that happiness can’t be attained directly, but is instead a side-effect of the choices that we make. Happiness, in other words, isn’t something that we can set as a goal within life, but is a side-effect of how we go about the business of living.