Ethical Lens

The goal of this blog is to increase your knowledge and understanding of ethics.  The goal is not to tell you what is right and wrong but to show you how to determine that.   When you see the world through an ethical lens things become clearer, richer, more nuanced.  Your ability to dissect ethical problems becomes better.

The nice thing about ethics is the foundations are pretty simple.  You are born with the knowledge; “I feel, therefore I know ethics.”  Ethical understanding is easily derived starting with the Golden Rule and using the innate skill of empathy.  Working to enhance your emotional intelligence will aid in your effectiveness.  The rest is practice.  Remember, truth needs to be derived; it is derived by asking good questions.  Start asking questions!


2 thoughts on Ethical Lens

    • Understanding ethics can be difficult at first, especially if your culture or figures of authority do things that are counter to what you feel is right. The Golden Rule is likely be best starting point and litmus test, “How would I like it if that was done to me?” Answer that question honestly. Apply the Golden Rule to issues of harm/care and fairness/reciprocity.

      This blog tries to avoid giving specific examples of applied ethics in the attempt to avoid coloring the readers thinking. The gay marriage “debate” is used because it is such a clear example of cultural bias and clear misunderstandings of ethics.

      When applying ethics to legal justice, reciprocity is the major issue at hand. Reciprocity is acting in a reciprocal away or acting in kind. So if someone shares with you, you should share with them now or at some point in the future. All trade is a reciprocal act. Fair trade is trade that each party is pleased with the items traded.

      Aristotle had a good quote regarding justice, “Justice is giving a person what they deserve.” A just punishment is one that attempts to deter future acts and hopefully serves to reform or repress future actions from the same individual. The punishment should fit the crime, so reciprocity has to be fair to be ethical. Note, punishment has to occur for justice to be served however. A wrong that goes unpunished is unjust.

      The reason non-violent protest is so effective is because it involves an individual or group willfully not responding to unethical actions taken against them. It is exceedingly hard not to act out against an injustice, but by doing so and consequently, “Being the bigger person,” the outside observers wants justice for the person who is being treated in an unethical fashion. So long as you have a public receptive to violations of ethics, which hopefully you do, then the public should demand justice for you.

      There are also times that individuals or groups will not respond in kind to an unethical act, which can be an act of ethical wisdom. “An eye for an eye, leaves the whole world blind.” If you respond in kind, and you feel by doing so it will compel the aggressor to do the same, you can create an endless cycle of violent. Depending on the offense, you may choose not to respond in kind. Retaliations typically are not in kind but escalate as we always perceive offenses done onto us as greater than those we do onto others. So, “to forgive others their trespasses” can be a wise ethical condition as it foresees the cycle of violence that can occur if we do not let things go, especially small things.

      Modern societies have largely mitigated the tit for tat personal feud model of reciprocal acts of “justice” by creating a third party leviathan to deal with establishing justice. (see Steven Pinker’s, “The Better Angels of Our Nature”). The leviathan is an objective third party, typically the government that hears the case and decides who and how to punish the party who acted unethically. By removing the two parties from the administering of justice, it avoids the cycles of violence historically observed, and currently observed in cultures with no rule of law – including illegal crime rings. Criminals can’t call upon the justice system to settle disputes, so a culture of honor is developed in which individuals react harshly to any offense, real or perceived (see Steven Pinker).

      Remember, ethics is not black and white. Ethical acts are conditional; the specific circumstances matter, and the degrees of an unethical act matters. Ethical understanding is required to derive an ethical truth, and ethical wisdom is required to act an in the best possible way.

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