Clockwork Toys
Trim Sails

What are the Issues? (2)

Two weeks ago, I asked Only a Game players to contribute their thoughts on the ethical issues that were worth addressing (in this post), which generated some spectacular sideline discussions and a healthy collection of points to explore. There are far too many issues for us to cover them in a single post, so here we’ll review the issues briefly and then follow each up in turn with a separate post over the coming weeks and months. During this time, if anyone has any additional issues, they should feel free to contribute!

The issues raised were as follows:

  1. Personal responsibility (Corvus) - if this isn't a key issue then I don't know what is, but sadly it does not necessarily lend itself to progress through debate as it is a theoretical rather than a practical issue.
  2. Modesty of Sexuality (Jack) c.f. oversexualisation of the media - this is a good issue to raise; it directly relates to tensions with Islamic cultures. Difficult to separate the ethics from the political, though.
  3. Justice Between Generations (zenBen) - a theoretical rather than a practical issue, but I guess I shouldn't be suprised, since this is a very theoretical blog. :) Well worth looking at.
  4. Freedom in the Face of Crises (zenBen) - although zenBen relates this to justice between generations, I see this as a seperate issue. The point being: if such-and-such a crisis must urgently be addressed, how do I justify doing a job that does not contribute to the resolution of that crisis?
  5. Environmental Preservation (Bezman) - finally, a practical issue! :)
  6. Hedonism versus Self-development (Bezman) - this is another great issue. We may have to defer it to the discussion of Utilitarianism, though - I'm not sure, though. (translucy also touches upon a related topic).
  7. Ethics of Science (translucy) - what are the ethical issues that face an individual scientist? Are there areas of research one can and should refuse on ethical grounds? Can there be an ethical imperative to research one area and not others - and if so, how would such an imperative arise? In general: what are the ethical dimensions of scientific practice?
  8. Freedom and Drugs (Foster) - aha, now this is a practical issue. And I shall be more than delighted to talk about it.
  9. Animal Rights (Foster) – another practical issue, and another one that was already on the cards for discussion. I think we should come to this later rather than sooner, though.
  10. Lying (Foster) – Kant’s favourite topic – is it permissible to lie? I’ll look forward to going through this one.
  11. Extreme Acts of Protest (Suyi) – I was already intending to discuss non-compliance as protest, but Suyi brings up extreme actions such as self-immolation (in itself related to suicide bombing - both are suicide as protest, the latter is also murder as protest). We can cover this, although it is not a comfortable subject.

(Remember, we will also look at Ethics of War and the issues surrounding Abortion - but not yet.)

We probably won’t look at these in order, but I’ll begin with personal responsibility as it’s a central point. Expect posts on all these topics to arrive about once a week from now on!

Get involved! Share your thoughts when you have a spare moment.

Comments

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What about beauty as an end in itself? This relates to care for the land, but is distinct from environmentalism in the scale of what you're dealing with. Cutting down a hundred-year-old oak for no good reason probably doesn't really hurt the environment that much, but it is a callous act which shows little love of beauty.

I wrote some thoughts on this issue from a religious perspective here.

How about the interdependence of cooperation and competition? Does one extreme lead to unchecked greed and/or war? Does the other lead to groupthink and/or a lack of personal responsibility? Is there an optimum mix? Are our politicians looking for one, or simply trying to score points using loaded words like "socialize" and "trickle down"?

Also, how about corporate ethics (or lackthereof)? Can we talk about the impact of treating a corporation like a person in certain legal aspects, albeit a giant, deathless, demigod-like infernal entity?
Better put, I'd like to see you kick around the ethical issues of what Charles Taylor called instrumental reasoning--the value of a machine-like efficiency above all else; making the most money for making the most money, regardless of the cost.
In Taylor's estimation, this is how we've gotten into some very prickly, but seemingly nonsensical problems like giant corporations refusing to stop using ozone-depleting agents. The clear solution by most methods of evaluation is to stop, even if the alternative is more expensive. But with the enthronement of instrumental reasoning, stopping a company from being maximally profital (despite the cost to the rest of us) is perhaps the ultimate infringement on others' rights--particularly in the prevailing notions of what "freedom" means in America.

I'd like to see that tackled, anyhow, hopefully a bit more practical an issue than the previously suggested :)

Wonders for Oyarsa: I can see how this can be a separate issue from environmentalism, but I'm not sure I personally could discuss this in isolation. The matter of different ends (in fact, the different values) that we can have will get looked at, however; beauty as an ethical criteria is an interesting perspective.

caller#6: this issue is rather close to my heart... However, it slips easily into the political. I expect we will talk about this, possibly in the final part of the Ethics Campaign. I'm not quite sure how things will develop from here! :)

Jack: I'm thinking about re-reading Taylor; I read his Ethics of Authenticity when I started my ethics readings, and have since forgotten most of what he said! :) There were some good points in it, though, worth pursuing.

Ethics of Corporations was always on the cards for discussion at some point - this may have to wait until the issue of Utilitarianism has been covered, for various reasons.

"Instrumental reasoning" will get covered one way or another... At some point, I have to write up my notes on Hannah Arendt's "The Human Condition", which will cover this kind of material. Again, this may all fold into the discussion of Utilitarianism.

---

Thanks for the comments everyone! It's going to take a while to cover all the issues raised; at one a week this is still three months of content. I guess I'll focus on those listed above to begin with, and perhaps develop the discussion of utilitarianism, Arendt and so forth in the final part of the Ethics Campaign later this year.

Although, realistically, it's just a case of using whatever spare time I can find. :)

Best wishes!

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