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Notes on ethics

My view of most ethical debates is that there is one camp which views certain deeds as so wrong that having any reason behind the wrongness would somehow diminish the wrongness of it. So they make these deeds axiomatically wrong (the wrongness of the deed a first principle, not the conclusion in any reasoning, simply wrong in itself). Since this is such a large camp, this often becomes the terms of debate: are axiomatic maxims justified or not. The axiomatic maxim camp must bring in soft ideas (else the axiomatic status of the maxims is lost), or more often simply no ideas at all and just declare that the maxims are true and this or that is wrong. Those that don’t accept the soft ideas or the arbitrary axiomization fall under the illusion that ethical relativism and ethical nihilism are the only alternatives. But ethical relativism and ethical nihilism are unfunctional, they cannot actually be used to decide what to do or they justify all actions, and so horrified by this possibility, the ethical axiomization camp, who also have the illusion that there are only three options, feel they must defend the axiomized maxims that much more rigorously, in an attempt to avoid the occurrence of at least the most grotesque actions. At the same time, within the axiomatic maxim camp itself there isn’t any real deep ethics, because the motivation for the exercise only exists with respect to the most gross evil, the system breaks down in dealing with the small and the subtle, and a soft foundation leads to a soft house: ethical axiomization is often simply an illusion covering a comfortable (or desire for a comfortable) unexamined life.

I can offer my own system as an example of an ethics that is not simply an axiomatized set of maxims, nor is it ethical relativism or ethical nihilism. I think the realization that there are such systems will greatly widen the scope and sophistication of most ethical debate, perhaps bringing it above the level of childish contradicting back and forth. Perhaps an intelligible ethical discussion will emerge in the public forum and we’ll do something about our problems. If not, the current shunning of authentic ethical discussions in modern culture will continue to result in a complete lack of organization or common will to solve our common difficulties. Eitherway, here’s my two cents. I hope it helps.

I believe in God, but my ethics is not God based. One should search for truth, as the justification of any other ethical system would rest upon whether it was true or not, and the only possible way to come to it would be to search it out. If it is indeed that these other maxims are true, then searching for truth is still more fundamental and the actual basis of the ethical system.

At first many view this principle as void, but it is not. Some truths that I have found: one must continue to exist to search for truth, searching for truth is more efficient in a community of people so inclined (to one degree or another), great effort is necessary to find any truth effectively, the truth is not necessarily obvious.

The equivocation that this principle leads to random actions does not function. One is not searching for simply random truths, but truths that allow one to search for more truths. For instance, jumping off a tall building would indeed bring to me the truth of what jumping off a building is like, however, it would not bring me to as much truth as other actions may.

Though this is my first principle I also believe that one should continue the existence of humanity and that this latter principle can be derived from the first. Unfortunately I can only make this inference in the minds eye at this time, I require further effort to formulate my thoughts upon this matter.

Though at first it seems obvious as one is not only part of humanity and one needs to continue to exist to search for truth, and furthermore other people so inclined are also part of humanity, the difficulty arises with the idea that we could conspire to maximize the truth we find in our own life times at the cost of the social and ecological systems humanity depends on. In my minds eye I do not see this as an effective search for truth, but I must appeal to the idea that I continue to exist after I die, and will be able to continue to search for truth and so learning how to live over an indefinite time is more profitable than the aforementioned conspiring. To make this appeal I must posit existence is eternally ordered, and the only way to presume so is to presume there is an omnipotent eternal being that makes it so (else existence would be fundamentally unpredictable and no decisions could be made concerning, at the very least, an indefinite amount of time). However, as of yet I am unable to formulate this argument in completely solid terms, though I think it reasonanable. In language it is a fairly complex undertaking with many a narrow footnote that must be dealt with.

So, though God is not the basis of my ethical system, my ethical system is not independent from the existence of God. My actions might differ under one assumption or the other. But this is in the same category of dependence as humanity causing global warming, my actions may differ under one assumption or the other. I view the han (gender neutral pronoun borrowed from Finnish) that searches for truth with all of han’s mind, body and soul, and who happens not to conclude God exists, is just as ethical as the han that searches for truth with all of han’s mind, body and soul and concludes that God does. However, any person that searches with all of their mind and all of their body and all of their soul should have pretty good reasoning for what they conclude, at the expense of much comfort. The search for truth is not comfortable. (And of course I do not believe in God simply to avoid the conspiring to destroy the world for knowledge scenario, but that is beyond this paper; some of my reasoning is available "here":http://forums.philosophyforums.com/memberlist.php?action=profile&id=13377 ).

Such a system is not only not arbitrary but resolves many theological problems that an arbitraty theistic ethics generally runs into.


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