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guru asked in Arts & HumanitiesPhilosophy · 1 decade ago

Universal ethics, what are they?

If philosophy also provides a guide to how one ought to live one's life (ethics), what are the things that one should never do?

8 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Ethics, nor anything else for that matter, can be boiled down into black and white. Thats not to say that moral relativism, which is popular these days is the answer either.

    Alastair Crowley is famous for saying: 'Do what thou wilst shall be the whole of the law' and while that is appealing on many levels that can only work if we assume that all people are good and kind. Unfortunately untrue.

    For big ticket items there is more or less agreement in every culture and in every time period. Murder, rape and torture are bad.

    Thievery is undesireable for the most part but I think that most 'ethical' people would agree that stealing a loaf of bread to feed a starving baby is not so bad. So even though thievery at a basic philosophical level is bad there has to be room for compassionate exceptions.

    'Do unto others as they would do unto you' also has appeal but it assumes that we all want the same things out of life and that is clearly not true. Some people even like being tortured (S&M and bondage is fun for some people) but its not fun for me so please put away your whips and chains around me. Though if you're really into that go for it - just make damn sure that the other person is also enjoying it.

    Universal ethics for all goes too far but so too does an 'anything goes' kind of attitude (moral relativism). We must have rules but we must be able to bend those rules to fit the infinite possibilities of the human experience.

    We must use compassion as our moral compass not a rigid set of rules.

  • 1 decade ago

    Ethics are about what's right and wrong, but you can never really consider right and wrong in a vacuum... you have to always consider the larger situation and things that might change your result.

    For example, most of us would agree that it is 'bad' to kill yourself. But what if you're the only nuclear engineer available to stop a reactor from melting down and killing thousands of people, but to do that you have to go into the core and receive a lethal dose of radiation? It is 'bad' to kill yourself then?

    And that is the point. It's easy to draft a series of 'universal' ethics that seem on the face things that would be always 'bad'. But it's usually not very hard to think of situations where any one of them would not only be good, but the BEST good to do at the time.

    The best of ethical systems realize this and account for it. Some of the worst do not. There is no 'universal' ethic.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    It's hard to pin down any specific actions that you should never do, because morality is very much a situational thing. Consider morality not as a book, with all the commands set down and unchanging, but more as a computer program, where a different input (human situation) can result in a different output (human action) even though the same process is being run. As a result, the only things you can say that you must never do are blanket statements such as 'rights must be recognized except in lesser of two evils situations', not specific statements like 'never steal your little brother's sandwich'.

    That said, I myself have still not figured out precisely how morality works. I have some interesting ideas for rules, though, such as:

    - Rights must be recognized unless you are in a lesser of two evils situation (this is the statement I mentioned above).

    - The importance of a being's rights is based on its ability to care and to desire things.

    - In situations where you are not being affected, the correct course of action is always that which maximizes happiness with the minimum amount of infringement on rights.

    - In situations where you are being affected, it is okay for you to maximize your own happiness so long as it is either a lesser of two evils situation or you are not infringing on any rights.

  • 1 decade ago

    In all cases, religious or secular, two primary attributes must exist for ethics to mean anything.

    As ethics are a means of social order, they must serve to maintain and enrich that society.

    Love is the first and truth is the second.

    In every religion there is the conviction that what they believe it true. and in every society, Love is the binder.

    Some may argue that Fear is the binder, but if that were true, people would not have tried to escape from behind the iron curtain.

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  • 4 years ago

    If I could choose one universal law it would be remember we are all just one group. I believe this would help avoid some conflicts by always reminding us that we are all the same, all think about the same things at the same time as we see it on the news. It'll remind us that when we look at each other awkwardly in the street, we're both probably thinking the same thing. I think this will keep us closer.

  • 1 decade ago

    It's really difficult in philosophy to pin down Universal ethics, especially when you have Cultural Relativity.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Never to do: The things that Muslims do, like cutting off people's heads becaues they don't convert to their religion. They refuse to abide by a universal code of ethics and humanity and live according to their mad, 7th century doctrine.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Quite simply...Live by the Ten Comandments.

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