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I need help finding some type of guidelines to follow

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Lostlittleboy
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I need help finding some type of guidelines to follow

Post by Lostlittleboy » December 22nd, 2018, 6:42 pm

OK, I took an introductory ethics class so I am more confused than ever.

If morals are relative, is it OK to hustle people out of their money? Does it matter that you are taking advantage of someone? The only loss is that they are either ignorant or you'll never see them again. I was raised democrat and Methodist so I kind of carry a lot of those teachings with me, but if not everyone follows suit you are kinda stuck being nice while others just don't care.

You are trying to make ends meet after all so you see it as an opportunity. Does it really matter in the end? They are out due to ignorance.

An example would be begging for money but don't really need it and just sit and collect (panhandling). Or shady one-time business deals.

Is guilt healthy or is it something that gets in the way?

Or what if you know this person has money to burn, is it alright to kind of bum off them? Eat their food or use their stuff through their SO. It's no big deal sort of thing.

Also, is it worth teaching ethics at that point? And how do you teach kids to be ethical?

Ethics are so complicated to me... how do you live your life?

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Re: I need help finding some type of guidelines to follow

Post by h_k_s » December 22nd, 2018, 7:32 pm

Lostlittleboy wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 6:42 pm
OK, I took an introductory ethics class so I am more confused than ever.

If morals are relative, is it OK to hustle people out of their money? Does it matter that you are taking advantage of someone? The only loss is that they are either ignorant or you'll never see them again. I was raised democrat and Methodist so I kind of carry a lot of those teachings with me, but if not everyone follows suit you are kinda stuck being nice while others just don't care.

You are trying to make ends meet after all so you see it as an opportunity. Does it really matter in the end? They are out due to ignorance.

An example would be begging for money but don't really need it and just sit and collect (panhandling). Or shady one-time business deals.

Is guilt healthy or is it something that gets in the way?

Or what if you know this person has money to burn, is it alright to kind of bum off them? Eat their food or use their stuff through their SO. It's no big deal sort of thing.

Also, is it worth teaching ethics at that point? And how do you teach kids to be ethical?

Ethics are so complicated to me... how do you live your life?
You should google "Roger Scruton moral relativism" on your I-phone and listen to his 1 hour presentation on this topic.

Ergo morals are not relative.

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Lostlittleboy
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Re: I need help finding some type of guidelines to follow

Post by Lostlittleboy » December 22nd, 2018, 9:33 pm

I appreciate the reference! Thank you for taking the time! And I am glad to hear that they are not because that would have throw a wrench in my whole understanding. I will take a listen to it. Might be over my head heh.

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Re: I need help finding some type of guidelines to follow

Post by ktz » December 22nd, 2018, 9:45 pm

Hi, welcome OP. I'm not an expert but I'm interested in similar problems and maybe can offer my current practical understanding. Some of this may be things you already learned about, so I'm sorry in advance if I'm rehashing stuff you already know.

I don't know what you're learning in school about ethical relativism, but in terms of the questions you are posing in your post, I think the specific field of study you are looking for is normative ethics -- what should be the standards or norms of ethical behavior that we should set? Within this field, there are three major approaches -- virtue ethics, deontology, and consequentialism. I don't think any of them are all that convincing on their own necessarily, but I think some kind of practical amalgam of the three can be a good foundation for ethical behavior. Given your methodist background I would guess you are probably most deeply rooted in deontology, so checking out some ideas like Kant's categorical imperative might be a fruitful place for you if you are looking to philosophy to continue developing your ethical perspective.

Let's take for example the first thought experiment you posed:
Lostlittleboy wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 6:42 pm
If morals are relative, is it OK to hustle people out of their money? Does it matter that you are taking advantage of someone? The only loss is that they are either ignorant or you'll never see them again. I was raised democrat and Methodist so I kind of carry a lot of those teachings with me, but if not everyone follows suit you are kinda stuck being nice while others just don't care.
So here's a really shallow take on these three schools of thoughts regarding hustling someone out of their money:

Virtue ethics would say no, it is not ethical because you are behaving in a dishonest and uncharitable way. Don't hustle people because what kind of person would that make you be? Not a virtuous one.

Deontology would say that we have a moral duty to behave in the way that would be best if everyone also behaved that way. Deontology according to Kant posits that humans are ends, not means, so hustling someone would be immoral because it breaks our moral code, which hopefully includes "Do unto others as we would have them do unto us".

Consequentialism allows for more gray area. Hustling someone would be immoral if you get into the habit of hustling people, and soon nobody trusts you and the end result there is a bad consequence for you. But let's say you were hustling someone because you've hit a rough patch and need to provide for your family in a pinch -- a consequentialist might say that it's not a bad thing to do -- if you can get away with it. Do what you gotta do.

I have my own thought experiments that might shed some light for you --

One is the Iterated prisoner's dilemma. Basically, it's a game where you can cooperate to get a mutual beneficial payoff, but if one person defects, they can get a bigger payoff and the other person gets nothing -- but if both people try to screw the other, everyone gets nothing. In this game, if you screw people over too many times, people figure out that you're not trustworthy and you get ostracized and screwed over in return like you deserve. The most effective strategies that have come out of these AI tournaments are pretty interesting: tit for tat is probably the simplest strategy that can work consistently (screw people over only if they screw you over first), collusion works really well also (screw over everyone not in your preselected group), and payoff control -- which in the simplest case means cooperate and give people chances until they screw you over past some threshhold that you've calculated that you can't tolerate -- after that you screw them over no matter what they do.

One insight that comes from biology is called multi-level selection theory. This idea currently underpins my thoughts on ethical behavior. It goes like this -- selfish individuals win out over altruistic individuals, but groups of altruistic individuals will win out over groups of selfish individuals. So I have been using as a practical model my ethical behavior by protecting myself from selfish people when they can actually do me real harm, but being as kind as possible to altruistic people -- within my means. It does nobody any good if you become a burden. But if you are well-positioned to handle it, tolerating selfish behavior might give you a bigger payoff in the long run as well -- you might be able to convert selfish individuals to cooperate with you, and enlarge your altruistic group and thus increase your power in that way.


I definitely sympathize with the complaint that it seems like if not everyone follows suit you get screwed. Having a conscience and feeling guilty can seem like a dumb idea sometimes for sure. I'm coincidentally working on a similar problem on a set of ideas posed by Gandhi as the Seven Blunders of the World in this thread, although I don't think I'm necessarily doing a great job of it. I imagine that I definitely come across as a bit of a jerk, but you might be interested in that topic since the first blunder, Wealth Without Work, seems to be something you are referring to directly in one of your thought experiments later on.

Beyond that, you might find some useful criticisms on moral relativism to raise with your professor at this link here (ctrl f for criticism). It takes the perspective of cultural anthropology and challenges moral relativism on the basis of cultures that support things like generalized intolerance or female genital mutilation etc.
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Re: I need help finding some type of guidelines to follow

Post by Lostlittleboy » December 22nd, 2018, 11:23 pm

ktz a lot of that rings a bell. I'm a big fan of virtue ethics, but understand it's not complete on it's own. So really philosophy is using these "tools" to come to ethical decisions. I'm going to look more into these blunders. They seem to align with how I see it. And those values are what I value and think those sins are huge travesties.

How do you deal with a lot of these blunders as "business as usual"? I'm kind of scared for society and it's a hard pill to swallow.

I really enjoy this forum already.

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Re: I need help finding some type of guidelines to follow

Post by Lostlittleboy » December 22nd, 2018, 11:58 pm

I also found a good argument a while back about moral relativism and cannibalism. One society say nay the other yay. When they come into contact there is disagreement. Coming from science, eating the dead can make you sick and is unhygienic. If you want the virtue of health it is simply mistaken to eat the dead. It's logic someone has to be wrong. It either or at that point. I'm not eating the dead.

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Re: I need help finding some type of guidelines to follow

Post by LuckyR » December 23rd, 2018, 4:16 am

Lostlittleboy wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 6:42 pm
OK, I took an introductory ethics class so I am more confused than ever.

If morals are relative, is it OK to hustle people out of their money? Does it matter that you are taking advantage of someone? The only loss is that they are either ignorant or you'll never see them again. I was raised democrat and Methodist so I kind of carry a lot of those teachings with me, but if not everyone follows suit you are kinda stuck being nice while others just don't care.

You are trying to make ends meet after all so you see it as an opportunity. Does it really matter in the end? They are out due to ignorance.

An example would be begging for money but don't really need it and just sit and collect (panhandling). Or shady one-time business deals.

Is guilt healthy or is it something that gets in the way?

Or what if you know this person has money to burn, is it alright to kind of bum off them? Eat their food or use their stuff through their SO. It's no big deal sort of thing.

Also, is it worth teaching ethics at that point? And how do you teach kids to be ethical?

Ethics are so complicated to me... how do you live your life?
If I understand you correctly you have observed others taking advantage of the ignorant and are trying to justify doing so because either you could get away with it, or you'll never see them again, or lots of folks are doing it anyway, or it isn't necessarily illegal, etc

Does that sound like a bunch of excuses to you? It does to me. However, the answer to your question is that many if not most would call it immoral, though some (as you note) feel it is moral, ie they believe the excuses. As to the ethics of the matter, it depends on which group you belong to, my guess is your Methodists would call it unethical.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: I need help finding some type of guidelines to follow

Post by chewybrian » December 23rd, 2018, 6:00 am

Lostlittleboy wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 6:42 pm
OK, I took an introductory ethics class so I am more confused than ever.

If morals are relative, is it OK to hustle people out of their money? Does it matter that you are taking advantage of someone? The only loss is that they are either ignorant or you'll never see them again. I was raised democrat and Methodist so I kind of carry a lot of those teachings with me, but if not everyone follows suit you are kinda stuck being nice while others just don't care.

You are trying to make ends meet after all so you see it as an opportunity. Does it really matter in the end? They are out due to ignorance.

An example would be begging for money but don't really need it and just sit and collect (panhandling). Or shady one-time business deals.

Is guilt healthy or is it something that gets in the way?

Or what if you know this person has money to burn, is it alright to kind of bum off them? Eat their food or use their stuff through their SO. It's no big deal sort of thing.

Also, is it worth teaching ethics at that point? And how do you teach kids to be ethical?

Ethics are so complicated to me... how do you live your life?
A man driven only by base desires is worse than the worst wild animal, because he will not stop when he has enough of what he seeks, as the animal would. This is because he has a higher calling which he is denying in the process, and he seeks to fill that vacuum left when he abandoned his greater purpose. He is not only dangerous to society, but to himself. He will never reach lasting happiness by seeking pleasure from external things, but always want more until his desires become a threat to himself and others. It is in the interest of both society and such a man himself that he turn his focus to something better. If he has no religion, then he needs rational reasons to choose virtue.

If you fail to choose religion or the wisdom of virtue to guide you, then you will allow, by default, your desires to drive the bus. If you want fame, drugs or money, then you will end up like Madonna, Charlie Sheen, or Trump. Do you think they are better off for being slaves to their base desires than by looking for something better for their own sake and that of humanity? Do you think that they, or you, can choose material things to be your guiding principle, yet still be virtuous, or even be satisfied? If you do, then no set of ethical principles is likely to deter you. If you can see that they may be lost in some respect, then you may find comfort in virtue for its own sake.

I firmly believe that people are born with a capacity for and inclination toward virtue. People have empathy and tend to be willing to risk and sacrifice when others are in danger or in need. Yet, our rational minds will follow where our guiding principles lead, so, if your guiding light says "Morals are for suckers", then the conclusions that follow will lead you away from altruism. Surely you can see that having virtue is better for others, yet if your mind is corrupted you might not be able to see that it is better for you to seek virtue.
He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.--Socrates
Of what, then, is this evidence if not of the existence of an innate inclination of the human soul toward goodness and nobleness, and of the presence of the seeds of virtue in each one of us? Moreover, because it is entirely to our advantage to be good, some of us deceive ourselves into thinking that we are really good, while others of us are ashamed to admit that we are not. Why then pray, when one who has not learned letters or music or gymnastics never claims to have knowledge of these arts nor makes any pretense of knowing them, and is quite unable even to name a teacher to whom he went, why, I say, does everyone profess that he has virtue? It is because none of those other skills is natural to man, and no human being is born with a natural faculty [for them, whereas an inclination toward virtue is inborn in each one of us.--Musonius Rufus
Freedom and slavery, the one is the name of virtue, and the other of vice, and both are acts of the will.--Epictetus
Don't be knocked off track by worrying that you won't get as much stuff if you seek virtue first. Remember that material wealth by itself does not result in lasting happiness. But, if you make an honest effort to be good, then you can live with yourself, anywhere, despite your circumstances.

I don't think I've made a very convincing argument, but I do think you can find one through stoic philosophy. You might try Plato's Apology (about Socrates), Lectures and Fragments by Musonius Rufus, The Enchiridion by Epictetus, and Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Of these I find the Enchiridion the most convincing and enlightening. If you can't see the reasons behind the positions he takes there, Epictetus expands on the same principles in The Discourses.

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Re: I need help finding some type of guidelines to follow

Post by chewybrian » December 23rd, 2018, 6:43 am

I would add one more argument, which is the cornerstone of stoic philosophy. You can control your attitude, opinions and actions, but nothing else in the world is fully in your control. Therefore, it makes sense that you seek and find your happiness where you can control the outcome.

If your goal is to be a good person, and to be content with what you have, then you can seek and find these always within yourself. If your goals are contingent on things outside yourself, then they are always subject to being pulled away from you. To seek virtue is natural and consistent with what is in your control, and your mission can be successful. If you seek physical strength or beauty or intoxication or fame or wealth, you can see how quickly any of these can be taken away. To seek vice is inconsistent with what is in your control, and your mission is almost doomed from the start, even if you do not assent that vice is wrong in and of itself.
Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.

The things in our control are by nature free, unrestrained, unhindered; but those not in our control are weak, slavish, restrained, belonging to others. Remember, then, that if you suppose that things which are slavish by nature are also free, and that what belongs to others is your own, then you will be hindered. You will lament, you will be disturbed, and you will find fault both with gods and men. But if you suppose that only to be your own which is your own, and what belongs to others such as it really is, then no one will ever compel you or restrain you. Further, you will find fault with no one or accuse no one. You will do nothing against your will. No one will hurt you, you will have no enemies, and you not be harmed.--Epictetus

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Re: I need help finding some type of guidelines to follow

Post by Scott » December 23rd, 2018, 10:25 am

Moderator's Note: I moved this topic to the off-topic since the main titular topic it is asking for person advice.
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Re: I need help finding some type of guidelines to follow

Post by Eduk » December 23rd, 2018, 2:47 pm

The liking of pizza is relative. Do I need objective pizza liking in order to give meaning to my pizza liking? Or can I just like pizza?
My point in all this is that morals are relative but your conclusions don't follow. You are still you. You provide your own meaning. If thats not good enough now then nothing has changed to make it not good enough now. It's always been like that.
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Re: I need help finding some type of guidelines to follow

Post by Georgeanna » December 25th, 2018, 7:10 am

Lostlittleboy wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 6:42 pm
OK, I took an introductory ethics class so I am more confused than ever.

If morals are relative, is it OK to hustle people out of their money? Does it matter that you are taking advantage of someone? The only loss is that they are either ignorant or you'll never see them again. I was raised democrat and Methodist so I kind of carry a lot of those teachings with me, but if not everyone follows suit you are kinda stuck being nice while others just don't care.

You are trying to make ends meet after all so you see it as an opportunity. Does it really matter in the end? They are out due to ignorance.

An example would be begging for money but don't really need it and just sit and collect (panhandling). Or shady one-time business deals.

Is guilt healthy or is it something that gets in the way?

Or what if you know this person has money to burn, is it alright to kind of bum off them? Eat their food or use their stuff through their SO. It's no big deal sort of thing.

Also, is it worth teaching ethics at that point? And how do you teach kids to be ethical?

Ethics are so complicated to me... how do you live your life?
What introductory ethics class did you take?
What specific content did you find confusing ?

From : http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/introduction/intro_1.shtml

'...Ethics can give several answers

Many people want there to be a single right answer to ethical questions. They find moral ambiguity hard to live with because they genuinely want to do the 'right' thing, and even if they can't work out what that right thing is, they like the idea that 'somewhere' there is one right answer.

But often there isn't one right answer - there may be several right answers, or just some least worst answers - and the individual must choose between them.

For others moral ambiguity is difficult because it forces them to take responsibility for their own choices and actions, rather than falling back on convenient rules and customs....'

Hope you find this useful.

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Re: I need help finding some type of guidelines to follow

Post by h_k_s » December 31st, 2018, 11:52 am

Did you google Roger Scruton on YouTube like I told you to ??

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