Driving Analogy for Ethics

I will try to put your mind to ease with an analogy.  Most of us have some experience with driving a vehicle.  Driving may seem to be unnatural but it really is quite natural.  A car is simply an extension of your body.  We interact with our environment through a vehicle in a more simplistic way than we evolved from.  An ape climbing through the trees is dealing with motion in three dimensions, we only worry about two dimensions in a car.

Cars are primarily devices for transportation but matters of ethics come into play.  Our actions can result in life or death scenarios.  The roads are a type of social environment.  We interact with other people through our cars.  We can communicate our intentions, dispositions, etc through our cars.  They provide a fitting analogy in many ways.

Most people even with very basic skills and knowledge can get by (and not kill anyone).  Few tend to care enough or be so intrinsically skilled to master driving (to become ethically wise) and few tend to be so careless with it or of such poor ability to risk their lives or the lives of others (malicious intent and/or neglect).  We all come to know how to drive through different means – parents, schools, self-taught, etc (same with ethical understanding).

Accidents are relatively common (stealing, cheating, lying, etc) but fatal ones tend to be much more rare (negligent homicide, murder).  We try hard to avoid accidents and design safety mechanisms to safeguard our life, limb, property, etc (in the past through religious laws or currently through civil laws, etc).  Highly skilled drivers can have accidents (good people can do bad things) and poor or reckless drivers can go a lifetime without getting in an accident (ignorant, bigoted and/or malicious minded people who don’t act on their impulses), though they may cause several accidents (people who respond with action to their ideas).  Such anomalies do not argue for recklessness or a diminished pursuit of excellence in driving; they are simply anomalies.

Good drivers (analogous to ethical/good behavior) tend to care more about driving and tend to therefore be more passionate about it and more excitable to instances of poor or reckless driving (unethical/bad behavior) .  Bad drivers tend to be apathetic to driving so even though they have the ability to get better they tend not to care enough to pursue the required knowledge/skills/understanding (apathy or a pursuit of ignorance, a lack of introspection).  People who are taught proper driving skills at a young age tend to be more engaged and better at driving their entire lives (education/ethical understanding).  People can learn later in life but it tends to be harder to master and can be a fearful endeavor (old prejudices are hard to overcome, introspection takes practice).  Many people never quite gaining the required confidence and prefer just to be passengers or use public transportation (in this analogy that is akin to going along with the mob).

People get into thousands of accidents every day in vehicles, some are fatal.  In general however, driving is a safe and useful pursuit of our personal and collective interests.  Same goes with our personal and collective knowledge and understanding of ethics.  Most people get it right most of the time.

Like driving we have rules of convention.  Rule of convention in driving apply to things like which side of the road to drive on, right of way rules, etc.  Cultural rules of convention provide rules for respect, manors, etc.  Conventional rules are not rules of ethics.  Conventional rules are arbitrary; ethical rules are equivalent to nature laws, they are knowable and deductible facts of our existence.  People talk about matters of convention using the same language as matters of ethics, so a clear distinction needs to be made so we don’t confuse the two.


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