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Ethics: Definitions & Methodology 3.0

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Jennifer Garvin-Sanchez

on 6 March 2016

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Transcript of Ethics: Definitions & Methodology 3.0

Ethics: definitions and methodology
What would you do?
Jean Arthur, Ronald Coleman, and Cary Grant in The Talk of the Town.
Ronald Coleman plays a law professor about to be appointed to the Supreme Court.
Cary Grant plays a fugitive from justice, an innocent man about to be convicted of murder in a corrupt town.
Jean Arthur convinces the “by the book” law professor to circumvent the law in the name of justice.
Our First Impulse –
Is to Use the Law as a Guide

When confronted with complex problems and difficulties, we look to the law to determine what our response should be. Yet, the law often does provide a complete answer.
Question for small groups
Try to come up with 4 reasons why we cannot equate the law with morality.
Legal Ethics and Ethics

However, only using the law as a recourse for ethics confuses the role of the law with ethics. The law provides a mandate which the community has sanctioned as conforming to its norms or customs. It provides only a minimal standard for determining what is right or wrong in a particular situation, since the law has developed in response to societal
pressure. This equates the law with morality.
Limits to Legal Considerations
First, "where the law is silent, anything goes" is a mentality often taken when the questions of cost win over concerns for human good and welfare.
Second, law of its very nature is not so much a matter of reason as it is a product of communal will. Law is a product of the courts and the legislature rather than a weighing of rational arguments for correct behavior which considers entitlements and human relationships.
Third, using the law as bases for ethical judgment assumes concepts of fairness or justice may be equated with law (Stevens, 1979, pp. 118-222). Such moral legalism falls far short of promoting universalizable principles which insure the betterment for all.
Limits to legal considerations
Decisions and actions derived from the law are often confined to the letter of the law.
This limitation underscores how ethics goes beyond the law. Ethics is not confined to prescriptive mandates, but may consider all aspects of a particular moral dilemma. Ethical judgments, based on rational principles, focus on the good for others.
Morality and law
Beliefs, world views
Norms of behavior
Taboos
Laws, public policies
The Meaning of Ethics
Generally, ethics or morality has been concerned with beliefs about right or wrong human conduct. In other words, ethicists have attempted to explore various ideas about how to define and determine which actions or decisions are right or wrong.
The meaning of ethics
The origins of such study in Western civilization began with the Greeks who understood ethics to be the study of the general pattern or way of life. They perceived good behavior as that which promoted harmonious life within the city, that is, the welfare of the community (MacIntyre, 1966). In this sense, ethics were derived from society's expectations of appropriate behavior.
Norms of behavior, then, become the right way to do things. Laws reinforce norms of behavior.
The meaning of ethics
Philosophical ethics involves the use of reason to support or justify particular decisions or actions as being good or right as opposed to being bad or wrong.
Traditionally, philosophers have explored ethical matters by:
Descriptive ethics: analyzing the beliefs and attitudes of persons or groups
Metaethics: discussing the meaning of ethical terms (e.g., good or right)
Normative ethics: arguing which actions ought to be considered good or right as normative moral discourse.
Along came Socrates
Socrates was put to death for questioning the sacred customs of the people, for daring to question the Athenian way of life. For this he was labeled an atheist—the rituals and customs had become equated with God.
After Socrates our term “ethics” came to mean “the questioning of the sacred customs” by asking “is what people call “good” really the good?”
Questions
Victor Frankl, the Jewish psychiatrist and survivor of German concentration camps, said that in time of crisis people do one of three things: they deny it. . . They despair. . . Or they commit themselves to ask critical questions.
Morality vs. ethics
The paradox of Socrates is that he insisted that he was not irreligious nor an atheist. He insisted that he was commanded to doubt by his own God who sent him to Athens to teach them to lead virtuous lives and seek justice.
Socrates demanded that we question that what is = what ought to be.

Morality—established norms of behavior
Ethics—questioning these norms of behavior
Theory and Method
Classical philosophical ethical theories offer two major perspectives to help us resolve dilemmas:
Teleological ethics
And deontological ethics
Ethical
categories
Deontological
Right action
duty
rights
Teleological
Being good
Consequences
Character, or virtue
relationships
Consequentialist, deontological, and virtue ethics
4 Elements of Moral Reasoning
interpretation of circumstances calling for moral involvement
Anthropological Assumptions about
The capabilities of human agents
Their motives
Their possibilities and limitations within the courses of nature and history
Values, norms, guidelines, and principles
Loyalties or causes to be served by the theory of decision-making.
Principles and Justification
These theories provide useful principles in determining a moral justified outcome.
Moreover, such an ethical decision requires an explicit method of justification. Employing ethical principles and a method of justification represent the core of applied ethics.
Question for small groups
In what ways is religious ethics different from philosophical ethics?
Religious ethics
Religious ethics differs from philosophical ethics in that religious ethics is a response to an experience of the holy.
Religious ethics uses the categories of philosophical ethics (philosophy has always been the handmaiden of theology)
But religious ethics uses stories and lives as moral examples. (David and Bathsheba)
Religious ethics also uses spiritual practices and communities to develop moral character and virtues
In addition, most religions teach that one must have some sort of conversion experience in order to do the good (humanism is an exception).
Sources for ethical reasoning
Reason—must be critical & analytical, sciences, philosophy must be questioned
Experience—your social location must be questioned
Tradition—your family, community, nation, faith community must be questioned
Scriptures, or revelation must be questioned
Question for small groups
A woman screams in the apartment next to yours. What do you do?
What are your sources in making ethical decisions?
Our Method
Observe – descriptive ethics
Judge – use different sources, especially from the viewpoint of the poor
Act -- praxis
Our Method
Observe – ask questions, go places, read things, gather facts., use different sources, especially from the viewpoint of the poor
Judge – a better choice of words would be to reflect critically
Act -- praxis

it must be geographically broad, historically deep, and take into account gender, race, and class.
define structural violence (Haiti)
What are examples of each
? What are its symptoms and consequences?
Individual:: (Physical, Psychological or emotional
familial
Community: city, work, school, faith community
Where does violence occur in the community? At school? In the neighborhood? With the police or other local authorities? Are there instances of environmental violence or conflict in the area? Are there particular issues which involve community conflict?
Nation
Where is there violence in the country? What kinds of situations, like child labor, poverty, freedom of speech and assembly, weapons making, and homelessness, can we identify as being conflicts within their country?
International
list conflicts or instances of violence transpiring across boundaries. Think geographically broad. . Think beyond simply warfare. Where is violence occurring? How for example, do our policies affect Chou Chou and Acephie?
Religious ethics
Religious ethics differs from philosophical ethics in that religious ethics is a response to an experience of the holy.
Religious ethics uses the categories of philosophical ethics (philosophy has always been the handmaiden of theology)
But religious ethics uses stories and lives as moral examples. (David and Bathsheba)
Religious ethics also uses spiritual practices and communities to develop moral character and virtues
In addition, most religions teach that one must have some sort of conversion experience in order to do the good (humanism is an exception).
4 Elements of Moral Reasoning
interpretation of circumstances calling for moral involvement
Anthropological Assumptions about
The capabilities of human agents
Their motives
Their possibilities and limitations within the courses of nature and history
their relationship to God, each other, nature
Values, norms, guidelines, and principles
Loyalties or causes to be served by the theory of decision-making.
Theory and Method
Classical philosophical ethical theories offer two major perspectives to help us resolve dilemmas:
Teleological ethics
And deontological ethics
Morality vs. ethics
The paradox of Socrates is that he insisted that he was not irreligious nor an atheist. He insisted that he was commanded to doubt by his own God who sent him to Athens to teach them to lead virtuous lives and seek justice.
Socrates demanded that we question that what is = what ought to be.

Morality—established norms of behavior
Ethics—questioning these norms of behavior
Questions
Victor Frankl, the Jewish psychiatrist and survivor of German concentration camps, said that in time of crisis people do one of three things: they deny it. . . They despair. . . Or they commit themselves to ask critical questions.
Primo Levi--the Quiet City
The meaning of ethics
Philosophical ethics involves the use of reason to support or justify particular decisions or actions as being good or right as opposed to being bad or wrong.
Feminist thinkers have criticized this. Any thoughts why?
Traditionally, philosophers have explored ethical matters by:
Descriptive ethics: analyzing the beliefs and attitudes of persons or groups
Metaethics: discussing the meaning of ethical terms (e.g., good or right)
Normative ethics: arguing which actions ought to be considered good or right as normative moral discourse.
Limits to Legal Considerations
First, "where the law is silent, anything goes" is a mentality often taken when the questions of cost win over concerns for human good and welfare.
Second, law of its very nature is not so much a matter of reason as it is a product of communal will. Law is a product of the courts and the legislature rather than a weighing of rational arguments for correct behavior which considers entitlements and human relationships.
Third, using the law as bases for ethical judgment assumes concepts of fairness or justice may be equated with law (Stevens, 1979, pp. 118-222). Such moral legalism falls far short of promoting universalizable principles which insure the betterment for all.
fourth, decisions and actions derived from the law are often confined to the letter of the law.
Along came Socrates
Socrates was put to death for questioning the sacred customs of the people, for daring to question the Athenian way of life. For this he was labeled an atheist—the rituals and customs had become equated with God.
After Socrates our term “ethics” came to mean “the questioning of the sacred customs” by asking “is what people call “good” really the good?”
Morality and law
How are they related?
Beliefs, world views
Norms of behavior
Taboos
Laws, public policies
Ethical
categories
Deontological
Right action
duty
rights
Teleological
Being good
Consequences
Character, or virtue
relationships
Teleological and deontological ethics
What is the good?
Morality
The Latin root for “morality” (mos, mores) means the “customs” of the people. In such societies, the customs or mores are sacred and unchangeable: to violate them is sacrilegious.
Social Stability
In large part, what gives a society a sense of social stability is the morality of the sacred order. The feeling that one’s way of life is sacred. This is a good thing, for every society needs stability.
Ethics
After Socrates our term “ethics” came to mean “the questioning of the sacred customs” by asking “is what people call “good” really the good?”
First rule of ethics: find out what the assumption are
What assumptions are behind the arguments? Look at your articles.
What keeps us from seeing clearly?
What keeps us from seeing the structural nature of the problem? How does our social position impact our assumptions? How does power affect decisions? Who benefits from these decisions?

Is logic, or philosophy, the only thing we should consider? How do we learn how to be moral people?
What about compassion? How does this enter into ethics? Compassion for whom?
Some ethicists argue that feelings may be irrational. We have to be guided by logic. Moral arguments are different than personal taste if they are grounded in logic.
But how can we know our assumptions and logic are true? Some argue for a veil of ignorance--I opt for the preferential option for the poor.
4 features of structural injustice
1. its relative invisibility to those who do not suffer directly from it (we cannot change if we do not recognize it)

2. the fact that it continues regardless of the virtue or vice of people involved.

3. its transmission from generation to generation unless exposed and confronted. socialization through institutions.

4. its expansion as a result of concentrated power. (political and corporate)
Moral Vision
"Moral vision, therefore, does not simply see the impoverished child of Mozambique or the family displaced by global warming. Moral vision sees also our functional relationship to that child and sees in particular, whether or not our "way of life" and the public policies and corporate actions that make it possible are contributing to her poverty. Moral vision must extend beyond interpersonal relationships to social structural and ecological relationships." p. 61 Resisting Structural Evil, by Cynthia D. Moe-Lobeda
The paradox of Privilege
Even when does "see" structural evil, it is not possible to divest oneself from the impact of the social structures into which our lives are woven. Not by my will or intent, I continue to be involved and to reap the "benefits" of economic and ecological violence. I cannot refuse petroleum from the Niger Delta. Social violence transcends individual moral agency.
Structural violence
while it cannot be dismantled by individual actions, it cannot be dismantled without them. Every "system of evil requires personal actions to make it work." James Poling, p. 62 RSE
Collective Action
While structural violence may be impervious to individual agency, social movements demonstrate that people, working together, can counter it.

"To counter SV, moral vision must, itself, be structural." p. 77 rse
passed down from generation to generation
in our social structures--cultural, political, economic, ideological.
tend to be uncritically accepted and passed on to the next generation as though they were just the way things , divinely ordained.

This is a process of moral formation or malformation.

example: our patterns of consumption--we are taught that in order to be successful we must have more than the previous generation.
the invisibility of structural violence
epistemological privilege

in direct violence the person or group is easily identified.
In indirect violence there may not be any person who directly harms another person in the structure. "Direct violence is an event; structural violence is a process." -- Galtung p. 73 rse

those involved may also be victims of another form that precludes them from taking actions without the support of a broader community

cultural violence--what is the cultural violence that enables us to celebrate lavish lifestyles while children are starving? accept the pay of CEO's at 450 times the earnings of their lowest paid workers as right?


What SV does
1. influences who will be at risk for imprisonment, death in childbirth, poverty, devastation in the face of ill health or disasters. it "influences the nature and distribution of extreme suffering."
2. leads to direct violence in the forms of revolutionary violence, riots, "terrorism," domestic violence, hate crimes, war, etc.
3. contributes to and grows out of a power imbalance that disadvantages those who hold little power.
What SV does
4. puts those who challenge it at risk.
5. leads to internalized oppression.
6. determines who will have the necessities for life with dignity and who will not.
7. enables a few people to benefit far more than many others from interactions.
SV
8. becomes more devastating with concentration of power in fewer hands.
9. consists of interlocking rather than isolated forms of oppression. Hence, one may "benefit" from SV along one "axis of oppression" while being victimized by it along another.
10. may trap perpetrators by victimizing them in the very structural violence they perpetrate.
SV
11. Entails ideologies and worldviews,institutional policies, and practices so embedded in society that they appear natural, normal, inevitable, or divinely mandated.
Paul Farmer
Can we identify those most at risk of great suffering? Among those whose suffering is not mortal, is it possible to identify those most likely to sustain permanent and disabling damage?
Anthropologists who take these as research questions study both individual experience and the larger social matrix in which it is embedded in order to see how various large-scale social forces come to be translated into personal distress and disease. By what mechanisms do social forces ranging from poverty to racism be come embodied as individual experience?
We like to think that because we do not personally choose to be racist, classist, or sexist, that we are absolved of responsibility. This ignores the underlying "matrix" of oppression which we cannot escape.
Question for small groups
In what ways is religious ethics different from philosophical ethics?
First rule of ethics: find out what the assumption are
What assumptions are behind the arguments? What keeps us from considering ethical questions logically? How does tradition enter into our assumptions?
Arguments are sound if assumptions are true and the conclusion logically follows
So what?
Case Study: Haiti
What is the ethical problem as Farmer describes it?
What is the good?
How do we decide what the good is?
What do we know about the ethical problem in Haiti?
What is the ethical problem for King?
Full transcript