Franklin Veaux (tacit) wrote,
Franklin Veaux
tacit

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Some thoughts on ethics

On another forum, I am engaged in a conversation regarding ethics, which came about as a result of a conversation around the ethics of cheating in a monogamous relationship (or by violating the agreed-upon terms of a polyamorous relationship).

A surprising (to me, anyway) number of the people involved in that conversation hold that ethical constraints apply only to first-order consequences of one's actions, but not to indirect or second-order consequences; for example, it is not ethical to cheat on a partner, but if you are the person a cheater has sex with, your actions are not unethical, because you are not violating any agreements with the cheated-upon person.

I've been thinking a great deal about the nature of ethics and responsibility as a result of that conversation, and I've put together a series of questions designed to examine a person's ethical system, and look for contradictions in that system.

The first four questions concern the ethics of lies of commission and lies of omission. The next three questions concern being the active participant in a series of actions covering a very large range of common moral perception. The next six questions re-visit those situations from the perspective of a passive beneficiary of those actions and of an active beneficiary of those actions; that is, does one's ethical responsibility vary if a person benefits from an action after the fact, or if the person receives the same benefit by creating the situation before the fact? The last two address something I've seen commonly: people often find that their assessment of the ethics of an action changes with their assessment of whether or not an injured party is a "good person" or a "bad person."

I'm interested in seeing the results of many people's answers to these questions. So, onward!




Poll #1054950 Ethics

Do you believe that it is unethical to directly and deliberately tell a lie to a friend or lover for the purpose of gaining something that you want, knowing that the friend or lover would not give it to you if you told the truth?

Yes
139(95.2%)
No
7(4.8%)

Do you believe that it is unethical to directly and deliberately tell a lie to an acquaintance or stranger for the purpose of gaining something that you want, knowing that person would not give it to you if you told the truth?

Yes
133(91.7%)
No
12(8.3%)

Do you believe that it is unethical to knowingly and deliberately lie by omission, by withholding information, to a friend or lover for the purpose of gaining something that you want, knowing that if you did not withhold that information, you would not get what you wanted?

Yes
130(90.3%)
No
14(9.7%)

Do you believe that it is unethical to knowingly and deliberately lie by omission, by withholding information, to an acquaintance or stranger, for the purpose of gaining something that you want, knowing that if you did not withhold that information, you would not get what you wanted?

Yes
115(78.8%)
No
31(21.2%)

If a person is in a monogamous relationship, and that person chooses to cheat (where "cheat" is defined as "engage in outside sexual activity without his partner's knowledge or consent in circumstances whereby he is certain that his partner would not approve"), is the cheater behaving unethically?

Yes
143(97.9%)
No
3(2.1%)

Issues of legality or illegality aside, since illegal is not necessarily the same thing as unethical, is a person who takes property from another without the knowledge or consent of the property owner behaving unethically?

Yes
141(98.6%)
No
2(1.4%)

Is a person who engages in sexual activity with a child, were "child" is defined as "pre-pubescent," engaging in unethical behavior?

Yes
139(96.5%)
No
5(3.5%)

If a person is in a monogamous relationship, and chooses to cheat by the definition above, and you actively facilitate that cheating by knowingly and deliberately having sex with that person in situations which you know in advance violate that person's relationship terms, is that unethical?

Yes
133(91.1%)
No
13(8.9%)

If a person is in a monogamous relationship, and you persuade that person, who otherwise would not have cheated, to have sex with you in violation of the terms of that relationship, is that unethical?

Yes
137(94.5%)
No
8(5.5%)

If a person knowingly and intentionally obtains stolen goods, with full awareness that the goods are stolen, but does not actually steal them himself, is that unethical?

Yes
135(92.5%)
No
11(7.5%)

If a person commissions another to steal goods for him, knowing in advance that he is commissioning an act of theft, but he does not steal them himself, is that unethical?

Yes
143(98.6%)
No
2(1.4%)

Is person who obtains photographs of others having sexual intercourse with children, who has not directly been involved with the sexual intercourse, who has not in any way actively involved himself in the abuse of any child and who will not now or at any point in the future actively involve himself in the abuse of any child, behaving unethically?

Yes
117(83.0%)
No
24(17.0%)

Is a person who commissions the act of producing photographs of others having sexual intercourse with children, but who does not himself engage in any acts involving abuse of children and who will not now or at any point in the future actively involve himself in the abuse of any child, behaving unethically?

Yes
142(97.9%)
No
3(2.1%)

If you enter into an agreement with a person, as a result of which you owe that person money (for example, by accepting a loan or accepting goods or services) and then you violate the terms of that agreement by not paying him, is that unethical?

Yes
142(97.9%)
No
3(2.1%)

If you enter into an agreement with a person, as a result of which you owe that person money (for example, by accepting a loan or accepting goods or services) and that person then does something which you find offensive or which hurts you (but does not cost you money), and then you violate the terms of that agreement by not paying him, is that unethical?

Yes
136(94.4%)
No
8(5.6%)
Tags: philosophy
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