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#299402 - 03/09/17 02:28 PM Ethics: a matter of morality or pragmatism?
logtroll Offline

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 8752
Loc: New Mexico (not old Mexico)
Given that Trump and the GOP are busy removing ethics from every dusty corner of our increasingly dilapidated national house, I thought it might be interesting to examine the purpose and usefulness of ethics.

I think of ethics as the set of rules for the very complex game of managing interactions amongst humans. The game is so complex that the rules must be allowed some flexibility to adapt to circumstances, yet not go to pieces altogether when change is needed. The Constitution comes to mind as an expression of a set of ethics, more so than a set of inflexible rules. Perhaps the most important outcome of ethics is the maintenance of a high enough degree of respect among the players of the game to guard against a descent into chaos.

Morality, on the other hand, is a body of rules, also developed to manage human behaviors, that have crystallized into inflexibility with the exclusion of respect.

The thoughts above were stimulated by reading this article today.
Nietzsche elsewhere characterized moral philosophy as the use of bad logic to prop up inherited prejudices. The gibeís a good one, and generally far more accurate than not, but again itís easy to misunderstand. Nietzsche was not saying that morality is a waste of time and we all ought to run out and do whatever happens to come into our heads, from whatever source. He was saying that we donít yet know the first thing about morality, because weíve allowed bad logic and inherited prejudices to get in the way of asking the necessary questionsóbecause we havenít realized that we donít yet have any clear idea of how to live.
"You can't fix a problem until you understand what the problem is." Logtroll

#299405 - 03/09/17 04:10 PM Re: Ethics: a matter of morality or pragmatism? [Re: logtroll]
NW Ponderer Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/09/11
Posts: 15832
I've often decribed the difference between ethics and morality in this way: ethics are applied, morality is imposed. That distinction is important, because ethics, in my view, are a set of guidelines that inform our behavior, where morality directs it. In that respect, all ethics are "situational." If you are in this set of circumstances, how do you behave?

I think your analogy to the Constitution is particularly apt, and why Scalia, and his "originalists", are inherently wrong. The founders were ethicists, not moralists. They believed that they had set up a system that could adapt over time to changing circumstances, and for hundreds of years that is how it has worked. (The "common law", with which they were intimately familiar, works the same way.) It is how we have progressed as a nation with the same Constitution.

The Constitution is a document intended to be applied, not a rigid moral tome. It is thus, pragmatic and ethical.
A well reasoned argument is like a diamond: impervious to corruption and crystal clear - and infinitely rarer.

Here, as elsewhere, people are outraged at what feels like a rigged game -- an economy that won't respond, a democracy that won't listen, and a financial sector that holds all the cards. - Robert Reich


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