Applied Ethics

This portion of the site deals with the application of ethics.  I happen to think I am right regarding the my judgements on the ethical matters presented.  As with all understanding, new information can change one’s understanding.  Please feel free to agree or disagree with my positions.  I rather like debate and I do not mind being wrong.  If you are wrong about something, and someone provides you with new information that alters your understanding, you become more knowledgable and wiser as a result.

I have the belief, maybe naively, that if you are right, you can eventually convince another person of your rightness; as your rightness should be based in facts.  There are basic facts in this world, and the facts of ethics are so fundamental that they should be among the easiest of things to prove.

4 thoughts on Applied Ethics

  1. I had the same belief, i.e., objective fact and unbiased (less biased) logic, would convince. My personal experience told me that was wrong. Research on the cognitive and social biology of politics argues fact and logic isn’t persuasive. Cognitive linguist George Lakoff has been arguing that point for over 20 years (see, e.g., The Political Mind or Moral Politics books). Social scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels powerfully argue the relative irrelevance of fact and logic in their 2106 book Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government.

    Achen and Bartels see politics like this: “. . . . the typical citizen drops down to a lower level of mental performance as soon as he enters the political field. He argues and analyzes in a way which he would readily recognize as infantile within the sphere of his real interests. . . . cherished ideas and judgments we bring to politics are stereotypes and simplifications with little room for adjustment as the facts change. . . . . the real environment is altogether too big, too complex, and too fleeting for direct acquaintance. We are not equipped to deal with so much subtlety, so much variety, so many permutations and combinations. Although we have to act in that environment, we have to reconstruct it on a simpler model before we can manage it.”

    Fact and logic often (>50% of the time?) gets in the way of unconscious cognitive world reconstruction (distortion). When that happens, fact and logic usually (>90% of the time?) are unconsciously distorted or denied so that personal worldview remains essentially unchallenged. For most people, meaningful persuasion rarely or never occurs based on fact and logic alone. There has to be, among other things, framing, intelligent use of metaphor and appeal to emotion. Facts often aren’t needed at all if the emotional and moral appeal is powerful enough. In those cases, lies, half-truths and even just complete silence about facts and logic are sufficient.

    • The fact that most people aren’t persuaded by facts, doesn’t make the facts of the matter any less true.

      I find people’s political views align with their moral views; which are heavily influenced by their culture or sub-culture. Framing politics using proper ethical arguments could help dive down to more fundamental common impulses and keep things at the right emotional level to motivate people.

      • Right, disbelief in objectively true facts doesn’t make them not objectively true. It does make them (i) subjectively not true, and (ii) not persuasive because they’re not believed. As far as I can tell, subjective reality is about as important or probably more important than objective reality in shaping beliefs and behavior, at least for politics.

        Cognitive and social evidence that political views align with moral views is overwhelming. Some, like George Lakoff, argue that, in addition to fact and reason, proper use of framing, intelligent use of metaphor and other methods of persuasive communication (propaganda) that appeal to morals and emotions are necessary for maximal impact, but even that often or usually won’t lead to belief in objective fact when it’s presented to an opposing-different moral mind set.

        The question boils down to asking how or if one can at least partially “get around” or “deal with” human cognitive biology and thinking in an effort to elevate the role of fact and reason from small to something less small.

        • I agree with you.

          I understand why people want to choose the blue pill, I just don’t understand how the blue pill can be so effective when faced with reality. I also think the only antidote to the blue pill is the red pill.

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