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Ethical Decisions - Will I learn how to make them or just to point out flaws?

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EthicsQuestions
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Ethical Decisions - Will I learn how to make them or just to point out flaws?

Post by EthicsQuestions » June 10th, 2019, 3:22 am

Hi Guys,

I am really new to Ethics. I am not undertaking any University study in this area, I just thought that learning about ethics could be really useful - but probably not particularly interesting.

As it happens, I have found the opposite - what I am learning is interesting, but does not seem to be useful to me. I am wondering, if I keep learning about Ethics, am I eventually going to learn something that I can apply to making decisions?

At the moment I have learned a lot about Deontological and Teleological theories. While this is interesting, it has basically left me with the impression that there is not going to be a text that begins: "Here is how to make an ethical decision". There might be a "Here is how to make a decision from a teleological standpoint" - but there seems to be flaws with the teleological approach and obviously people don't agree that this is the right approach.

If people cannot agree on the best approach to ethics, than how can you really make a decision that is ethically correct?

If I am an employer and an employee has stolen money from the till, how can I use ethics to help me make a decision about whether to fire the employee? I could say that "stealing is bad" and fire the employee - but the teleologist will say that I am wrong to do that because the employee with not be able to feed their family... If I don't fire the employee the deontologist will say "your employee stole from you, the ethical thing to do is to fire them".

So, it would seem that every possible outcome has an argument in favour and an argument against - so it is unclear how this is any more helpful than flipping a coin?

My main question is this, if I am interested in making ethical decisions, is it worth my time in continuing to learn about ethics? Will I eventually learn things that have some applicability? Or am I going to only learn about how to critique others decisions?

Thanks for your help guys.

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Thomyum2
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Re: Ethical Decisions - Will I learn how to make them or just to point out flaws?

Post by Thomyum2 » June 13th, 2019, 5:23 pm

I'm currently working my way through Michael Sandel's book Justice and would recommend giving that a look if you haven't already. He's a well known professor of philosophy at Harvard (you can also watch his lecture series on YouTube that parallels the topics he introduces in the book). Ethics is not my strong point in philosophy (so far, I've focused more on metaphysics and aesthetics) but I've found this a good introduction because he explores the topic in a simple and clear step-by-step method and, rather than trying to draw you into particular way of deciding what it 'right' or 'wrong', shows how to look the ways that way approach ethical questions, with a view to understanding the kinds of assumptions we bring with us to these problems, and how those assumptions formulate the way we make our ethical choices. So I don't know if this will be useful to you, but it has been to me because I think it brings a self-awareness of how we think about ethics, and gives tools for understanding that an ethical choice doesn't exist in a vacuum, but comes out of an underlying set of values. It is an introductory work and you may already be beyond that point, but I think it's a good straightforward overview and source of food for thought on this topic.

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LuckyR
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Re: Ethical Decisions - Will I learn how to make them or just to point out flaws?

Post by LuckyR » June 14th, 2019, 1:08 am

EthicsQuestions wrote:
June 10th, 2019, 3:22 am
Hi Guys,

I am really new to Ethics. I am not undertaking any University study in this area, I just thought that learning about ethics could be really useful - but probably not particularly interesting.

As it happens, I have found the opposite - what I am learning is interesting, but does not seem to be useful to me. I am wondering, if I keep learning about Ethics, am I eventually going to learn something that I can apply to making decisions?

At the moment I have learned a lot about Deontological and Teleological theories. While this is interesting, it has basically left me with the impression that there is not going to be a text that begins: "Here is how to make an ethical decision". There might be a "Here is how to make a decision from a teleological standpoint" - but there seems to be flaws with the teleological approach and obviously people don't agree that this is the right approach.

If people cannot agree on the best approach to ethics, than how can you really make a decision that is ethically correct?

If I am an employer and an employee has stolen money from the till, how can I use ethics to help me make a decision about whether to fire the employee? I could say that "stealing is bad" and fire the employee - but the teleologist will say that I am wrong to do that because the employee with not be able to feed their family... If I don't fire the employee the deontologist will say "your employee stole from you, the ethical thing to do is to fire them".

So, it would seem that every possible outcome has an argument in favour and an argument against - so it is unclear how this is any more helpful than flipping a coin?

My main question is this, if I am interested in making ethical decisions, is it worth my time in continuing to learn about ethics? Will I eventually learn things that have some applicability? Or am I going to only learn about how to critique others decisions?

Thanks for your help guys.
You can (and should) have an understanding of the basics of ethics, but if I understand you correctly, you are seeking guidance in morality. Familiarity with ethics (including the history of ethics) should assist you in thst quest.
"As usual... it depends."

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EthicsQuestions
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Re: Ethical Decisions - Will I learn how to make them or just to point out flaws?

Post by EthicsQuestions » June 14th, 2019, 4:05 am

Thomyum2 wrote:
June 13th, 2019, 5:23 pm
I'm currently working my way through Michael Sandel's book Justice and would recommend giving that a look if you haven't already. He's a well known professor of philosophy at Harvard (you can also watch his lecture series on YouTube that parallels the topics he introduces in the book).
Thanks for your reply. I have looked this up on Youtube, this is exactly what I am looking for! I am going to look at buying the book. I am very much at the introductory stage.
You can (and should) have an understanding of the basics of ethics, but if I understand you correctly, you are seeking guidance in morality. Familiarity with ethics (including the history of ethics) should assist you in thst quest.
Thanks, I am going to keep on learning.

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