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What is Ethics? Defining Ethics

“I am by no means a great admirer of Nietzsche; and I do not at all admit the truth of his view that “Christian morality is a morality of slaves, and that we have to advance to a new morality which shall be that of masters.”

According to Bernard Williams, theory of ethics can be defined as “a philosophical structure, which together with some degree of empirical fact, will yield a decision procedure for moral reasoning” or in a more simple way, we can say that, ethics seeks to answer the question “What should I do, all things considered?”

According to Gaylord Simpson, “in order to be able to talk about our actions being ethical, there conditions must be met:
• there are alternative courses of action
• we are capable of judging the actions in ethical terms
• we are free to choose what is considered to be ethically right.”

One of the main problems in ethics is that some people may decide to act after a deliberate thinking in a way that others may consider unethical (which is also valid for religion). There is no guarantee that everyone will agree on the subject. Moreover, there is also no guarantee that the majority view is the correct one. However, the important point is that for behaviors, ideas to be considered ethical requires that it be justified – to ourselves, and/or to others, and/or, for some people, to God.

They are the inevitable consequences of earlier events. If this is true, then all our objective thinking of the outer world indeed do not exist at all. Then the phrase what the ethics will be all about turns out to be “we should do it”. Furthermore, there is one more conclusion that we cannot avoid. “Who or what is the ‘I’ that makes the choices?” Hence, conclusions of deliberate ethical thinking bound to influence of the views of the thinker. However, science, power, authority is prone to the influences of ethical, religious, social, cultural and philosophical beliefs and our human place in the natural world. Hence, we think that we need a moral system to secure ourselves. J R Oppenheimer, the “father” of the Atom Bomb, which was dropped on Japan in the 1939-45 World War, when recalling his work on the Manhattan project to develop the bomb, admitted: “In some sort of crude sense which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin, and this is a knowledge which they can not lose.” After the technical success, it is religion or ethics; a moral system to consider the proper, right usage of the product.

Historian of science Paul Weindling has described how, justifying their actions as necessary to protect the nation’s “genetic treasury”, people classed as “undesirable”, Jew’s, gypsies, black German half-castes, and carriers of genetic diseases, such as schizophrenia and muscular dystrophy, were subjected to coercive euthanasia and sterilization. Biologists even found a perverse justification for the Holocaust, the mass extermination of Jews, by exploiting the opportunity to conduct experiments on people before their death, e.g. in one case, inducing seizures in children in low-pressure chambers to test a new drug for epilepsy; in another, “killing gypsies to obtain heterochromic pairs of eyes”

These examples for abuses of science and biology can be augmented. As we see so far, science is just a knowledge allowing us to do more. However, science does not tell us whether doing more is right or wrong. The moral system which will shape scientific knowledge is highly questionable.

Why do environmentalists, conservationists want to conserve species, which are rare, charismatic, exotic etc.? In my opinion, one wants to conserve species which we can call domesticated with reference to him. Think about Rosa canina. If one does not know anything about a member of this species, he may not think of its conservation, consider its vulnerability to extinction. However if you show him one, he likes its odour; he gets surprised when he notices the colors of its petals and so on. Then this only species among many becomes domesticated to him. Now think again, if it is threatened, would not he want to conserve Rosa canina? After understanding this idea we can understand why he sees justification in preserving a species which is a member of genus rosacea, or a genus in rosaceae, or the kingdom plantae.

Environmentalists may find more hospitable home for their values in a category of value that has existed all along. The value is dependant on the valuer. In a world where source of value (human) is taken out, there exists no valuable thing. Valuer is necessary for the continuation of value on the valued. Environmentalists value species, ecosystems. They try to conserve species, their domesticated beloveds.

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