Monday, October 12, 2009

Economics 12/10/2009: Ethics learning curve

Today, I received the following mass email from Trinity College Admin:

"On Mon, Oct 12, 2009 at 5:03 PM, Secretary wrote:
Dear Colleague,

I am pleased to announce that the Equality Fund 2009-2010 is now accepting applications for innovative and creative projects promoting equality and diversity in College. ...The themes selected for this year are:
  • Enriching the inclusive College community
  • Mental health and equality
  • 'Treat others as they would like to be treated' (developing dignity and respect)
  • Men and women in College: achieving full participation and potential
  • Challenging Stereotypes..
Kind regards...

What did catch my attention is the third bullet point above. The theme dictum is "Treat others as they would like to be treated".

Trinity College is packed with smart and erudite women and men. I wonder how many of them have thought this to be an unfortunate (philosophically-speaking) attempt to establish a moral imperative rule. Unfortunate because as with all moral imperatives, the nobility of intentions might lead to an unintended consequence.

Imagine you are facing a person who might wish to inflict self-harm. Should you 'threat him as he would like to be treated'? Or you are facing a person who wishes to engage in an act you find repulsive? Or morally objectionable? Or legally wrong?

In ethics, it is widely recognized that moral imperatives do not provide sound grounds for ethical judgments or action. May be Trinity's Administration can acquaint itself with philosophy 101?


David Quin said...

“… an unfortunate (philosophically-speaking) attempt to establish a moral imperative rule”? I think it’s worse than that: an example of that woolly-headed, ‘let’s be nice to everyone’, soft but self-righteous thinking that came out of the social ‘sciences’.

The ‘golden rule’ (do to others what you would like to be done to you) may have its flaws (a sadist is a masochist who follows the golden rule) or may, as some claim, be self-correcting, but this post-modernist alteration of it (treat others as they would like to be treated) barely merits a moment’s thought.

Anyway, most of us will go on, consciously or otherwise, treating others as we have been treated.

Anonymous said...

You cannot have ethics when the laws of the country remain unenforced.
As you made an example let me post one too.
There is a serious problem with illegal immigration into Ireland .The laws regarding illegal immigration are largely unenforced.
People and organisations with certain world views advocate allowing these illegal immigrants remain here and that it would be unethical to deport them given that so many Irish people went to other countries.Their world views have become policy in Ireland.
There have been persistent campaigns by such groups as the immigration council of Ireland to prevent the enforcement of our laws and they have been extremely successful.They advocate this line on ethical and moral grounds but ignore the fact that this is subversive of our democracy.

The laws of the land are there to be obeyed and enforced with complete equality.Unfortunately they are n't .So stereotypes flourish and often those stereotypes are true for the ordinary persons experience .

In this atmosphere ethics morphs into and imposed and oppressive idealogy.In my view ethics only exists where the rule of law is paramount.
What we have in Ireland in most areas of life is anarchy.


Anonymous said...

This is certainly woolly-headed but only because it doesn't develop the implicitly Kantian basis for the notion of "treat others as they would like to be treated". As per Kant, a desire for self-harm is a desire to denigrate one's own dignity, and hence inconsistent with the rationality of the human subject. In other words, a desire for self-harm does not reflect one's true, latent rational desires and it is these which should form the basis for how we treat others.