Category Archives: Good people disagree

Why be ethical?

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I once viewed the assertion that we should all aspire to be ethical was a no-brainer, a universally-held social norm. I don’t believe so anymore. The election of a demonstrably-unethical businessman as president of the United States in 2016, supported despite his very public immorality by the most visible conservative, self-described religious voices, put the final nail in that coffin…. Read more »

“Signaling” our way out of an ethical dilemma

I have asserted in earlier posts about “Why good people disagree” that the human inter-brain “moral conversation” is likely one of biochemical probability evaluation. It is the end result of hundreds of thousands of “moral evaluator” brain neurons, representing the “rules” parts of the brain, the “good ends” parts of the brain, the “empathy” parts of the brain and the… Read more »

Your moral probability

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When encountering an in-your-face moral dilemma, say the imprisoning of refugee children apart from their parents at the southern U.S. border, you can likely predict which classic ethical justification certain people are going to throw out first. Some people will first speak of the damage done to the children, letting their “empathy flag” fly high. Others will shout, “But the… Read more »

A moral conversation about immigration

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The debate about immigration and asylum, especially on the southern border of the United States, has reached a fever pitch, and is even on the cusp of civil disturbance. In the language of a previous post, the moral conversation is NOT happening here, either between people or even, I would argue, inside the heads of most people. In that post… Read more »

The moral conversation

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I have been writing a continuing series about morality and ethics, which I summarize as being about “Why good people disagree,” since March, beginning with this post about the “first ethical dilemma,” as encountered very early in homo sapiens’ existence as a species. My basic position is that our theological and philosophical languages have evolved, over the centuries, as words for… Read more »

Faith, hope, charity and Roy Rogers

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One of my earliest memories as a small child in the 1950s is listening to a favorite 78 RPM record. On this little piece of yellow vinyl, husband-and-wife cowboy stars Roy Rogers and Dale Evans sang: Have faith, hope and charity, That’s the way to live successfully. How do I know? The Bible tells me so! Faith, hope and charity… Read more »

The Big Question: Who ought I be?

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I introduced the idea of “Big Picture” meta-ethics in an earlier post. In Western philosophy, the Greek philosopher Aristotle (approx. 384–322 BCE) is usually seen as the first to go down this route (or the earliest whose ideas survive). Rather than seeing morality as being about a bunch of rules or propositions, he suggested that it is more about the “Big… Read more »

“Big picture” ethics

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The prior post in this series about “empathy-based ethics” confronted its “fatal flaw” in standing alone as a way to deal with moral dilemmas. The reality is that we can’t save every person who needs our help. And so, at some point, even the most empathetic among us have to start thinking in terms of the “bigger picture.” I can’t… Read more »

When you can’t save them all

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Earlier posts in this series have looked at two indications that the first two “vectors” of ethical models presented (both deontology and teleology), are insufficient in themselves for creating a realistic and robust system of ethics, despite having many strong advocates and long-winded defenses over many centuries, religions and cultures. On the other hand, empathy-based and relationship-based ethical models in… Read more »

John Rawls and justice ethics

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In my continuing series of posts on ethical systems and their relation to how our brain makes decisions, I have shifted to the vector of models that I call “empathy-based ethics.” The ethical ideal of justice as articulated by the late John Rawls fits well into this vector. Rawls, who died in 2002, was honored in 1999 by President Bill… Read more »