Re: Ethics

davelook (
Sun, 5 Jul 1998 21:19:11 -0400

>From: davelook <> wrote:
>>>> What exactly makes something unethical is *your* opinion of the act,
>>>>even tho
>>>>I may feel it to be an ethical act.
>>>> Ethics and morals are totally subjective.
>>>>Dave L.
>>>>Ethics is not my field but I was never of the opinion that something is
>>>unethical because *you* perceive it to be. *** I always thought the acid
>>>boiled down to whether you were doing harm to another person or not.***
>> That itself is a subjective judgement.
>>>And not harm as you may narrowly interpret it, but harm as perceived by
>>>victim of your actions (or inactions).
>> The victim and you may have very different opinions of an act.
>>If you prefer to say that the victim should decide the ethics of an act,
>>fine by
>>me. But you'd probably disagree once in awhile, in which case, who is
>>"right", you or the victim?
>>Dave L.
>Yes, a better response to your original statement is that ethics are
>generally defined to be the rules of conduct (or the moral percepts) of a
>particular culture or group, and as such are understandably subjective.

That's about 90% of it, yes.

>Individuals *can*, of course, have a code of ethics separate from the

And here's the other 10%: Yes, you individually, and I individually, ALWAYS
decide the ethics of an act on our own, even if we change our mind after more consideration, or new info comes to light.

>but when there is disagreement between two individuals' ethics, the most
>reasonable course is to make a judgement based on consensual ethical
>standards. In other words, whether harm was done must ultimately be left
>to a jury of your peers.

I totally agree (at least in most cases, where immediate action isn't required)

However, the jury is making their own subjective judgement(s), even if they all happen to agree. The result of thier decision making doesn't make the act
OBJECTIVELY ethical or unethical (although the CONSEQUENCES of their decision has objective reality, ie, the perpetrator going to prison).

I *may* decide to grow an "illegal" plant, but a jury's subjective judgements
may land me in prison, even though I feel it's ethical to grow a certain plant.

I may go to jail for helping a runaway slave in the early south, even tho I feel it's
ethical to do so.

I may shoot somebody in self-defense and go to jail, even tho I felt I was
totally justified.

In all cases, the jury decides in thier *subjective judgement* if I go to jail, or

But all these decisions of the jury and myself ARE subjective judgements, not objective. An objective judgement would be "I am sitting in my living room", or
"This table is 4 ft high".

A sociopath can't be allowed to harm whoever s/he
>wishes simply because s/he has a *different* set of ethical standards.

Definitely not. That's why we have have juries & judges & arbitration.

>Likewise, a chronic *victim* cannot be allowed to gain by unfairly accusing
>others of harming them. Both individuals may be acting ethically from
>frame of reference, but to use a phrase I've hear often lately... So what?

So what, indeed. OTHER people (you and I) decide if and what actions to take in the above circumstances.

>Ethical standards have little meaning if they are confined to the

Ethical standards have NO meaning if they are confined to the individual level.

Morals has to do with the individual level. Ethics has to do with how we relate to others.

But I don't think that's what you meant. I think you meant we can't let people decide
"for themselves" what is ethical or not. But that's precisely what they DO do.
The rub comes in when it's time for others to deal with those
decisions when acted
upon in reality. Then others can decide "for themselves" how THEY subjectively
judge an act.

Anyway I still disagree with your original assertion at the top of
>this post:

I'm assuming you mean this one: "Ethics and morals are totally subjective."

But you said this: "Yes, a better response to your original statement is that
ethics are generally defined to be the rules of conduct (or the moral percepts) of a
particular culture or group, and as such are understandably subjective."


By the way, I take "Objective" to mean "existing in reality". I take subjective to
mean "existing in the mind". So I do hope we're not working with different ideas of subjective and objective.

Dave L.