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Hong-Min Yoon

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Is there an exact, definite criteria or standard on ethics?

Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill and many other philosophers have spent their lifetimes trying to find ways to find the absolute answer to this question; "Is that right to do?" However, no one could come up with a perfect idea that everybody can agree to. I'm sure that our society can be improved if we find such answer, but does it even exist? Taking one step further, does ethics exist or is it something that human beings made in order to reform the society? (After all, I am just a curious 8th grader)

Topics: ethics philosophy
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    Aug 17 2012: there is and there isn't.

    individuals hold the absolute answer but it won't always agree with another person's absolute answer.

    also, our own personal absolute answer changes as we experience life. if it doesn't change, then, i think, it indicates a closed mind..

    personally, i'm glad we can't come up with 'truth', 'absolute answers' or 'unified field theory'. imagine how prescribed and pointless life would be if there were..
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    Aug 15 2012: Dear Curious 8th grader

    The definition of ethics that I use is that ethic is survival. This is not a yes or no question there are degrees of survival.
    The greatest survival for the greatest number is he correct answer. This includes you, your family, your group, all of mankind, plants and animals, earth, matters that pertain to spirituality and god. What ever the question is can be answered by what is the greatest good for the greatest number.

    Does that make sense?

    The one that almost everyone agrees to is .treat others as you would want to be treated, this is known as the golden rule. And it works very well.
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      Aug 22 2012: Hmmm... I get your point. Thank you for telling me your opinion.
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        Aug 22 2012: Do you see that morality and ethics are 2 different subjects?

        Challenge my "opinion" , see how it applies and how it does not, see if it works or if it does not work, is it something that can be used or something that cannot be used.

        Don't glibly say thank you for your opinion, that is something I would expect from an 8th grader.

        Understanding and learning are verbs, challenge this chew on this, compare this to the other answers. This is the only answer that says yes it is easy.
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    Aug 25 2012: Ethics is a simple subject with a simple solution. About 90% of religions including Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam all have that solution (in teaching, not always in practice) and that is to do to others what you would have them do to you. Its simple, its nothing new, you have heard it many times before. This is the answer to all ethical problems, the only thing that lets it down is us and our selfishness.
    • Sep 7 2012: A diference being in Christianity the Living Giver of Creation is in Jesus bodily (Col 2:9) present-progressively still giving revealed ethics situationally beyond mere human reasoning and human understanding.

      Selflessness is learned by a Giver, not imagined by a therapist bias, although bridge-builders are better helpfully as therapists and priests and clergy and in-breathed from revelation knowledge. Leaving imagined ethics aside.
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    Aug 22 2012: IMO, all philosophers' main issue was that they were trying to oversimplify everything and attribute all things to one answer or justification.

    Truth of the matter, ethics (amongst other issues) is quite complex, and you need to pick and choose your answer for each and every situation. No one ethical situation is similar to another.

    The framework for ethics is highly loose, as it should be, and tightening it up would end in sub-optimal results.
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      Aug 23 2012: I like your argumentation and point of view. However, I feel that we can define some sort of loose "ethical" framework to act as a guideline for situations.
    • Aug 24 2012: I disagree with your opinion..

      Ethics becomes complex and difficult in some situations, particularly when deciding the better of two different goods or the least of two evils. But for the vast sweep of human interactions, the golden rule is adequate.

      As long as we accept that ethics is complex and difficult we will never develop a system of ethics that is acceptable to large numbers of people.
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    Aug 22 2012: let me ask a question that is somewhat related

    if there is no absolute truth, what about this statement itself? it is an absolute truth?
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      Aug 23 2012: Good question. However, I have no way of proving if it is an absolute truth or not. In my opinion, there are two sides and answers in your question.
      1. The fact that I asked this statement is true.
      2. I cannot say if the question itself is true or not.
      Sorry if my answers are incomplete.
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    Aug 16 2012: Ethics goes out the door after you miss your third meal and we are nowhere near enlightenment when we allow others to starve while we hoard for ourselves,people take positions and then shift them to suit themselves,we all know what's wrong but will we do what's right?will doing the right thing lead us to doing the wrong thing.
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    Aug 16 2012: I think you will find there are ethical structures in most professions. I am training to be a counsellor and as part of my training I have to evidence I understand ethical practice and also how to implement the rules about ethical practice when it conflicts with what is happening. Often in organisations there is a written ethical code, often there is also a hidden or not so hidden different ethical code. You might have noticed in the media all the stories about the'unethical' actions of bankers. Bankers do not operate in isolation, whilst they are making money society is prepared to not notice how they do it, when they lose money and badly affect the countries economy then court proeceedings take place. I would urge you to look at the pre-'Enlightenment' philosophers like Socrates and Aristotle (Ancient Greece) and the ideas from Confucious and the classic book of i-ching about behaviours, responsibilty and consequences. You are right in that the morals of a society are often not in the best interests of the individual but for the greater proportion of the society. It might be said if the rules are set by the elite, they are for maintenance of a social order that benefits that elite. For a bit of fun you might like to check out the 'Surgeon's Prayer', the last line is to do with being safe by denying involvement. It is up to you to think about whether that is right or wrong given that surgeons are expected to value and preserve human life.
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    Aug 16 2012: One interesting new interpretation of utilitarianism is desire utilitarianism. The theory and its implications are being fleshed out and are concieved by the philosopher Alonzo Fyfe.

    Here is a link to his book. http://www.lulu.com/shop/alonzo-fyfe/a-better-place-essays-on-desire-utilitarianism/paperback/product-593684.html;jsessionid=03E1507581F86EDE309833D6BE5750F2

    On his blog, he is going into great depth on countless ethical issues:http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com/
  • Sep 7 2012: Curious:

    Ask:

    Is there more than the world view that ethics are your imagination,
    or
    are they in a harmony by a same Giver who gave the first string of energy before the electron existed?

    Ask if morality and ethics are made-up , ultimately
    or
    passed on in revelation by a Revelator... scientifically observable by the receivers.
  • Aug 24 2012: IMO, the problem with ethics is that people have traditionally treated ethics like natural laws, and have tried to discover ethical principles that already exist.

    Suppose we all just agree that ethics are a human invention. People develop systems of ethics, and these systems can compete.

    This competition could be conducted as a large research project. Suppose we could get small communities willing to all live together by one of these systems of ethics, and see how it affects the community. Perhaps one such community will grow and grow, and the crime rate will be very low and the population will be happy. Universities and governments have funded some very weird research projects that had much less potential benefit than ethics research.
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    Aug 18 2012: What do you think Hong-Min?
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      Aug 21 2012: In this case, in ancient China, a philosopher did on experiment about the ethics. He made a baby cry loudly and put the baby in a desperate and dangerous situation; and nobody ignored the baby. Also, there was an experiment in South Korea where scientists showed several babies a video of a dog doing "ethically wrong" things and a cat doing "ethically right" things. Afterwards, scientists showed babies two pictures; one of a "bad" dog and the other one of a "good" cat. Every single baby pointed at the "good" cat. Based on these researches, we can see that ethics was not made by humans. However, I believe that there are no absolute answers to the question. It's just a matter of point of view. Thus, a formula that divides the "right" and the "wrong" does not exist. However, we cannot say that those philosophers including Kant and Mill wasted their time. They were trying to get as close as they can to make people realize what they should and should not do. I'm very sorry, but my English skills aren't perfect. If you don't understand what I mean, let me know. Thank you!
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        Aug 21 2012: I understand you and find it hard to believe you are only in the 8th grade. But I disagree with you conclusions.
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          Aug 22 2012: It will very interesting to hear your opinion. Can you tell me what you think about the topic?
  • Aug 18 2012: The big concern is what we support vs what they support.

    Are there disagreements? If there are, do we allow 'our' ethics to hold them in contempt. If it does, then we fail the very thing we try to define - ETHICS.
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    Aug 18 2012: The problem with ethics is that it tries to solve multifaceted problems with linear thinking about what is right or wrong.

    I believe a solution is to view ethics as a perceptual rather than a conceptual issue - how we see things versus how we think about them.

    We make ethical decision to the extent that we perceive a situation through compassion, hope, personal responsibility and humility. To the extent that we perceive situations through the opposite perceptions of defensiveness, fear, blame and self-centeredness, we are more likely to act in ways that are unethical.

    Ethics becomes clearer when we start from a sense of the interconnectedness of all human beings and all of nature. Seeing our world through eyes of compassion, hope, personal responsibility, and humility allows us to recognize that.

    Ethics is simply a matter of seeing clearly.
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    Aug 18 2012: What is good and bad behaviour. What is ethical.

    Life and human behaviour and the situations we face are complex. Religious manuals try to be prescriptive and fail.

    Even the great philiosophers struggle.

    If you are looking for a simple objective list, we don't have it.

    Also what societies have thought is okay in the past, such as slavery, which even the bible supported 2000 years ago, is not seen as acceptable in many cultures today.

    I do however suggest we can look at what improves or detracts from the human condition, the human experience. What leads to suffering or to happiness. What are the consequences of actions.

    Some things may be relatively simple. Life on the whole is preferred to death. A reasonable case can be made for not going around killing people. But then it might be okay in self defense. It might be preferred if the person is suffering a painful terminal disease and wants to end it. Not easy.

    Our attempts to prescribe human rights is a good start. I think you will find the most complex ethical questions involve tensions between different rights or objectives. Should parents be able to genitally mutilate their children for religious reasons. Religious freedom on one side and the rights of the child on the other. Should parents indoctrinate their children in a particular religion. etc

    I suggest if you start with some premises objectives etc, and work through issues, refine the premises and work through again via an iterative process assuming some options with give better outcomes then others you'll do better than not trying at all. Also we have the work of many philosophers to build on.

    Ethics is not easy, but is worthwhile.
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    Aug 17 2012: Congress ETHIC Decision making Model,

    adapted from: Congress, E.P. (1996). Social Work Values and Ethics, Chicago: Nelson-Hall.

    E - Examine personal, professional, client, agency, societal values

    T - Think about the applicable ethical standards, laws and legal precedents that apply

    H - Hypothesize different decisions, their outcomes and the impact on relevant systems

    I - Identify who will benefit and who will be harmed by these specific decisions keeping in mind the professional values and mission

    C -Consult
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    Aug 17 2012: Reamer Social Work Values Hierarchy

    from Reamer, F.G. (1999). Social Work Values and Ethics (2nd ed.). New York: Columbia University Press
    • Rules against basic harm to an individuals survival take precedence over rules against harms such as lying or revealing confidential information or threats to additive goods;
    • An individual's right to basic well-being takes precedence over another individual's right to self determination;
    • An individual's right to self-determination takes precedence over his or her right to basic well-being;
    • The obligation to obey laws, rules and regulations to which one has voluntarily and freely consented ordinarily overrides one's right to engage voluntarily and freely in a manner that conflicts with these;
    • Individuals' rights to well-being may override laws, rules, regulations and arrangements of voluntary associations in cases of conflict;
    • The obligation to prevent basic harms and to promote public goods such as housing, education and public assistance overrides the right to complete control over one's property.
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    Aug 16 2012: Hong-Min, would you be willing to share your thoughts on this subject? Do you think that there is one true set of principles of right and wrong ways for humans to try to live together and work with and around their differences, or do you think there probably isn't one that anyone could ever defend convincingly as the single best?
    If there isn't one that everyone could ever be convinced of, what do you think the next best thing would be?
    For those of us who have not been in eighth grade for a very long time, it is interesting to hear sometimes what an eighth grader is thinking at the moment about this question.
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      Aug 22 2012: In this case, in ancient China, a philosopher did on experiment about the ethics. He made a baby cry loudly and put the baby in a desperate and dangerous situation; and nobody ignored the baby. Also, there was an experiment in South Korea where scientists showed several babies a video of a dog doing "ethically wrong" things and a cat doing "ethically right" things. Afterwards, scientists showed babies two pictures; one of a "bad" dog and the other one of a "good" cat. Every single baby pointed at the "good" cat. Based on these researches, we can see that ethics was not made by humans. However, I believe that there are no absolute answers to the question. It's just a matter of point of view. Thus, a formula that divides the "right" and the "wrong" does not exist. However, we cannot say that those philosophers including Kant and Mill wasted their time. They were trying to get as close as they can to make people realize what they should and should not do. I'm very sorry, but my English skills aren't perfect. If you don't understand what I mean, let me know. Thank you!
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    Aug 15 2012: Ethics: A moral philosophy that envolves systemizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior.

    If I use that defination and I accept that there are different cultures then there can be no exact, set or defined standard to ethics. Each culture has its taboos, rites, and religious guidance. These are often directly the opposite of other cultures.

    Acts of honor, good faith, and respect are often accepted as goodwill and well intended.

    All the best. Bob.
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      Aug 17 2012: IN my experience almost every professions first stab at ethics is to remind the members of their first obligation to each other - that is often soooooooooooo scary for all the people that need their services.

      Should all doctors' first duty of ethics be to the surgeon who put me in a coma?
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    Aug 15 2012: Ethics is seriously complicated. Here is more information from Wikipedia:

    Fletcher outlined his theory in ten principles, which he split into the four working principles and the six fundamental principles.
    The four working principles

    There are four presuppositions that Fletcher makes before setting out the situational ethics theory:
    1.Pragmatism - This is that the course of action must be practical and work
    2.Relativism - All situations are always relative; situational ethicists try to avoid such words as "never" and "always"
    3.Positivism - The whole of situational ethics relies upon the fact that the person freely chooses to believe in agape love as described by Christianity.
    4.Personalism - Whereas the legalist thinks people should work to laws, the situational ethicist believes that laws are for the benefit of the people.

    [edit] The six fundamental principles (propositions)
    First proposition Only one thing is intrinsically good; namely love: nothing else at all. Fletcher (1963, pg56) Second proposition The ruling norm of Christian decision is love: nothing else. Fletcher (1963, pg69) Third proposition Love and Justice are the same, for justice is love distributed, nothing else. Fletcher (1963, pg87) Justice is Christian love using its head, calculating its duties, obligations, opportunities, resources... Justice is love coping with situations where distribution is called for. Fletcher (1963, pg95) Fourth proposition Love wills the neighbour's good, whether we like him or not. Fletcher (1963, pg103) Fifth proposition Only the end justifies the means, nothing else. Actions only acquire moral status as a means to an end; for Fletcher, the end must be the most loving result. When measuring a situation, one must consider the desired end, the means available, the motive for acting and the foreseeable consequences. Fletcher (1963, pg120) Sixth proposition Love's decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively. Fletcher (1963, pg134)
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    Aug 15 2012: the libertarian take on this is: the nonaggression principle
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    Aug 15 2012: Society can be improved even without agreement on a very specific code of ethics. In fact, acceptance of such variations rather than assuming there is one true path would probably lead to more positive and less negative behavior all around, if one measures by the aspects of moral codes that are more or less universal across cultures.
  • Aug 15 2012: It seems impossible to find an absolute definition of ethics because it involves personal relationships. What is personally valuable to one may not be so valuable to another. However, desire for good relations could define the degree of ethics applied to one's life! Bad ethics results in human desire for more law and regulations, which are designed to mitigate behavior. There are more reasons for law, perhaps.

    Bad ethics upset people. An ethical person, understanding good behavior and desiring good relationships, does not need law to mitigate his behavior.

    Who can come up with a standard built upon everyone's experiences. Seems impossible to me.

    You want ethics? Then encourage people to love one another. People do not intentionally hurt people they love! What other "standard" is there?

    Humbly,
    MK
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    Aug 15 2012: Here is another:

    Medical Model Principles Hierarchy

    from Beauchamp, T.L. and Childress, J.F. (1989). Principles of Biomedical Ethics. New York: Oxford University Press
    • Respect for autonomy;
    • Nonmaleficence - do no harm;
    • Beneficence - actively pursue the welfare of others;
    • Justice - allocation of resources, fairness, need
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    Aug 15 2012: Some have tried. Here is one:

    Loewenberg AND Dolgoff Ethical Principles

    from Loewenberg, F.M. & Dolgoff, R. (2000). Ethical Decisions for Social Work Practice (6th ed.).Itasca, Il.: FE Peacock

    To be used when an applicable code of ethics does not provide specific rules
    • Principle of the protection of life
    • Principle of equality and inequality
    • Principle of autonomy and freedom
    • Principle of least harm
    • Principle of quality of life
    • Principle of privacy and confidentiality
    • Principle of truthfulness and full disclosure