Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

Introduction to my ethics

Posted by Chris on March 4, 2009

I have a lot of interest in ethics. I’ve got my own brand of ethics I guess you could say, and rather than try and explain it on a theoretical level, it would be easier to just do application. I have some favorite principles that I’ll briefly list and discuss.

1) Human rights discourses and contradictions. One of my favorite classes in college was Anthropology of Human Rights. Among other things, we looked at lists and beliefs in human rights and how they were often mutually exclusive. For example (I wrote my research paper on this) the United Nations supports full abortion rights yet comes down strongly against female feticide, aka targeted abortion of female fetuses. The UN, in its various human rights discourses, contradicts itself.

2) If at all possible, be libertarian. I prefer less laws, not more laws. I am (this is a generality) for legislating morality when it directly harms the object receiving the action (drunk driving, murder) but okay with allowing things, even if I think they’re immoral, if it only has an indirect effect (adultery, the argument for the legalization of drugs).

3) I’m a Christian. This impacts my moral beliefs. It impacts my goals of ethics and when and which exceptions I make to the above rules. Also, it adds a factor foreign to secular ethics’ discussions: the value of God’s character and sovereignty. Therefore an act can be unethical merely because it harms God, even if (for the sake of argument) it harms no one else.

I only expect or care to discuss the character of God and the significance to ethics with other Christians who affirm the same thing. I do not expect others with different preconditions to care about this line of reasoning, in fact, they should not be persuaded in this manner.

However, believers and non should understand that my Christian faith is the back drop for the final two principles, motives and conscience.

4) Motives matter. Ex a) if someone is drowning and you try to save them and they die, good. If someone is drowning and you don’t want to risk your own life and do nothing, bad. Same outcome, different motives, different ethical conclusion.

5) Conscience. We should follow it. This should be the final word, but it’s not because we are imperfect, sinful people. Many people have followed their convictions into doing very bad things. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” So it’s not infallible, but in situations in which the right thing to do is not clear, it is a guide. Furthermore, it can be the determining factor of what is and is not ethical. If your conscience says go ahead, you should, and if it says to stop, stop.

Finally, the application is to find consistency. That’s the goal. It’s very impractical to have to think through every single ethical quandary. So you want to find principles and then apply them consistently. An example would be the Hippocratic Oath’s “Do no harm.” That lets you know (if you decide Do No Harm is a principle you assert) that murder is wrong, defending yourself with a weapon is wrong, etc…

I often argue my point by finding inconsistencies in another event or person’s position or circumstance.


2 Responses to “Introduction to my ethics”

  1. […] Filed under: Roe-tradictions, ethics — Chris @ 11:37 am Please see my introduction to my ethics post.  There I explain my main ethical principles I use to help me discern between black, white, grey, […]

  2. […] you’ve read my ethics introduction you can see how fun this is for me. First, I detect in myself an intellectually jovial attitude. I […]

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