Objectivism: The other Ethical White Meat…

24 Oct

Ok, once again, this is not going to be some philosophical rant about anything that I could be half way intelligent enough to come up with…I’m just trying to use this blog as a sounding board to make sure that what I am learning and understanding match up…and you lucky people get to be the boards!

In my last post about ethics, I reviewed ethical relativism and went over some of the problems that arise when trying to implement that.  Now I am turning to well, the next chapter in the book, which is about moral objectivism.  As a review, those to ascribe to relativism state that there are really no universal (objective) morals, and that each moral principle that a society has only has any power in that society because the society itself gave credit and acceptance to that principle.  Taken to the extreme, it can be said that there are no universal principles and that morality is simply an invention by the culture, and others looking at the culture from the outside cannot judge that society because ‘everything is relative’.

Objectivism is slightly, well no, its very different.  Objectivism holds that while etiquette may differ in each culture, most societies can hold to a standard universal morality.  This basic list is the top 10 from the book:  (1)Do not kill (or harm) innocent people (2) do not cause unnecessary pain or suffering (3) do not lie or deceive (4) do not steal or cheat (5) keep your promises and honor your contracts (6) do not deprive another person of his or her freedom (7) do justice, treating people as they deserve to be treated (8) reciprocate or show gratitude for services rendered to you (9) help other people, especially when the cost to oneself is minimal (10) obey just laws.

These ten principles seem to be somewhat universal, and I think that most would agree with that.  Most religious groups have a high standard of human life, so (1) would be a given, even though ‘innocent’ may be somewhat innocuous from culture to culture, likewise, (2) makes perfect sense, as causing pain on people for the fun of it is going to be wrong in any culture, (3) I really liked what the author of the book said about lying, that language itself depends on some form of honesty, without it, the language falls apart and communication is impossible.  If you are not able to use words correctly then you are misleading people about what you are saying (doublespeak perhaps?), even without that about language, being deceptive towards others usually does not win many friends, and most people will be shunned to one degree or another if they are habitual liars.  Without some claim against stealing (4), we would not have any claim to own property (or as the author suggests, even our limbs), and so most societies would have some prohibition against the act of stealing.  (5), dealing with keeping promises, somewhat goes back to (3), but it also deals with something that almost all cultures have:  honor.  If someone makes a promise but fails to keep it, they lost honor and respect, because they are somewhat less trustworthy with regards to future promises.  These promises are well, a guarantee of future acts that you have said will happen because you are a trustworthy person and have promised…something.  (6) Seems like a given now, but I think that this one has recently joined the group, as slavery is still common in many parts of the world today and 200 years ago slavery was rampant in the U.S. so while I agree with the author that deprivation of another human’s freedom is wrong and we should not do it, I do not think that this one is or was entirely universal (if I’m wrong I would like to be told so in the comments).  (7) Justice…we love justice…but I think that this one can be skewed to fit whatever system of justice you can have.  But justice in its most basic sense–giving what is owed based on actions–that seems legitimate and well, ethical.  But, as a Christian, I know that justice does not belong to me, but to God, and while people should be treated justly, they should also be treated with grace and mercy, because in many instances of being slighted, I am guilty as well.  (8) is the principle of reciprocation.  This seems easy enough, but I think that while in the West we like the idea, I don’t think this is practiced or carried out like it should be.  For instance, I work in retail, and when I am ringing someone up for whatever they might be buying, the customer will oftentimes throw their money or debit card at me on the counter, but they feel like I need to be kind and nice and hand them their money and be gracious to them because of my status as a cashier or whatever.  But I am not allowed to throw their money back (sometimes I would like to…).  Reciprocating is connected with honor and respect.  In fact, all of these principles are going to be connected with respect for others.  Without this respect, we have nothing, and then everything will be relative because there is a lack of vision that those around us are truly human.  If we cannot treat others humanly, then everything goes, because there is “no one” like “us”.  (9) deals with helping others, especially when it is at a minimal cost to us, working for the common good of humanity by serving one another, without this principle, we are snobbish brutes right?  (10) obeying just laws, we are the judge of what is just and not just, and we are able to see if certain laws, like segregation, are just, and if they aren’t then those who can and will, will stand up and fight against the injustice that the laws lead to.

Within our communities, we are able to see that there are differences in how these are carried out, but we are still able to hold that there are at least these ten principles of universal or core morality that each culture will hold to.  Even though we see the differences in each culture, we are able to see that we all have the same desires, to be love and respected, to be treated like we are human and with compassion.  When we recognize the legitimacy of these core morals, then humanity will flourish more so than it had before…

And even though I said I wasn’t going to rant, I kind of did, deal with it! (Please?)


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