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Saturday, September 1st, 2001
6:19 pm
[wickenden]
Journal Entry
Ethics and Values
Discussion of the Angel Incident

I find this paper disturbing. It's disturbing because I'm trying to defend some ideas I've had for quite some time. To wit, I've assumed that there is a 'universal' ethics that is sensible to everyone. I've had the notion that there is more than an academic difference between 'morality' and 'ethics'.

I think the reason that this is so important to me has something to do with my underlying desire for there to be hope for a universal ethics, that would be comprehend able to all humans . This idea needs to stand in opposition to the obvious problems with having values and morals that are widely differentiated.

Let's start by analyzing the difference in the American Heritage definitions:

value (vl"y) n. Abbr. val. 1. An amount, as of goods, services, or money, considered to be a fair and suitable equivalent for something else; a fair price or return. 2. Monetary or material worth: the fluctuating value of gold and silver. 3. Worth in usefulness or importance to the possessor; utility or merit: the value of an education. 4. A principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable: "The speech was a summons back to the patrician values of restraint and responsibility" (Jonathan Alter). 5. Precise meaning or import, as of a word. 6. Mathematics. An assigned or calculated numerical quantity. 7. Music. The relative duration of a tone or rest. 8. Color. The relative darkness or lightness of a color: "I establish the colors and principal values by organizing the painting into three values-dark, medium . . . and light" (Joe Hing Lowe). 9. Linguistics. The sound quality of a letter or diphthong. 10. One of a series of specified values: issued a stamp of new value. --value tr.v. valued, valuing, values. 1. To determine or estimate the worth or value of; appraise. 2. To regard highly; esteem. See Synonyms at appreciate. 3. To rate according to relative estimate of worth or desirability; evaluate: valued health above money. 4. To assign a value to (a unit of currency, for example). [Middle English, from Old French, from feminine past participle of valoir, to be strong, be worth, from Latin valre. See wal- below.] --val"uer n.

The second variation of the second word defined here describes values as those things we highly esteem, or regard. The latin form describes something that is strong and of worth (valere). Values then seem obvious reflections of individual value, and this implies that value is a completely relativistic thing.

morality (m-rl"-t, m-) n., pl. moralities. 1. The quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct. 2. A system of ideas of right and wrong conduct: religious morality; Christian morality. 3. Virtuous conduct. 4. A rule or lesson in moral conduct.

This definition gives me a good deal more problems. It defines the quality of being in accord with standards of right, or good conduct as well as being a system of ideas of right and wrong conduct. This again doesn't seem to be a universally held idea, since notions of good and bad, right and wrong, are often widely differentiated. The second notion of this definition is that there are types of morality, i.e. dissimilar types of morality. So there is religious morality (which is defined by the religion in question) and there is a version of religious morality which is 'christian' morality. I'm assuming it is logical to extend this type of morality to other types of religion, such as 'hindu morality'. Does this same type of relativity exist for ethics?

ethic (th"k) n. 1.a. A set of principles of right conduct. b. A theory or a system of moral values: "An ethic of service is at war with a craving for gain" (Gregg Easterbrook). 2. ethics. (used with a sing. verb). The study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices to be made by a person; moral philosophy. 3. ethics. (used with a sing. or pl. verb). The rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession: medical ethics. [Middle English ethik, from Old French ethique (from Late Latin thica, from Greek thika, ethics) and from Latin thic (from Greek thik) both from Greek thikos, ethical, from thos, character. See s(w)e- below.]

The first definition implies a set of principles of right conduct, which also holds for morality as we have seen. But the second definition is specifically for the word ethics (with an s) which it defines as the study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices that need to be made by people. Moral philosophy in effect. The third definition limits this general nature of morality to professions like the medical one.

I would say based on the dictionary versions of these words, that while values and morals are obviously relative as concepts, and an ethic is synonymous with morality, ethics (with the s) is the attempt to find a general superset of the worlds morality systems that can be applied to all humans, especially to those who represent professional disciplines.


The 'Angel' story illustrates a wonderful dilemna for Angel. Angel is promised to Glen, whom she loves so much she is willing to sacrifice her sexual exclusivity in order to save him. His condition is unknown to her, but in fact he appears to have been in danger, since she must nurse him back to health. However, she doesn't know this, and it could be argued that her behavior is pre-mature and hasty. In point of fact, however, it looks like it isn't. However, I would hasten to add that I don't believe that the actual situation is relevant. Her belief and the risk associated with his health, seems enough. All I can fault Angel is being paranoid, but in this case her fears are in fact realized and her actions presumably benificial to the health and well-being of Glen.

Glen took umbrage with this sexual act. It would be interesting to know what might happen if he had a cell phone and Angel called him. Would he, lying in pain and difficulty, perhaps close to death (since we aren't told, I can postulate) tell her 'no, it's too big a price to pay' or would he make the same decision. Glen is obviously guilty of being unethical because he used violence as a solution. I think he anger at Angel is founded, however, if he would, in a situation like I described above, rather die or bleed than have Angel make that decision. But if he would have invited angel to fuck glen (and fucking is all that it can be considered to have been) to save his life he must find her guiltless.

Sinbad is even easier to judge. He makes an unethical request by taking advantage of her situation. It was an unreasonable price to exact, regardless of it's inclusion or not in any sexual morality system. If the situation were not sex, but some thing that Angel valued tremendously, and conceivably of tremendously high value (and that value is all out of proportion to the service) then I would say that it would still be just as unethical of Sinbad to make this request. This tells me that I place usury-like profits in the category of unethical behavior. This surely is something that would be contested, and might not make it into a generalized definition of ethics, I'm afraid.

Slug is both kind-hearted, a defender of someone harmed, but is also a violent individual. He exacts retribution, which doesn't help Angel, by beating up Glen. This is unacceptable in any society. However, if he was a lawyer and helped sue Glen, and won a large monetary award for Angel our society would say that he was ethical, even if the judgement effectively causes emotional and financial ruin for Glen. There are ways that our society allows for retribution, but violence is not one of them.

I'm most ambivalent about the Mayors role in this. He may in fact be too busy, but often the claim of being too-important is an excuse like the biblical cry against claiming something corbin to avoid the higher duty. I agree, however, that he might have in fact been too busy serving 'the greater good', but I think this is often a slippery slope.
3:20 pm
[siraka]
you may not care about this, still...
I hope I don�t invite negative attention, but given the title of the community it might be beneficial to know the following.

From an academic standpoint, the discussion of ethics would have nothing to do with a particular value nor specific belief. That is left to the subject of morality.

There is a difference between ethics and morals.
- morals being comprised of the beliefs, values, and conduct of specific individuals or groups � what is right or wrong/higher or lower.
- ethics in general being the examination & juxtaposition of the different systems of moralistic philosophy such as skepticism, subjectivism, hedonism, pragmatism, etc. OR the overall code of a philosopher, system, group, etc.

I know, I know, it�s just semantics.
just FYI
Monday, August 27th, 2001
12:59 pm
When is one issue ethical, and the other not
What makes something an ethical issue and how does that differ from another issue that is not an ethical one?

I like the notion that to be ethical, one must neither harm anyone else, and one must not allow another to bear ones reasonable responsibility. I would like to compare and contrast that notion with a moral one. Morality pre-supposes a set of 'right and wrong' behaviors that don't always relate to physical or emotional harm. Additionally they often impose responsibilities over and above those I would identify as reasonable for all people.

I'd like to believe that an ethical choice, or an ethical violation, would be to violate some basic generalized principle in such a way that any human might agree that it is in such violation. Morality, clearly isn't exclusively tied to such general principles, although there is certainly a lot of overlap.

Many religions have formed models of behavior that delineate between acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior. This categorization of behaviors forms the basis for the concepts of 'morality', or doing good as opposed to doing bad. If one accepts as truth the particular precepts of the logical underpinnings of such moralizing, it might be considered unethical to do what you believe to be wrong, even though it doesn't harm anyone, even though you are not making anyone bear your responsibility.

Since we live in Utah County, I'd like to choose three examples of behavior and identify the relevance or lack thereof to ethics.

This morning I'm enjoying a nice cup of coffee with my homework. I was once LDS, a religion that proscribes the drinking of such a beverage. At times the rationale for such denial is health, other times it is obedience. Drinking coffee cannot be an ethical issue, as clearly, not all people believe that it is wrong, it harms no one (other than one's self potentially-- is ignoring the debilitating effects of any behavior an ethical problem?)

Let's imagine that in addition to coffee, I also enjoyed a line of cocaine. Now, in addition to violating some religious moral issue, I'm also potentially violating the law. Is violation of the law an ethical issue? I think it isn't, unless that violation also is directly harming some other person. Again, I claim that I have the right to harm myself without being in violation of ethics, which I think requires infringing on another.

What if I shared some of this cocaine (or any other illegal substance) with the pretty girl in the next carrell. Here, to some point of view, I may be harming this person. But that presupposes a judgement about something that is not clear. If we were 15th century Incas, and we were using coca leaves as a part of our religious devotion, or if we were a doctor, administering relief to someone inflicted with severe headaches we might consider, or be considered performing a useful and non-ethically impaired function. I don't believe such issues are ethical. They may be moral issues, they may be legal issues, but that doesn't make them ethical issues.

The third situation I offer, is an obvious infraction of ethics. Let's say I poured a little coffee into the hot cocoa drink of that girl in the carrell next to me, when she wasn't looking. Let's further say that I fully believe that coffee is good for you, and have evidence to show it does something which I consider useful (let's say the poor girl is falling asleep, and I know she has a test in a half an hour, and she isn't studying because she keeps nodding off). If she runs to the bathroom, is it unethical of me to slip a little caffeine into her beverage? Of course it is. She is the one that gets to decide, not me, what is good and bad for her.
12:59 pm
First Questions, redone
Subject: What are Values?
"The problem with you, is that you have no values", she said as he threw another can of beer into the trash at the other end of the trailer.

"No", he said, "The problem with you is that you don't like my values", and got in the pickup and drove to the recycling station to get rid of that stack of beer cans.

Values are esteemed qualities. Who gets to do the esteeming? Each of us must decide, at some point in our life, which of the polyglot of values we are assaulted with become our values. Re-inforcing values by teaching children is the Davidian Proverb 'teach a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it'.

I'm struggling to decide if there are any 'values' that can be considered generally applicable to all humans. However, at some level, the value of personal survival and the value of rearing offspring in a way that assures their survival seem good candidates.

But, I would agree easily to the notion, that all humans need some sort of values. It seems that these values underlie our actions, our sense of purpose if not merely our personal and racial survival.

These values, the things a culture supposes are esteemed or not esteemed, are the atomic makeup of both ethics and morals, one based on the needs of cultures and the other based on the religious ideas of a culture.

Subject: What are Ethics?
The word ethics' etymological roots betray it's meaning and intent. It stems from the greek 'ethos' which means 'character'. Ethics betray character in how one intwith ones fellows. The word refers to an agreed upon system of behavior that eracts reflects the values of a culture. It seems to me that ethics imply a consensus among people as to how the agreed upon values are to be incorporated into a value system.

Character, ones personal style of conforming to the needs of a complex society around one, is a way of describing a quality of choices. Do one's choices infringe upon others choices in ways that are

The kind of character esteemed by one, seems to be held in scorn by the other.

It seems to me, that ethics not only reinforce the local success of one institutions values, but that they also reinforce the continued conflict for other institutions.

This seems to be an extension of the inevitable conflict of self-interest, which is subsumed by the next larger unit of self: the institution.


Subject: What are Morals?
Morals are rules of conduct, that conform to some notion of 'good' and 'bad'. Good and bad are attributes humans apply to most everything in the world. Some of these things are more easily placed into these labels than other things. Borrowing from the theme I described in the values question, I would first proffer that something "good" would certainly be something that leads to survival, both of self, and of the institutions one might be associated with. Something 'bad' would likewise be something that led to personal or group danger and difficulty. However, even limited to the confines of self, something can be 'good' with regard to one concern, yet simultaneously bad in other. When one has multiple individuals united in some institution, that institution cannot possibly address both sides of any issue when confronted by a single person, much less the needs of multiple individuals.

I frankly struggle with the concept of right and wrong. It seems that institutions: tribes, countries, corporations, establishments and so forth, being interested in their survival, have a vested interest in controlling the systems of behavior so that future members have the values that are held in esteem by those institutions. If the institution is the McCoys, then you want to make sure that being all the little McCoys that come into the world understand how important those McCoy values are. If you are a Hatfield, then likewise, you want to impress upon all your offspring the value of being a Hatfield. Unfortunately both McCoys and Hatfields seem to have values in conflict.

I'm intrigued by the difference between morals, values, and ethics. It seems that values are the atoms of these ideas. Values get codified as 'right' and 'wrong' choices, often in the context of religion becoming morals.
12:34 pm
I've just heard from an old friend from my WordPerfect days. But for some reason, his email keeps bouncing on me. Hmmm...
Friday, August 24th, 2001
11:13 am
What are Values?
"The problem with you, is that you have no values", she said as he threw another can of beer into the trash at the other end of the trailer.

"No", he said, "The problem with you is that you don't like my values", and got in the pickup and drove to the recycling station to get rid of that stack of beer cans.

Values are esteemed qualities. Who gets to do the esteeming? Each of us must decide, at some point in our life, which of the polyglot of values we are assaulted with become our values. Re-inforcing values by teaching children is the Davidian Proverb 'teach a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it'.

I'm struggling to decide if there are any 'values' that can be considered generally applicable to all humans. However, at some level, the value of personal survival and the value of rearing offspring in a way that assures their survival seem good candidates.

But, I would agree easily to the notion, that all humans need some sort of values. It seems that these values underlie our actions, our sense of purpose if not merely our personal and racial survival.
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