The Blog of Dabido (the Baka one). Everything in this blog is copyrighted. Copyright 2004, 2005, 2006 by D. Stevenson.

08 September, 2005

Meta Ethics and Applied Ethics

I said over a week ago I was planning on writing a little about this ... so here goes a brief discussion on Meta Ethics and Applied Ethics. (If you are studying Philosophy or Ethics, then you are at the wrong website!) :-) Meta Ethics - This is basically the attempt by mankind (philosophers etc) to try and work out whether there really is a right or wrong. If there is a right or wrong, then what makes something right, and what makes it wrong. Can we take something, which in the minds of many is based purely on personal feelings and upbringing, and place an absolute value on it? Okay, I toned that explaination down a bit for those who might not have understood an actual definition. I'll stick the Wikipedia definition here too as it's quite a good one: Meta Ethics seeks to understand the nature of ethical evaluations. A lot of people today (in the last century or so) have argued that there is no right or wrong. I even read a book once where the person believed that 'Right' and 'Wrong' and 'Correct' and 'Incorrect' and all other words along the same line should be striped from the english language. Personally, I think the person is an idiot. Someone tried to make out that I didn't understand what the person was talking about. They missed the point of where I was coming from. I knew/understood exactly what the person had meant, I just disagreed with the persons logic. I believe that those words 'Right' and 'Wrong' etc came into the English (and all human languages as far as I know) for a reason. Like most words, they have meaning and definition (look them up in the dictionary if you don't believe me). What's it REALLY mean to be RIGHT? Well, I know a lot of people tried (especially in the fifties and sixties .. and later) to pretend that nothing is right or wrong because there is no proof that we actually exist! (um yeah ... sure ... I think therefore I drink!) I'm not going to tackle that branch of ... um ... philiosophy (using the term very broadly in this case). I'm more concerned with RIGHT and WRONG! The concepts as defined in the dictionary ... and in Ethics case, we can chuck in GOOD and EVIL just to really open it up. What is GOOD then? Well, we could look that up in the dictionary as well ... but meta ethics isn't arguing over whether the definition exists or not ... it's asking 'Does GOOD really exist?' Most philosophers have come to believe that most things defined as being ethically good, have come into being because it's what we FEEL is good. It's all based on emotions. For example: Caring for BABIES is good, as they are young and helpless, and looking after them is the right thing to do, because we, as humans FEEL it is the right thing to do. (Sure, it's been put there by either God/s or Evolution [depending on your beliefs]). At the end of the day though, a NORMAL person would look after babies as that is what is commonly accepted as the right thing to do! We FEEEEEEL it is correct. It's purely emotive. While EVIL, is basically given an ethical definition based on the opposite feelings. Also, it is an emotive response. Someone who doesn't care for their baby would be considered a BAD parent ... or EVIL if they truely were bad to their baby. It's because we FEEL the right course of action is to care for babies, that we place this value on it. So far, that seems to be the leading theory as to what GOOD and EVIL, RIGHT and WRONG are all based on. Now, the caring for babies example is actually an example of APPLIED ethics. (And me defining 'Caring for Babies' as good is a use of Normative Ethics ... confused ... sorry. It's sometimes hard to keep them seperate). Our Ethical value has come about because human evolution or God/s have given us these emotive responses. Due to those emotive responses, we then start to behave/act on those feelings. The ACT of caring for the baby is applied ethics. It's the right thing to do, so we do it. WE BELIEVE, WE FEEL, WE KNOW it is the right thing to do. The construction of ones PERSONAL ETHICAL THEORY (or personal philosophy if we want to widen it a little), leads us to APPLY what we believe is good or evil. Most fighting in the world has come about because of differences in ETHICS. Religions in particular, or even Government types (Cold War), or even arguements with neighbours. Now, in many cases, it's a fundamental difference in the use of NORMATIVE ETHICS. e.g. Person A says it's wrong to steal under any circumstance ... person B says it's okay if you are starving. What happens when person B steals food from person A? Is it okay? What if Person B wasn't actually starving? What if both A and B were starving? What if A worked for his food, and B refused to work, and was starving from their own laziness? Sometimes it can be a difference in Applied Ethics. e.g. A and B both agree that it is best to forgive someone. Person C shoots both A and B (and luckily they both live). They wrestle C to the ground. Person A forgives C but refuses to give the gun back. Person B forgives C but gives the gun back (beleiving that he hasn't truely forgiven unless C has his gun returned). Both A and B beleive in the same ethical value (forgiveness), but apply it in differnet ways. (Okay, technically, some might argue that it's actually another example of Normative Ethics. I say it is applied, as they are in agreement as to what is good and bad). The Marquise De Sade had a difference in META ETHICS with most people. He didn't beleive in a right or wrong (or maybe I just misunderstood him). He did things like whip people to death for his own pleasure (amongst other things). Most of us would say this was 'Bad', or Evil', or 'Wrong'. To him, however, as there was no 'right' or 'wrong', there was no reason for him NOT to do what he wanted. Anyway ... thus concludes my little discussion on Meta Ethics, and Applied Ethics. It was written, quick and dirty ... so hopefully it isn't too incorrect, nor too confusing for anyoone to follow. Just really giving people something to stop and contemplate for a while. What do you think? What is your application of ethics like? What about your normative ethical values? Why to you apply the ethical values on what you do? Do you actually apply what you believe to be ethically correct?