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[Xmca-l] Re: Appeal for help
There is a generalization to be made about ethics, which you highlight clearly. It is the conclusion of Bertrand russell in his talk, "why I am not a christian." Russell concluded, "outside of human desires there are no moral standards!"
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-------- Original message --------
From: Annalisa Aguilar <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 7/8/2016 1:24 PM (GMT-05:00)
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Appeal for help
Thanks for everyone participating, even you lurkers out there. [😊]
I believe that we can collaborate on this topic and be grown-ups about it, as we have been so far.
One of the "duck-rabbit" aspects of this discussion, is how easy it is to argue whether there is a duck or a rabbit there. (I use the drawing of the duck-rabbit here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit%E2%80%93duck_illusion but I did find something quite amusing by an artist named Paul St. George which may bring some lightness to this conversation. See: http://www.paulstgeorge.com/rabbitduck/ )
In my own investigations on the topic of ethics, I have come to the conclusion that the point of reflecting upon ethics is to understand how to be responsible for my own actions (rather than dictating how others should act). I don't offer that as a definition, but just how I make sense of it for myself.
In other words, it isn't trying to come up with a set of commandments or rules, from God, or any other corner of the material universe. The "trap" inherent in the discussion of ethics, is the idea that there is a final answer, a pill to take. That's why I invoke the duck-rabbit. It seems like there is something there, and that something is X to one person and Y to another. And yet if one vacillates between perspectives, one can see how both X and Y are available and possible answers.
That's why it's almost always about coming up with what one would do for oneself. It's about learning how to make reasonable judgements and how to act accordingly.
I am not taking sides on anything here, but one could empathize with the Dallas shooters, not to condone their actions. Perhaps they felt compelled to act for ethical reasons, that they felt a need to sacrifice themselves because of the situation being intolerable, given how long and how many needless police killings of innocent African Americans have transpired in the past few years, and how few police-abuse cases have been tried justly. It was an act of desperation.
Of course, it is also possible this is only an appearance of a trend, that there have actually been *more* of these cases than we actually know about, but like many social ills that get sunlight, such as domestic abuse, rape, wealth-hiding, corruption, etc., we are just starting to gain awareness about the wide berth of this kind of social injustice.
The point I believe about ethics is that it is a recursive act of inquiry. It is the act of discussing and being thoughtful and careful about the handling a given situation and seeking the answer to any controversy in that present moment as the situation presents itself to us. But it is always left open-ended.
It means that in situation X it may be perfectly appropriate for person Y to do act Z, but change the variables of the situation and the person and act Z may be totally inappropriate, or it could be never appropriate no matter what the variables. I think this way of considering the Dallas shootings is the only way we can start to make sense of what happened, to appeal to Michael's sensitivity and search for understanding.
I'm not sure if I have made my point clear, or not. I think the problem is that we don't talk about ethics enough, so that it isn't really in anyone's minds anymore. Just my opinion there. We are too afraid to discuss difficult topics and so we have entirely forget how to discuss difficult topics without descending into conflagrations, but it's better really to do the hard work of discussing and thinking with kindness and respect for the other. When we throw up fences, it is a retreat, and, vitally, a lost opportunity. When we can examine a topic in collaboration, even if there is disagreement, inevitably something good happens, because that good is better understanding.
So I'd say that there can be no final generalizations about ethics (though I hope I'm not trying to make one by saying that!), there can only be examinations and investigations, which can only occur through discussion, and then understanding that each person is free to act as that one sees fit.
This is why education is so important. We must facilitate critical thinking in ourselves to be good citizens. It seems a good goal to have. One that I'd say is timeless and never fails to be a higher good, to be a good citizen. Unfortunately, we do not remember this higher good until we have chaos in the streets, and then we are forced to learn from experience why being a good citizen is a higher good.
In a sense, the best way to prevent unethical behavior is to have discussions about ethical behavior, because if, say, I am practicing unethical behavior, it becomes impossible for me to continue once I am forced to reflect upon that behavior through discussion with my peers.
So we should welcome discussions on ethics, in my humble opinion.